Friday, July 30, 2010

春原芽衣 (Sunohara Mei)

"My brother is hopeless..."


Sunohara Mei is a recurring minor character in Clannad; she appears in Episodes 15 and 16 of Clannad (also returning for Episode 23, an extra episode), and then in Episodes 1 through 4 of After Story. Her (and her brother's) story arc takes place during Episodes 2 through 4. After that, she's only seen in during the final episode montage.

Personality

Mei is a middle school girl who is peculiarly mature for her age. When compared with her older brother, Youhei (usually referred to as Sunohara), she shows well why it's said that females mature faster than males. While Sunohara is possibly the most immature character in Clannad (although Fuko's childishness is a good contender), Mei is high up on the list of maturity...and she's one of the youngest characters (actually, besides Ushio, I think she is the youngest)! She takes it for granted that her brother is an immature boy, so she works to provide maturity to balance him out. Mei cares deeply for her brother, leading to her exerting lots of effort in trying to help him out. Her maturity does not mean that she is a Stoic stone statue, though; she has a bit of her brother's mischievousness in her (which can be seen easily when she prepares Nagisa and Tomoya's first real date). She also needs some love and care in return from her brother, which is the crisis behind her story arc (more on that below). Overall, though, Mei's key words are maturity and fraternity (as in fraternal (brotherly/siblingly) love). These aspects (and her relationship with her brother) can be seen in one of her first scenes:



Story

Mei's first appearance is after a humorous confrontation between Sunohara and Nagisa about the former being in love with Tomoya. We quickly learn that she is paying a surprise visit to her brother. (Originally, it was not supposed to be a surprise, but Tomoya interrupted her communication.) Once arriving, Mei quickly sets to work cleaning Sunohara's room. Since she can't very well stay in her brother's room in a boy's dorm, the Furukawas let her live at their house while she's in town (their second guest of the show, after housing Fuko for a few episodes). Mei doesn't do too much while she's in town during her first visit; she mostly sets a counterexample of Sunohara's immaturity; she also helps cheer him, Kyou, and Tomoya on at the basketball game. Once that's over, she says so long, farewell (auf weidersehen, goodbye!).

Her second visit begins in the extra episode of Clannad. For whatever reason (probably because she found out how cool are the inhabitants of the town are), she comes back, and once again, she stays with the Furukawas. By this time, Tomoya is also staying there (guest number three!), and he and Nagisa are dating. After a laughter-inducing incident of bread-selling, Mei notices that Tomoya and Nagisa are not really "dating," i.e. they're not going on official "dates." Believing their relationship to be pretty stagnant, she decides to be their personal cupid of love (thanks to Wikipedia for that phrasing) and set up an official date for the two. She tells Nagisa the plan and then lets her use it on Tomoya. Nagisa, being the somewhat clumsy girl she is, messes up the plan to an extent, and Tomoya sees straight through it, realizing it is Mei's work, and he calls her out on it. After the spying Mei runs away, the "date" does end romantically for the two.


The next episode after this (in the show's time line) is the beginning of After Story, where Akio must get together a baseball team to defend his bakery's honor. What better team than almost all the major and minor characters in the show? Mei of course helps out, and she gets to meet one of her idols, Yoshino Yuusuke, the rock-star-turned-electrician. Following this fun episode, Mei's real story starts...


I've already explained this story in detail in my post on Sunohara, so I will summarize it here: Mei is concerned about her brother, in particular about his lack of a girlfriend. Tomoya and Sunohara decide to cover this up by getting him a fake girlfriend, who ends up being Sanae in disguise. While on their fake date (with Tomoya, Nagisa, and Mei following behind), they see a little girl being bullied. Sunohara doesn't help, and eventually the girl's older brother appears and defends her. After this, Sanae helps the children find their home.

Mei explains to Nagisa and Tomoya that she and her brother were like those children when they were little: she would be bullied, and Sunohara would save her. When he got older, he began to care more about soccer and less about her. Mei just wants that brother back. So she tries to provoke him to care, for instance, by telling him she is dating an older guy, and by later pretending that Tomoya is that guy. Sunohara doesn't react.

