The latest series released by Sentai Filmworks, Clannad, is something to treasure. When I saw the first installment I instantly fell in love with the show and couldn't wait to dig into the second collection. If you haven't seen it yet, then you're missing out on one of the most charming series to come along in the past decade.
Originally a PC game by famous Japanese developer Key, it wasn't long until Clannad found a home on other mediums as well. If you're familiar with Key, then you already know some of their other successful franchises such as Kanon and Air. Naturally with the quality displayed in those two shows, you just knew going in that Clannad was going to be something special. And you know what? It was.
What's so great about this show? Well, it's basically the package as a whole. There's no individual characteristic that stands out more than another since just about everything is good. The atmosphere, the story, the characters, the personality, and the sense of humor are all a cut above other anime. This series will charm the pants off you from the start and thankfully that quality continues through to the second installment.
The first volume introduced us to the characters and set the tone for the series. We learn early on that things are definitely odd in the town the show takes place in, and ghosts of young girls are able to walk the halls of a school. Clannad focuses on the exploits of Tomoya, who is a youth with a rather tough life outside of school. At the start of the show we learn that he's a delinquent, his mother's dead, and his dad is an alcoholic. He has a best friend name Sunohara, who is equally as much a trouble maker, but things change for the better once he meets Nagisa.
Nagisa is a quiet girl who is timid and shy, but she warms up to Tomoya and they become inseparable friends. Through their friendship their circle of acquantances grows as Tomoya helps Nagisa form a drama club. In the first set they befriend and try to help a young girl named Fuko, who turns out to be a ghost of sorts. In this second set there's some more interesting stuff going on.
We saw the beginning of this arc in the first installment with Kotomi stepping into focus a little more. If you recall she's the girl who always sat in the library and was very anti-social. Tomoya and Nagisa made it their mission to find friends for her and get her to be more outgoing. Without giving too much away there is something about her past that has made her the way she is. Naturally it's a fair bit of a mystery and has ties into Tomoya's past as well. I personally didn't think this arc was as good as the first one, but throughout it all the atmosphere and character charm still makes a splash.
The interesting thiing here is that there's yet another plot tha tsurfaces prior to the end of the first season of Clannad. This one really centers on the development of its main characters and really builds upon their established relationships. Things mature nicely and there are some surprise developments that hold ramifications on the lives of these students.
I truly don't want to give anything away here, because watching Clannad is such a nice little treat. It's something that should be experienced and not something that can really be dictated with the same effectiveness. All you really need to know is that the series has heart, it's fun to watch, and the atmosphere is unlike any other. If you watched the first volume, buy this one now. Also don't hesitate if you're new to the franchise. Clannad is in a class all its own and should find a home in anyone's collection.
Clannad is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The show's production from 2007 leaves the series looking very sharp, clean, and attractive. I'm not sure exactly how much effort had to go into this transfer by Sentai Filmworks, but dare I say the discs are virtually flawless. The colors are vibrant, the lines are clean, and all around there is hardly a thing to complain about. I will say that some grain does permeate some scenes, and a few miniscule bits of compression artifacts can be spotted at times, but both of this occurrences are rare and hardly worth mentioning.
Where Clannad disappoints a little is its audio package. This DVD ships with Japanese 2.0 stereo as its only option. An English dub was left out of the equation, though optional English subtitles are available for those who aren't fluent in Japanese (*raises hand). The quality of what's here is good, but not exactly a homerun. With the 2.0 presentation the sense of immersion just isn't strong at all, however, in all fairness this isn't a show that necessarily needs more than what it got. Clannad is dialogue-driven and there isn't much in the way of effects to exploit, so minimalism isn't really a bad thing.
Some trailers and clean animations are all you're going to find here for bonus features.
Clannad was such a refreshing experience. It's a surreal show that continuously entertains in almost every way. You'll laugh, you'll feel your heartstrings tugged, and these characters will stick with you long after you finish watching the show. Everything feels extremely well-realized and it speaks to the quality production the folks at Key continuously maintain. Highly recommended!