Reviewby Theron Martin, Jun 19th 2009
Sub.DVD - Collection 2
Kotomi has been trapped in a funk connected to the much earlier death of her parents, but thanks to the diligent efforts of Tomoya and the gang, as well as a blast from the past, she eventually overcomes it and adjusts to a more normal school life. In the wake of that incident several of the girls in Tomoya's group step up their efforts to get closer to (or get their sister closer to) Tomoya, especially when Nagisa is taken out of action for a time by another sickness. Whether he realizes it or not, though, Tomoya ultimately only has eyes for Nagisa, and goes to great lengths to help her realize her dream of renewing the Drama Club and putting on a performance of the play she has in mind at the summer School Festival. Nagisa's lingering concerns over something in her past, and the effect it may have had on her parents, threaten to get in the way, however, and Tomoya's lack of a relationship with his father further complicates things. Meanwhile, Sunohara continues to be Sunohara, his little sister Mei makes a couple of visits, and Fuko randomly pops up on occasion to be entirely useless and still not remembered by anyone.
In the “Tomoyo Arc” OVA special, which explores an alternate version of the setting devoid of Nagisa's presence, Tomoya and Tomoyo's dating threaten to get in the way of her achieving her potential, a fact that actually only troubles one of them.
The first half of Clannad pretty much played out like the “male lead makes relationships with moe girls and solves their problems” kind of format seen in earlier Key/Visual Art's visual novel adaptations, and indeed the second half also begins that way in wrapping up the story of Kotomi. However, her issues are much more ordinary ones like coping with parental loss (even if well after the fact) and learning to socialize rather than the supernatural or mortality issues which have been more typical for this subgenre. Just as importantly, this arc does not overplay the “past association” card like Kanon did and actually keeps Kotomi regularly involved after her arc is done.
Assumptions that the series would then move on to focus on the next girl in turn fall apart after that, as Tomoyo reveals that her issues are something that she is already working to deal with and the Fujibayashi sisters show no signs of having any issues beyond being infatuated with Tomoya. All three clearly benefit from their association with Tomoya, and their and Kotomi's interest in Tomoya give the second half of the series a more decidedly haremesque feel at times, but after the Kotomi arc the series is really just all about Tomoya and Nagisa, the relationship they have been gradually building, and the side concerns each one has. Along the way, the presence of the side story involving the girl and the animated doll in an otherwise-unpopulated world finally gets explained. Whether or not it is actually supposed to be a metaphor for any relationship in the series is highly debatable.
In the end, though, the second half of the series clarifies that the title, a variation on the word “clan,” is a reference to the series' focus on the importance and value of family relationships, whether through blood ties or a makeshift one formed by close-knit friends. Characters in the series suffer when they don't feel such bonds or have doubts about them, while they flourish when they do have them. Granted, this isn't anything overly deep, and any claim to sophistication is washed out by the stock personality archetypes for the girls and thick layers of tug-at-your-heart moe content, but even so the storytelling can occasionally generate some serious (if also seriously manipulated) emotional appeal; a sequence involving a briefcase can be surprisingly hard-hitting, and to a lesser extent so can the climax of the play performance arc.
The comedy elements are also still very much in evidence, though generally in spurts. Tomoya's propensity to play tricks on Sunohara and the girls is always good for at least a chuckle, and Sunohara himself, though he can be serious at times, is still mostly comedy relief. Nagisa's parents continue to fall into that same role with their antics over Sanae's inability to bake bread; the bread sprouting octopus tentacles in one episode is priceless. Fuko also gets a few tries at cutesy antics, though less impressively so.
The series climaxes with episode 22, with episode 23 having more the feel of a follow-up that continues the story a bit more rather than an integral part of the story. Episode 24, the “Tomoyo Arc,” was originally an OVA episode adapted from an alternate path in the novel. Though predictable in execution, it is arguably the single best episode in the series for two key reasons: the relationship between Tomoyo and Tomoya has a warmer and more natural feel to it than the Tomoya-Nagisa pairing and Tomoyo is ultimately a more interesting leading lady than Nagisa for those not overwhelmed by Nagisa's intense moeness. Tomoyo's more quietly confident, even-tempered personality has its own appeal and simple scenes like her resting her head on Tomoya's shoulder without either one freaking out convey a much greater sense of intimacy than his relationship with Nagisa ever shows. (At least in this season, anyway.) Is it telling when a single episode equals a whole series' worth of relationship development?
The second half of the series maintains the artistic standards set in the first half: attractive but not spectacular. The one new character – Mei – has a typically cute “little sister” design, and Tomoyo looks good when she dons glasses at one point. Notable changes include a dramatically different look for Sunohara in the later stages of the “Tomoyo Arc” episode and the costume worn by Nagisa for the play, which aside from the color scheme strongly resembles the school uniform in Kanon. The soundtrack crescendos in key dramatic moments but otherwise remains low-key throughout, with a few new themes mixed in. Its original opener and closer also remain constant.
Sentai “ADV” Filmworks again offers a subtitle-only production, and again their production suffers from a lack of diligent proofreading in the subtitles. (Whoever typed them in for these episodes should learn that “until” does not have two Ls, for instance. This mistake is repeated, too, so it isn't just a one-time slip-up.) As with the earlier episodes, though, occasional footnotes explaining concepts that do not translate well – such as an articulation exercise – are on-screen rather than in separate translation notes. The production preserves the original opener and closer, with the English credits following afterwards. The only actual on-disk Extras are the clean versions of said opener and closer.
In the end the series never does satisfactorily resolve Tomoya's problems with his father, leaves Fuko's situation not completely resolved, and gives the impression that Tomoya and Nagisa's story has quite a ways to go yet, but that is, of course, what the as-yet-unlicensed Clannad After Story is for. The second half of Clannad is hardly masterpiece-level entertainment, but it does the job it was intended to do: provide appealing moe entertainment to a fan base who revels in this kind of thing.
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : B
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Tomoyo Arc, character designs, balance of humor and dramatic moments.
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