OK, I get it. You can’t write a short little tossed-off post about how you don’t like some sacred-cow anime series and toss in a questionably humorous infographic. You’ll just get trolled, then accused of trolling, and what’s more, zaitcev won’t even link to you (update: seriously? Now he does? What does that do to my point?).
So here’s a more thought-out post, because I wanted to talk about how Clannad sucks/does not suck, not how much I am/am not a troll, which is frankly retarded. First off, an assumption: I don’t necessarily believe in this supposed Kyoto Hype Machine, and I won’t cite it as an argument. Not because I think it’s mythical or overstated, like “liberal media,” but because I have faith in the ability of people to form their own opinions. That’s probably my first mistake, but oh wells.
I’m also not going to take an ultra-stubborn stance on this, either — I’ve watched 30-some episodes of this series, and if every last thing about it sucked, what would that say about me? Don’t answer that.
Now, time to make an honest woman out of this topic. Hopefully reasonable discourse will keep Owen the trolls out of here.
A commenter, tai, who seemed to actually want to talk about it, cited “character” as the driving force behind Clannad, specifically “being able to understand how they feel in the circumstances provided.” Now, they say the secret to writing good fiction is developing good characters and then placing them in a situation, where they act for themselves because they’re real enough. With visual novels, I would assume that good characters are important for a quality product because the narrative itself is mutable and characters need to believably fit into multiple situations. When I say “good characters,” though, sadly what passes are “serviceable characters,” and too often in anime that means resorting to archetypes.
I’m not feeling any of the supposed character traits of Clannad‘s cast, beyond those archetypical attributes (with a few exceptions, mostly in the Furukawa clan). Let’s not get caught up in Kyoto’s execution: realistic body language and uncompromising animation tend to instill even the cartooniest of characters with faux-realism that makes up for their shortcomings as well-rounded, well-written characters.
The Family Element
One of everyone’s favorite things about Clannad seemed to be its focus on family. But I can’t quite get what it is about family that it’s trying to say. I feel like I’m watching Clannad waffling between two points: One is that family is very important, and that we shouldn’t lose or take for granted those bonds of blood. The other is that family can be whatever you want it to be, and the important people around you, about whom you care, are in effect your family members. Which of these is what matters? In the end, it all seems pretty vague.
I’m not asking for one of Takashi Miike’s deranged dissertations on the nature of a family unit, or even Judd Apatow’s lame whitebread confirmation of family values, I just want folks to give this a real evaluation before they vaguely cite “family themes” as a great strength of Clannad.
Doing too much, yet not quite doing enough.
Clannad‘s scope is admirable. While on one hand it focuses on a fairly close group of people, that’s a lot of characters to explore if you go into any depth. It’s nothing like delving into the backstory of some Imperial planet’s viscount’s daughter for an entire episode in Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but then again, what is.
The scope in each of Kyoto’s adaptations has grown immensely both in cast and episode count. In fact, Clannad is the longest series in Kyoto Animation’s history, if I’m not mistaken (excepting their work on InuYasha). Air was compact and efficient in delivering a sucker-punch of emotion that was old hat by the time Kanon came around, so Clannad aimed to work things a little differently.
But step one was a stumble, with Fuko’s arc taking up way too many episodes (and plenty of people agree with me there). What that says to me is from the get-go, Kyoto were struggling to effectively fill up all 50 episodes. The beginning of After Story has proven that again, but instead of a recycled Kanon story, we’ve been so far treated to a wash of meaningless ho-hum stuff that lacks any emotional impact or the humor (both intentional and otherwise) of season one’s best moments. There were a couple laughs in that boring baseball episode, but what do you remember after watching — that you chuckled a couple times or that you just watched a boring-ass baseball episode?
This is the real story behind my realism argument. Did anyone really think I demand 100% regular-old believability from my anime? If so, I’ll go quit now and go watch some show about giant robots, space pirates, or guys who make peoples’ heads implode by punching. I briefly mentioned that I think Clannad is guilty of representing, or talking about, the situations in which its characters find themselves, rather than showing them for real. This might have been a mistake on my part — not because it’s not true, though. It might be a mistake because on a purely objective level, I could be judging with a double standard. After all, what anime doesn’t resort to symbolism, archetyping, and short-cutting to some degree?
But it does irritate me for some reason in Clannad, subjectively. I feel like every story, every character, every situation is encased in a thick fuzzy-bunny layer that I would have to tear through in order to get to the real essence. Are we meant to perceive this as dreamlike or memorial, since inevitable tragedy will strike somewhere down the road and shit’s gonna get “real?” Or is the Key world just one of gauzy soft-focus fantasy that happens to resemble the real one? We already know that supernatural events can happen, but somehow that doesn’t even bother me. It’s the lack of feeling like anything matters, since they’re all essentially good people for whom real strife just plain doesn’t exist — though it’s hard to nail this down to a “why,” it doesn’t feel as if any person can actually affect another. And with that supposedly being the series’ main thrust, what’s left for me?
In service to Clannad, I’ll say two things: It’s always well-animated (except for brief drops in the final bits of season one), and it’s refreshingly low on pathos compared to its predecessors. Air probably worked on me because it was my first; with Kanon I sort of let it work even though I was watching it work. Now with Clannad, I’m just plain cynical, but we have been mostly rewarded (past the Fuko arc) with more humor than weepy-weeps. That isn’t likely to last, though.
Sure, visual novel adaptations aren’t really my preferred genre. It’s no surprise that the series that try to look less like VN adaptations are more my cup of tea. Kyoto Animation has made that their M.O. since Air, or at least it’s seemed like that. But for some unfortunate reason, the more they attempt to downplay the harem/VN style, the more it’s called to my attention.
And… I’m spent.
Anyway. Obviously plenty of people take issue with my opinion, some even take offense. What I want to hear is people convincing me I’m wrong, not telling me i’m an asshole. Step up! I believe in you.
Update: Misplaced belief FTL! Here’s a news flash: I’m not important. I’m not worth talking about. I just wanted to talk about Clannad. Before anyone else unoriginally says they agree with Baka-Raptor, read my response to him.