Welcome readers, to another review! Now, we probably should’ve done a horror anime in honor of Halloween. Yet, here we are, reviewing the critically acclaimed sequel Clannad: After Story. So please do enjoy the review, despite the strange timing. As always, beware of potential minor SPOILERS!
Now without further ado, let us begin the review!
Summary: Life continues on for Tomoya. A few months have passed since he confessed his love to Nagisa. Now entering the second semester, he continues to meet a variety of different people, expanding his own world in the process. As well, Tomoya and Nagisa’s relationship begins to enter a level of intimacy unlike before. Through his relationship with Nagisa, and his various encounters, Tomoya begins to understand the meaning and importance of family. Unfortunately, as Tomoya and Nagisa begin their own family together, they are faced with many hardships and challenges along the way. -Anime News Network
The sequel has a far more compelling plot than the original. While Clannad: After Story still has the “meet and greet” plot set up for the first half of the show, it is still better than the original Clannad’s own “meet and greet.” The characters introduced have a bit more variety across them, and aren’t treated like potential suitors. The anime really takes off in the second half, when the show decides to focus purely on Tomoya and his life. The pacing also improves immensely in this section. The atmosphere of the sequel still carries through as being heavily emotional, but not quite as over the top. The main issue with the show is that the ending is arguably deus ex machina. Even if one does not see it as such, the ending is still really confusing, as the two running stories (there is an alternate side story running alongside the main story) are not pulled together in the most effective way. The plot can also be sort of predictable at points.
The show essentially weed wacks the cast, reducing the number of main characters dramatically. This definitely works in its favor, as these characters, specifically Tomoya, are much more fleshed out and developed as the story goes on. The old characters do make a return, and they are also a bit cleaner as characters. What I mean by this is that they are much more defined as their own person rather than part of a harem. They are also significantly less bland. However, there are points in the show when one questions what the point of bringing back specific characters, as their return serves little purpose beyond essentially a throwback to the original series.
Clannad: After Story retains the same style of Clannad, so expect solid animation with a lot of moe characters. One notable hiccup is that none of the characters really appear to age.
The soundtrack for Clannad: After Story is near flawless. The old songs are still great, though they fit much better with the story. The new compositions do not overshadow the old stuff either, and blend into the show quite well. The opening sets the tone for the show extremely well. The only issue would be that after some more intense episodes, the upbeat closing, while good, can be quite jarring.
Clannad: After Story excels in the same area as its predecessor did. The themes of the sequel are different, but related. The main theme of the anime is dealing with tragedy, both in the right way and the wrong way. Tomoya is the representative of wrong way, while Nagisa represents a more positive outlook. Overcoming grief and just growing up in general are all prevalent themes, as well. The show is a bit more realistic with its portrayal of themes, being less fluff and generating emotional high. It still has plenty of emotional moments, but it is more down to earth and realistic in how everything plays out. If you are a young adult, be prepared to start thinking about your future.
Final Score: 8.8/10
Final Grade: B
Lately, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of what it takes for something to be considered a “masterpiece”. What does it take for something to be considered such? How many flaws have to be present to disqualify something from the title? Realistically speaking, even the best works of art are bound to have some flaws. I wonder this because Clannad: After Story does have some flaws to it. Perhaps it’s because of all the praise I heard about the show in the past that I had this expectation that the show was as close to flawless as possible. However, it is what After Story achieves that makes me consider this show an absolute masterpiece. Its emotion, themes, and execution are top notch, leading to an unforgettable and extremely moving experience. For reasons I will not spoil, it even made me appreciate the first season more due to all it set up. But let me get into it. The beginning of the show is interesting. It sort of starts off as a direct continuation of Clannad, with a similar structure of Tomoya and Nagisa interacting with characters and getting into interesting situations. I really did like these episodes, but it’s a bit strange that they don’t really represent the structure of the rest of the show. It almost felt like they ran out of time in the first season, and had to wrap the rest up before After Story really starts. That doesn’t make these episodes useless though, they’re again great to watch, have good emotional weight (though a little strange and predictable at times), and they do set things up for the rest of the show. After a few episodes, the show gets much deeper and emotionally heavy, and follows a steady plot line. Because of season 1, I felt extremely familiar and emotionally invested in these characters by this time, giving the moments with emotional weight that much more of a punch. I stated before that Clannad was a show all about execution. Well, After Story manages to somehow improve upon that execution, complete with a much more investing story to boot. The characters develop extremely well. The focus is really on Nagisa and Tomoya, but it feels like enough is said about every character by the end. Tomoya’s character development specifically is some of the best and most emotional I have seen in any show. There are numerous moments that left me in tears, speechless at how perfect the execution and development was. Once again, the music and animation are spectacular, really aiding in the emotional themes presented. Hearing the old songs in new situations, as well as some new compositions, has made me regard this soundtrack as one of my all-time favorites. The opening is perfect, and though the closer feels a little out of place after some episodes, I would argue that it is still an amazing one. Both show Lia and Maeda Jun at their best. Now let’s talk about the ending (spoiler free, of course). It was a bit strange to me at first. It was initially confusing, but ultimately extremely beautiful and displayed the themes the show was trying to present from the start. I didn’t really cry as I did in previous episodes, but the events stuck with me, made me think, and I can now say that it is absolutely brilliant despite its slight confusion. I feel like it’s really hard for me to talk about this one. It’s a show I hold extremely close to my heart. I can say that I watched this show at the perfect time. With my entering adulthood, I can relate to a lot of the themes present in the show. It made After Story have that much more impact for me. If you did watch Clannad, seriously watch After Story. It really ties up things that the first season sets up, and does so wonderfully. It’s a show I will never forget.
Final Comments: Clannad: After Story is a massive improvement over its predecessor in most, if not all, regards. It is not without flaws, but still deserves all the praise heaped upon the anime.
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