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[R1 DVD box art]
AKA: クラナド アフターストーリー (Japanese)
Genre: Comedy/drama with some supernatural elements.
Length: Television series, 22 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: R1 DVD from Sentai Filmworks.
Content Rating: PG (Violence, death, mature issues.)
Related Series: Clannad TV series (season 1) and Movie (whole story condensed.)
Also Recommended: AIR, Kanon, Clannad the movie, Sola.
Notes: Based on the visual novel video game by Key. This review does not take into account the one-episode story "Another World: Kyou Chapter", even if it's included in the DVD collection (vol. 2) alongside the other two bonus episodes.
Rating: Four StarsFour StarsFour StarsFour Stars
 

Clannad ~After Story~

Synopsis

Having finally confessed to Nagisa, the future looked a little brighter for Tomoya Okazaki. With school in full swing as well, he wouldn't lack for things to keep himself busy with or new friends whom to involve himself with as well. And from there...?

But there are also problems in the horizon, some of which may have grave consequences for everyone involved, and it might take Tomoya holding on to every piece of light he can to get by.


Review

Having seen AIR and Kanon (2006) already, I was fairly optimistic about Clannad keeping up expectations, at least insofar as creating sweet, mysterious -- and even a little bit tragically -- atmospheric situations. Ok, so me and my fellow THEMers went into AIR thinking we had a synchro/MST victim on our hands, but that's beside the point.

Now, I can't be talking about ~After Story~ without also referring to the original TV series. Not that this is a problem, mind you; I rather liked that one too. Maybe not quite as well as Kanon; this being one of the few situations where a dub really helped out by de-MOE-ifying the characters in the show. (Which is to say I generally attribute voice acting and/or voices over visual styles when it comes to judging and labelling anyone and anything as "moe". But that's just me.) Also, I was talking about Kanon. Sadly, Clannad's DVD release has no dub, so we'll just have to deal with what we have.

The thing about Clannad is that I felt a lot of the characters are like Kanon -- no wonder really -- except that I fell into the pattern of preferring Yuuichi's sardonic and sarcastic wit over Tomoya's prank-related style, or finding the various girls in Kanon generally more interesting than the ones in Clannad. We're not talking huge margins here, but one I still felt was noticeable all the same.

~After Story~ actually goes a long way in rectifying this. For one, compared to the original TV series, this "season" takes place over a great numbers of years. Tomoya -- and later, Nagisa -- actually finishes school and moves on to the next step in both their lives, which is actually pretty rare in shows like these. Key have never really been known for pulling their punches, but even so, the sheer scope of this show surprised me all the same, particularly given the genre itself. Tomoya and Nagisa evolve and change, not just because of events that happen, but also by the sheer amount of time passing by. (I'd like to go into details, but Clannad -- like AIR and Kanon -- likes to keep its secret held tightly, so either you already know what's going to happen by proxy of playing the game or reading about it, or you don't -- or shouldn't -- WANT to know until you have the chance to actually see it for yourself.)

Most of those changes can only be felt and not seen, though. (In a more or less metaphorical sense.) One slightly irritating thing about this show is that none of the character go through a lot of changes outwardly, even though years pass by, and this go doubly for the girls. It doesn't hurt the show too much, but it's certainly noticeable.

That said, Clannad still has a knack for creating everyday situations that are bound to tug at your heartstrings every now and then. Stories about supporting cast not being up to scratch with the rest of the show in the original? That's not a problem this time around. In fact, one of the arcs are devoted to a more indepth look at the reason why Tomoya, and even moreso Youhei Sunohara, became at odds with the soccer club. It's not a big chapter, but it gives Youhei a chance to grow a little beyond his usual idiotic self. There's also a few episodes dedicated to the librarian, Yukine Miyazawa. You may remember her from Clannad as the girl who spent her time in the library, helping people with various (and curiously effective) spells, but, as it turns out, she's far more involved with the local gangs in the area. And through these people, Clannad plays the "some people might not be as bad as they appear" card, and plays it surprisingly well. (Even if it comes with a large portion of ham near the end.)

Like Clannad, ~After Story~ comes in two volumes, two discs each. And while the first half plays out the remaining side stories and allows Tomoya and Nagisa to clear those final hurdles into adulthood, the second half will play up the tragedies and the drama considerably, quite possibly tearing out your heart in the process. This is where time truly starts to fly by, lending the show some real weight in the emotional departments. If Tomoya thought he had a lot to deal with before this point, then the latter half will tear him down, allow himself to get back on his feet, only to tear him down again. I hope you got your tissues prepared, because you'll most likely be needing them before the end of this show.

If I may give just ONE shout-out for this show, then I would like for that to go to Nagisa's parents, Akio and Sanae. While they regaled the first season with almost nothing but eccentric comedy antics -- which I certainly appreciated both there and here -- ~After Story~ truly lets these characters shine as the great parents that they are. I do not often make this distinction, which may or may not have something to do with parents being an endangered species in anime centered around high-school students and the girls they hang around, but you really have to credit the effort they put in. Not only for their daughter, but also Tomoya, who can hardly be said that he's getting along with his own father all that well. (But then, ~After Story~ might very well have a surprise in store for you there as well.)

Sadly, this also leads to my second and last complaint about this show. Basically, its love for tragedies leads to some far too predictable scenes. As good as this show is, the setup to the bigger tragedies are, unfortunately, as subtle as a policeman or a soldier talking about going back to his family after completing just this one last mission. Scenes of tragedy should NEVER be preceeded with a feeling of seeing where it's going. This is particularly noticeable near the end of the show, judging by the mixed reactions from people who has seen the show to the end. While I personally don't think it was a total disaster -- or even BAD -- it still could have benefitted from a few changes as to make it less obvious.

Even so, time spent on Clannad ~After Story~ is well spent. Weighing the negatives -- no dub, occasionally overdone drama -- against the positives -- generally fun cast, some true tearjerking moments, pleasant visuals, the fact that the show dares to look past the highschool years -- makes it a must-see if you're into drama shows, even occasionally hammy ones. And if you've already seen the original Clannad TV series, well... the choice is quite easy.

The direct continuation of the original TV series, which means it's definitely worth a watch.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: Clannad has a surprising amount of serious topics on its roster; alcoholism, drugs, diseases, child abandonment, death and violence. The onscreen portrayals of any of these are rarely shown onscreen, but the consequenses for each of these are quite readily felt by those with enough maturity to understand the situations.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subs only
Review Status: Full (22/22)
Clannad ~After Story~ © 2008 Visual Art's, Key, Kyoto Animation.
 
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