I just finished re-watching Kanon, which is one of my favorite anime series--but I have to admit I went into Clannad with relatively low expectations. I read in a couple places on the internet that Clannad was "more like Air than Kanon", and unlike most Kanon fans, I'm not a huge fan of Air. Don't get me wrong, Air did have its good moments, but there were some things I disliked about it: I didn't like the cast as much as Kanon's (except Kannabi no Mikoto), the side characters' stories in Air weren't that interesting to me (I still can't remember their names...), and honestly I was disappointed with the ending. Maybe I was helped by having lower expectations for it than most, but after watching the first episode I really like Clannad so far.
The animation quality in the first episode was just awesome, and seemed at least up to Kanon's level. The only complaint I have was it aired 4:3, but the 16:9 broadcast will air three weeks from now. The character designs felt slightly closer to Haruhi than Air/Kanon, which is good in my book. And while it's weird hearing someone other than Kyon in a leading role in a Kyoani series, I like Tomoya's seiyuu, and he seems to fit the character well.
There's a pretty good sized cast to Clannad but unlike Kanon, which staggered everyone's introductions, it seems like Clannad throws them all at you at once, like it's daring you to remember all their names. A lot of them get pretty minimal screentime, of course, but they all seem interesting from what I've seen so far. I think Nagisa's dad is my favorite just based on his overall attitude--trying to get Tomoya to add 'ginga' to his name was classic. Anime set in high school often treats family like they don't exist--did you ever see anyone's parents for more than an instant in School Rumble? In Da Capo? In anything? I understand family's a big theme in Clannad, so it can't go that route, and it makes for a refreshing difference.
Before I watched the first episode, I was a little worried that the main heroine, Nagisa, would fit the all-too-common stereotype of "weak girl who just follows guy she has a crush on around and can't do anything by herself," which always annoys the hell out of me. Is there something wrong with giving girls a strong personality? I'm not saying they should all be tsunderes, but for example, the "I live to serve Ren-kun" mentality half the cast of Shuffle had made me ill--for The Love of God, have some purpose in your life other than becoming an okusan. Fortunately, Nagisa doesn't seem to fit that stereotype--she missed most of a year due to illness, but she doesn't have a puppy-dog crush on the male lead (or at least doesn't seem to), and she seems competent, going to the Theater Club by herself without needing anyone holding her hand to make her go. Nagisa also doesn't say 'gao', 'auu', 'uguu', 'ahaha', or anything like that, which makes me wonder if Key really produced this. Who knows, maybe in ep 2 she'll start adding '-de arimasu' to every sentence, but I think other than a habit of talking to herself, Nagisa's speech patterns are shockingly normal.
Other characters that stood out? The obligatory male lead sidekick looks like he'll be as entertaining as Kitagawa was in Kanon, now we just need a Kaori-like character to walk all over him. And Tomoyo is going to be a strong candidate for winning the Oscar for Most Badass Female Character in a Bishoujo Series, taking delinquents down like nobody's business and doing it with style.
On the downside, the OP and ED were OK, but I don't think I'll be ripping them into iTunes anytime soon. The ED was something Wanya from Daa! Daa! Daa! would love, but I'd take taiyaki over dangos any day. I think the ending of Clannad will make or break it for me, but now I'm looking forward to the ride more than I was before. I think I'm going follow Jeff Lawson's lead and wait for the 16:9 version from now on though--it just feels weird watching this in 4:3, they should have just aired it in black and white while they were at it.
Da Capo II
As a fan of the original series, I've been looking forward to Da Capo II for a looooong time, and the first episode was great--I love FEEL's D.C.S.S./Otoboku-like character designs, and everything just seemed to fit Da Capo perfectly. The animation's not going to top Clannad, but it's on a par with D.C.S.S. and Otoboku, so FEEL is giving this more love than Airantou got. Yui Horie as Yume sounds almost exactly like her Suzu in Airantou, but I think I'll get used to her pretty quickly.
