The Pacing of Clannad
I am currently watching Clannad, which so far has been interesting. As I’ve done with other anime in the past, I’ll try posting every now and then to note my thoughts as I progress through the show, rather than just posting a review once I finish the whole series. That way you can see how my interest in the show may increase or diminish from one plot development to the next.
I have watched the first nine episodes of Clannad so far. The show reminded me of two other anime: Angel Beats and Ano Hana. Angel Beats, of course, was written by the same fellow as Clannad, so the blend of zany comedic moments and life-and-death dramatic sequences within a high school setting were easy to recognize. There are also supernatural elements at play in both, but more specifically the concept of a young girl as a spirit bringing friends together (as found in Clannad’s first story arc) was very reminiscent of Ano Hana. Though I suppose it would be the other way around, since Ano Hana is just a year (or so) old.
At any rate Clannad has been entertaining so far–I particularly like the protagonist Tomoya and look forward to seeing his character develop (assuming it will). Some of the drama has been a little drawn out at times and some of the jokes a little forced, but overall it’s been a solid anime. I also really like the cheesy scene transition effect (ie something akin to turning window blinds?) which reminds me of a (bad) Powerpoint presentation. For some reason I just find it really funny, especially when the scene lasts perhaps five seconds before transitioning again.
That said, the thing I’m actually meaning to bring up is the pacing of this series. If this show were to be airing currently this season, I can’t help but wonder how many people would have dropped it after a few episodes, just due to how slowly the main story plods along. I wouldn’t call the episodes I watched boring–in fact, I found them all engaging for the most part–but I still couldn’t help but feel the show was spending too much time on this Fuko girl. It didn’t take too long for me to get a pretty good idea of where this story arc was going, so having to sit through an extra four or so episodes to reach the bittersweet conclusion… Well, on one hand I found it a little tiring, but on the other hand I recognize that the show did well to examine the ways the various characters dealt with the gradual disappearance of little Starfish-chan. Even Nagisa’s parents and Tomoya’s roommate–all of whom were generally comic relief characters–showed some surprising depth as they reacted to each of the developments that ensued over the course of the story arc.
So would this story arc have been as good had it been told in three or four episodes rather than seven? As a (hack) writer I’ve constantly heard the advice of cutting out everything necessary in order to keep readers engaged in your story. In Clannad, there’s plenty of scenes that could probably be trimmed or taken out entirely in regards to plot–but I think in the process some of the character development would have felt too rushed otherwise. As a series that needs the characters’ emotions to feel real and natural (even amidst fantastic plot devices and fourth wall-smashing jokes), it’s important that Clannad takes the time to really show how the characters will view each situation they find themselves working with.
Though it seems Fuko won’t play much of a role in the rest of the series (well, I think it’s safe to assume this…), I can see how this story arc has more or less brought Tomoya and Nagisa together. The arc has also given me an idea of what may develop with some of the other major characters of the series, who were each able to show more than one side of her personality via her interactions with Fuko. All in all it was a nice story, and I appreciated just how positive the whole thing was in general.