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My average ranking: 7.17

Director Pantheon: Tatsuya Ishihara Rating
Clannad (TV) Decent

Never reaches the highs of Clannad After Story but, likewise, avoids the time wasting early episodes and wayward later episodes of the sequel. Tomoya makes the series, being kind-hearted without being cloying and never really living up to his delinquent reputation. Nagisa is not so successful - it's a pity the hero has to fall for the dull girl. Kyou or Tomoyo would have been more interesting and either a better match for his wit. Luckily, Nagisa comes with some memorable parents, Sanae and Akio, who provide some of the best moments. Even at its most successfully emotional moments Clannad too often left me feeling manipulated, suggesting that the scenarios are never as well written as they might have been.
Clannad After Story (TV) Decent

When this series is on its mettle (episodes 12 to 19) it is very, very good. Indeed, episodes 17 to 19 (from when Tomoya is re-united with Ushio to the mirror-image re-uniting of Tomoya's father and grandmother) contain 72 minutes of the best-judged, emotionally-driven anime you are ever likely to see. And they prove that inspirational sad will alway elicit more tears than tragic sad (which is what you get either side of those three magnificient episodes). Sadly, the first eleven episodes are too often just trite and the last three of the main story arc are utterly misguided. In a tale that it is notable for its palindromic plot architectures it would have made more sense, and arguably been more satisfying artistically, if Tomoya were to raise Ushio successfully as a single father with the help of Sanae, Akio and his school and work friends. But I suppose single parenting wouldn't sit well with the overall conservative social values fostered by the series. One final note. I think this is about the only time I have sat through the entire opening theme in every episode of an anime series. I wouldn't have called it as so good at the start but I am now utterly charmed. It fits the series perfectly.
(The) Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (movie) Excellent

As with the TV series, the major appeal of the film lies in the characters. Koizumi excepted, the SOS brigade members are thoroughly entertaining. In this instalment, they all end up behaving out of character, but it's for good reasons, although Yuki’s enhanced moeness is, perhaps, pushed too far - that territory belongs to Asahina. The franchise can be seen as a sort of harem comedy (amongst other things) and the film has many elements of the genre. Happily, Kyon outshines every previous male example I've seen at the centre of the harem, simply because he is every bit as interesting as the females surrounding him. He is a wonderful match, in every way, for Haruhi in whom can be seen elements of Lum and Ryoko from more recognisable harem shows.

I thought it was less adventurous than the series but more emotionally involving. It might not be surprising how much anxiety the absence of Haruhi caused Kyon, but I was surprised how strongly I felt about it. The sympathy the series invokes for its principal characters is quite notable. Sometimes the drive for exploiting dramatic possibilities overrides the structural integrity of the narrative. It's a bit long and it depends on knowledge of the two TV seasons to fully appreciate some of the time travel implications and some of the gags.

The characters move in odd ways at times. It's not that that they’re mechanical. In fact, they were altogether too fluid in their movements. In real life people move in a more jerky way. Appleseed had the same problem and the effect in both films is to give their characters a slightly unreal edge. I suspect it's due to the computer generated animation being not quite right.

Any gripes are really just minor. I thoroughly enjoyed the film from start to finish and it deserves all the success it gets.

(The) Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (TV) Excellent

The charm of this series lies in the two main characters - Haruhi Suzumiya and Kyon. Not only are they memorable comic characters but Kyon's world-weary exasperation nicely balances Haruhi's almost unbearable single-minded willfulness. But, more than that even, they are both, despite their peculiarities, very likeable. And, as a bonus, you get philosophical musings that are somehow fun. It's quite an achievement, really: 14 entertaining episodes about boredom.
(The) Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (TV 2009 renewal) Decent

I have to admit to approaching the second season with trepidation, what with all the notoriety the Endless Eight arc has garnered. Well, it wasn’t unbearable. Haruhi, Kyon and friends are thoroughly engaging even when repeating themselves and it’s fun playing "spot the difference" between the episodes. I have to give the makers credit for courageously throwing such a challenge to their devoted fan base, but I suspect I'll never watch versions 2 through 7 ever again.

The rest of the second season sits with the best of the franchise. The opening episode - Bamboo Leaf Rhapsody - is not only a sort of prelude to the The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya but it more or less provides the starting point for the whole Suzumiya phenomenon. It’s also yet another of the beguiling cause and effect time paradoxes that abound in the franchise.

The Sigh of Haruhi Suzumiya arc is easily the most intense and dramatic of any of the franchise's stories. So much so that, well before the end, Haruhi's bullying and Kyon's whingeing had begun to grate on my nerves. It got to the point where Haruhi couldn't open her mouth without Kyon slapping her down with some negative commentary - often spoken aloud. It's a wonder she didn't wish him out of existence. Mind you, Haruhi also gets increasingly awful as the arc progresses, although that is central to its comedy. Poor Miss Asahina!

One of the things I've always liked about the franchise is the way it has the courage of its convictions, such as in the Endless Eight arc or in, perhaps my favourite episode, Someday in the Rain (from the first season), where pretty much nothing happens for long stretches at a time. In the Sigh arc, the impossible really does take place, in the very best tradition of the franchise

At its best the second season matches the first but, sadly, around half of it has no re-watch value whatsoever.

Nichijou - My Ordinary Life (TV) Good

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