The presence of this summary despite the fact that i've only written about Episode 1 may confuse you, but there is a reason behind it! If you're curious as to why, read on. Otherwise, feel free to skip ahead to hear my thoughts on the series.
I originally picked up Clannad a short while after finishing Angel Beats!, another story by Key - it was a fantastic story and I felt quite deeply moved by it. Therefore, picking up what is commonly acclaimed to be Key's greatest creatation seemed like a good idea. However, I soon came across the problem of an oversupply of content - so much was packed in to each episode of Clannad at first that my posts where huge - the episode 1 post was over 1000 words and took a long time to write. Consequently, I lost the motivation to write at what was quite a busy time for me and stalled Clannad, not wanting to get too far ahead before writing about it. It was only when my university's anime society announced that they would be screening it that I picked it up again. However, writing about 8 episodes at a time (as this is how many where watched at each session) was a bit much and I resigned myself to writing a summary only, and here we are.
Overall, i'm pretty impressed with Clannad. It had a solid plot, plenty of humour and very high production values. However, it does have a few shortcomings. Quite often, the plot was somewhat predictable. For example, it was obvious from the start that Tomoya would [spoiler]end up entering into a relationship with Nagisa[/spoiler]. Despite this, there where many things I could not have possibly predicted at the start or during the show itself.
From reading around, I had got the impression that Clannad was quite a sad show, in the typical style of Key stories. However, I did not find it nearly as sad as I was expecting. Certain scenes did make me feel sad, such as the end of [spoiler]Fuko's arc[/spoiler], although I was happy to see that [spoiler]she reappeared in certain later scenes - complete with intro sequence[/spoiler]! I was also expecting some more supernatural elements, such as explanation as to why Tomoyo and others where so strong.
The quality of the drawing and animation was pretty high. Backgrounds where detailed and often enhanced how a scene felt (for example, the lighting during the final scene of Episode 22, see the insert image). However, some background scenes could have benefited from additional animation rather than just being static. This is a common flaw with many anime series though.
I was somewhat disappointed that over it's entire length, Clannad did not change it's opening or ending music. I am glad however that they chose two fantastic pieces of music for the opening and ending. The opening, メグメル ～cuckool mix 2007～ (megumeru ～cuckool mix 2007～), was slow at first but became upbeat pretty quickly and the ending, だんご大家族 (dango daikazoku, Big Dumpling Family), was happy and a nice contrast after a sad episode ending. Background music was used well, however certain pieces felt overused - more variation in the background music would have been a good idea.
There was a nice range of characters within the series, they all had different backgrounds and pasts as well as different personalities. However, it did seem that females where overrepresented. This is probably due to the fact that the original game is somewhat of a dating sim aimed at males, therefore male representation is bound to be low! While they could have added additional male cast members, i'm glad didn't and remaind true to the story. So my complaint about a lack of males is more of a complaint about the original game rather than the anime.
Overall, i've really enjoyed Clannad. While it has a few flaws and isn't exactly what I was expecting, it has been a fantastic series to watch and I can understand why it is ranked as high as it is on various anime websites. I am looking forward to watching the sequel to Clannad, Clannad After Story, which as it's name implies continues the story onwards from the end of Clannad. After Story is rated even higher than the original Clannad and is apparently sadder so it should be another good watch for me. Due to the fact that Clannad isn't absolutely perfect, i've given it a rating of 4.5/5 but would highly recommend it to anyone.
For the society's screening, the US Region 1 DVDs by Sentai Filmworks where used. The translation quality was pretty good, but definitely localised rather than a raw translation. I was pleased to see that certain things had on-screen translation notes, but they often didn't appear long enough to fully read them. English-subtitled blu-rays exist, but are extremely expensive - approximately £450 compared to £35 for the US DVDs. While I own the DVDs, I will most likely watch blu-ray rips when I come around to re-watching it. Should I win the lottery though, i'll buy the blu-rays too!
From the outset, the landscape looks beautiful. Clain, our teenage protagonist, lives in a small house on a cliff by the sea. Everything seems perfectly normal until we see Clain's parents who look like very unusual computer game characters but really they're doppels. However, this all seems pretty normal for Clain who heads off on his bike to the junk market. After the police come and force all of the doppels to disappear, Clain is able to leave with a 64GB SD card, which he later discovers contains data about the Fractale system. Oddly enough though, the data references the 22nd century, despite the fact that 32GB SD cards are available today in the early 21st century. The data on the Fractale system gives us a little bit of an overview about the Fractale system and what it has done for the world.
Suddenly, two flying machines appear in a chase. This is starting to look like something out of a Ghibli film - beautiful landscapes and odd flying machines. The girl who is being perused however is shot down and rescued by Clain. They both manage to escape their perusers and Clain brings the girl (who identifies herself as Phryne) back to his house to tend to her wounds. Since brining a random girl home would raise questions, he asks his parents for some time alone and they disappear - only to reappear moments later after Clain has invited Phryne in. Cue a moment of awkwardness.
To tend to her wounds, Phryne has to remove some clothes, but I personally felt Clain's reaction was way over the top. However, compared to other anime series this typical 'service scene' was displayed in a very mature manner. No deliberately awkward camera shots and no emphasis on certain things - this is how anime should be. Phryne however suddenly feels sleepy and promptly falls asleep.
Later, when she awakes Clain is at his computer. She turns on a projector, startling him. It plays a video of Clain as a baby, with his real parents. Suddenly, Phryne gets upsets and comaplins that Clain never smiles like he used to as a baby. She then breaks out into song, completing the song Clain was listening to earlier while on his way to the junk market. However, they are soon interrupted by the doorbell.
At the door, a small girl and two heavy-looking men are here to "take care of the injured girl", despite the fact that Clain didn't call for an ambulance. However, it seems the ambulance that has come to collect Phryne is the craft that was chasing her earlier, albeit with a flashing red light on top. Clain sees right through them and slams the door in their face. However, they don't give up easily and come back in various other disguises before forcing their way in. Unfortunately for them, Phryne has slipped out and they can't find her after which they give up and leave.
After this, they both head up to an old chapel and talk. One thing I didn't notice at first is how the temple has the same symbol that is on Phryne's broach. Clain falls asleep and by the time he wakes up Phryne has gone, but left him with her broach. He heads back home and complains about her sudden dissapearance in his head.
Taking a closer look at the broach however, he suddenly realises something and manages to activate it, causing another girl to appear. The appearance graphics are really pretty, but just who is this girl? Looks like we'll have to wait another week as the ending kicks in - complete with the new girl in the ending animation.
Overall, i'm pretty pleased with this first episode. The quality of the animation is good and we've got what looks to be an interesting plot line. I'm very curious about the fractale system and how it will come in to play with the plot.