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[Kanon R2 DVD cover art]
AKA: カノン
Genre: Romantic drama with supernatural elements
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently unlicensed in North America
Content Rating: 13+ (some violence, tragic situations, talk about suicide and one attempted suicide)
Related Series: Kanon Kazahana, Kanon (2006)
Also Recommended: Kimi ga Nozomu Eien, Sentimental Journey, St Luminous Mission High School, To Heart
Notes: Based on a hentai game of the same name. The better-known 2006 series is a remake of this.
Rating: Three StarsThree StarsThree Stars

Kanon (2002)

Synopsis

After seven years, Aizawa Yuuichi is returning to the town where his cousin Nayuki lives. Though he often visited the town as a young child, he now finds he has trouble remembering much from that time period. Several encounters with different girls will help him recover the memories locked in his past and help him discover that which was important that he has now lost.


Review

Romance shows derived from dating sims (hentai or otherwise) haven't, in my experience, generally been the type of show where a viewer will find quality engaging material. On average, such shows seem to either be incredibly boring or simply offensive and insulting to the intelligence of the viewer. I had, however, heard a lot of positive buzz from the fan community about Kanon, so I was willing to take a look at it. So what is the verdict? While I don't think it is as stunningly good as many have made it out to be, it still wasn't bad.

The show's plot is fairly straightforward (in terms of general execution at least), covering Yuuichi moving back to the town, then encountering various girls and being drawn into their personal situations. Most of them seem to have some sort of tragic complication in their life that he becomes aware of and wants to help with. In this aspect, I imagine it doesn't stray all that far from the game it was based on, which is known apparently for its rather tragic endings. From what I've read, the anime version does make the final resolution of some of the girls' problems much less tragic than in the game version, but there still is a rather desperate and tragic atmosphere that hangs over this show, especially in the second half.

Though I found most of the plots involving the girls fairly engaging and interesting (as opposed to say in To Heart), Kanon really suffers from trying to do too much in a short run time with too many characters. There are five major girls along with a few other secondary girls involved in fairly unrelated story arcs. In general, the only relation the plots have to have each other is that Yuuichi has some sort of distant link to many of the girls. As I noted earlier, most of the plots are fairly engaging and interesting but by the time I really started to get into one, it was over and they were basically moving onto the next one. I suppose they decided that they really wanted to cover the story arcs of every girl from the game but it probably would have been better to simply focus on a fewer number of characters in a show of this type.

Three of the story arcs have heavy supernatural components to them and I think they would have definately benefitted from additional development time. Besides helping to make some of the reactions of some of the characters involved more natural, the nature of the plots themselves were rather interesting and it could have proved interesting in of themselves in addition to just being used as a frame work for "tragic" romance. I must admit I was taken a bit by surprise by the sudden appearance of supernatural elements in a show where I didn't expect them but the mere presence of such elements did not end up as being out of place as I would have expected them to be.

Since almost every subplot was based on a solid basic idea, it seems likes they could have easily made an interesting show out of any of them individually (particularly some of the plots that involve rather distinct supernatural aspects). By rushing through them to simply move onto the next one, it ends up diminishing their dramatic impact and not giving the show as much time to thoroughly develop the various girls. In many cases, it just seems a girl gets two or three episodes than disappears (sometimes literally). The tragic character of many of these plot arcs also detracts from the over all impact of the show. A build up to one major emotional climax would have been far more effective than the five or six they have in the show.

For a drama to be effective, it needs to have well developed characters who can the viewer can sympathize with (or maybe even despise). Though Yuuichi does get fairly well developed, most of the side characters do not get enough time to fully develop. In particular, the final resolution to the show, would should involve a stirring emotional climax was somewhat weakened by the fact that the other characters involved were constantly pushed off to the side during the plot arcs with the other girls. Everything felt a bit rushed and some of the feelings and relationships that appeared ended up seeming a bit abrupt and artificial despite the show's attempt to link them back to various events that had occurred seven years before.

The artwork is clean and pleasant looking for the most part though I must admit the tendency toward the ultra-cute character designs for several of the female characters slightly damaged the atmosphere for me. It is hard to really begin getting into the life-changing romantic atmosphere that the show was trying to generate when several of the characters look and sound like they are eight years old and should be more interested in candy than romance. In terms of scene and background work, they did a good job of helping communicate the winter season that figured rather prominently into helping communicate the feeling of the show without being too overwhelming.

Despite its flaws, overall, I did enjoy Kanon. It did succeed somewhat in the creation of an atmosphere of tragic romance and did produce some characters that I did like. It is unfortunate that the writers didn't decide to produce a show with a bit of a stronger central focus or do a somewhat better job of developing the girls in addition to Yuuichi.

While Kanon does partially succeed at generating some emotionally charged drama and interesting characters, a lack of strong central focus weakens the overall impact of the title. If you positively cannot stand romantic drama or dislike tragedy (a lot of the story arcs are rather tragic in nature), you'll probably want to take off a star. Jeremy A Beard

Recommended Audience: Despite being based on a hentai game, the show itself is exceedingly clean and features only a few brief kisses. There is one plot arc that does involve some supernatural violence and some blood but it is nothing extreme. The subject of suicide (and at least a couple of attempts) do come up in the title. In general, it is probably best for teens and above.



Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Kanon (2002) © 2002 Toei
 
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