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.

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11 responses

  1. Fuuko’s arc does seem overly long at first, but as you noted, it has brought Tomoya and Nagisa together in a way that probably would have taken much longer if they were left to their own devices.

    There will, of course, be other long-running ramifications as well, but you’ll find that out soon enough.

    August 3, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    • I’ll be interested in comparing/contrasting this arc with the next one, assuming the plot structure will be similar for the rest of this series. I’ll be curious to see how everything ties together.
      Tomoya was helping Nagisa with the whole drama club thing at first, but the Fuku arc did manage to push Tomoya out of that tsundere-ish “I’m not helping because I like her, or anything!” phase, at least.

      August 3, 2012 at 10:53 pm

      • The next arc is probably my favorite (because it features my favorite character) and has hands down the funniest scenes of the entire series.

        You will never look at a violin the same way again.

        August 4, 2012 at 7:43 pm

  2. I think Clannad After Story is much much better than the first. Clannad becomes better in the last 10 episodes (at least for me) but seriously the after story is one of the best anime I’ve ever watched.

    August 4, 2012 at 2:38 am

    • I’ve heard great things about After Story, so I’m looking forward to watching that once I’m done with Clannad (assuming I’ll still be enjoying it, of course).

      August 5, 2012 at 9:15 am

  3. I watched about the same amount of Clannad as you did. While there were a number of things to recommend it, it got to the point where I couldn’t bring myself to watch any more.

    I thought about it for a while, but it wasn’t until I saw Koi Kaze a while later that I really nailed down my problems with the show. One of the most important aspects anime can have is empathy, where you understand where the characters are coming from and sympathize with them, even if they’re seemingly horrible people. Clannad didn’t try so much to make you understand its characters as it made you feel protective of them. So when the protagonists in Koi Kaze made terrible mistakes, I felt incredibly awkward for them, because even though I had never been in their situation their emotions were so terribly recognizable and genuine. But when terrible things happened to the characters in Clannad, I felt violated, if that makes any sense. It’s like the viewer is made to watch one of those puppy cams you find on the internet, only to be forced to watch the puppies paraded into a meat grinder. It’s effective, but lacking the fundamental humanity you find in the best art and literature.

    That’s not saying that Clannad is bad! I’ve heard great things about After Story, and maybe if you look at the series less as a drama and more as a modern fairy tale it becomes more acceptable. I just remember finishing Fuuko’s arc, realizing that the rest of the first season would be the same dramatic structure repeated ad infinitum, and never going back. Does anyone else agree, or am I missing out on something fantastic I’m just not getting?

    August 4, 2012 at 9:20 am

    • Interesting comment, Wendeego! I haven’t seen Koi Kaze, but that’s one I’ve heard is good for drama fans as well. I’m definitely curious to see how the characters are handled in Clannad, and I also can’t help but compare its methods with those of other anime. For example, I’m watching Kokoro Connect right now, which interestingly develops its characters at a drastically faster pace than Clannad, yet still (in my opinon) manages to keep things from feeling melodramatic. Perhaps this is because each of the characters has (easily recognizable) negative personality qualities to deal with, thus making them feel more relateable? If Kokoro Connect can maintain that level of quality or end with a satisfying conclusion remains to be seen of course, but it’s interesting to note some of the ways different dramas handle their characters. At this point, I’d say Clannad really pushes the sympathy angle more, while Kokoro Connect employs that sort of “real-life struggles” atmosphere that I think you’re alluding to with Koi Kaze. I think all fiction employs both characterization elements to some degree, so perhaps it’s just a matter of how much the work focuses on each one.

      August 5, 2012 at 9:23 am

      • Hm, actually that’s interesting. How do you define sympathy, exactly? Up to episode 9, Clannad has three major characters–Tomoya, Nagisa and Fuko–all of whom are victims of society and circumstance. Tomoya has crippling self-worth issues and an absentee father, Nagisa is lonely and sickly and Fuko is literally racing against time in order to make her sister’s dream come true. The root of my problem with Clannad might be that two out of those three (Nagisa and Fuko) don’t so much come off as characters to me as they do collections of nervous tics, interests and feelings. Basically, they’re less people and more dramatic constructions meant to toy with the viewer’s feelings. I don’t deny that there are effective moments in Clannad from what I’ve seen, it’s just that every time one of those moments came it struck me as manipulative and artificial.

        That’s not to say that all the characters in Clannad are two-dimensional (see Tomoya! he’s pretty neat) or that all shows that use characters as dramatic devices are bad (I liked Madoka Magica a lot.) I don’t even think it’s an issue with “moe,” per se, since the interactions between the characters in K-ON!! honestly struck me as a whole lot more natural than the occasionally forced jokes in Clannad. Could it just be an issue of heavy-handedness, or people’s tolerance thereof? I remember the critical debate around the film War Horse last year, where the critics argued over whether it was a gorgeous and effective piece of sentimental drama or a hilariously overwrought attempt to play the viewer’s heartstrings. I heard pretty good arguments for both sides–maybe in the end, it comes down to individual sensitivity and whether it matters if the viewer can plainly see the author’s puppet strings.

        August 5, 2012 at 4:26 pm

      • The exact reasoning behind personal opinions can be quite tricky to pin down in the end! In the end the story is the same, but everyone will take it in a little differently. But at any rate I see what you mean regarding the degree of “authenticity” regarding Clannad’s main characters for its first story arc. In the end Fuko perhaps can be whittled down to a plot device at worst, but even then sometimes this sort of thing is quite intentional, as I imagine it probably was for this series. (At the very least it was effective in eliciting an emotional response from many, many viewers out there!) I will be interested in seeing what more will potentially be for developing Tomoya and Nagisa in the show’s next stories.
        Thanks for your comments, Wendeego!

        August 10, 2012 at 12:45 am

  4. I agree that Fuuko’s arc was extremely long, too much for my tastes, but I can’t really understand how it is to watch it week by week as I watched it (just like you) all at once at the end.

    I have to say that the Fuuko/Tomoya sketches were awesome though “mastered shooting juice through the nose!”. :P

    August 5, 2012 at 9:55 am

    • There were a lot of little things like that which were quite amusing. All of the little sequences they imagined in their head were especially enjoyable, IMO. There’s also this fun atmosphere for some of their more banal and ridiculous conversations (another thing that reminded me a lot of Angel Beats). It’s probably a fine balance, deciding how much of that to include in an anime adaptation (as I imagine the visual novel had even more of this sort of thing).

      August 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm

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