Mei, Nagisa, and Tomoya try one more last-ditch effort to knock Sunohara into shape: they try to get him back on the soccer team, which he was kicked out of his first year for not accepting the cruelty of the elder students. After a grueling task of collecting soccer balls, the team refuses Mei's request, and at her repeated insistence, they grab her and pick on her. Just as Tomoya is about to get back at them, Sunohara finally appears and acts as a brother should: he beats down the soccer team.



After this battle, the fight is not over: Tomoya begins to beat on Sunohara for not being a good brother. Though it's vicious, it ends with a reconciliation between Sunohara and Mei: he has once again become her protective, caring older brother.

Following this heartwarming reconnection, Mei ends her visit, and she departs the town for good. She isn't seen again until the montage of the final episode, where we see her, older, eating ice cream with her friends.

Effect on the Main Plot

Mei's is one of those arcs which does not really affect the main plot at all. She provides another powerful tale of family, and she adds to the show's themes that way, but all in all she doesn't do much to advance Tomoya and Nagisa's relationship, except for the extra episode of Clannad. In that episode, Mei pushes the two main characters to deepen their relationship by taking it another step: to actually go on a real date. While the date does not go as planned, it still accomplishes its goal: it gets Nagisa and Tomoya to spend some time together, alone.


Themes

Like most characters, the biggest theme with Mei is family. As I mentioned in Sunohara's post, the sibling relationship between these two is unique. In that post, I mentioned its imperfection and how we truly delve into it, seeing the issues underlying the struggle. But what I think is even more special about this relationship is that we see it from both sides: Sunohara's and Mei's. With Fuko and Kouko, we see a bit of that, but we mostly just see Kouko's devotion to her sister (plus the bit of backstory on trying to get her to make friends); with Kyou and Ryou, we mostly see it from Kyou's side, while Ryou is mostly in the background; with Tomoyo and her brother, we only see Tomoyo's side, and we don't even meet her brother; with Yukine and her brother, we only see her side, because her brother is dead. Do you see my point? The sibling relationship between the Sunoharas is unique because it is seen from both sides, and its imperfections are delved into. Sunohara's side can be seen in the videos of him beating down the soccer team, and in his fight with Tomoya (along with seeing him throughout the series). Mei's side is seen prevalently in her arc in multiple places; one of the most significant is when she explains her story to Nagisa and Tomoya.



Sunohara and Mei's relationship shows that just because two people are related by family, they won't automatically be perfect friends; even if they're brother and sister, that friendship isn't automatic. And it shows that sibling relationships, like all friendships, can be strained by the actions of one or both parties. Of course Sunohara's apathy towards his sister initiate the conflict, but Mei does antagonize him during the arc as well. But this story also shows that, like all friendships, sibling relationships that are strained can be repaired; a bent friendship is not permanent; there is hope for change and forgiveness. This is also a bit of a preparation for Tomoya's long-awaited reunion with his father near the end of After Story (which has another slight parallel in the relief of the tensions between Nagisa and her parents at the end of the first season).

Besides the obvious theme of family, the Sunoharas definitely show the influence of the past on the present. If Sunohara had not been such a responsible brother in his early life, Mei would have had no expectation of him ever being a good brother, and the conflict of their story would not have arisen.

There's also the theme of breaking out of conventions. In the first season, we see Mei as a very mature girl who seems independent and self-confident. She doesn't depend on her brother; quite the opposite: she provides for him. That's our impression of her and their relationship after her brief visit in the first season. But in After Story, we see she is not completely independent: she needs love too, especially the love of her brother. Though she is mature and self-confident, she is not an island; she needs others, especially her brother. She can show weakness.


Mei also shows perseverance; when her brother won't care for her, she keeps trying to provoke him, and when the soccer team denies her request, she keeps asking. This is not so much the perseverance that the opening scene points too (persevering in tragedy; finding hope in darkness), but it is perseverance all the same.

