Written by Andy Nava
Figure. 1: Cast Reaction Shot, “Clannad: Afterstory” (2008)
When fans of animation discuss the greatest animated series’, the usual suspects tend to be Avatar: The Last Airbender, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and a few others. These, for the most part, are action-adventure based and have darker, more perilous themes than your typical animated series. But there is a series about more simple yet important themes that exist: companionship, forgiveness, purpose, gratefulness, and family, among several others. This show, I believe, is the greatest animated series of all time, but it never comes up in these kinds of conversations. I would like to change that. That series is the Japanese animated series Clannad/Clannad: After Story.
Clannad is a humble series. It is not about a chosen one or alchemist brothers wanting their bodies back. It is simply about a high school delinquent named Tomoya Okazaki. He does not believe he deserves a happy life or any success and struggles to see himself in a good future. That all starts to change when he meets Nagisa Furukawa, a gentle girl with many health complications that get in the way of her ambitions. Like Tomoya, she is lonely, but she is an optimistic, loving soul. She and Tomoya become friends as Tomoya assists her in reviving the school’s drama club. Along the way, they help each other connect with many new friends who help lift each other up when needed, all with their own stories and personal conflicts of self-doubt, broken promises, and loneliness. This show is pretty grounded in reality when compared to other mainstream stories, but the simple setting and reality make the show more relatable to its audience. We’ve all had moments or eras of our lives where we believed we were a burden on people, undeserving of love or success. As the show progresses, we see Tomoya and the others discover their worth as people and become closer friends. They all become more than friends; really, they become family.
The title, “Clannad,” means family, based on the Irish word for family, “clann”. The main theme of this show is that family is not restricted to blood ties. Tomoya hates his own father, a drunk shell of a man who gave up on himself and his son after his wife died. However, our protagonist finds family in his new friends at school, Nagisa, Sunohara, Tomoyo, Kotomi, and a few others. They all develop more sentimental feelings for each other, helping each other get past their emotional baggage. They are always open to seeing each other and even develop crushes on each other. I feel a lot of stories nowadays neglect how much humanity values people who will always be there for them. These are people you can call more than friends and people who show you what you are truly worth. This show does it to an exceptional extent. This show is absolutely bittersweet through and through. It reminds us of our humanity, reminds us to cherish our loved ones, and that we are someone. We are loved.
Figure. 2: Tomoya(right) and Nagisa(left), “Clannad” (2007)
Intimacy, intimacy is so often absent in our lives, although we always desire it. This show has a way, I can’t describe it, of making simple, intimate scenes some of the most beautiful scenes you will ever witness. When a character hugs someone, you feel the warmth and what it means to the character receiving it. A few simple words of dialogue in the show are enough to move one to tears. All these values are the main focus of the series’ first half, Clannad. Once that’s over, the final half, Clannad: Afterstory sets out to make you a changed person.
The main reason I believe this show is not only the greatest animated series of all time, but the greatest television series, is that it makes its audience better people. This show teaches its final lessons in After Story in the most unforgivably harsh way possible. Without going into spoilers, the show dives into one of the most heartbreakingly sad moments in fiction, and right after, with no apology, goes, “You’re not crying hard enough.” The show doesn’t let up till Tomoya, and in turn, the audience learns their lesson. Be grateful. Love yourself. Life is beautiful unless you see it as ugly. The choice is yours.
Figure. 3: Field of Wishes, “Clannad: Afterstory” (2008)
This show, for example, made me a better person. I used to be someone who felt entitled to success, to affection, and to happiness. However, the world never owed me those, and I grew bitter as I blamed my problems on the world. Clannad opened my eyes by showing me that my issues are my own, I choose how I see the world, and there are always people who care about me. Before watching this show, my relationship with my brother wasn’t too great. After we both watched this show, we found each other being more open to each other about our feelings: feelings of loneliness, feelings of self-loathing, and feelings of the world around us. I have since tried to live everyday of my life, not taking my family for granted. Before Clannad, I thought my life was miserable, but now I see that I live a pretty happy life. With good friends, a family I love very much, and emotions I’ve come to grasp with.
I have made all these arguments in favor of the show, but these don’t even scratch the surface of why this show is so good. In truth, I don’t think anyone can explain even a quarter of why this show is so magical, impactful, and so incredibly special. I didn’t even get to touch on the supernatural elements of the show used for metaphors and symbolism, the incredible voice acting, the moving music, the terrific directing, the gorgeous animation, and the absolutely cherishable characters. I can never do this show justice. You just have to see it for yourself. So please, go watch Clannad and Clannad After Story. I promise you, you will come out of it a better person. You will love your friends more, you will love your family more, and most importantly, you will love yourself more. This show will also instill this final message deep into the core of your heart.
Appreciate those who love you before it’s too late.
Writers note: Please do not watch the dub, the dub is notorious for some of the worst voice acting in animation history.
Figure. 4: Dango Couple, “Clannad” (2007)
Cast Reaction Shot, “Clannad: Afterstory” (2008), Kyoto Animation, digital
image, IMDb, accessed 15 November 2022,
Tomoya and Nagisa, “Clannad” (2007), Kyoto Animation, The Boba Culture,
digital image, accessed 15 November 2022,
Field of Wishes, “Clannad: Afterstory” (2008), Kyoto Animation, Medium,
digital image, accessed 15 November 2022,
Dango Couple, “Clannad” (2007), Kyoto Animation, Youtube Thumbnail, digital
image, accessed 15 November 2022,