Merry Christmas! We are excited to bring to you just in time for the holiday the Visual Key classic Kanon. It should be noted the Kanon anime we are reviewing is the 2006 version, which is generally considered the better version. As always, please beware of minor SPOILERS!
Now without further ado, let us begin the review!
Summary: Yuichi Aizawa returns to this city after seven years. In his childhood, he often visited it, but something happend in the past which caused him to block out his memories of the events of seven years ago. On the day after he gets settled in, he meets a girl carrying a backpack with wings on it. Her name is Tsukimiya Ayu and he begins to recall the memories he had lost. -Anime News Network
Kanon plays out like most anime based on visual novels/dating sims where the anime feels like a meet and greet of all the girls. While Kanon definitely has this aspect, it tries to stray away from this by still setting up other arcs while it is playing through a different arc. This alleviates the “meet and greet” feel by including the characters who are not wholly relevant to the particular arc. The show’s biggest weaknesses are by far its slow pacing and overuse of the amnesia and flashback tropes. These combined really cause the show to drag at times. The plot of Kanon at times tries to save itself from this dragging by making use of specific plot conveniences, to the point that these happenings are borderline deus ex machina. All this being said, Kanon certainly has plenty of strong points. As previously mentioned, the arcs are typically well blended together, and the story does a good job of committing to certain plot points that show a strength of writing. The anime also does not give any indication of a harem hell situation at any point, which can be difficult to do with a largely female cast.
The characters of Kanon are diverse and well explored during the anime’s run time. Most of the characters are developed well and almost all undergo some sort of character growth, including some side characters. Characters interact and grow together organically. An additional bonus is that the main character Yuichi is more than a plot device for the girl to grow. Instead, he is also growing alongside the others like a main character should, as opposed to how the lead male is typically portrayed in a harem. The main character issues lie not with the characters, but with the anime’s use of the characters. For starters, the cast is almost entirely female, and extremely moe at that, with only two notable male characters (one who is the lead male). The other main issue is the habit of the show to drop characters, never really coming back to them except in passing. Of the main girls, the ones whose arcs have been completed are the most susceptible to this.
A big part of Kanon is the winter setting and its associated atmosphere. Obviously, the animation is a huge part of this, and the backgrounds are rendered beautifully. The rest of the animation is pretty clean, though the character designs are a bit iffy. The female characters are clearly moe, with eyes so big they border on excessive, which was a bit unnerving. Since the animation as a whole is older as well, some viewers may not like this.
The soundtrack adds to the atmosphere hugely as well, with mostly soothing and beautiful music to match the settings. The arrangement of the opening even makes reappearances in the show itself. The ending is a little too upbeat for some episodes that are heavier or end on a more dramatic note, however.
As with most Visual Key anime, the show is loaded with several themes. The most prominent of these in Kanon are memory and promises, two important aspects that drive the plot. While it explains the excessive use of amnesia as a plot device, the show makes a point of showing how memories define a person. The show also is a little bit different from other Visual Key anime in its heavy use of symbolism to further explore its themes. Often these symbols are tied to specific characters, like angels and Ayu, but also carry across multiple characters, like the snow bunnies. Even the winter atmosphere itself is a symbol for the emptiness one has without memories.
Final Score: 8.2/10
Final Grade: B
If I could make a serious generalization about Kanon, I would affectionately call it “Clannad on Ice”. Granted, Kanon was an anime before Clannad, and there are plenty of differences between the two that make each unique. I only make this comparison because a lot of what I love about Clannad, I also love about Kanon. First off, I have to again praise the music. Orito Shinji and Maeda Jun again deliver, making some truly special music that works with the emotions of the show. The opening is especially a favorite of mine, a slow burner filled with gorgeous keyboard tones. The animation is also very good (though I’m sure most would consider it dated), with numerous well directed and memorable shots. The presentation again works with the story extremely well, leaving me laughing, smiling, and in tears. The emotional moments definitely hit hard here. I really loved the characters, though some of them had their annoying quirks (mostly constant uguuuus and auuuuus, even though Ayu and Makoto were two of my favorite characters). Yuicchi was rather annoying at times for me, but that died down as the show went on. All in all, as a definite fan of Key’s works, Kanon was a excellent show, and one that I’ll remember for a long time.
Final Comments: Kanon offers another emotional adventure from Visual Key, set in a fantastic winter wonderland. Viewers may find the anime off putting due to its tumultuous and overused plot element and slightly unnerving character designs at times.
Be sure to comment your thoughts on Kanon, either the 2002 or 2006 remake (remember we are reviewing the 2006 remake here). We’ll be bring more content this coming week as well. Our next review will be in 2017. Until then, we here at RishRaff Reviews wish everyone a Merry Christmas! May God bless you the rest of the holiday season and into the coming year!