Life is constantly moving and the world is always changing.

It’s been awhile hasn’t it? My classes tend to save the last two weeks of the semester for projects and tests, so I’ve been quite busy this past week and will be for some of this upcoming week. Xewleer has taken some of the slack for my lack of posts this past two weeks. After his next post he’ll be taking a week or two off to finish finals while I take up some of the posting schedule. (tag team posting anyone?)

Well onto the post, I’ve finally given Clannad ~After Story~ a proper marathon these past two days. This has been along time coming and I really wish I had done so years before, but this gave me enough time to have the blu-ray version available. Clannad holds a special place in my heart. It was one of the last animes that I watched in my senior year of high school before graduating and thus invokes memories of more innocent times for me. During those times, I often wondered what the future would hold for me and I held many insecurities that I still hodl today, but perhaps more on that another day.

The plot of Clannad is split into two major arcs, the first season and the second season (which is also known as After Story).

From wiki:

Clannad’s story revolves around Tomoya Okazaki, a third year high school student who dislikes his life. Tomoya’s mother (Atsuko) died when Tomoya was young, leaving his father (Naoyuki) to raise him. After the accident, Tomoya’s father turned to alcohol and gambling, and held frequent fights with his son. One day, Naoyuki, again arguing with his son, slammed Tomoya against the window, dislocating Tomoya’s shoulder. Ever since then, his father has treated Tomoya nicely, but distantly, as if Tomoya and he were strangers rather than a family. This hurts Tomoya more than his previous relationship with his father, and the awkwardness of returning home leads Tomoya constantly to stay out all night. Additionally, the injury disables Tomoya from participating in his basketball club, and pushes him to distance himself from his school and other activities. Thus his delinquent life begins. Tomoya’s good friend Youhei Sunohara, who got thrown out of the soccer club for a dispute, is also a delinquent and often hangs out in his dorm room with Tomoya doing nothing much.

The story opens on Monday April 14, 2003 at the beginning of the school year,[1] when Tomoya meets by chance Nagisa Furukawa, a soft-spoken girl one year older than he is who is repeating her last year in high school due to being sick much of the previous year. Her goal is to join the drama club which she was unable to do due to her sickness, but they find that the drama club was disbanded after the few remaining members graduated. Since Tomoya has a lot of time to kill, he starts to help Nagisa in reforming the drama club. During this period, Tomoya meets and hangs out with several other girls who he gets to know well and help with their individual problems.

After Story

In the second part of the story, which starts immediately after the end of the first part but extends into the next 7 years, Tomoya and Nagisa start living together and get married. Tomoya has to endure several hardships that the family has been suffering from, mainly involving Nagisa’s illness. Just after Nagisa gives birth to their daughter Ushio, Nagisa dies of her illness, leaving Tomoya to fall into a state of depression. This causes Nagisa’s parents, Akio and Sanae, to look after Ushio. Five years later, Tomoya meets Shino Okazaki, his grandmother on his father’s side. Shino explains to Tomoya about his father’s past and tragedy, similar to Tomoya’s current situation after Nagisa’s death. After hearing that, Tomoya decides to raise Ushio and acknowledge Naoyuki as his father. Shortly after Tomoya regains his purpose for living, Ushio is struck with the same disease as Nagisa. Tomoya, Sanae and Akio struggle to save Ushio, with Tomoya retiring from his job, but all efforts are futile. In the coming winter, wanting to do anything for Ushio, Tomoya decides to take Ushio on a trip, but Ushio falls unconscious and dies shortly after.

