Clannad, Complete First Season – Blu-ray Review

Review by: Brenda Gregson

Publisher: Sentai Filmworks
MSRP: $89.98 US
Running Time: 600 minutes
Genre: Romance
Rating: TV PG
Release Date: Available Now

Like all anime classics, this one definitely deserves to be on Blu-ray.

I have to admit that I’m not a fan of those “broken girls” tear-jerkers of the Air and Kanon variety mainly because each one did manage to make me cry uncontrollably to the point that I couldn‘t even listen to the opening theme song without weeping. However, I couldn’t help but feel that they still don’t hold a candle to a certain series that had everything you can ask for in the genre. I’m talking about the Complete First Season of Clannad – an anime classic in every sense that will not fail to blow your mind on Blu-ray.

Clannad certainly qualifies to be labeled one of the “broken girls” tear-jerker romance series but there’s a reason this series in particular has developed quite a loyal fan base and that is that Clannad is the kind of series that balances all the right elements (comedy, drama, the surreal, the cute and romance) perfectly. Sure, there are times when the series lays on the drama a bit too thick but it more than makes up for it in other departments I’ll get into a bit later.

Covering all the 24 episodes that make up the first season of the series, Clannad introduces us to a delinquent named Tomoya Okazaki who has no love for his town and even less love for his school until – one day – he comes across a cute shy girl who grabs his attention. He comes to discover that she is Nagisa Furukawa, a girl who has lost a year of school due to illness and now knows nobody there. Suddenly, school has become an interesting place as Tomoya become involved in Nagisa’s life.

In fact, Tomoya even comes to help Nagisa fulfill one of her wishes, which just so happens to become a member of the Drama Club. The trouble is that the club was disbanded so the only thing the shy girl could do is resurrect the club in order to put on a play she has always dreamed of bringing to life on stage. So begins the pair’s mission to bring back the Drama Club as both start by trying to get new members to join the club in order to get it approved and reinstated into the list of clubs on campus. In order to do that, Tomoya must get Nagisa to open up and make friends.

Of course, this is not going to be easy either but Tomoya and Nagisa find that the school has a number of interesting people in it from Tomoya’s delinquent best friend, Youhei Sunahara, to tough girl Tomoyo Sakagami. They find that each cute female student has their strengths but also their weaknesses that Tomoya and Nagisa help them overcome. Then there’s the cute Fuko, a cute young girl whose biggest wish is that all the students in the school attend her older sister’s wedding. There’s a surprising twist in Fuko’s story that leads up to one of those tear-jerking moments I mentioned. Believe me; you’ll need a box of Kleenex nearby when this part of the story ends.

In another part of the story, we meet the cute Kotomi who dreams of playing the violin for everyone and she does … only horribly to the point of nearly shattering eardrums. Then there are the sisters, Kyou and Ryou who come to befriend Nagisa and Tomoya until they join the club. Unknowing to Tomoya, one of the sisters is actually in love with him. We even get to meet Youhei’s little sister, Mei, shows up to check up on her big brother.

As the pair go about bringing back the Drama Club and helping their classmates, both begin to change in unexpected ways but their pasts keep coming back to haunt them as well. Nagisa, for example, becomes more sociable but because she has always had a weak constitution, she becomes ill again. Meanwhile, Tomoya may have become a more responsible person but his future is still uncertain and his relationship with his father is still strained.

Yet love is what makes us stronger too and the affection both characters have for each another makes for some interesting situations such as when Tomoya comes to live with Nagisa’s family the includes a mom who makes awful pastries and a rough-yet-doting father. Half the fun is watching Tomoya and Nagisa try to come to terms with their growing feeling for one another.

Clannad’s biggest strength is in mixing up the drama, romance and comedy without coming off forced or cheesy. Yes, there are moments that will make you tear up but there are also moments that will make you laugh. The series occasionally gets too overly dramatic but it always falls back on its strengths and its colorful cast of characters. Even the OVA episode, an alternate universe twist where Tomoya is dating Tomoyo, is awesome.

In case you’re wondering, the Blu-ray set might not bring any new and updated extras to the three-discs but it’s hard to complain when the 24-episodes look sharp, colorful and gorgeous in high-definition. Here I thought the DVD version was good, this is the best way to experience a series with beautiful animation.

The Complete First Season of Clannad on Blu-ray is, by far, the one any anime collector should own. An utterly charming, heartbreaking and hauntingly beautiful series, Clannad is one of those instant anime classics that is simply too good to pass up and more so if you enjoy this genre. I really cannot recommend this one enough and more so now since it’s on Blu-ray.

BLU-RAY REVIEW BREAKDOWN

MOVIE/EPISODES: A+
Like most romance stories, a boy meets a girl but there’s more to it than that as the boy named Tomoya and the girl named Nagisa comes to be a part of the lives of an interesting array of characters. As Tomoya finds himself helping Nagisa bring back the Drama Club, the pair finds that their lives are changing for the better as they find life in this town isn’t so bad.

VIDEO QUALITY: A+
If there ever was an anime series that deserved to be seen in high-definition it is this series since the animation is colorful and beautifully detailed throughout. While the girls in the series are pure moe, you can’t help but fall in love with the setting and the cuteness of many of the scenes. This series just rocks on Blu-ray.

AUDIO QUALITY: A
The music in the series is memorable and just as sweet as some of the characters but what really stands out are the performances. The original Japanese voice cast is simply impressive but, then again, the performances that Luci Christian and David Matranga pull off in this series are nothing short of brilliant.

EXTRAS: C+
Sure, there are some Sentai Filmworks trailers to be found as well as the clean opening and closing animation but the real treat here is the fact that the series is finally given the Blu-ray treatment.

OVERALL: A+
One of the more endearingly beautifully executed and entertaining romantic anime series out there, the Complete First Season Blu-ray release of Clannad is one that fans and any anime enthusiast should have in their collection. Simply put, Clannad is just one of those rare gems that still manage to outshine anime similar to it in just about every way. Consider this one a real Must Have.

Review copy provided by Sentai Filmworks

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