The series is based on a 'visual novel' by Key -- which we know from Kanon and Air. And sure enough: Clannad has the same 'look and feel' of those other two series. Sure enough: there are lots of bishoujo with big hair (including 'antenna'), slow music with lots of violins, and many heartbreaking moments involving cute girls with Dark Secrets. Because, this being Key, everyone has to be as fucked up as possible!
Central character is Tomoya, who is a completely unmotivated guy. Of course, this is due to some bad thing happening between him and his father in the past, and now they don't get along anymore. Tomoya stays out all night, hanging out with his friend Youhei -- who is also skipping school and doing whatever he pleases.
Tomoya's life changes when he meets Nagisa, who has missed one year of school due to illness and has to re-do her third year of highschool. This makes her one year older than the rest of the cast, a fact that she sometimes uses to get her way. Despite himself, Tomoya has a rather large saviour-complex, which is how he gets involved with Nagisa and some of her friends.
There are several 'arcs' in the story. The overall story is about Nagisa's wish to revide the defunct acting club -- she needs several members and a teacher as the advisor before the student council will authorise re-instating the club. All through the series, this is a recurring theme, and the drive for more members is the plot device under which Tomoya meets all the other girls. At the start, Tomoya visits Nagisa's home. Her parents run a bakery and her family life is everything his own isn't. He finally feels at home somewhere, and so he starts to hang out with Nagisa both at school and at her home.
The first arc is about Fuko, a young girl who carves starfish from wood and tries to give them to everyone at school. She is trying to invite people to her sister's wedding. It turns out that Fuko is actually in a coma, and that her sister doubts whether she should marry her boyfriend when Fuko can't be there. Fuko's "spirit" tries to create a large party for her sister, so that she will get married anyway. Due to various trials and some heartwrenching scenes, it ends all right though.
The second arc is about Kotomi, who lost her parents in a house fire. Turns out her parents were scientists, and due to several forgotten and mis-remembered, Kotomi blames herself and others for burning her father's notes. The group tries to lure her out of her shell, and through some cathartic cry-fest she comes to grips with her past.
The third arc is about Tomoyo, the ideal student. Tomoya gets into a scuffle with some ruffians over her and takes the blame. Tomoyo wants to become the student council president, and if she would get suspended from school, she can kiss her chances goodbye. So Tomoya takes the blame and gets suspended. Tomoyo tries to make Tomoya shape up again and the two of them talk about their family situations. Once Tomoyo realises that Tomoya is in love with Nagisa, she backs off.
The fourth arc is about Nagisa. She's pretty frail and her parents had to give up their dreams to take care of their sick infant. When Nagisa finds out, she falls into a crisis. Obviously, Tomoya manages to talk her out of her depression.
It's really very Key. Pretty girls, a male protagonist and lots of angst and drama. You know I love this stuff, and if you do too, Clannad certainly will deliver.
Technically, the series is very good. The voice acting is superb, though there are some annoying squeaky voices here and there. Visually, the series is just as good as any of the other series based on the work by Key. There's the very distinct flavour of character design we've come to expect from Key, but this time it's pretty spruced up with nice backgrounds and some carefully chosen CGI. Still, I liked Air slightly better than this one, because it has that all-too-common high school setting.
- Visually appealing;
- More moments of heartwrenching romance.
- There's not a 'normal' kid in sight: everyone is fucked up in varying degrees;
- Complete moe-fest, and it knows it.
All in all, I enjoyed watching this. I'll give it a 7.