Clannad ~After Story~, Episode 1

This one has “required viewing” written all over it, so let’s embrace the inevitable and jump right into KyoAni‘s entry for the 2008 fall anime season. Whether we actually want to matters not a whit.

Slapdash Synopsis

The summer holidays are over and the Dangoland crew are about to embark on the second semester of their senior year. Over breakfast at the Furukawa family home, Akio orders Tomoya to put a team together for a baseball game next Sunday. They’re up against a team from the neighbouring shopping district and the old man wants to reverse their recent losing streak.

At school, Nagisa and Tomoya put the question to their fellow Drama Club members.

Kyou’s all game as usual . . .

. . . and Tomoya has no trouble manipulating his bosom pal Sunohara “Silly Putty” Youhei into signing up.

Kotomi joins in as well.

Sweet little “I’ll only weigh the team down” Ryou, bless her achingly cute soul, offers to cheer from the benches.

They still need a few warm bodies to complete the roster, so off goes the team to round up some not-so-willing players.

“So, what do you want?”

“This chap wants you to play baseball with us.”

“No.”

“So, what do you want?”

“This chap wants you to play baseball with us.”

“No.”

“So, what do you want?”

“Come and play baseball with us!”

“No.”

Okay, so that’s not exactly what happened. But it’s pretty much the gist. And Tomoyo, Yuusuke and Misae do end up joining, so all’s well that ends well.

On their way home, Nagisa suggests that Tomoya invite his father to watch the game. Predictably enough, the lad waxes melancholic and politely – but firmly – shrugs off the suggestion.

The day of the game. Mei-chan joins the team: not for honour, not for glory . . .

. . . but for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to ogle her favourite rock musician-turned-electrician Yoshino Yuusuke.

Okay, so that’s everyone accounted for. The game moves along slow as molasses, so I won’t bother breaking it down; besides, I know next to nothing about baseball so I can’t offer a decent commentary. A few highlights:

“Make a mess of things and I’ll stuff Sanae’s yummy yummy bread down your throat with my bare unwashed hands.”

Akio’s scud serve = more pain for the comic relief.

The new poster girl for Japanese baseball.

And Tomoyo dethrones the new poster girl with this winning pose.

“I say, it appears that a metal bat has just pulverised my shin. Does this seem like an appropriate reaction to you?”

“How dare you lose that point, Comic Relief! It’s seppuku for you! I want your steaming entrails on my lap in two seconds flat or I’ll pull them out through your mouth!”

Interestingly, celebrity electrician Yoshino Yuusuke generated more than his usual share of the laughs in this episode, taking over Sunohara’s comic relief duties for a good portion of the game.

“Die, pitcher scum. Fear my T***ka Zone rip-off.”

“O fair children of the eastern shore, I bear thee glad tidings from the Undying Lands . . .”

“Out!”

Misae: “So remind me, why did you marry this wannabe demigod?”
Kouko: “Oh, I married him for his silhouette.”

Exhibit A: Yoshino Yuusuke’s Silhouette (work edition).

This Leninish pose would make a great statue . . .

. . . and this one belongs on a campaign poster.

Not to be outdone, Tomoya strikes a winning pose of his own. The other team are blinded by the brilliance of his aura and lose the game.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

My Thoughts

A month ago, I wrote the following:

I’d rather see KyoAni speed up work on Haruhi 2 than on this sequel to an anime series that ranks among their weaker projects, but with an element of tragedy to spice up the gang’s otherwise mundane exploits in Dangoland I’m game for a second helping.

I think it’s clear from these words that my enthusiasm for Clannad ~After Story~ isn’t exactly boundless, and the first episode has done little to raise expectations. It does a capable job of setting up the scene and reminding old hands which name belongs to which face, but accomplishes little else. Granted, it’s not the worst of starts: there’s humour aplenty, mostly from veteran comic relief Sunohara (with the able assistance of the normally staid Yuusuke); the melodrama isn’t particularly overdone (yet); and of course the animation quality is awesome (more on that later). Unfortunately, none of this adequately compensates for the listlessness that plagues the story from beginning to end. The fact that I’m no baseball fan merely weighed the episode down further.

On the other hand, this is a KyoAni product, and that means great visuals. The production team have demonstrated yet again their absolute mastery of colour, detail, light and shadow, producing an unparalleled richness that permeates virtually every frame.

And then there’s the OP sequence. (YouTube doesn’t do it justice; I provide the link only for reference purposes.) The song isn’t anything special, but it’s quite good overall, and married to the beautifully composed visuals the end result is very impressive indeed. Naturally, hints are dropped in the OP about the future course of the series – and they leave me hopeful that once we’ve paid our dues through the first few episodes (which will likely be as mind-numbingly slow as this one) the story will really start going places.

Final verdict: Top-notch animation, great OP sequence, capable voice acting, so-so music, bland ED sequence, dreadfully boring story. First-season veterans will either find a lot to their liking or see just enough to keep them onboard; noobs stand a good chance of being turned off by the glacial pacing and the lack of proper character/situation introductions.

10 Responses

  1. With the pace of the previous series, one can wonder if there’ll be an after story ~prologue~ or something.

  2. Oh yes, and the OP and ED are both very good. I much preferred them to the first seasons’, if only because they’re both by Lia.

  3. OP is ok. ED isn’t that great.

    Sunohara as a reflex test is a great one 🙂

  4. The threat of Sanae’s bread was win! Second to the last image: Very nice shot of Tomoya. I wonder why I seemed to have missed that. Haha.

  5. @Zeroblade: A rule of thumb I often use when judging songs: if I can easily set it in my head to an imaginary OP for a made-up anime series, the song gets my seal of approval. Clannad AS’s OP passed the test with flying colours.

    @ffviiknight: Too bad this sort of LOL slapstick stunt pretty much nixes any chance of the writers springing a surprise “Sunohara’s Tragic Past” mini-arc on us. (Yeah, there’s a best-selling DVD title if I ever saw one.)

    @hazy: This episode is all about the dramatic poses. I think we’ll see a glut of Yuusuke and Tomoya wallpapers very soon indeed.

  6. Sunohara is always so adorable

  7. Kitties in the OP are cute 🙂

  8. Next episode will be on Sunohara finding love? Well… that’s his allocated screentime for the season…

  9. @blissmo: Yeah, he doesn’t grate on one’s nerves as much as one might expect. Let’s just hope they don’t overuse him as the Comic Relief. Delegating the role from time to time (as in this episode) would be a good move on their part, I think.

    @Kitsune: I regret to say that I missed the kittens. m(_ _)m

    @ffviiknight: I’m looking forward to that, actually. I’d like to see him play a more serious part for once.

  10. Sunohara? Playing a more serious role? BLASPHEMY!!!

    He had his time when Nagisa almost gave up their mentor to the Chorus club.

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