Alternative title that fits my puns: A big dango family finally returns home in BD!
Immediately following the final episode of Clannad in the spring of 2008, a television commercial aired announcing that the sequel, Clannad ~After Story~, was in production. It would air in the fall of that year and spawn many fans both domestically in Japan as well as internationally. It has been hailed as one of the best anime series of all time by fans and is often cited as how dramatic shows can be. Due to the success of the format, the original series was released on Blu-Ray by Pony Canyon in April 2010. Now the sequel has finally been released to complete the KeyAni trilogy on Blu-Ray. This is the (very expensive) Clannad ~After Story~ Blu-Ray box. Warning! This review WILL contain spoilers for the show as well as a bunch of thumbnailed/small images.
As with the first box, the set comes in a newly illustrated binder inside a patterned hardcovered box. While the theme for the original series was “sakura petals”, After Story is focused on rapeseed flowers similar to the backgrounds in the regular edition DVD covers. The inner binder has the Okazaki/Furakawa family and friends preparing for a trip to somewhere with water, likely the Okazaki family home in the northern part of Japan. Each disc contains images of two major characters for the episodes on that disc (Sanae and Mei, Misae and Yukine, Tomoya and Nagisa, Ushio and Fuko, and the Fujibayashi sisters) on the yellow rapeseed background.
Included with the box is a special -page booklet that has the translated opening and ending credits for each episode from Sentai Filmworks. One mistake was made to transpose episodes 24 and 25 as they were on Sentai’s releases of the series in North America. I imagine that Pony Canyon did not reference the episodes with the text. It’s still a nice gesture to importers of the show.
Each disc has 5 episodes on it with the fifth disc containing all of the bonus image features. Here are the episodes ordered by disc with some images to go along:
- The Goodbye at the End of Summer
- Search for Fake Love
- Disagreeing Hearts
- With the Same Smile as That Day
- The Season You Were In
- The End of the World
- Small Palms
- The Event from One Year Before
- Under the Green Tree
- Another World: Kyou Chapter
Each disc has a popup menu that fades in with star effects similar to the title image with selections “Choose a chapter”, “Play all”, “Pick an audio track”, “Choose subtitles”, and on the fifth disc “Bonus features”. The menu art is one of the limited edition covers that were used for the DVDs. In order by disc, they are volumes 1, 3,6,7,and 8 respectively. The remaining cover images are found on disc five with the illustration gallery in a smaller form.
This is one of my top 5 shows both personally and technically. While there’s less moments of my favorite characters, the impact of Nagisa on the story overwhelms anything and everything. If anyone doesn’t shed a tear or feel close to doing so during episodes 16-18, I’d say that they’ve lost any and all emotions. When I first watched the show, I couldn’t believe that Nagisa died with so many episodes to go. I feel bad for Ushio as her character gets overwhelmed by the sadness of Nagisa’s absence for a role that would be significant in any other way. Even in death, Nagisa is still present so much both in spirit and in story. The one weakness of the TV version as compared to the film version is that Tomoya’s depression is more enhanced in the film whereas in the TV show, he’s saddened and alone for about 5 minutes of screentime.
In both the original series as well as After Story, Clannad has a great mixture of drama and comedic moments. Episode 14 is a great example of how something emotional (the revelation of Nagisa’s pregnancy) can turn into a humorous moment without hurting characters. Akio’s role is enhanced as he has to play both the comedic foil as well as the emotional pillar for Tomoya and becomes probably the second best assisting male in any anime I’ve seen (see avatars for first). While the first series is emotional at times with Fuko and Kotomi’s arcs, it never reaches the depths of the main arc in After Story. I’ve re-watched the first series countless times this year, but it’s difficult to re-watch this set as the emotional impact still hits even when you know what’ll happen.
Visually, this set ranges from very good to jaw-dropping amazing. While the character models have been altered, the animation quality from the first series has been maintained. The backgrounds are still beautiful, the animation is fluid for character movements, the only lapse in details are there for comedic effects, and the special effects such as Kotomi’s violin are still impactful. Seeing the opening animation in true high definition is an absolute joy and helped me find details that I never knew were in the opening before such as the yellow petals compared to pink for the first season. This is one of the sets I will use to show why anime needs to be seen in HD to be enjoyed compared to SD and on DVD.
As usual, the audio has been remastered into a 5.1 mix with both LPCM and DTS-HD formats. The original 2.0 LPCM track is included as well for those without sound systems that can take advantage of the surround channels. Everything sounds very well, but the show wasn’t made to take advantage of that feature, so it’s not as often used as a film would use those channels. The few instances of Kotomi and her violin serve very well as a true test of a surround sound system in my opinion.
As with their release of Kanon and the first set, both Japanese and English subtitles are included. The English subtitles come from the sub-only release by Sentai Filmworks and look well for the most part. I’ve noticed more typos in this set such as leaving out the s for a possessive sentence, leaving out the “h” in “hit” during the baseball game, and other minor mistakes such as combining two words into one that should be caught by a viewing of the feature. The opening and ending animations include both a translation portion and a staff/cast portion which alternate between episodes except in the Another World episode due to a lack of ED.
Included on the final disc is a 101 image illustration gallery, two promotional clips used to announce that the show is coming soon/on air, the textless opening and four variations of the textless ending (with different characters being included), the previews for the summary and Another World episodes, and those episodes themselves are considered bonus features on the final disc. The gallery includes images used in magazines as well as cover/disc art for the DVDs. Several of these images would look wonderful in a poster (hint hint RightStuf). I can’t say enough about how wonderful the opening/ending animations look compared to their DVD counterparts.
To say this box is pricy would be a vast understatement. It’s much more expensive than I, or any other fan, would like to pay. However, if you can afford it, this is an absolute joy to view and I wished every fan could see it on their own systems. A wonderful story of life and it’s troubles, breathtaking images, and a revamped audio track that takes advantage of the music and enhances each scene it’s in combined with the beautiful artwork and packaging make this one set that I am proud to own. As always, I’ve included many more screencaptures in a Photobucket album for viewing by anyone.