Reflection

I've always like the character of Mei. Her maturity is an excellent contrast to her brother, and overall I'm more a fan of maturity than immaturity. Also, her somewhat sarcastic and snarky comments about her brother would make me chuckle: he is a pretty obnoxious, slovenly, immature klutz. But her arc in After Story really hit me, to see just how wrong my original evaluation of their relationship was. It's not just her caring for him; he has to care for her as well. Now, I didn't catch that on my first viewing of the series: my first time around, I hated the beginning of After Story. I just kept thinking, "I want to see more about Nagisa and Tomoya, not these minor characters!" On repeated viewings, though, I'm realizing just how important these minor arcs are. As I said in my introduction, they help build the themes of the show, especially that theme of family. And without family, what would Clannad be? Even its title would be meaningless.

I also like the reconciliation and forgiveness found at the end of this arc. Again, my first time through it meant nothing, but now it touches me. It also, oddly enough, reminds me of a poem from J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring. It reads:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not touched by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Of course, this poem has a specific meaning in context: it refers to Strider and his eventual destiny (if you think that's a spoiler, go read and/or watch The Lord of the Rings: you should have done so already). Out of context, though, I can see this poem fit in well with Clannad. It can be seen to reflect two major themes: perseverance and forgiveness. I mean, come on: "A light from the shadows shall spring." When all the happy and fun things fade away, what do you do? You find new happy and fun things. When you're surrounded by shadow, you find light. It's a very important theme of Clannad.

Now I've gone a bit off-topic; I'm realizing new aspects about this show as I go through these posts, just like you are. And now, since I've discussed all I need to about Mei, I end this post with her final shot:


Thanks for reading. God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All clips (except the Tolkien poem) are from the Clannad Central YouTube channel run by the Clannad (クラナド/Kuranado) fan page on Facebook. All character themes and other music from the show can also be found on said fan page, in the music player. My gratitude to them and all the work they do. Thanks also to Wikipedia and its clever phrasing.

The Music of Clannad


I'm a big fan of music overall, so when I watch an anime, I pay attention to the music.  And when I say music, I don't mean just the openings and endings.  I mean the background music: all those themes played in the background that add to the characters or the drama or just the feel of the show.  There are many anime soundtracks that I find to be stunning musically and that work perfectly with the anime itself.  For instance, Michiru Oshima's compositions (performed by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra) for the original Fullmetal Alchemist portray excellently the tender brotherly love so important to the series and the harsh military reality that is ever present.  Tenmon's subtle piano work in Makoto Shinkai's films, especially Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi no koe), are beautiful and add to the calm yet emotionally poignant aura of the films.  Then there's Susumu Hirasawa's intriguing electronic pieces, especially in the soundtrack to Satoshi Kon's film Paprika.  Finally, the soundtrack to Air, another anime based on a visual novel, from the same creators as those of Clannad, includes some gorgeous piano-based pieces, such as my favorite, "Natsukage."

But amid all of these wonderfully made soundtracks, Clannad stands out.  When you experience something emotional, your mind can connect different parts of the moment to that emotion, and I think Clannad's music does that.  On its own, it is beautiful, varied, and well-made.  After watching the show, listening to the music brings back all sorts of emotional memories, and then the power of the music transcends words.

The team of Shinji Orito, Magome Togoshi, and Jun Maeda created a stunning collection of pieces for the visual novel that were then worked into the anime (though some pieces might have been made only for the anime; I don't know for certain).  First of all, there are the character themes.  The heroines have their own pieces: Fuko has "Hurry, Starfish"; Kyou has "Like the Wind"; Tomoyo has "Her Determination"; Kotomi has "Etude pour les petites supercordes"; Yukine has "Tea in the Reference Room."  Shinji Orito (who wrote Fuko's,  Tomoyo's, and Kotomi's) and Magome Togoshi (who wrote Kyou's and Yukine's) did a great job capturing the spirit of each character in their individual themes.  But there's still one heroine's theme left, a theme which cannot be topped:



Nagisa's theme, simply titled "Nagisa," is possibly one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.  When just listening to the song, it may seem like a nice piano piece, but nothing too mind-blowing.  After watching the entire anime and truly connecting with the character, this song goes beyond powerful.  If you really felt emotion while watching this show, then I think this song will be connected to your emotion in an indescribable way.  That's just the power of it.  And you can thank Jun Maeda for this song; he created the scenario for the Clannad visual novel (along with Air and Kanon before it, among others), and he wrote some of the most beautiful songs from it; if you think about it, he's basically the creator of Clannad.

