Monday, 24 March 2008

Clearing up the AIR between KANON and CLANNAD

My reaction to Clannad overall. Minus the true tears.

(Pardon the rather lousy title, am brain-drained after yet another post of content of possibly pretentious worth... Gah. Also spoilers for Air, Kanon and Clannad lurk within...)

So CLANNAD has recently reached its conclusion with some summer omake to come afterwards. Will that turn out to be like Air in Summer, I wonder? Cos that would be a good thing to someone like me who actually liked Air in Summer but disliked Air itself as a whole, and found CLANNAD not much better.

Kanon of course is another story (so-to-speak) where I actually liked both incarnations (TOEI's rather dated-looking one and Kyoto Animation's snowy eye-candy spectacle). What set Kanon apart from the Air and Clannad though, for me, turned out to be something rather superficial - 'twas the snow.

Yes, that's right, in my shallow mind's eye, Kyoto Animation has succeeded in mesmerizing me with their glorious snowy eye candy (Toei couldn't, but then again I watched Kanon 2002 while watching Kanon 2006 so that I could glimpse ahead in the story. 2006 obviously had the edge with the gorgeous art and better pacing - minus the dragged out Makoto arc - while 2002 served up more Nayuki in the ending, so they're both good in my books :P) , giving me a very favourable impression of Kanon, whereas the sunny beach of Air and the spring blossoms(?) of Clannad did absolutely nothing for me.

To a certain extent, it's rather true :P I'm a sucker for snow, as only someone who's grown up in a tropical country and has never had to shovel a sidewalk or got stuck on a long train journey to meet someone can be. But here's the thing, all that snow in Kanon was part of a larger aspect of the visual novel adaptation experience - the atmosphere.

The whole wintry snow element in Kanon worked well with the whole melancholy of the events and story, hence the whole sad girls in snow ploy. Even the supernatural elements seem pretty much at home in the snowy scape and scope of the story. From Last Regrets to Ayu running in the snow at the end of an episode, together with the music box-like soundtrack, everything fit well in the snowy setting of the Kanon-verse, all actually seemed right for fox girls to be running about and girls to be slaying their 'inner' demons.

Air's sunny summer though gave a totally different atmosphere - that of summer fantasy, dreams and hope. The irony is that Kanon's melancholy ended happily for all the so-called 'sad' girls (happily enough considering only one girl gets the guy, but still) while in Air, I expected at the start that the guy would succeed in finding the girl with the wings and free her from her curse blah blah blah... Only things don't end happily ever after at all. Which made things rather inconclusive and just plain sad for the sake of being sad. Boo.

As for Clannad? Well the lack of a seasonal attachment made it slightly less obvious as to what atmosphere the series is supposed to convey. To me at least, the atmosphere in Clannad came across as rather typical high school romance drama, what with all the supposedly funny high school hijinx thrown in. This setup suddenly becomes less remarkable than say, sad girls in snow/summer , and so to add in the KEY signature, there are the surprise elements like astral-projection (hmm... where have we seen that before...) and the whole girl and robot in the imaginary world thing (which in the end, didn't tie in well with any particular element in the story or I just didn't get).

However, I found CLANNAD's ultimate failing to be that Kyoto Animation was once again trying to adapt a visual novel in the way that they did with Kanon and Air - where every girl gets their portion of the story and it ends with the 'main heroine' snagging the guy. CLANNAD started with this formula with Fuko and Kotomi, but then had to toss Kyou, Ryou, Tomoyo and even Sunohara in our faces at a go before ending with Nagisa.

But the main reason why it didn't work out smoothly is because, from start to finish, CLANNAD the anime was meant to be Nagisa's story - with everyone else ended up being window dressing (hence why only her name I bolded :P). But instead of keeping them as window dressing or even allowing all the girls a fair chance, KyoAni establishes Nagisa as the central heroine at the start, making her nearly inseparable from the Tomoya, and then tried to recreate what they did in Kanon by fleshing out some of the girls' stories, but failed halfway because of the conflicting storylines presented with each girl in the game (this I gather from rants by Hinano and others who've played through the game), thus tossing us a salad conclusion to the remaining of the girls' stories before rounding their focus back to Nagisa and Tomoya sitting in a tree... So we get the Nagisa start, Nagisa middle and Nagisa end, but with a lot of in between that ends up feeling rather unwanted. Air had a similar 'problem' regarding Misuzu, but since there were only 2 other girls to dispense with, and they were dispensed with neatly in their own short arcs, it's not so apparent as in Clannad where only half the girls got that treatment.

