Based on a visual novel, Clannad follows the life of Tomoya Okazaki, a high school student slacker, as he helps his friends with their varying problems and situations.
After an accident sometime prior to the series start, Tomoya is unable to play in the basketball club anymore and having a poor relationship with his father ends up rather distant from school activities and spends a lot of his time slacking off from his studies and hanging out with his equally delinquent friend, Youhei Sunohara.
Tomoya soon meets Nagisa Furukawa an unassuming girl who is currently repeating her school year having spent much of the previous one out ill, leaving her largely alone as all her friends have moved on. Whilst very timid she tells Tomoya that she wants to join the Drama Club, but they soon discover that the club is currently on hiatus due to having no members. Tomoya decides to help her out in trying to get the club going again.
This arc stretches across all the episodes in this collection, but fades into the background as we follow Tomoya helping out other people and new friends he’s made whilst assisting others. The main girl we see him helping here is Fuko Ibuki, a student several years his junior who he discovers carving wooden starfish. Her wish is to make one for everyone in the school so that she can give them as gifts doubling as invitations to her sisters wedding. Both Tomoya and Nagisa dedicate themselves to helping her with the varying assistance of Tomoya’s other friends and Nagisa’s family. We soon learn however that things are not quite as they appear and that there’s something very strange about Fuku. This leads to a really sweet and emotional story.
The remaining cast of characters covers the spectrum of stereotypes from the ‘quiet super genius girl’, ‘really tough girl’, ‘blatant crush on the main character girl’ to ‘unnecessarily annoying parents’ and ‘letch best friend’. The good thing though is that they are all fun and memorable characters, with the exception of Nagisa’s father who’s simply painful to watch. You’re also likely to discover yourself actually caring about the characters without necessarily realising just how that happened.
The series so far has surprised me with just how emotional it can be. The first couple of episodes are a bit on the weak side but the series quickly builds up its story pace and expertly and deftly tugs on viewers heartstrings with some genuinely heart-breaking scenes and juxtaposing those scenes against moments of triumph for the different characters that will have viewers beaming from ear to ear. As this is only Part 1, obviously not everything set up get’s resolved here, but it gives a nice idea of where some things will go in the rest of the series.
The animation is good and solid, but nothing overly special which is to be expected from a high school drama anime as there’s nothing really flashy to animate. The dub cast are all good with David Matranga helming the cast well as Tomoya and Hilary Haag’s excellent turn as Fuku Ibuki.
On a rather disappointing note, there are no extras in this Part 1 release at all. I can only hope that the second part is crammed with them. On a mild technical issue note, the DVD returns to the menu after each episode so you can’t seamlessly skip from episode to episode with your ‘next chapter’ button – only a minor annoyance, but a strange setup nonetheless.
Clannad is highschool drama done brilliantly. You’ll find yourself loving the characters and genuinely getting drawn into their compelling stories and relationships. A well recommended watch.
Clannad – Series 1 Part 1 is being released on 28th May and is available to order now on Amazon.
Clannad – Series 1 Part 1 [DVD] – £18.00