Clannad Season 1–Anime Review

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3.5 Stars
Clannad is the third in a series of shows from Kyoto Animation adapted from visual novels from Key/Visual Art’s. (The other two were Air and Kanon (2006).)

Kanon is my favorite of the three. It has the most likable hero and the bravest heroine. I admire Air but it’s a bit too grim for my taste.

Clannad is a bit different. It is split into two seasons, the first of which can stand by itself as a gentle, upbeat and very funny harem comedy, though with a rather sad backstory. I’m going to focus on the first season in this review since it can be enjoyed by itself.

UPDATE: my review of the second season is here.

As with most KyoAni shows, the character designs are cute and the animation quality is outstanding.

  • Title
    Clannad (Irish for “family”.)
  • Genres
    Fantasy, Comedy, Romance
  • Demographic
  • Contents
    24 Episodes on 4 DVDs (2 mini box sets.)
  • Languages
    Japanese with subtitles
  • Based on
    A video game by Key/Visual Art’s
  • Director
    Tatsuya Ishihara
  • Series Composition
    Fumihiko Shimo
  • Screenplay
    Fumihiko Shimo
  • Original Character Design
    Itaru Hinoue (game)
  • Character Design
    Kazumi Ikeda
  • Art Director
    Mutsuo Shinohara
  • Chief Animation Director
    Kazumi Ikeda
  • Animation Studio
    Kyoto Animation
  • Broadcast
  • Region 1 Publisher
    Sentai Filmworks

Creating an anime from a visual novel poses special problems. While someone adapting a series of light novels or a long-running manga series may have to deal with the problem of not having a real ending, a visual novel gives you multiple complete stories which contradict each other. The first half of the Clannad game is a traditional dating sim in which there are multiple girls and a hero who can. at best, only end up with one of them. Each girl represents a possible storyline; the hero would have to overcome a different set of obstacles to win her.

It would probably not be satisfactory to just pick one of the stories. To fully appreciate a visual novel you understand all the possible outcome, like a player who has played the game through to all the possible endings. But a satisfactory television series needs to tell a single linear story. A bunch of contradictory stories would tend to annoy the audience.

From a writer’s standpoint I think that Kyoto Animation did a good job of converting Kanon into a coherent linear story, and an even better job with Air. I don’t think the adaptation of Clannad is quite as good. In particular the first season DVDs end with an episode that gives an alternate ending. Some fans actually like this (because they prefer it to the “true” ending) but I find it annoying.

Parental Advisory

The first season includes comic violence and some very mild sexual humor. While the main story is gentle and upbeat, there are backstory elements that are likely to be very disturbing to young children. Age 10 is probably a good minimum.

The second season is darker and is probably best reserved for teenagers and adults.


