Happy birthday Oreki Houtarou, and CLANNAD 10th Anniversary

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I had originally not planned on writing anything because lmao blogging and also because I was content to keep my being きもい on twitter. However, I’d learned that not only was it Oreki’s birthday today, but it’s also the release date for the PC version of Clannad, making this some sort of anime holy day for me. Even spookier is that this year marks Clannad’s 10th anniversary, a fact that I only know because I found and bought the 10th anniversary artbook while I was in Tokyo this past summer.

It might seem really trite nowadays (some might argue that it already was when it aired), but Clannad continues to hold a special place in my heart and is still one of my favourite anime and visual novels. Even back then knowing almost nothing about visual novels, it was really easy to see all of the different pieces glued together into a single coherent story.

Where I think Clannad flops is if you think of Clannad as the story of Tomoya and Nagisa getting together in high school. It’s nice, but it’s pretty typical. What I consider Clannad to be and what interested me the most about it is Tomoya’s story beyond his high school life and romance and where he ends up as a person. But maybe this speaks more about my endearment for moe guy characters than how good Clannad is.

I think that’s also why I like Oreki so much (I mean other than being moe). Hyouka is even less about Oreki’s love life and much more about how he changes between episodes 1 and 22. Of course, a lot of that has to do with Chitanda (a lot like how Tomoya changes because of Nagisa). Of course, Oreki’s not done by the time episode 22 rolls around and the way the show ends makes that pretty clear.

Now back to waiting for a new KyoAni show starring moe boy voiced by Nakamura Yuuichi.

Clannad again

「CLANNAD」/「嘎哦」

Much to dad’s disappointment, I finally played through the Clannad visual novel. At first, I figured that I wouldn’t get much out of it since the anime was a sufficiently faithful adaptation of the visual novel. Then, I was bored and figured that since I already friggin love Clannad so much, it wouldn’t hurt to go through it again.

For the most part, I’m pretty glad I did. The most impressive thing about the anime adaptation was that there were elements in both the anime and visual novel that I preferred over the other. The differences in what was chosen for adaptation were pretty minor. While they didn’t affect the overall character of the story, reading it again with those changed details makes it a slightly different experience.

I played it with a walkthrough and the first impression I had was being glad that someone made a walkthrough because that game would have been impossible to beat without one. It’s easily the hardest one I’ve played and has some weird flags, like completing certain routes immediately before other ones and other things that would’ve been impossible to know about. This is in addition to being long and having a billion routes with the most surprising characters getting their own routes.

Obviously, the biggest advantage the visual novel has over anime is time. Nothing felt rushed when I watched the anime, but seeing the relationships develop felt a lot more natural in the visual novel. This isn’t just limited to Nagisa and, obviously, it’s more important for each girl if you’re on their route. But I think the relationships that benefit the most from this are with the main players who aren’t Nagisa in After Story: Akio, Sanae, and Yoshino.

The most unsettling thing was watching Tomoya develop romantic relationships with girls who weren’t Nagisa. And not just that but almost every girl’s route. Like, Ryou, Kyou, Kotomi, and Tomoyo were okay, since I was sufficiently prepared for it by the anime. But Fuko, Yukine, and Misae were all lolwut.

It was surprising to see Nagisa’s route involving so many pieces of the other routes. It made it really easy for the anime to just take a sought detour and finish each route off. I think the route that changed the most in the anime was Yukine’s route, which had that weird drama with the brother being secretly dead. In other routes, though, Nagisa’s absence felt really strange. This is most obvious in the Sunohara siblings arc, when, Sanae is super eager to help you for no reason.

So what about the stuff that didn’t make the cut for the anime? Again, I have to note how impressed I am that the anime managed to fit almost everything in in a way that makes sense. Even some stuff that didn’t make it initially found its way back in through the extra episodes. Of that stuff, I didn’t find that reading it added much that the anime didn’t handle. Of course, I would be down for a Tomoyo After anime of some sort.

The biggest exclusion was Kappei’s route, which makes sense since he’s practically invisible until you decide to enter his route. That makes me wonder why his route is included in the game. Is it because they felt sorry for Ryou getting shafted hard in Kyou’s route? It’s really weird.

The other story that doesn’t happen in the anime is Akio’s little escapade. What I found kind of strange about his route is that it’s a branch off of After Story that gets its own ending. I don’t see why it couldn’t have just been rolled in with the rest of it like Sanae’s or Yoshino’s was.

While After Story remained largely the same, there are some important differences in the visual novel’s account of the development of Tomoya’s and Nagisa’s relationship. The visual novel doesn’t really give Nagisa many things to be happy about. I was surprised that their initial failure to get the theatre club going was actually the starting point of their formal relationship. And then there’s Nagisa getting sick almost immediately after the play and her terrible school life after Tomoya graduates.

There’s a lot more focus on their relationship too, since all of that running around doing stuff for and making friends with the other girls is all gone. In the anime, Nagisa is able to participate in all of this helping and friend making stuff, but in her story in the visual novel, she doesn’t really get any breaks like that. Basically, it’s all about how Tomoya and Nagisa build their relationship in spite of all the crap that gets thrown their way.

