Clannad took me completely by surprise when I watched it a short while ago. The show had been out for some time and I just happened to pick it up one day. Imagine how pleased I was when the series quickly became one of my favorite shows. Needless to say when the second season, After Story, became available I jumped at the chance to check it out!
In case you're unfamiliar with the franchise you should know that Clannad comes from PC game developer Key, who also created Air and Kanon. Both of those shows are regarded highly by anime fans and for good reason. Key has shown time and time again that they have a real knack for creating fascinating characters, rich worlds, and heartfelt stories. Clannad carries the torch passed on to it by the other two Key shows and the first season exemplified everything the developer has become known for.
The first season was broken down into two halves by Sentai Filmworks and told the story of some high school students who become unlikely friends and help people out. At the center of everything is Tomoya, who has had something of a tough life. His mother died when he was younger, his father turned into an alcoholic, and he became a delinquent in school. Despite this adversity Tomoya is more or less a good kid who goes out of his way to help people out sometimes. One day he happens upon a meek girl named Nagisa who has no friends and is frequently ill. He helps her form a drama club and the two quickly become very close.
In the first season their circle of friends grew exponentially, but aside from the development of their relationships the most compelling aspect of Clannad were the characters that Tomoya and Negisa directed their attention to. In the first half they help a young girl named Fuka who is something of a mystery. She's rumored to be the ghost of a girl that was involved in a serious car accident, and as the story unfolded the mystery of Fuka became more interesting. This went on for most of the first volume and the second looked at Kotomi, the quiet girl who frequented the school's library. There was other stuff going on as well, but in case you haven't seen the first season I'll omit those details to leave something for you to experience. Let's just say that throughout each arc the relationships grew stronger and the characters in general became extremely deep and complex. Where does the second season start out?
For the most part After Story takes place close to the end of the first series. All of the familiar faces are here and the show continues to push its "helping people out" theme with three mini storylines that eat up the first eight episodes. Unfortunately none of these are very fascinating, though the bit with Sunohara is rather amusing as one would expect. Personally I found episodes 9 through 12 to be where the real heart and soul of Clannad and After Story comes out.
In the last legs of this installment we finally get to see some awesome developments. In a move that is typically not seen in anime After Story really pushes forth the relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa. It's done so in such a mature fashion and the show really gives the sense that they are burgeoning on creating a family and setting their life in order. It's the awkward point between finishing up school and building a life that isn't explored that often with anime. Making a stronger impact is the way this installment closes the door. It really ends with a climax and you're left aching for the second volume.
Once again Clannad has captivated me. After Story's atmosphere and theme are identical to the first, and that is a statement of true quality. With that being said the show kind of puts it in neutral for the first eight episodes as it feels like more of the same. That may sound like the bad thing, but even at its worse Clannad is better than most of what's on the market. The final four episodes truly sold me on After Story and left me dying for the second volume. If you saw the first season then consider this one a no-brainer. If you haven't seen the show, go out and pick up the first season. You won't be disappointed!
Clannad After Story is presented on DVD with a 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio. The show looks quite good with a fine degree of sharpness, a clean presentation, and vibrant colors. The series maintains the overall look of the original and one should expect more of the same, which is a very, very good thing. Like the first show, After Story does have a touch of softness in some scenes and there's a little bit of grain, but it's definitely not enough to be distracting. This is an attractive, yet unassuming show that stands out in a lot of ways despite its minor flaws.
After Story disappoints a little in terms of the audio, just like the first season did. The Japanese 2.0 stereo is the only available language option, though English subtitles are present if you need them. The presentation is minimalist and there's nothing that really jumps out with this installment. Things are clean and crisp all around, but the subdued audio is more functional than flashy.
Some trailers and clean animations are all you're going to find here for bonus features.
The first Clannad series impressed me in so many ways. The show had a lot of heart and the atmosphere was wholly unlike anything I had seen before. This holds true for the sequel, After Story. Once again the show will draw viewers in and tantalize them with unique stories, strong characters, and powerful moments. There are some hits and misses here, but it's a consistent anime that keeps on being awesome. Those who watched the first season should pick this up no questions asked, but those are new will definitely want to go back to the original before digging into After Story. Highly Recommended.