Anime warms hearts, breaking them in the process


Throughout the various episodes of this romantic comedy/drama/adventure/fantasy series, I had to frequently remind myself that I am an 18-year-old man that does not cry over anime. This tactic failed miserably. This show has ruined my life in such a beautiful way; it has taken everything happy about life and replaced it with tears, tearing my heart in half and haphazardly stitching it back up with each new wound. This series is titled “Clannad,” meaning “family” or “clan” in Irish Gaelic, and it is very accurately named.

The first season begins with only two characters, Nagisa and Tomoya, entering their junior year of high school. It shows them slowly becoming closer friends and making new friends along the way as well as forgetting some that they grew to know and love. As it ends, new relationships are formed, leading into season two. Season two, also called “After Story”, spans over a five-year period, including graduation, weddings, job-hunting, familial crises, children and a great tragedy that I can’t bring myself to mention.

As an avid book reader and television viewer, it isn’t uncommon for me to bond with characters over time. In the beginning of this show, I was unsure if it was going to happen, as I didn’t relate with many of the characters at first, but as time went on, I felt the all-too-familiar connection slowly forming.

Every new addition to the cast came with a new bond and fear of loss. Every backstory brought forth a flood of emotion as I watched how this character came to be who he/she is. Each event that the characters went through together strengthened or, in some cases, weakened their bonds with each other but only served to make me love or hate them even more. There wasn’t a single character that didn’t have some form of an impact on the story.

Each character also has his or her own sort of theme song; each time they appeared on screen, the music would shift ever-so-slightly into an easily recognizable, yet unique style of sound. The music certainly fit each character’s personality and story. While it seems that the main focus of the series was its characters, they were not the only aspects of “Clannad” that had special attention paid to them.

I am the type of person who always reads the last page or chapter of a book first. I hunt for spoilers — anything that can give me a heads-up on what is to come. It’s not so much the ending of the story that matters to me, but the journey. However, this is one of those stories that I would abhor to have spoiled to me, and that is making it very difficult to discuss the plot without any spoilers.

The story was told in a bizarre way to me. There was often a voice-over from Tomoya, the main character, but he was speaking in the past tense, as if he was telling a story to someone else. This didn’t make much sense to me until the very end.

Another odd story-telling mechanic was the presence of “another world.” It appears commonly at the beginning of most episodes, as sort of a prologue that lasts a few minutes. The theme of this other world usually coincides with the theme of the episode, but this is not always the case. This other world seemed kind of pointless to me with its inconsistency, but, once again, the ending of the series enlightened me.

The other world also features a completely different animation style from the main story, and I desperately wish that this animation style would be featured everywhere. It’s indescribably fluid, and although it is easy to see each individual frame, the beauty of it makes me not care.

This show has taught me that nobody is ever alone on their struggles, and that friendship is truly important in life amongst other cliché yet true things. It has shown me that real friendships last a lifetime, and those whom may have been forgotten may not have forgotten you.

Since “Clannad” is Japanese, it can only be found with either English subtitles or dubbed over in English. Each is good as the lines aren’t changed that much and the voice acting is wonderful either way, once one gets over the poor lip synchronization with the words.

Despite the few drawbacks it has, I never once dwelled on any flaw that I noticed, possibly because there weren’t any flaws that genuinely took away from the series in any serious way. Any minor thing I noticed was simply forgotten in the next scene when some new dramatic or emotional event occurred.

“Clannad” is heartbreak after heartbreak after heartbreak that leaves the viewer with an unconquerable sense of hopelessness, with a few small pockets of joy. While that doesn’t seem very appealing to most, I feel like this series should be mandatory viewing for everyone. It is a beautiful story with wonderful characters and everything about it is spectacular, making it more than deserving of five out of five stars.