Clannad is one of the most frustrating shows in existence. I’m just going to put that out there to begin with.
Across the vast spectrum of visual novel fans, I imagine two distinct factions of people. Type-Moon fans and Key fans. Two sides, hungry for blood. The blood of each other. They rarely interact, except to exchange digital blows on some anonymous BBS or IRC channel. Actually, this probably doesn’t happen at all, but if it were to happen I’d be more with the Key people. I mean, you’re either a stupid pretentious fuck who thinks mollusk metaphors are deep, or you’re a guy who likes cute girls dying. I’d rather cute girls dying.
I like Air and Kanon. I think they are great shows. I actually consider Air something of amateurish masterpiece, and Kanon is great until you realize Ayu is the main character. I like Key stuff. Their work is heavy handed, mellow-dramatic, and pulls at your heart strings using some of the dirtiest tricks in the book. But I don’t fucking care. They are pieces of good, solid entertainment; and do have some degree of artistic merit. Clannad, however, is different.
Clannad is Key’s attempt to move away from this type of story writing. Stories in Clannad concern themselves with mostly normal things. Family disputes, misunderstandings and things like that. The problem is the manner in which these issues are handled. How many fucking times in season one is an issue resolved through a goddamn motherfucking sports competition. It has to be two times, maybe three– and they almost do this again in Sunohara’s arc in ~After Story~! What the fuck, Key? Another example can be found in the absolutely abominable Yukine arc which is so childishly handled that the only thing keeping me from running to Japan and murdering someone is its great ending.
But at the same time, some arcs are absolutely wonderful, or at least not totally horrible. Fuuko’s arc, even though it’s a total ripoff on Makoto’s story, is pretty good; Sunohara’s arc is great except for the ending; and the latest arc with Tomoya opens with an episode so good that I was wondering if they sacked Jun whateverhisnameis for someone who’s actually good.
The one consistent element throughout this whole mess is KyoAni’s amazing presentation of it all. The small background details, the carefully calculated levels of bloom and the detailed depictions of Sunohara getting beaten within an inch of his life keep me coming back. Also, when the show isn’t focusing on its plot, there are a lot of great humour scenes. Quite frankly, I would have liked it better if Clannad was a school comedy. It’d be a lot better than what it is now!