The biggest surprise from the first episode is Koko and Yoshiyuki starting to go out--but I'll give that three, maybe four episodes before they break up and he ends up with Yume or Otome. The fact Yoshiyuki was wondering if the fact she was important to him was love or not is not a good sign for Koko--if you have to ask yourself if it's love, it's not. Plus he didn't accept until she was about to cry, and I feel bad for Koko if he's just going out with her out of pity. Hopefully, if he does end up falling for Otome, Nanaka, or Yume later (my money's on Yume) then he'll let Koko down gently.
I read spoilers for the game a while back, and while ep 1 clearly breaks ranks with the game, I'm sure the main story from the game is going to factor into this, and that's what I'm really looking forward to. There's definitely some great potential for drama there, and if D.C. II is anything like the original, it'll deliver.
The original Da Capo seemed to turn some people off by the middle episodes, but it had a really strong ending--with just one cours to run with, I'm guessing D.C. II will eschew filler and keep things moving at a good pace towards the climax. Definitely can't wait for ep 2 now...it's too bad I don't have the willpower to wait and marathon this all at once after it's over, just to avoid the wait between episodes...
Blue Drop is a series I didn't know a whole lot about going into this season, other than that it has aliens and possibly some yuri. That's really all it takes to get me to watch a first episode, so watch away I did, and I ended up really liking it so far. The animation is decent, the character designs take a little getting used to but aren't bad, and the whole mood and tone of the series was just set really well.
A lot of people were probably turned off by Mari generally being selfish and spoiled all episode, but given her situation and the loss of her parents, I'm willing to cut her some slack. Hagino, of course, being the alien is a more interesting character--why is she infiltrating a oujo-sama school? Why did she try to strangle Mari, only to back off? What kind of aliens keep such a low profile and don't just start blowing up cities and stuff?
The first episode ends on a cliffhanger, so they've guaranteed I'll be back for episode two. The CG was really the only part of the first episode that bugged me--I know, call me old-fashioned, but I *hate* CG in anime, and yes, the flock of swallows or whatever was pretty good, but I could still tell it was a computer doing the work. The alien ship/submarine of sorts just looked out of place--not as bad as the space station in Soul Link, but not great. Still, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more of this, especially where they go with Mari and Hagino's relationship and how their characters develop.
A lot of people will write this off from the get-go because it's based on a visual novel (which interestingly enough, isn't actually out yet, so it's impossible to guess where the story will go based on that), but the first episode definitely pulled me in. The character designs are good, the animation is solid, and the story has enough mystery to it to keep me interested. The OP is probably my favorite opening of any anime this season so far, so it pulled me in right from the start. I don't know if it's the Live Alive influence or what, but I'm all in favor of bishoujo bands in anime.
The basic setup of the story is the male lead, Sana, returning to his former hometown alone after being gone for five years, and being reunited with his childhood friends from back then. Yeah, it's not exactly original, but the cast is interesting and there are a lot of questions raised in the first episode:
- What was Shuu trying to yell to Sana when he left? Probably not "I'm hard gay for you!" although it'd be funny if he was...
- Why did Nanaka smack him silly when they met in class? Sure, she's pissed because he didn't recognize her after five years, but she seemed to be acting funny even when she saw him at the shrine earlier, so I'm thinking there has to be more behind it. Or she's just an omega tsundere.
- Why exactly did Sana come back to the town, alone? His phone call with his mother seemed a little awkward, and when his friends asked about it, he didn't want to say...
I haven't watched the first episode of Shana II yet, although I'm hoping it'll be a good series and not another ZnT II. I'm also looking forward to Minami-ke and ef--I remember reading the Minami-ke manga a while back and finding it pretty funny, and there's a serious need for comedies in my anime this season. My favorite series of spring was Seto no Hanayome, and while I don't expect there'll be anything as Laugh Out Loud Until the People in White Coats Take You Away funny this season, I'm hoping something will come along and surprise me.
Like every season, I'm sure something will disappoint me down the stretch, and something else will come out of nowhere to be just awesome--but one thing I know for sure is this fall is looking like a great time to be an anime fan.