Tomoya’s psychology developed in his dreams of a bleak world where small orbs of light float around called the Illusionary World (幻想世界 Gensō Sekai?). In the first few dreams, he sees a world devoid of all life except for one girl (and grass). Each time he dreams, he finds out more about the world. Tomoya discovers the girl has a special ability to fuse junk together to create new things, with which she creates a body for him. Thus he is reborn in this world, and fills time following the girl around. Tomoya conceives that only the two of them are “alive”. To pass time, Tomoya and the girl try to build another doll with more junk they find, but as it has no soul, it fails to come to life. Remembering a distant world where he came from, Tomoya convinces the girl to build a ship so that the two can escape the approaching winter and continue a happy life. Eventually, winter sets in, and the girl becomes cold to the point where she cannot move any more. Upon meeting this tragedy, the girl tells Tomoya that he has another chance to go back and make things right. To do so, he must collect certain “lights” (symbols of happiness) similar to those floating around in the Illusionary World. If all the “lights” are collected throughout both story parts, a chance to save Nagisa from dying will become available, and the true ending where Nagisa survives and lives with Tomoya and their daughter Ushio will also become available.

How does one cope in a world that is always changing? And are we ever truly alone?

The above questions are foundational to the series of Clannad and even more so in its sequel:After Story, a story of love, loss, redemption, happiness, sadness, togetherness, and change.

As with all of my afterwords, I don’t want to delve too deeply into the stories of either series,  though I will mention in general that the first season is more comedy and character building centered than the more serious sequel. After Story is where the story really shines, though you will have needed the first series to give you the background that lets After Story work its magic.

Throughout the fifty or so episodes that make up the entire shebang, I was wondering to myself; is this what people call life-changing? Key has this magnificent ability to warm people’s heart with their series. There hasn’t been one of their series that hasn’t touched my heart in some way, but Clannad could possibly be the epitome of their ability to do just that.

A large part of what makes a story tick are the quality of its characters, and in that regard, CLANNAD has the best cast possible to carry the storyline. The story works each of the characters into an arc and gives them proper screen time to show their past and major problems, all the while taking the hero and viewer with them. The hero or main character is a guy named Okazaki Tomoya and the story follows him for the most part, but later equally follows Nagisa, his love interest and the female lead. Once the first portion of the show is over the focus is on the two leads and how they’re now involved with each others futures, and the events, or drama that happens within it. Friends seem almost non-existent when you are in love, the only thing on your mind are images of that person’s face, the one you know you can’t live without. Okazaki and Nagisa went one way, and all of their fellow classmates soon depart another.

The animation is fluid and gorgeous. Backgrounds are well detailed and little bits here and there seem to have this extra touch of magic to them that you notice more and more with each subsequent viewing. The opening songs are beautiful in both art and sound and if you pay there is so much foreshadowing in the lyrics and video that it surprised me. Background music for the show is excellent, featuring many soothing pieces that ease the soul.

There is something more here that resonates strongly with the viewer. I’m not quite sure what exactly it is, but I recon it has to be the themes and human emotion. Family is a tricky concept to nail down correctly and Key clearly does it. Clannad was their first successful, non-adult adaptation and thus they needed extra hooks thanks to the lack of H scenes. The harem is a big aspect, but the story telling of Jun Maeda and gang is the real winner here.

Did I laugh? Did I cry? Did it change me? Yes. There is no question that visual media has impacted our lives in this age, but with the degradation of society, we need shows like this. Ones that will show us life isn’t always fair, ones that gives us hope, ones that keep us human. Sure we want to transcend these boundaries, but at the end of the day it is shows like this that keep those fundamentals that make us proud to say, we are humans.

Most people say that anime is all about the supernatural, fantasy, badass and beautiful characters, action, over the top romances and comedic situations — the unreal! But Clannad proves you don’t need any of these to make a great anime. To say this anime isn’t a perfect 5/5 makes me question someone’s soul. Clannad and ~After Story~ is an anime that touches people’s souls. This is a series that touches the roots of human mentality and changes your life.

Taken as separate entities Clannad and After Story earn an 3.5/5 and a 4.5/5 respectively. But taken as a whole, as it should, the series is a 5/5, a masterpiece and one of the greatest series of the last decade if not in the history of anime. You won’t feel intact with the beauty of what Clannad has to offer if you don’t realize the ‘magic’ behind it all. It brings life, and wonders to what life itself actually is.