For the most part, the anime is excellent. It’s one of very few anime adaptations of a visual novel that’s a perfectly fine substitute for the anime. If you do choose to play it, do know that it is super long. Unless you have a lot of time and you really like Clannad, you probably won’t get much out of playing it instead of or after watching the anime.

Finale: Clannad ~After Story~

Clannad is about family. This is something that sort of gets beaten into you throughout the course of the show. This very important to understanding just what the hell goes on.

I understand why Clannad got split into two seasons, since following year-long shows is kind of tiring, but the two halves of After Story were jarringly different. It might have been better for flow to have kept it all together so that the school life stuff could be put together without it feeling like there were a few extra leftover arcs at the beginning of After Story. In fact, in my mind, I sort of lump the first half of After Story with the first season of Clannad and the actual After Story with After Story.

Visual novel adaptations are hard. Visual novels are not linear and when something like Clannad exploits that structure, serializing it is made even harder. Because my superpower is not caring about spoilers, I’ve read a lot of stuff about the visual novel and what the ending is supposed to mean. And the ending is one of those things that exploits the structure of the visual novel.

Outside of the context of the visual novel and paths and whatever, the ending is very deus ex machina. I mean, we get a’splosion, some talking, and then Tomoya “wakes up” at the critical moment but everything is bright and we get a happy ending. It’s sort of like the first time you go through Higurashi. You become disoriented and wonder what the hell just happened.

So two things are key to understanding the ending. The first is that Clannad is about family. The second is that Clannad is a visual novel.

What we got in the anime was the true end. So what was the bad end? The bad end was if there were no deus ex machina. So in a sense, we got to see both ends. But what’s the prerequisite for the true end? The anime almost makes it look like it was the decision to call out to Nagisa. In fact, what’s required is that you have enough light orbs.

The light orbs are explained as the happiness of others. They also happen to be a gameplay mechanic. Once you finish an arc, you get a light orb. This seems like it’s just a way to get you to play all of the paths. The function of the light orbs isn’t that obvious, since Yukine sort of explains it offhandedly and Ushio seeing the light orb enter Tomoya didn’t really spell anything out. Even after Ushio’s explanation in the imaginary world, it isn’t clear that Tomoya was collecting these things.

After all, why would Ushio’s and Nagisa’s fate be tied to these light orbs instead of meeting Nagisa? Why is it impossible to save Ushio and Nagisa without playing all the other arcs? Remember what Tomoya says and what he’s like when we’re first introduced to him. He hates the city he lives in. He has no understanding of what a family is. He continues to hate the city all the way until the end. Upon your first time reaching the end, in the imaginary world, Ushio sends you back to collect light orbs.

Through collecting the light orbs and finishing the various paths, which we see accumulating in the anime at the episode title screen, Tomoya learns what family is. Only after finishing all the other paths is he able to come around to the fact that the town that he hated, which also happens to be some town that grants peoples’ wishes, is a giant family. And only after he learns all of this is he able to save his family.

Obviously, this isn’t as easy to show in the anime. In the anime, our experience with the true end happens right after the bad end and is fairly abrupt. In the visual novel, Tomoya works his way to the bad end and realizes that there’s no way to avoid it except to collect the light orbs. He is then set on the arduous task of collecting these light orbs, while keeping in mind that he’s working to save Nagisa and Ushio, knowing what will happen if he fails.

All things considered, KyoAni did a pretty good job with the ending. The last episode played out almost exactly how I predicted they’d do it. Now that it’s over, I can see why Clannad is considered Key’s best work. I can safely say it’s the best Key anime adaptation.

2008 in anime

I’d always considered myself a fan of anime for a long time. But it wasn’t until July that I realized that I hadn’t really watched that much. You see, following Naruto and Bleach for years gives one the illusion that they’ve watched a lot of anime. As it turns out, you’ve just watched a lot of Naruto and Bleach. Once I realized this and that there were tons of titles that people were talking about that I had no idea existed, I sought to remedy the situation.

I took advantage of the fact that I’d stopped raiding in WoW and didn’t need to block off four hours per night anymore and, later, that I’d be on a work term at home when all of my friends would be busy with school or outside the city and I went through almost everything of interest from the past few years. Anyhow, here are 2008’s (that is, aired during 2008) most influential anime for myself.

Mobile Suit Gundam 00

I’ve always liked Gundam, even though I’ve still not familiarized myself with UC. But, you can count on me watching a Gundam show. As a result, even though it wasn’t entirely captivating to me like SEED was, I still made sure to catch 00. As the aforementioned WoW raiding picked up, 00 soon became the only show I was following. And while the first season of 00 didn’t win me over, the second season is quickly redeeming its predecessor.

Soul Eater

This is probably the anime that brought me into watching anime as it aired. I don’t even remember how I stumbled upon this. I do remember that it was the stunning OP and the amazing animation in the first episode that won me over. I’ve said constantly that while the premise is a bit typical, it’s the quality of the production that makes this series shine. It’s been about three-quarters of the way through and it still holds true.

