With their previous anime adaptations in Kanon and Air being received fairly well by the anime community, Key decided to put a third visual novel into anime form: Clannad. Unlike previous Key adaptations, however, Clannad has a DVD OVA that has a totally different ending than the rest of the television series: a Tomoyo x Tomoya ending. It’s kind of fun to watch and will certainly tide some fans over until the second season, but it also highlights what I think is a very big societal issue.
In an alternate universe, moeblob Nagisa is nowhere near Tomoya. Instead, he and Tomoyo have begun dating each other, with Tomoyo skipping classes and doing bad things just to be with him. Things change when Tomoyo wins the election to be the student council president. As she gains more responsibility, it becomes evident that her deviant behavior is all because of Tomoya (using PA for personal use, skipping class and being late to meetings, etc.). A teacher and a member of the student council convince Tomoya to break up with Tomoyo because she can go so much farther without him (a well-known delinquent) dragging her down. Despite Tomoyo’s protests and in spite of both of their feelings, Tomoya convinces her to let him go and pursue her dreams.
Even without Tomoyo watching over him, Tomoya continues to attend class, study, and be an overall good student; she’s apparently rubbed off on him a little. However, the years of slacking off have taken its toll, and Tomoya finds he will never graduate; instead, he goes and tries to find a job, ending up working at a recycling factory. In the meantime, Tomoyo has continued to excel in community service and in her studies, with offers to study abroad and other major endorsements of her capabilities coming almost daily. However, she always keeps one eye on Tomoya. In the end, Tomoya leaves Sunohara and the closing parties and walks home, stumbling into a waiting Tomoyo. She had just completed a long and arduous fight to save the sakura trees in the area, a goal she could never give up on. However, although she could do so many more things, she would rather be with the person she loves instead of doing things crafted by tests and numbers. In the end, Tomoya is happily working at the recycling shop after reuniting with Tomoyo (who continues to cook for him).
I will be totally honest; I was not a huge fan of Clannad. I still enjoyed it, but I thought that Kanon was better. That could be because I really liked Kawasumi Mai’s character in Kanon, and Furukawa Nagisa annoyed the living daylights out of me. Therefore, I was skeptical to see a Clannad OVA, especially since they’ve annoyed me more by announcing another season based on AFTER STORY, which is the continuation of the Nagisa arc. Why people adore that moeblob I will never know, but I digress…
This OVA is actually a decent idea. Considering that the entire series is based on a visual novel, it’s interesting to see an animation of the “What if he went with this character instead” question instead of just wishing the animators would do something about it. This is probably because the producers are huge Tomoyo fans themselves (and that’s why Tomoyo After was made), but still, it provides an interesting alternate end to the series.
With that said, this is also one of the more…plausible relationships you will ever see out of a visual novel, and it’s done effectively in a single episode. Within the span of 24 minutes (it even uses up the ED and credit time to do so), we get a quick explanation of why they’re together, then watch as they fall apart, fight the hardship of being alone, and end up together again. Heck, they even got their trademark “sad girl in snow” scene in. It’s a classic “love over all” kind of theme, but in conjunction with some believable characters (no Tomoyo butt-kicking in this one), it adds a sense of poignancy and humanity to the episode. I think that this episode accomplished so much more than the entire Clannad series because it was so straightforward in its approach, and that’s quite an accomplishment. It’s not quite up to Voices of a Distant Star quality, though. While you certainly feel for their pain, and may (or may not?) approve when they finally end up together, it doesn’t have that capability to really pull at your heart and make you really emotionally attached to it. Granted, summing up an entire visual novel route in one episode is hard, so I will forgive them that.
OVA does look at a rather unusual societal quirk that I have to raise an eyebrow towards, however. Specifically, the social implications of relationships – Seeing the student council push Tomoya to the edge and to actually convince him that breaking up with Tomoyo would be in her best interests isn’t just plausible, I’m fairly sure it happens. It’s a sad truth, but society thinks low of delinquents (and who is to blame? They’re called such for a reason), and to be merely associated with one, much less in a relationship with one, puts your entire reputation at stake. It’s a shame that the outside world has so much say on what should be a personal relationship between two people. It’s in politics today, and apparently also in high school.
A smaller point, but the OVA also really shows the cutthroat nature of the Japanese educational system. With people like Tomoyo, who study hard, contribute to the community, etc., they naturally get a chance to continue education and excel at what they do. However, what about the delinquents like Sunohara and Tomoya? There is no support structure, just a simple “we will find you a job you are happy with”. Shouldn’t there be some sort of system to try and pick up these kids? Japan’s educational system has the reputation of damning those who cannot make it to a top-tier school. I know that it’s the way things have always been for countless generations, but for me, it’s a part of Japan that really needs modernizing. Sure, some aren’t as smart as others, but education is still important no matter what, and instead of ignoring the students who aren’t performing, shouldn’t they be helping them, trying to get the motivated by any means possible?
Anyway, fans of Clannad (and maybe even those who didn’t watch the series) should take a look at the OVA. It’s interesting in its own right, and is something worth watching while you wait for the first episode of AFTER STORY. But while you watch the relationship develop, fall apart, and spring to life once more, just think: shouldn’t we just let people be with who they want to be with?