Whereas with Kanon, though it was obvious Ayu would figure as the end girl (the OP says it all basically with these adaptations), every other girl got their individual arc, and though you still see Ayu and Nayuki around during Makoto or Mai's arc for example, they're not permanently tagging along with Yuuichi in his quest to liberate the sad girls in snow of their individual sadness. In Clannad, Tomoya had started with Nagisa first before Fuko came along, and since then we see Nagisa there with Tomoya helping Fuko, Nagisa with Tomoya weeding Kotomi's garden, Nagisa at the totally necessary basketball game cheering "Okazaki-san!!" (and nullifying everyone else's presence in Tomoya's heart *groans*)... It goes on until the end where Nagisa's own story comes to fore finally and the series concludes serviceably. Ho-hum. Nagisa and Tomoya live happily ever after. Nyeh.

As a whole, I view Clannad as an average attempt at romance at best, with too many strings attached for its own good. It probably won't matter to its legions of fans who find the redeeming qualities of the side characters' thighs, the bullying humour, the dangos, or the deeper meanings in the familial themes... But for me, as far as KyoAni'+KEY shows go, it's still Kanon > Air in Summer (short, simple, unpretentious) > Clannad > Air


CCY said...

(AIR ending spoilers, etc.)

I thought the AIR ending was a happy one, albeit a bittersweet one.

Although Misuzu died, there was that sense that she died happily, that Kanna's spirit finally got to experience happiness with Ryuuya in a sense. The two of them essentially took their first step towards breaking the curse, with Misuzu becoming happy, and Yukito turning into a crow, to better seek the 'girl in the sky'.

It's not a happy happy ending, per se, and I could see why you think it is sad, but with a little interpretation I think it's very meaningful.

(Although I wanted Misuzu to live ;_;)

I'd have to agree with your overall impression though that Kanon trumps Clannad; I got the feeling that the latter was better in comedy, but less in terms of emotional impact (like you said, with the almost extraneous inclusion / conclusion of some girls' arcs). Clannad is more of an enjoyable show for me than a powerful one like Kanon.

issa-sa said...

Methinks I never gave Air the 'meaningful' consideration it probably deserved. Watching it alongside with Kanon like I did probably did it no favours :P And I did find that Air had Clannad's problem of being strictly the story of one girl with some others being tacked on 'just cos they were in the game TOO'. But the more bishoujo the better say the masses, so what can I say?

At the time I was rather taken aback at how Air did end as opposed to the happy-ever-after resolution I foresaw, that I was quick to point fingers at Key/KyoAni for milking tears JUST for the sake of it. I don't take well to sap being forced onto me :P But thanks for your points on Air's ending, ccy (I never really got the purpose of the Yukito -> crow transition till now) and it's given me a more favourable view of the ending now. In fact I'm rather inclined to put Air > Clannad now, lol.

Like Kanon, Air did have what Clannad lack - an 'atmosphere' suited to the telling of the story, and that oh so useful 'impact' (emotional/shock factor etc.). Clannad made up for that by being 'funny' and 'enjoyable' to watch in a more mainstream sense. It's become a series I'll recommend on that basis of having supposed wider appeal, despite it not working for me really -_-"

Anonymous said...

Well you pretty much said you disliked the animes, and then said you liked it with other justifications...

GothicHack said...

I really really liked Clannad + Clannad After Story. I liked Kanon, but i would say that After Story is more sad. Im gonna start watching Air for the first time later today.

Anonymous said...

I can see this was written before Clannad After Story (season 2) came out. I wonder what your opinion is now assuming you've now seen After Story?

Unknown said...

I personally think that kanon 2006 is the best because it was able to do in one season what took the others 2 seasons to do, that is, have an emotional impact. My second key anime is little busters/refrain. Because of refrains sheer intensity

Unknown said...

I personally think that kanon 2006 is the best because it was able to do in one season what took the others 2 seasons to do, that is, have an emotional impact. My second key anime is little busters/refrain. Because of refrains sheer intensity