Reviewby Theron Martin, Nov 29th 2008
Yuichi is worried about Ayu's sudden disappearance and cryptic final words, and he's not the only one. As he struggles to fit together varies clues and overcome the memory blocks preventing him from recalling critical details he still cannot recall about what, exactly, happened seven years ago, tragedy strikes, an event which sends several cast members reeling into despair. Amidst the chaos Yuichi finally realizes the truths about both Ayu and Nayuki, promises and mistakes made in the past, and the weight they still carry even now. In discovering the thing that Ayu has lost, and the granting of long-promised wishes, the fate of all come to a resolution.
As a residual effect of ADV's licensing troubles earlier in the year, the concluding volume of this series based on the Key/Visual Art's visual novel found itself delayed by a couple of months, an unfortunate bit of timing given that it happened with only four episodes to go and ended the previous volume on something of a cliffhanger. Thanks to Funimation's involvement, the final volume is now available, rounding out one of the best moe-centric series to date.
The final four episodes offer no surprises in style, substance, or tone, as they carry on to the end the gentle focus on adorable girls, their quirky behaviors, their past and present relationships to Yuichi, and the drama tinted with hints of the supernatural that has persisted since the second volume. The snarky, occasionally silly humor prevalent in early episodes is relegated to only a few brief bursts here, however, as the story turns almost completely serious in its effort to wrap up its paper-thin but delicately-crafted plot threads. As has been the norm for the series, everything is carefully-crafted to either endear the viewer to the characters and situations or tug at the heart strings, and early in this stretch of episodes it almost looks like the series might finally be getting carried away with this approach and starting to flounder.
Then the surprises and revelations start coming. The aforementioned tragic event, whose imminent approach astute viewers may pick up on about 30 seconds before it actually happens, is a shocking twist which happens with an uncharacteristically brutal suddenness and certainly shakes up the story, much moreso than the eventual final revelation of what, exactly, happened seven years ago involving Ayu. Granted, the latter has been hinted at enough over the course of the series that discovering what actually happened should not catch anyone off guard, but it is satisfying to finally get the whole story straight. . . or so you may think, for the series is not done with its surprises yet. A surprise guest appearance spices things up further, and the series throws one hell of a curve ball in its final episode, one that may throw off even the more jaded viewers. From that twist comes an ending packed with as much sentiment as can possibly be stuffed into such a short time frame. Some may cry, while others will roll their eyes. Don't forget to watch the epilogue carefully, either, which is not only a treat unto itself but offers some bonus goodies if one watches very closely.
The Kyoto Animation production values, which have made this one of the prettiest-looking anime series of the past year, also continue, offering a cute and inviting complement to the storytelling. Even when depicting snowy settings, the background artistry still has a pleasing warmth and character to it, and Key's character designs continue to wonderfully come to life. Though rarely challenged, the animation also delivers, crafting through to the end a look which should long stand as a standard against which other moe series are judged. The soundtrack also proves a little less bland through this stretch, helped in part by an example of the kind of classical music which gives the series its name.
Moreso than in any previous volume, the weight of carrying the English dub falls on the more emotional scenes Chris Patton must tackle in his role as Yuichi, but he has been at the top of his acting game for the last year and a half or so and strikes gold again here. Nearly all of the other cast members hit the right notes, too, especially Jessica Boone as Nayuki. (She has also done a lot of notable work of late.) The English script did not have quite the trickiness to deal with that the previous couple of volumes did, but still glosses over some complicated translation issues with broader-than-normal interpretations of a couple of scenes.
Like with previous volumes, Extras consist of a clean opener and closer and another installment of the “behind the scenes” documentary on the making of the series, in this case the eighth and final part.
Evaluated as a whole, Kanon is not a series which can be appreciated by cynics, those with a low tolerance for cuteness, or those looking for something more dynamic and action-oriented. It is, in many senses, the polar opposite of Gurren Lagann, a series which mixes a bit of the supernatural and some occasionally awkward structures borrowed from its original visual novel format into a scrupulously clean, low-key series designed to give viewers warm fuzzies and, occasionally, a flare-up of deeper and more serious emotion. Fans of the Key way of doing things should find this resolution to their winter story to be quite satisfying (if sappy), while others who appreciate moe should find a lot to like, too. It has enough flaws to prevent it from being considered a great title, and not all of its emotional appeals work, but it certainly is a good one.
Overall (dub) : A-
Overall (sub) : A-
Story : B+
Animation : A-
Art : A-
Music : B+
+ Looks great, many substantial late plot twists, generally satisfying conclusion.
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