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Karifean's Blog of Visual Novels

Top 10 Visual Novels: #3 - CLANNAD

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(Original Post on the Forums)

CLANNAD (Series)

Developer: Key
Availability: Localization in progress (Steam Release: Q4 2015)
Adult Content: None (CLANNAD), Yes (Tomoyo After)
Length: Very Long (~90 Hours)

Do you like this town? I really really love it. But nothing can stay the same forever. Fun things, happy things... they'll all eventually go away. Even so, can you keep loving this place?

CLANNAD holds a special place in my heart. It was my number one for quite some time, for two main reasons: It's the best romance story I've ever read, and it's also the most excruciatingly sad story I've ever read.

The protagonist of CLANNAD is Tomoya Okazaki, a highschool youth whose everyday life couldn't be more shallow. Endlessly repeating days of boredom and nothing ever happening... all excitement and love of life long forgotten.

One day upon walking to school he happens to notice a girl around his age on the way, lost in thought, talking to herself (see quote atop the post). On a whim, Tomoya decides to speak to her... and starting with that one interaction he slowly begins to once again take notice of the things around him.

CLANNAD doesn't have much of an initial plot as much as it has a setting from which a story starts building up depending on which path you take. The main theme that runs through most of CLANNAD is "family", and many of the story routes are at least partly focused on family, be it through parents, siblings or the trials and tribulations of building a family yourself. But naturally it's also a very romance-heavy story, as almost all the paths involve a romantic relationship with one of the many heroines. The routes are all-round pretty solid and you easily get invested in them. Most of the routes also involve a lot of drama, which coupled with the emotional investment that is so easily built up makes for one hell of a successful formula.

You might be able to guess looking at the estimated length, but CLANNAD is freaking huge. It starts off having 9 story arcs that all take between 5-10 hours to read through (and that's assuming you can get through them without getting sidetracked by any bad ends), and once you complete ALL of them you unlock After Story, the final arc, which is maybe as long as two school arcs. So if you want to complete CLANNAD in its entirety, you're looking at quite a time investment.

However, After Story is easily the best part of the CLANNAD visual novel. It's an extension of Nagisa's storyline path, and shows them spending their lives together, building up independence, even starting a family. Quite a few arcs end before the romance even really got started, so seeing this was very satisfying. But believe me, you'll want to have a box of tissues next to you reading it. You will be needing them.

By this point in the countdown it goes without saying, but CLANNAD has a wonderful cast of characters, and not only that, but the relationships between them are just as great. Tomoya and Sunohara have such a great friendship it makes you envious. Nagisa's parents Sanae and Akio are both totally awesome characters. Tomoya and his father are on poor terms, but their reconciliation in After Story is such a beautiful scene. And Kappei x Ryou is seriously one of the cutest couples in the whole visual novel.

But, if you're like me and think the best romantic couple in CLANNAD was not Tomoya x Nagisa at all, but rather Tomoya x Tomoyo, you may be happy to hear that CLANNAD got a spinoff; it's called "Tomoyo After ~It's a Wonderful Life~" and is basically an After Story for Tomoyo's arc. And although it's rated 18+, just about all the H scenes are gathered right before the game's intro movie, so once you're past that it's *almost* all-ages rateable.

In Tomoyo After, Tomoya and Tomoyo take in a young child by the name of Tomo who turns out to be Tomoyo's illegitimate half-sister who was left in their care by her mother because she has a terminal illness and wishes for her daughter to be spared a painful farewell. Ah Key, you just love making your readers cry, don't you?

I loved Tomoyo After just as much if not more than CLANNAD, partly because Tomoya x Tomoyo really is my single favorite romance in any visual novel, and also because it has an absolutely incredible ending in the form of its final arc "Tomoyo After After". It's just... I can't even. So many tears. So many emotions. It still frustrates me to no end that the ending was changed in the all-ages rereleases.

Both CLANNAD and Tomoyo After have a very good soundtrack. There was a time when I'd have called it the best soundtrack of any VN, and while those feelings have subsided I still hold the OST in high regard. The one thing it does incredibly well is bringing up memories and emotions of reading CLANNAD when listening to them outside of context. Many tracks still get me misty-eyed to this day. Some examples of such tracks: Country Train, Roaring Tides, Snowfield (I cry every time), and from Tomoyo After, Dear Old Home (Piano) and Old Summer Days.

CLANNAD is Key's most well-known work, and was my introduction to them; through the anime adaptation. The CLANNAD anime is honestly a very good adaptation, combining the stories of most story arcs into one without feeling awkward. Well sure, they had to cut out the romance from all but Nagisa's arc, but still it's a really good anime on its own and a lot better paced and less time-consuming to go through than the visual novel. The one thing they did kinda smurf up on is the ending, but I guess it can't be perfect. It's still my favorite anime, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

CLANNAD is the main reason I read visual novels today. When I finished the anime, I simply wanted more, more of the characters, their interactions, their backstories. And so I came upon the visual novel, and it just fascinated me. While Ace Attorney may have been my first VN, reading CLANNAD was what made me love the genre.

Following a quite successful Kickstarter a few months ago a western release for CLANNAD is just a matter of time. Whether or not Tomoyo After will follow is anyone's guess but if CLANNAD does well enough I'll consider it likely. Either way, if you like romantic visual novels, I definitely encourage you to check this one out.

Updated 04-07-2015 at 01:17 AM by Karifean

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