Judge Daryl Loomis doesn't know what he'll do once he finishes high school.
Love is like a firework from the past.
Clannad: After Story is the second adaptation of a popular series of Japanese "visual novels" from Key Studio that follows a group of high schoolers through their final year. Clannad: After Story picks up immediately where the first season left off and, never having seen it, it was impossible to tell what was going on. The producers take for granted that viewers are familiar with the characters and their back stories (a fair assumption, I suppose). Without that knowledge, I went through the first nine episodes in this set in various stages of confusion. Just as I started to figure it out, though, the whole story changes.
I was able to glean that the first season followed Tomoyo Okazaki, a senior at a swanky private school, as he dealt with one of the most difficult times in his life. His mom has died, he's depressed, and his dad has turned to booze. In a drunken rage, his dad throws him against a wall and separates his shoulder, ruining his basketball career and making his life worse. All is not lost for Tomoyo, however, because he's able to find support and first love in his circle of friends.
The first season appears to have ended abruptly, because the second begins virtually mid-sentence. The first nine episodes follow Tomoyo, once again, through the final months of the school year. He's fallen in love with the sickly Nagisa, who is missing class because of her illness and may have to repeat her final year. Tomoyo and his friends have plenty of adventures involving gangsters, baseball, and cooking; but then they graduate. In episode ten, school is over and, aside from Tomoyo and Nagisa, every essential character disappears from the story. Now, with them as a couple, the story goes in a completely different direction, focusing on the domestic struggles of Tomoyo's first few months in the real world. There are also a number of small scenes involving a lonely girl from another world who builds robot friends out of junk, but I have no clue what that's all about.
Clannad: After Story may have been hard for me to follow, but that is due more to my failings than to those of the anime. Key Studios has done an excellent job on this series, delivering (outside of that robot part) a realistic anime that is serious and well-written. The story is simple, dealing with mundane events that stress the importance of friends and family, and only occasionally venturing off into anything outlandish. I spent a lot of time in the first part of the season just trying to figure out what was going on, but when the story shifts, the characters are easily understandable and their situations completely relatable. Though nothing particularly tragic happens in the first half of the season, the focus on Nagisa's sickness and the anime's overall somber tone make me suspect the other shoe will drop before the season ends.
The voice acting helps sell the story, with above average performances across the board. There is no English track included on the set but the actors are able to convey more than enough emotion through their voices to fill in most of the gaps in translation. The animation is, like the rest of the production, simple and clean. It is often very static, which would ordinarily be frustrating, but it fits in with its visual novel origins.
Sentai Filmworks presents Clannad: After Story: Collection 1 over two discs. This is brand new animation, so the anamorphic image looks as good as it should; with bright colors, strong detail, and clarity when the image is in motion or at rest. Though the sound is only a stereo mix, it is quite strong. The voice and music, which is unusually well-done for an anime, are nicely mixed with some minimal separation between the channels. The special features, typical in these sets, are limited to text-free songs and trailers for other anime from Sentai, so basically worthless.
I have a feeling the second collection of Clannad: After Story will
feature considerably more action, or at least I hope so, but we'll have to wait
to find out. Until then, this first half is a very good, quiet, and romantic
anime that is family-friendly and well worth watching. Just watch the first
season, before you see this.
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• Textless Songs
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