Set in different timelines, each of these two specials depicts a possible relationship that Tomoya Okazaki may have experienced had he never fallen in love with Nagisa Furakawa.
Note: This review assumes that the reader is at least somewhat familiar with the first season of Clannad. Spoilers may follow.
If you try to adapt a video game into a television series, you will inevitably run into the problem of having to pick a single conclusion to use. While the various endings in games come as the result of a player's choices, a television series never asks for viewer input, meaning that the presence of multiple storylines will create a pointless and confusing situation and is thus usually avoided. People do, however, sometimes find clever ways to include alternate endings in their work. The creators of Clannad, for one, chose to release two OAVs, each of which, going along with the original game's endings, depicts a world in which Tomoya falls in love with a girl besides Nagisa. While the stories may be viewed independently, they are virtually identical to the main series in terms of artwork, character design, and music, and I imagine that a bit of familiarity with the first season and its characters will help one get the most of these additions.
Clannad: Another World (Tomoyo Chapter)
In Tomoyo's episode, Clannad’s bishoujo framework entirely disappears, and I found this change to be enormously refreshing. Whereas the original series endlessly distracts us with side stories, unnecessary sugar (Fuko, anyone?), and comic antics, this story is a romance in its purest and simplest form, and this change entirely won me over. I found it to be such a gorgeous mix of warm affection, sadness, and well-placed humor that, having seen this one episode when I had just finished the first season and been disappointed by the lack of closure, I ended up enjoying it more than the other twenty-three episodes combined.
Of course, that may have been helped along by the fact that Tomoyo herself has always been my favorite Clannad girl by far. I think that she and Tomoya make an excellent pair, for both are of the down-to-earth sort, behave bluntly outwardly but have kind souls, and are, mostly, devoid of the cuteness that emanates from the other characters in the series. They struck me as a wonderfully believable couple, an impression helped along by affectionate touches such as shots of them peacefully snuggling and scenes of their verbally agreeing to “ignore the idiot” upon encountering one of Sunohara’s pranks. I see rather few television couples for whom I feel a genuine sense of empathy, and yet I found myself enjoying their on-screen chemistry tremendously in spite of the good-natured eye-rolling the parent series had brought on.
The story, admittedly, plays out predictably, and yet I found it to be heartbreaking all the same. My take on it is that the story is one of two people who are poignantly similar in their self-destructive behavior hurting themselves and each other because of a lack of self-esteem, and I found it to be quite effective. I often found myself asking “why must you hurt yourselves so?”, and yet I came away very moved and feeling as if I had been wrapped in and then freed from a tangible and terrible sense of loneliness. I was brought to floods of tears on two separate occasions, and while I won’t say anything about the ending, it has, in my opinion, enough tenderness, affection, and joy to make up for every moment in the first series that drove me to want more.
The Tomoyo chapter is, as said, not a particularly original story, and your opinion of it will probably depend on whether you like Tomoyo and consider the pair to be a good couple. Some fellow reviewers have found the story’s set up to be unrealistic, and while I don’t agree with them, I can see why they would make their points. But as one who usually has very strong reservations about calling romances "good", I found this to be a sweet, touching, and refreshing story. Although I leave the caveat that it may be taken or left as desired, I highly recommend it all the same.
Clannad: Another World (Kyou Chapter)
In this timeline, Tomoya begins a relationship with Ryou Fujiyabashi, Kyou’s shorter-haired twin, after she admits that she has had romantic feelings for him for the past several years.
Yes, I promise that I am not mixing the two names up. And that, unfortunately, is where the problem begins.
While Tomoyo’s episode discards the harem aspect of the franchise, Kyou’s episode plays with it endlessly. Most of the drama results from a strange sort of sibling-rivalry, and since I never particularly enjoy stories in which siblings fight over a romantic interest, I didn't find the scenario to be compelling. In this case, some emotional confusion results, and the show uses that confusion as a plot point (in a move that the main series never made), and yet while the episode just begins to hint at greater complexity midway, it ultimately matters very little. Everybody is, by the end, sorted into their “proper” relationship or lack thereof, and the ending completely disregards any lingering problems that the situation might leave, a move that rather irritated me.
In truth, it is also quite annoying to see my favorite characters act strangely, and Tomoya’s behavior is unsettlingly uncharacteristic in this episode. Clannad's lead hardly seemed like one who would agree to a relationship out of complacent convenience, but here, that exact agreement occurs, paving way for a love triangle that has a great deal of awkwardness and precious little else. While there's nothing really unpleasant about this episode, it simply feels a bit angsty in the vein of Rumbling Hearts and such other romantic dramas, and the result is rather dull. While there are other things that bother me, namely Sunohara’s odd transformation into an “inspirational” character, my biggest problem with this special is that it fails to make a satisfying love story. We get a few precious moments of tenderness at the very end, including the only actual kissing that occurs anywhere in the franchise (oddly enough), but these elements are underplayed. In short, the episode just doesn’t spend much time fleshing out the relationship it promised to give us, and this makes it rather disappointing..
And now, the last question to ask is, “will this be worth your time”? It most likely will be if you are already a fan of the franchise, especially if you happen to like either heroine. Neither, however, is essential to the plot, and while it’s possible that you may end up preferring one of them to the main series, I can’t imagine that this will change the opinion of someone who fundamentally despises the franchise. In my view, Tomoyo’s episode is lovely and Kyou’s is merely okay, but my overall opinion is that any Clannad fan will almost certainly find something to like in here.
Tomoyo's episode gets a 4.5, and Kyou's gets a 3. It averages to about a 3.75. — Nick Browne
Recommended Audience: Best for younger teenagers and up. Children will likely find this boring, and there's enough serious drama to make it inappropriate for the youngest viewers.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD (Japanese with English Subtitles)
Review Status: Full (2/2)
Clannad (Specials) © 2008 - 2009 VisualArt's / Key / Hikarisaka High School Drama
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