Enjoy twenty five more episodes of Tomoya being kicked in the face over and over again by an all too cruel world.
Well, more like twelve. The first half of the series carries on the same format as the original Clannad; Tomoya, along with his random assortment of friends (almost all of whom are pretty girls), inadvertently involves himself in someone’s personal problems (that ‘someone’ usually being a member of his group) and then helps them work through it.
Those personal problems make for some surprisingly effect drama; which makes the resolutions all the more heartfelt and enjoyable. It’s melodramatic at times, of course, but the writers of Clannad have made an art of stimulating the emotional centers of the brain, to the point that it’s actually hard to watch at times.
That’s especially true in the second half of the series; which follows Tomoya after graduation. This is the ‘After Story’ of the title; it’s what happens after the high school romance, and it’s not happily ever after. Clannad After Story sets a high water mark for depressing story lines in anime (with the possible exception of Grave of the Fireflies).
The series picks up its pace at this point, sometime skipping years between episodes. Tomoya, the lynch-pin that held together the random assortment of friends, is left behind as the others leave town to start their lives. The ‘doctor,’ who had healed the hearts of so many is now left to heal himself. And he does that, to some extent. He manages to scrape together a little happiness, only to have it violently ripped away from him.
And this happens over and over again. Tomoya reaches contentment with his lot in life; only to have it fall apart after a tragedy, each tragedy more depressing than the last ( I don’t want to give any of it away). And yet, he keeps going. And that, I think, is the central thesis of the series; that no matter how bleak the circumstances, there is still happiness out there, somewhere.
Some people have called the ending of the series a Deus Ex Machina, but it isn’t. A Deus Ex Machina has to be totally un-predicated, an inexplicable, random occurrence that pops in at the end to solve everyone’s problems. While the ending of Clannad After Story has a supernatural (or string theory related, if you’re a materialist) element, it’s one that was foreshadowed since the first episode (and became very explicit in this second series).
Okay, so maybe it’s a bit of a feel-good tacked on ending; but without it, the only logical end to the series would have been for Tomoya to become crack addict and hang himself in a motel bathroom, so I’ll take what we got.
Clannad After Story is a beautiful and dramatic work that stands above its competitors in the high school romance genre. Anyone who likes that type of show, but is tired of the shallowness and stereotypes should check this one out.
The Blu Ray is very nice. It features all 25 episodes across three discs with DTS-HD audio in English and Japanese with removable subtitles. The video is unaltered from the Japanese release, with the original titles and credits.