Clannad

There are two reasons I picked this up. The first was that I’d just finished 5 Centimeters per Second and was in the mood for another sadface anime. The second was Clannad After Story’s OP. It was my introduction to the visual novel adaptation and harem anime. It wasn’t what I was expecting. It turns out Kanon, which I watched afterwards, was what I was expecting. Anyhow, Clannad and Clannad After Story remain as some of my favourites and it’s influential for opening me to the genre. This lead me to watch things like ef – a tale of memories, which I consider a good result.

Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion

I’d mentioned this anime a week or two ago and why it was important. For me, it introduced the anime community on the Internet: a vast collection of various anime blogs and 4chan’s /a/. And it’s through this machinery that I gather information about other anime, empowering me to trudge through and find out what I’ve missed over the past few years.

Xam’d: Lost Memories

Xam’d is a very good reminder of why I hate Sony. It’s a shame that one of the best shows of the year ends up with pretty much the worst distribution model. Other than that, the show began with some definite Eureka Seven vibes, which I forgave, since it had a main character that wasn’t Renton Thurston at the beginning of E7. As it went on though, it really turned into its own thing (other than those wings) and it’s influential because it’s just damned good. If it’d already ended, I’d probably crown it the best anime of the year.

This week’s old animu: Air TV, feat. Uguu~

Today, you get two posts. One for Kanon, which I typed up about halfway before abandoning but planned to return to once I got this weekly thing rolling. And one for Air, which I actually watched this week. They get thrown together because they are both part of the powerful KeyAni triad. Keep in mind that I watched Kanon pretty much right after Clannad.

Kanon 2006, uguu~

Generally, I try not to write about the same sorts of things twice in a row, but I’m planning to make an excellent post one Tuesday night about that. So, you get treated to another KyoAni/Key anime post! This time, I blasted through Kanon (2006). I have to qualify that with the year because Kanon has two anime series. The first was a 13-episode series done in 2002 by Toei Animation. The one I watched was a 26-episode remake by Kyoto Animation, who at the time were known for Air, another Key VN, and Haruhi, that anime that you should have watched by now. But, this will probably turn out to be another opportunity to go on about how much I like Clannad.

Kanon was what I expected from a visual novel adaptation. That is, when I took my first steps into Clannad, I was expecting Kanon. I was glad in the case of Clannad, that it turned out differently. Having watched Clannad then, I was disappointed with how Kanon progressed until the ending. That’s not to say that Kanon isn’t any good, it’s just that Clannad changed my expectations for it.

Just about the only thing that I expected of Kanon that was true was that it turned out to be slightly less funny and slightly more dramatic than Clannad. Kanon is very well described as sad girls in snow. Otherwise, I enjoyed the plot, setting, and characters of Clannad far more than those of Kanon.

Clannad managed to keep the focus of the plot on the development of Tomoya’s and Nagisa’s relationship throughout the show. Kanon managed to tie all of the arcs together only at the very end. Even though Ayu ends up being the lead female, the bulk of her development shows up only during her arc, whereas Nagisa at least plays a part in other arcs. Even if she’s just standing around, it gives the sense of a common thread running throughout each arc rather than several compartmentalized arcs.

I also enjoyed Clannad’s characters a lot more than Kanon’s. I liked Tomoya’s interactions with the others a lot more than Yuuichi’s. It may have to do with Yuuichi basically being parachuted into the town at the beginning having to learn everything. On the other hand, Tomoya already has connections with people, so he spends less time just meeting people and learning about them. He’s also more interesting since he’s a delinquent.

The supporting characters in Clannad also seemed more interesting and lively than Kanon’s sad girls in snow. They’re also less annoying. I’m not a fan of uguu~ when she says it every other sentence, and I am definitely anti-Auu~.

Will all of this deter me from picking up Air in the future? No, even though it is the work that Kyoani did before Haruhi and Kanon, the fact that it’s only 13 episodes long certainly doesn’t hurt.

Air, GAO

So I managed to find Air. I begin wondering where it would fall on the KeyAni continuum. I doubted that it could top Clannad, but with the right pacing and story, it could beat Kanon. Quite frankly, there are a lot of flaws with Air. To be fair, I did watch it last, when it was the first of KyoAni’s Key works. But, unlike Kanon, even if I had watched it first, it probably wouldn’t have helped.

My main criticism of Kanon was that it felt really compartmentalized from the way it handled its arcs. The ending managed to save it by tying everything together. This doesn’t happen in Air. Each arc is definitely on its own and at the conclusion of one, the characters that were involved will drop off the face of the earth. The only real connection that each arc had was some vague sky motif.

Even worse was that the main arc was really weird. I probably wouldn’t have been able to follow it at all if I hadn’t spoiled it for myself beforehand by reading Wikipedia. Strange things happen to the characters, we’re introduced to something entirely out of left field, and the final arc took off in another direction. I’ll admit it looked pretty emotional, but it was really hard to empathize with because it was really hard to understand what was going on or the significance behind it all.

Ultimately, Air was decent, but fairly disappointing compared to the other KeyAni works. This makes sense, since comparing such an early work with the stuff that KyoAni was able to output later on shows how much they’ve improved, especially in the VN department. I did enjoy the GAO GAO STEGOSAURUS though.