I really like the Clannad TV series. Granted, I saw it early in my anime years, coasting on the incredible hype it received, but I loved the thing for its endearing characters, hilarious comedy, and melodrama that didn’t make me rage. I eagerly bought the DVDs when they came out and got my friends addicted to it too, although I was saddened that the dub sucked (I wanted a dub on the level of Kanon goddammit!). It’s gotten a bit of a backlash since then (well, “bit” is an understatement), but I don’t care. Because I feel no shame in liking my retarded moe. Besides, even if people didn’t let me have my series, I still had the movie.
That’s right, the movie version released a few months prior to the TV series is my favorite version of Clannad. Why? Because whilst I do appreciate KyoAni’s work, there need to pander to a specific crowd limits them a lot. Now, I never saw the Toei version of Kanon. Air: The Motion Picture was definitely an improvement mostly due to the fact that the backstory was better, the focus was tighter, and they didn’t turn the main into a fucking crow, but the romance between a guy in his mid-twenties and a high school girl was kind of gross and they still kept the bullcrap ending with the mother/daughter thing. However, when it came to Clannad, Toei did what most anime should do when it comes to doing an adaptation based on source material, especially from a video game. Adapt it!
Let’s not bring up the TV series since I think we all know what the problems are with that one and instead go to another series that needed a better adaptation: Fate/Zero. I have seen many people complain about Gen Urobuchi’s writing regarding this series and I can’t for the life of me really understand why because it’s not like he wrote the anime itself. Okay yes, we make fun of Maeda for writing the Key stuff, Kawahara writing Sword Art Online, and Nision writing whatever “-gatari” series he’s doing, but at the end of the day, you do realize that these people (with the exception of Maeda’s Angel Beats) didn’t actually write the anime adaptations we’re mostly exposed to, right? I mean did the Katanagatari anime have to put every single fucking line that Nision wrote into the script? Did SAO have to be a wish-fulfillment pandering series of the highest caliber? Did Who Is Imouto have to be the animated series version of an Adam Sandler film? No they didn’t. And by extension, the Fate/Zero anime could have at least animated shit and not put every single one of Urobuchi’s “only works in written form” dialogue into every episode.
Writing for an anime is different from writing novels, video games, etc. I think the numerous amount of failed video game adaptations alone prove this fact. Hell, there’s even a difference between writing for a movie and writing for a TV series. Fate/Zero probably works really well in the novel form, considering that talkiness and info-dumps isn’t as much of a problem when you’re reading it. Yeah, there are a few things that you could blame the anime on him (the multiple repetitive discussions regarding honor between Saber and whoever), but it’s not like the scriptwriter had to copy his dialogue wholesale. I understand the fact that you have fans of the original novel to please, but I’m a fan of the Persona 4 game, and I did not think the stuff copied wholesale into the anime worked well at all. I preferred Persona 4 when it was actually changing what I remembered from the game (the King’s game was fucking hilarious in that regard). If your fans are reasonable, they’d understand (and prefer) that sacrifices have to be made in order to achieve quality. If they’re not, well then fuck them. The reason you’re going to the visual medium is to achieve a wider audience, right? Sacrifice some old fans and bring in a bunch of new ones in exchange.
Yes, there are changes that end up being for the worse. Haganai’s need to insert serious moments at inappropriate times made Yozora out to be more of a monster than she was supposed to be. The Persona 4 anime had some problems as well. And do I even need to talk about what happened with Durarara? But as long as you keep the core of the source material intact, then it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Haganai’s serious moments came dangerously close to the series’ core, which is why they fell flat for me. And Durarara was a victim of too many additions to the original material with nothing edited out, which is something we like to call padding. Didn’t work for DBZ and it definitely didn’t work for Durarara. However, on the flip side, we’ve got the Evangelion Rebuild films that are very different (starting from the second movie) to the original Eva anime with fancy mecha battles and happier moments, but they still understand the core of Eva and do their best to leave it alone (Shut up. Lame mecha battles are NOT a core part of the franchise). In fact, they go one step further by hitting on the core in different ways to the point that you wonder if you’re really watching Evangelion, only to think about it for a bit and go “I don’t know what that it was, but it was definitely Evangelion”.
This is why I think Clannad: The Motion Picture is nowhere near the failure that a lot of people have claimed it to be and I actually find it to be extremely underrated. It actually realizes that it has to adapt for a different medium and plays to that strength whilst only keeping the core basics of the original source material in check. Gone is the sad girl melodrama, exaggerated moe characteristics, and (above all else) that “controversial” ending. Instead, we get a story about a guy who meets a girl, falls in love with her, builds a family through her, and learns about the meaning of family through his experiences. It’s a really great story that I want to see more of and without the usual Key aspects that hold it back, that story is allowed to shine through even more. Nagisa still has to die of course and there are about four or five cry scenes, but they barely last five seconds. Plus, that ending. Perfect way to end a heartwarming story. I won’t spoil it, but needless to say, it’s better than the show’s and you don’t need to see any more of what happens after that ending scene. It’s like the Bunny Drop anime ending in that regard.
With that said though, there are two things that hold this movie back. One is the main character, Tomoya. In exchange for having no sad girls, he becomes a total angst-fest who pretty much narrates about his problems every chance he gets. He’s not very engaging of a character, especially since his voice actor is different from the series (Japanese-wise, as the English dub has the same guy), and while it fits his delinquent persona more than it did in the TV series, it also means he’s not given much to do. Stuff mostly happens to him instead of him allowing things to happen, which makes some people question why he’s the main at times. The other thing is…well, you noticed the pictures I’ve been posting right? Yeah, I don’t get what it is with Toei and Key, but the art is pretty awkward and can be even ugly at times. Osamu Dezaki does his best with the budget and that “postcard memories” style he uses in his other films, but man is it bad.
There’s also the nagging feeling in my mind that I love this movie a lot because of my history with Clannad. I mean let’s face it, if you never heard of the franchise and just watched the movie on its own, you’d get a cheap version of Makoto Shinkai’s stuff. Granted the characters in this movie are fun, unlike the ones in Shinkai’s films themselves, but aside from a few of them, they’re mostly shallow support that makes you question why they’re in the movie to begin with.
So whilst I really love this version of Clannad, it doesn’t quite make the top 30 for me. Might make top 50 though.
- Be honest, most of you have never heard of this movie, right?
- Honestly, whilst the English dub isn’t the greatest, I prefer it to the Japanese version because no Yuuichi Nakamura = will not watch
- I probably have different thoughts on what constitutes the core of Clannad that other people do.
- A pity that this was the last thing Osamu Dezaki ever directed before he croaked.