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Clannad #2 PDF Print E-mail
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R2 DVD Reviews
Wednesday, 22 August 2012 00:00
ClannadClannad returns for the second half of its first season, closing out the stories of Kotomi and Tomoyo before moving on to the serious business of Nagisa's drama club. Which naturally brings plenty of drama. Hankies at the ready? Good. Then let's begin.

Turns out that Kotomi and Tomoya were once well-acquainted. Always the shy girl, Kotomi rarely left her house, but one day a boy with a batterfly net found himself in her garden and a friendship was born. That ended on the day of Kotomo's birthday, though - also the day of her parents' death in a plane crash. And while the increasingly reclusive Kotomi never forgot her friend, Tomoya forgot about her. Until now, when he has the chance to put the mistakes he'd made back then right. Meanwhile, Tomoyo's finding her campaign to be student council president is running into trouble, thanks to her reputation for being a bit of a delinqent; Kyou and Ryou both come to the realisation that, whatever their feelings for Tomoya, he's too smitten by someone else to notice; and Nagisa learns of the sacrifices her parents made to raise her, and finds herself overcome by guilt.

Okay, perhaps you won't need the hankies just yet - although you're inhuman if After Story doesn't leave you blubbing. The stories in this part of Clannad are moving and emotional, just not on the rip-your-heart-out scale - with the possible exception of Kotomi. Her tail is truly saddening: to lose her parents at an early age, to lose her only friend for unrelated reasons at the same time, and to learn to distrust those around her... it's a terrible place for any young person to be. What undermines the arc is the reliance on two particular deceptions that seem to be quite common in anime: that Kotomi would be allowed to live on her own in such circumstances, and that anime lead males have such lousy memories. There's a suspension of disbelief required there, in an otherwise fairly believable tale, that stops the arc from tipping you into the Key Black Hole of Emotion. (I just made that phrase up, but anyone who's watched a Key show will know exactly what I mean.)

Likewise, Kyou's mini-arc ends with the poor girl clearly not coping well with the realisation that she's on a hiding to nowhere with Tomoya, but since the audience has been clued in pretty much since episode one that Nagisa is the One True Route, there's no surprise there and no real reason to get caught up in her anguish. She does manage to create some great moments along the way, though, between her rising jealousy at Tomoya spending times with other girls and the infamous gym store scene - enough to cement her place as my personal favourite of the Clannad harem.

But the main story is Tomoya and Nagisa, and the closing arc of the set covers the two of them coming together - first with Tomoya living in her home, in an effort to get away from the father he so despises, then through the fumbling, embarassing early stages of a real relationship - before throwing a spanner in the works when, on the eve of the Drama Club's debut performance, Nagisa uncovers records of a past that her parents would rather have kept from her, and finds herself pretty much unable to function, thanks to the resulting guilt. While Nagisa's guilt & subsequent reaction seemed overplayed to me, as a way of bringing her even closer to Tomoya and showing just how highly her parents value her it works really well and is a great way to round out the first season.

Let's not forget the Another World: Tomoyo Chapter episode, either, which takes Tomoyo's arc and plays out how her campaign to be student president would have unfolded if Tomoya had ended up with her instead of Nagisa (as is possible in the original Clannad visual novel). It's an interesting diversion, especially for Tomoyo fans, but I'd probably view it more as an extra than a real episode. (Kyou fans fear not, she gets her own Another World episode at the end of After Story.)

Part of me hates the emotional sledgehammer that Clannad and its ilk tend to use - you know it's shameless manipulation, but it's hard not to just go along with the flow. But that's also a sign that it's doing what it set out to do, I suppose, which is to make you engage with the characters at a level that's deeper than most shows even attempt, never mind manage. The series is helped in that by having a strong cast, most of whom are easy to enjoy. The surprising thing is that in a lot of ways the "real" Clannad tale is yet to come - this season is all just setup for the "true end" that unfolds in After Story - but even taken in that light, it's still good stuff, and I'm pleased (if mildly surprised) to see it get a UK release. Well worth picking up.

Rating - ****