Clannad is superficially an example of a genre of Japanese animation known as harem anime. This is not necessarily as gratuitous as it sounds. It simply describes a setup where there is one main male character and lots of potential female love matches. The male will often come to the attention of the females by helping them in some way, generally solving a problem for them or improving their lives, and that will make them go all googly-eyed.
There is clearly an element of male fantasy fulfilment to that setup, and at its worst the females seem to have no life beyond their attraction to the male, as soon as their issues are solved by him. Clannad is not immune to that, especially with the character of Kotomi. The episodes that focus on her and her tragic past are actually the best of the series, until her storyline is resolved and she is left to hang around like a spare wheel. It’s an unfortunate betrayal of the character, and gets even worse during the second series, in which she barely features, despite being a main titles character.
But that’s about as far as we can go with the negatives for Clannad (at least as far as the first series is concerned), because for the most part it is a magnificent series. Despite the harem anime setup, it is pretty clear throughout who Tomoya is going to end up with, and the series follows a coherent and convincing path to that end.
In the meantime there are several other fascinating storylines bubbling away, with a strong focus on a girl who is in a coma, Fuko Ibuki. Somehow she is able to appear to students at the school and she has an important mission: to make her sister’s wedding as big a celebration as possible, by persuading her schoolmates to attend. The problem is that although they can see her, she quickly slips from their minds, so how can she get them to remember the wedding? Although there is a resolution to this strand, you will have to watch Clannad: After Story to discover Fuko’s eventual fate. By and large, though, Clannad wraps everything up very neatly, and there is even a fun bonus episode that asks what if Tomoya had chosen somebody else.
Next time we will look at Clannad: After Story, which takes the main characters in a very different direction. RP
Read next in the Junkyard… Clannad: After Story