Clannad #2 Print
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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 - ****

13 - Garden of Memories
Tomoya finds Kotomi in her room, the walls covered with newspaper clips relating to the death of her parents/ She's known all along that Tomoya was the boy from her childhood, but until now hasn't been sure - despite the efforts he's made to help her gain friends - if she wanted him to remember their past contact. But now the time has come for her to finally open up about what happened then, and her feelings since, before withdrawing back into her shell even more than she had been before. Tomoya, though, isn't prepared to just leave her that way...


14 - Theory of Everything
Kotomi's borthday is approaching, but there's still no sign of her leaving her room. Tomoya's continued working on tidying up her garden, even skipping school to get more time to work on it - and an all-night gardening session finally gets her to break her self-imposed exile. In her own way, she'd been waiting on Tomoya for years, since they last met as children, to be reunited - and now, with Tomoya's memories of their childhood meeting returned, that time is here...


15 - Stuck Problem
Nagisa's efforts to get the drama club restarted are going well, with an ever-rowing list of names now signed up - enough that Nagisa's confident enough to approach one of the teachers to be the club's advisor. Mr Koumura is the only teacher to not be an advisor, so he's the natural choice - but he's just been approached by another group, wanting to start a choir club, and can't support both. Worse, after the approach, Nagisa receives a letter that seems to suggest that bad things will happen if she doesn't back down on her request...


16 - 3 on 3
When Nagisa, Tomoya, and Sunohara's little sister Mei decide to pay Sunohara a visit, they arrive at the dorm room to find it in shambles - not to mention no Sunohara. That's not all that unusual, though - and fortunately, Mei's an organised little sister, and clears the place up before her brother gets back. Unable to stay in the boys' dorm, Mei ends up staying at Nagisa's, and pans to stay for long enough to watch her brother's basketball game - an idea he doesn't quite like the sound of...


17 - A Room Without Anyone
After witnessing the Drama Club's victory in the basketball match, the choir club approaches Nagisa with the compromise idea of sharing Koumura as an advisor to both clubs. Nagisa goes to the Student Council with this idea and they turn her down - their reputation for bureucracy preceeds them - and shortly after, Nagisa collapses with a fever. The next day, Tomoya gets a rude awakening when Tomoyo, determined to do something about his tardiness, drops by to make sure he'll be at school on time. Not the best of starts to the day - and it gets worse, when he and Kyou end up locked in the PE storage room together...


18 - Counter Measures
After taking the rap for Tomoyo's fighting, Tomoya's been suspended from school - which means he's at a bit of a loose end for things to do. Tomoyo's still dropping by to make sure he doesn't completely waste his time, though, and she's considering explaining the truth to the school authorities. Guilt is a powerful thing. When he's readmitted to school, he also finds that Tomoya's reputation has taken a bit of a knock after the fight, and so he sets about trying to rebuild it in time for the Student Council elections...


19 - A New Life
Thanks to Tomoyo and her new role as Student Council President, Nagisa's finally got official approval for her drama club - cause for celebration all round. But for Tomoya at least, the celebrations come to an abrupt end when he's summoned to a 'career counselling' meeting with his teacher and father - and despite his best efforts to make a run for it, Nagisa's not letting him get away. The reason for his reluctance? Well, let's just say that Tomoya and his father don't have the best of relationships...


20 - A Hidden Past
Now that she's got her drama club up and running, it needs a production to put on, and Nagisa decides to do a play about a girl and a robot from another world. It's a story that Tomoya's convinced he's heard before somewhere, but for the life of him he can't remember where. While looking through the storage shed for a book to use as inspiration, though, Nagisa and Tomoya are told to leave by Akio...


21 - Preparing For the School Festival
The drama club are deep in rehearsal for their performance for the culture festival - and given how complicated the lines they're being expected to recite are, it'll be a minor miracle if they can remember them all. And that's before people start working on things like lighting and sound systems. When Nagisa and Tomoya arrive home, they're greeted by Akio who has a video to show them - of his own drama club days, a little something to inspire them. And it's not long before the day of the festival is finally here...


22 - Two Shadows
The day of the festival has arrived but, having spent the night learning just what her parents gave up to be with her, Nagisa finds she's in no mood to perform in her play. In the photos she saw, her parents looked very happy, living life on the stage - but if they gave up there dreams, what right does she have to pursue hers? Tomoya's efforts to cheer her up aren't really helping, either...


23 - The Events of Summer Holidays
On paper, Tomoya and Nagisa have been dating for a while now, but their relationship so far doesn't really seem to be progressing much - they've both got crippling cases of shyness, it seems, and haven't even worked up the courage to tell their friends that they're seeing each other yet. When Sunohara's little sister Mei pays a visit, she decides that this just isn't on, and sets about persuading Tomoya and Nagisa to become a little closer...


24 - Another World: Tomoyo Chapter
In an alternate world from the main series, Tomoya has been seeing Tomoya for a while now - not through any plans to chase her or anything like that, more through accident - they kept running into each other, in one place or another, and soon grew to love each other. Now, though, their still-new relationship is being tested by gossip and pressure from teachers - which leaves Tomoya wondering if it might be better for Tomoyo if he brought their relationship to an end...



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