TomoyaTomoya Okazaki is a senior at a private high school with a good academic reputation, but he isn’t happy there. Lonely, alienated and embittered, he is regarded as a trouble-making delinquent by most of the teachers and students. Deep down however he has a basic decency. Though he doesn’t seem to know it, he is also handsome in a dark, brooding way that some women find fascinating.
SunoharaHis best friend Youhei Sunohara is fellow delinquent and a loud-mouthed idiot. He’s short, with dyed-blond hair and a combative disposition. If he isn’t getting beaten up by a bunch of jocks he is probably being beaten up by some girl that he just insulted. He is a reliable source of bad ideas guaranteed to get both of them into trouble.
NagisaOn his way to school Tomoya sees Nagisa Furukawa talking to herself, perhaps rehearsing lines from a play. A shy, timid girl, she wants to join the Drama Club, but finds that it is defunct. On a whim, Tomoya offers to help her re-establish it, which will require recruiting other members.
NagisaLike all the girls in this story, Nagisa is drawn to look very cute, but based on the reactions of the other characters it seems clear that she is not physically outstanding. She’s a quiet, mousy girl whom people tend to overlook. Even the lecherous Sunohara dismisses her as “plain and dull.” Tomoya offers to help her more out of sympathy than physical attraction (and also, we learn much later, because he feels guilty about something.) She may have “loser” written all over her, but Tomoya thinks of himself as a loser, so that’s something they have in common. She actually has an inner strength that he only gradually comes to appreciate.
RyouRyou Fujibayashi, Tomoya’s class representative, worries about his poor attendance and hopes to get him to reform. She is a sweet and gentle girl, rather shy and clumsy.
KyouHer twin sister Kyou Fujibayashi has a very different personality. She is loud, arrogant, impulsive and sometimes violent, a classic tsundere, though very protective of Ryou.
Kyou and BotanKyou’s pet pig Botan often follows her to school.
KotomiKotomi Ichinose is a young genius with autistic tendencies. Since she always aces her exams the teachers allow her to spend the school day studying by herself in the library. When reading she seems totally oblivious to everyone around her, but for some reason she seems to respond to Tomoya.
FuukoTomoya finds Fuuko Ibuki sitting in an empty classroom carving wooden starfish. She is an odd girl with a childlike manner who never seems to go home. She is totally obsessed with starfish. Initially she is suspicious of Tomoya, but she is nevertheless willing to give him a starfish.
TomoyoTransfer student Tomoyo Sakagami is quiet and soft-spoken, but she should not be underestimated. She is smart, competent and exceedingly strong. In fact she is rumored to be in the habit of beating up delinquents. She is no tsundere; she only uses violence when she is forced to, but she always wins. Her goal is to become president of the student council so that she can use her influence to preserve a nearby grove of sakura trees.
Yukine, Tomoya and NagisaThe old library room is used to store obscure books and forgotten records that are not wanted in the main library. Yukine Miyazawa has made this her personal domain. She is always ready to offer tea and potentially dangerous advice to any students who drop in.
Okazaki apartmentTomoya lives in an unkempt apartment with his father Naoyuki Okazaki, who is a good-for-nothing drunkard. Tomoya despises him, not without reason.
Sanae FurukawaNagisa has an odd but close-knit family. Her parents run a bakery. Her mother Sanae Furukawa is very pretty and sweet. She often seems silly, but she is actually very smart and insightful, and always seems to know the right thing to do in an emergency. Her main fault is that the bread she bakes tastes terrible, a serious failing in a baker.
Akio FurukawaNagisa’s father Akio Furukawa is loud, arrogant, overbearing and impulsive. He is also utterly devoted to Nagisa and Sanae.
MisaeMisae Sagara is the resident manager of the dormitory where Sunohara lives. She is an attractive young woman who tolerates no nonsense from the students. When she was in high school she was the first girl to become president of the student council, which makes her a role model for Tomoyo.
Shima and TomayaMisae’s cat Shima hangs around Sunohara’s room and seems to pay close attention to the conversations.
YoshinoYusuke Yoshino is a dour electrical worker who is given to oracular pronouncements.
Kouko IbukiFuuko’s older sister Kouko Ibuki used to teach at the high school. She is engaged to Yoshino.
Koumura and StudentsToshio Koumura is a wise old teacher who is always willing to go out of his way to assist students.
MeiYouhei’s younger sister Mei Sunohara comes to visit her brother. She is obviously worried about him.
Girl in the Empty WorldNagisa is haunted by the memory of a story that she thinks she heard when she was little. It tells of a girl who was living alone in an empty world, who constructed a doll out of pieces of junk.
Junk DollMiraculously the doll came to life and became her companion.
Girl and the Junk DollThe story sounds oddly familiar to Tomoya, but he’s not sure where he heard it.

Other Versions

Toei Animation released a movie version of the story in 2007. I have not seen the movie and I have no desire to, having seen the awful movie version they made of Air. (They seem to have based that movie on one of the game’s bad endings.)


ANN Encyclopedia entry.

Wikipedia entry (spoilers!)