It’s not unusual for me to change my mind while watching an anime series. Sometimes a series starts well but falls apart at the end. Sometimes it takes me a while to understand what’s going on. However I don’t think I’ve ever changed changed my mind as often as I did while watching this one.
Partly it’s a matter of expectations. The early episodes look like a light-hearted comedy. Indeed, the distributor is explicitly marketing it as a comedy. But it is not really a comedy at all, and parts of it are emotionally wrenching to watch. Nor is it a realistic drama. I prefer to think of it as a modern fairy tale; a story whose characters wander down strange paths and end up trapped in an abyss of dispair, but are ultimately saved by the purity of their hearts and a bit of supernatural assistance.
Ultimately it’s the ending that makes all the difference. I think it’s a wonderful ending that justifies the whole series (though I had to think about it for a while before I was sure of that.)
Original TitleKANON (Japanese for a musical canon.)
Contents26 Episodes on 6 (?) DVDs
LanguagesEnglish, Japanese with subtitles
Based onA video game by Key (Visual Art’s)
Series CompositionFumihiko Shimo
Original Character DesignItaru Hinoue (game)
Character DesignKazumi Ikeda
Art DirectorMutsuo Shinohara
Chief Animation DirectorKazumi Ikeda
Animation StudioKyoto Animation
Region 1 DistributorADV Films
The anime is visually attractive, with the bright, cheerful look common to most shows by Kyoto Animation. (The numerous scenes with sunlit snow make this series seem particularly bright.) Many of the scenes, particularly at the beginning, are light, funny and even silly. But some of the scenes are terribly sad, and the sense of sadness increases as the story progresses. Finally a redemptive ending makes everything seem bright again.
The writing includes clever, subtle elements that will probably only be evident on a second or third viewing.
This series contains material that young children would find very upsetting, and it is unlikely that they would understand the ending. Due to adult themes and tragic events, I can recommend this only for teenagers and adults.
Premise and Characters
The DVDs include a series of “Making Of” segments. The first one is an interview with the director.
The script for the English dub deviates from the subtitle script, apparently to make the characters sound more American. The effect is to change their personalities. Yuuichi’s teasing ceases to be funny and starts to sound cruel. Nayuki changes from very sweet to rather snotty. On the other hand, Sayuri continues to refer to herself by her first name, which sounds cute in Japanese, but idiotic in English . Worst of all, the actress in the demanding role of Ayu seems completely out of her depth.
This is definitely a show that should be watched in Japanese with subtitles.
The story originated as a visual novel published in 1999. This has never been released in English, but it is fairly obvious that the anime adaptation takes 5 possible paths through the game, originally distinct and mutually-exclusive stories, and arranges them sequentially as part of a larger story. This works pretty well for the most part, but in some of the transitions between the story arcs there is a feeling of a loss of continuity.
In 2002 a 13-episode anime adaptation was made by Toei Animation and broadcast on Fuji TV. This was never licensed for a Region 1 release.
This review covers the more complete 26-episode remake that was broadcast beginning in 2006. This is commonly referred to as “Kanon (2006)” to avoid confusion.
Wikipedia entry. (Spoilers.)
Anime News Network Encyclopedia listing.
My own spoiler-filled notes on the series, including my interpretation of the ending.
 However many of the locations are based on the city of Moriguchi, which is located far to the south in Osaka Prefecture.
 No doubt the dub retains the first name business because it’s a very minor plot point. However given how bad it sounds in English it would have been better to drop it entirely. Or maybe they could have come up with a different slightly childish speech pattern.