NOTE: I’m going to try to keep this to non-spoiler material, with links for those who are interested in the background and unlikely to watch on their own.
Last night, I finished the anime series Clannad (including After Story). And without a doubt, this is the best thing I have ever watched – movie, TV, whatever. That is not just wasted hyperbole. I have never seen something that moved me so much emotionally. I have never seen a show that made me think so deeply on my role as husband, father and child, or even as a member of a community, an extended family; on what I would be willing to sacrifice for, or just slow down for. On the importance of place, something that is largely foreign to my personal experience. I have never connected with characters so much. Never. Just ask my wife.
The overall genre is drama, ranging from high school life to young family and playing especially on developing relationships between family members – brothers and sisters, parents and children, friends, etc. It includes a healthy does of science-fiction/fantasy that builds in intensity once you reach After Story. It provides an interesting introduction into elements of Japanese culture that would be largely foreign to Americans. In total it is 44 regular episodes, two extras, one recap, and 2 alternate story line episodes. Netflix had it in dubbed English, which was great.
I am especially moved by music in general, but the musical numbers for the ending and closing themes, as well as that used within the show itself, are excellent. They range in speed and character, but all share a quality that is hard for me to describe. Haunting and ethereal, hopeful and inspiring, yet full of minor tones. How they succeeded with such mournful and hopeful combinations is simply impressive to me. Very often I watch the opening and closing credits only for the first couple episodes, then simply skip them after that. Not so here. Even the urge to get right to the continuing development of the story was halted by the desire to sit and listen. The words were not subbed or dubbed, and my Japanese is not that good. But it really didn’t matter.
One especially, だんご 大家族, Dango Daikazoku, or “A Big Dango Family” sticks out. It is the closing theme of the Clannad series (Seasons 1 and 2, not the After Story) and plays prominently in the entire story as the main female protagonist’s theme, the song constantly on her mind and in the minds of others because of her. Dango are doughy balls that are often flavored or filled. The lyrics are childish in their presentation of the family/community of multi-faceted dango, yet paired with the music, I am at the point of tears when I hear it. I’ve seen it described online as a lullaby, but there is no way I could go to sleep to it. I imagine not having been paired with Clannad, it would simply be cute and playful, though slightly melancholy. Paired as it is, my skin crawls (in a good way). It is innocent, playful, hopeful, yet… In any case, it has motivated me to pick back up with the piano, as the score was readily available online. It is simple, honestly – but still a little beyond my skill 😦
This particular anime started as a virtual novel, where decisions made affect the progress of the book and eventual endings, and this multi-trajectory narrative is clearly played out in “What If” episodes and flashbacks. Intriguing if nothing else, they help develop characters and help the watcher go beyond just imagining what might have happened if things had just been different. Add to that that the true ending is exactly this kind of “flashback trajectory” only makes it more interesting, as the lines between what “could have been” and what “can still be” begin to overlap in curious fashion (that’s about as non-spoiler as I can be).
Maybe I’ll follow later with another post that is more “Spoiler”. There is so much to think through, that I found interesting, impressive. Or that I am still uncertain of, curious about. But in the mean time, if interested you can check out the links below: