Clannad Part 1
Tomoya Okazaki is your typical high school
student. He cracks wise, affects boredom in the classroom and his
principal hobbies are hanging out with his buddy Youhei and complaining
about his alcoholic father.
One day he meets Nagisa, a kooky girl who
is repeating her final year of high school. Nagisa’s avowed aim is to
reform the school’s drama club, and as Tomoya gradually lets down his
guard to Nagisa and her friends he comes to realise they’re just as
flawed and vulnerable as he is.
Sounds girly, right? It is, and barely an
episode goes by without at least one character bursting into tears for
the most trifling of reasons, but there’s also plenty of humour and the
animation is superb. The storyline grows more compelling as the series
progresses, and many of the cast members, such as violin-wielding space
cadet Kotomi or Nagisa’s hilarious and unrelentingly brusque father are
amongst the most memorable animated creations of the past few years.
There are plenty of themes at play; the
need for peer acceptance, the difficulties of transcending the traumas
of one’s past and the importance of family, no matter how surrogate or
dysfunctional (the series’ creator was under the mistaken impression
that clannad is Irish Gaelic for clan). But we like
Clannad because, aside from a fairly gratuitous and confusing
pseudo-supernatural subplot and the occasional bit of garbled English
dialogue, it’s funny, cute and downright enchanting.
The series has been selling like hotcakes
in Japan, consistently ranking first amongst sales of anime DVDs, no
mean feat in a country which sees many hundreds of animated titles
released each year. It isn’t hard to see why; the series is an
emotionally satisfying blend of humour and pathos, the school-age
characters are sexy and interesting without verging on paraphilic and
harem cliches are avoided thanks to some adroit storytelling and
intelligent plotting. The present release from Siren, which contains
the first 12 episodes of the show’s 23-episode run, is another appealing
and flawlessly presented import, and a must-see for fans of
cutting-edge, kawaii high school anime.
Audio & Video
Both Japanese and English two-channel audio
is on offer, and both are surprisingly potent. Much thought has also
gone into the soundtrack, and the four-man sound production team have
done a masterful job on the score. The 16:9 widescreen transfer is
pretty impeccable, and though character designs at times border on the
generic the backgrounds are as luminous and detailed as any we’ve ever
seen. Softer tones abound, and there’s really only one word to describe
Clannad’s visuals: pretty.