Another season of Clannad is what kept me going through the mostly lackluster summer shows, and I spent a good part of the summer trying to work my way through the Clannad Visual Novel. I didn’t quite make it to the after story, though, so if you want someone to predict the next episode for you you are going to have to consult another blog. I enjoy that love/hate relationship with weekly episodes, and I want to preserve that wide-eyed astonishment that comes from being truly surprised by the outcome of a cliffhanger. That being said, let’s talk about this first episode!
This episode starts off with what looks like a memory of Tomoya’s youth, a train trip with his father. Tomoya has been daydreaming about this while out with Nagisa’s family, watching Akio play some neighborhood baseball. After the game, when the family is talking at home, Akio lets on that there is a game coming up, pitting his shopping district team against their rivals from another neighborhood. After a serious losing streak due to an awesome new teammate on the rival team, Akio decides that the next game must be won at all costs. He tells Tomoya that he has to recruit players, and Akio suggests the team from the theatre club (Akio was impressed by how well they worked together during the school festival).
Reluctantly, Tomoya goes about the school recruiting his core group of friends, plus a few other notables from last season’s cast. They gather up on the day of the game, and after a pretty close game, the last inning comes down to Akio’s team lagging behind with Tomoya at bat. Performing poorly all day due to his shoulder, Tomoya has another daydream about how wonderful it would be if he hit a home run and won the game. He hits the ball and watches it fly…
It’s been six months since the first season aired, so I guess KyoAni felt the need to re-introduce us all to the main characters. Better than the Samurai Champloo game, but not quite to Haruhi standards, this baseball episode ended up being pretty good, and it served its purpose of familiarizing the viewer with the main characteristics of the cast.
The first half or so of this episode dealt with the recruitment of the players, and Tomoya and Nagisa went around the school convincing all their friends, and a few acquaintances, to join their team. I thought it strange that Yoshino took the most convincing – after all, he did say he owed Tomoya after the falling tools incident in the first season, not to mention the fact that it was pretty much due to the efforts of Tomoya and Nagisa that Yoshino was even able to get married! Well, the level of enthusiasm the teammates had about helping was the first indicator of their personalities, so I’ll let it slide this time.
It was when the game got under way that the real exposition began. At bat, Kotomi calculated trajectories in whatever way nerds are supposed to be able to do to be good at sports, Tomoyo knocked the ball out of the park, but then on her next at bat decided to try to “hit the ball girly.” Tomoya reminded us that his shoulder still hurt and that he wouldn’t ask his father to come see the game (gee, wonder if they’ll reference the fight any more in the series). All in all, a quaint enough first episode, although I think that if the rest of the Clannad fandom is anything like me, they watched the whole series again last week, so everything is fresh in their minds.
The amount of recap was starting to be a bit much at this point in the episode. It wasn’t funny in a comedy sense, though I laughed at times due to the situations these familiar characters were being put into. There was a little forced drama in the uncertainty of Tomoya’s last hit, I say forced because I feel that the outcome won’t be important in the long run. The important revelation of this show came in Tomoya’s daydreams; the fact that Tomoya’s daydreams of winning revolve not around him as the hero/savior of the day but instead focus on the camaraderie of a victorious team shows that he has grown quite a bit as a person since starting to date Nagisa last semester. As he gets older and approaches the end of his academic career – and thus the end of his youth – he is starting to realize that the things that will make him happy for the rest of his life are not the same things he has been pursuing to this point. Even in his courtship of Nagisa he seemed to just “go with the flow” in life, but it looks like he is starting to learn not only the value of new things, but the importance of putting out effort for them.
Clannad, or family (what the author of the VN thought clannad meant in Irish) is going to be a major part of this season if the foreshadowing is any indication, and that is exactly why I will be watching this show. Finding a family for yourself is such a universal theme of transition to adulthood, and the authors did a nice job of including an archetypal family for each main character, that I am really excited to see where this season takes us as far as exploration of that theme. Though I do worry a bit about Tomoya, because with such a tearjerker show something is going to have to come and throw a wrench into his plans…
This first episode was rather light-hearted, though, easing us in to any future shocks. There were a few twists and turns, like Akio’s injury and subsequent choice of Nagisa to pitch in his place – a wtf moment on the level of Goku’s choice of Gohan as successor in the Cell fight. I was also surprised at how much screen time was given to Yoshino, but his scenes were some of the funniest in the episode – I hope this means that we will be seeing more of him in the after story. In the end, however, these elaborations rang hollow as obvious filler.
It’s nice to know this series hasn’t started taking itself too seriously.
The animation was very nicely done, as expected, but the fact that the show aired in standard def was a bit of a letdown. Get with the times, Japan! Aren’t you supposed to be leading the world in technology? Nonetheless, the show managed to remain as beautiful as ever. The imagery at the beginning, when Nagisa’s family is all gathered around the table at their home, makes the summer come alive. Everyone looks hot in their t-shirts, and a fan is blowing on them with the door wide open. If the subtle cicada song wasn’t enough to convince you, we are treated to a shot featuring nothing but a cicada against a blue sky backdrop, complete with fluffy mashed-potato clouds.
Sound, as well, was as prominent as ever. The familiarity of the leitmotifs was like Pavlov’s bell (especially Kotomi’s – that has been my ringtone for the last several months). When the clink of the glasses in Tomoya’s victory daydream turned out to be the clink of the ball on the bat, I realized just how powerful such a simple segue technique could be.
Although I enjoyed this episode very much, I concede that it was a fluff episode. It really hasn’t been that long since last season ended, and at the end I found myself glad to see these characters again, but wishing they’d hurry up and get to the drama! Several things hinted where this season might go – Nagisa expressed a real desire to meet with Tomoya’s father, and the emphasis placed on Tomoya’s injured shoulder foreshadowed a confrontation of some sorts. Yoshino had too much screen time not to have a bigger role to play, though I wonder what it could be. Akio, for his part, seems to be perfectly OK that the guy who is dating his daughter is living in their house.
For me, Clannad is trying to truly capture the insecurity of transition into adulthood. Most people do not live the perfect lives portrayed in most shows on TV and in films, and even though this show has quite a bit of fantasy in its harem undertones, the problems Tomoya faces as a boy about to enter adulthood with no clue how to proceed should be familiar to most viewers, and very poignant to a certain demographic. The reality of leaving the comforts of school without a support net are, I think, what subconsciously drew Tomoya to gravitate towards stable bodies in his environment. Though constant labor after school seems a bleak prospect, the things he has learned from Akio about sacrifice make personal suffering seem insignificant. Akio is probably the single biggest reason I was happy that Tomoya ended up with Nagisa – he has a lot to teach, and not in the manner that can be learned in a school environment. Hopefully we’ll see lots more of him as well, perhaps even a showdown with Tomoya’s father?
Did he get a home run!?! The title of episode two, In Search of a Fake Dream, is very leading – whose dream is fake? Sunohara’s dream of a girlfriend seems far-fetched, but perhaps we are dealing with a larger failure – that of Sunohara and Tomoya after graduation (in a job, maybe?). Perhaps we will skip through the last semester of school and get to the meat of life after school. One can only hope at this point.
I’d like to reiterate my prior point that I have not yet played the after story of the VN, so:
If you tell me what happens next ep I will hunt you down
Till next week!