I think the majority of really powerful songs in Clannad where written by Jun Maeda.  He created such masterful pieces as "To the Same Heights" (which is the basis for a good part of the melody of the After Story opening song), "Distant Years," and the variations on Nagisa's theme, "Nagisa ~ Farewell at the Foot of the Hill" and the song from Episode 22 of After Story (which he also wrote lyrics to), "Chiisana Te No Hira."  He also wrote one of my other favorite songs from Clannad: "The Place Where Wishes Come True."  I especially like the second, longer version of it:




Now, I know I may be boring some of you with my ranting about music.  I'm sorry if I am.  But I love music, and I especially love the music of Clannad.  It is so powerful, beautiful, and emotional.  For me, Clannad is the most emotional series I've ever watched; it's the only thing I can ever remember watching that made me cry (and continues to make me cry); that means that the music is connected to that, for me, so the music is some of the most emotional music I've ever heard.  If you've watched all of Clannad, and you've felt genuine emotion during it, I'd encourage you to listen to the songs I've embedded in here, and maybe follow some of the links.  I think then you'd understand what I mean by the emotion connected to these songs.

And I can't end a post on an anime's music without discussing the openings and closings.  Here's the quick rundown: the opening of Clannad is "Mag Mell -cuckool mix-" by Eufonius; the ending is "Dango Daikazoku" by Chata.  The opening of After Story is "Toki o Kizamu Uta" by Lia, and the ending is "Torch" by Lia.  Personally, I like the openings of both (and I'll admit, the After Story opening is the better of the two), but I don't like the ending of After Story.  It's too happy and peppy for a show so heavy on drama.  After some of the truly emotional episodes (like Nagisa's death, Tomoya's reunion with Ushio, and the collapse of both of them in the snow), it feels terrible; I read one reviewer describe it as a "sin" to keep that song as the ending.  While that might be little extreme, I definitely dislike that song, and after those very powerful episodes, I even despise it.  But without a doubt, my favorite song from all of Clannad is the first closing: "Dango Daikazoku."  I think it sums up the show perfectly, and its melody is based on Nagisa's theme.  It's my official favorite song of all time.



Thanks for reading this informational rant.  God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: Image is from Google Image Search.  All videos were found on YouTube; I don't know the creators of these videos, and I did not ask their permission to link to them or embed them here.  If they run across this and wish me to remove their videos from this post, I will be sad, but I will comply with their wishes.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

春原陽平(Sunohara Youhei)

“When I was a kid, I had so many things I wanted to become…a soccer player…a pilot…a teacher…and…a toilet seat cover!”


Sunohara Youhei is the most often seen background character in the first season of Clannad; his arc takes place during Episodes 2 through 4 of After Story. Like the other high school characters in Clannad, he is rarely seen after the first third or so of After Story.

Personality

Sunohara (as he is commonly referred to) is a somewhat immature, antagonistic, loud, obnoxious, at times girl-crazy high school senior who is also a fan of (and more often a victim of) jokes and pranks. Much of his time in Clannad is spent showcasing this humorous personality, especially its relentless gullibility. For instance, Tomoya (his best friend) has no problem convincing Sunohara that he slept for 100 years, or that he has to say "and a toilet seat cover" after every sentence to match his personality. He can also be creative at times in planning jokes on or in trying to manipulate others. A quick temper is one of his faults, which normally leads to violence (that he usually suffers from). Actually, many of his jokes can also lead to violence against him, such as, for instance, a practical joke he and Tomoya pulled on Kyou. He can be a bit carefree and, at times, even apathetic (he is a delinquent, after all), but in a pinch he can be called on to help out his friends and family (though sometimes it might take a little push...or a large one). Overall, his joking, comedic, trouble-making personality can be seen well in his first appearance:


Story

Sunohara begins the story as Tomoya's best friend. Since they're both avid delinquents, it didn't take them long to find each other once they started high school, and they quickly became best friends. Their friendship is one where playing jokes on each other is okay, and even encouraged (at least Tomoya views it that way). One great example of this from early in the show is in Sunohara's final encounter with Tomoyo. After seeing Tomoyo demolish some bikers, Sunohara suspects that she was really a guy, not a girl, so he decides to go about proving it (which usually leads to his getting pummeled by her kicks). After five such incidents (see them here, here, here, here, and here), Sunohara finally accepts Tomoyo is a girl...and then he tries to seduce her (based on Tomoya's nonsensical advice). Of course, this ends badly, with him being beaten beyond recognition (by both Tomoyo and Tomoya together, oddly enough).


This series of altercations with Tomoyo represents Sunohara's first real part in the story, even though it doesn't really connect with the main plot (although this violent relationship between the two lasts for basically the rest of the series). Sunohara doesn't really do too much plot-wise, at least directly; he's more of a very prominent supporting character. For instance, he gives Tomoya lots of advice (most of which is useless) and is almost always at his side. He helps with passing out Fuko's starfish, and he brings to light her being forgotten...and he soon forgets her as well. Even before this, he helps Nagisa enlist Ryou's support for the drama club, in a somewhat misleading fashion. His comedic moments are many and varied, but his next major plot moment comes when the drama club is trying to secure an adviser. One of the members of the choir club threatens Nagisa for trying to get Koumura-sensei to advise the drama club instead of the choir club, and Sunohara helps confront this girl. He's also the one who (thanks to some inspiration by Yukine) comes up with the idea for the basketball game to get the choir club to back down on its fervent desire for Koumura-sensei as an adviser.


After winning, along with Kyou and Tomoya, the above-mentioned basketball game, Sunohara fades more into the background again. Due to Tomoya's suggestion, he is woken up by Tomoyo every morning so he will stop being late for class. Besides that, he doesn't really feature much into the end of the first season of Clannad: that's basically devoted to Tomoya and the Furukawas. At the beginning of After Story, he helps recruit Yoshino (whose music he is a big fan of) for the neighborhood baseball game, and he plays in said game as well. After this episode is when Sunohara truly has his fifteen minutes (more like 60 minutes, since his arc is three episodes) of fame.

In the extra episode of the first season of Clannad, Mei, Sunohara's younger sister, returns to the town and stays with the Furukawas. Earlier on, around the time of the basketball game (her first appearance can be seen in the above link where Sunohara explains the meaning of the basketball game), she had visited and stayed with them, leading to humorous moments of comedy with Sunohara. At the beginning of After Story, she is still in town from the extra episode, and this sets the stage for the arc of the Sunoharas (for it involves both of them).

Mei, who is extremely mature for her age, is worried about her brother, because he seems so lost, immature, and hopeless...and one sign of this is his lack of a girlfriend. Tomoya hears Sunohara mention this feeling of his sister's, so the former decides to help the latter get a fake girlfriend. After asking Ryou, Kyou, Tomoyo, and random girls on the street (those meetings don't end well), the pair is dejected at their failure. But then, an unexpected person offers to help out: Sanae, Nagisa's mother. Sunohara whole-heartedly agrees to this (did I mention that he thinks Sanae is Nagisa's older sister, not her mother?). Sanae uses a box of theater costumes to dress like a schoolgirl, and she goes by the name of Isogai Sanako (Isogai is the last name of the Furukawa's neighbor, which Fuko just happened to use when hiding her identity). Sunohara takes the whole plan a bit too seriously, almost seeming to convince himself that she is his real girlfriend. This is seen blatantly when they are practicing for the date, and when Sunohara dresses up very nicely and pretends to stand outside all night waiting for their real date. He does look rather spiffy in his suit.


Mei, Nagisa, and Tomoya follow Sunohara and Sanae around on their fake date, and it goes "well" (as well as any male-female interaction can go when Sunohara is around)...for a while. Near the end of this "date," the group spies a little girl being bullied on a playground. Sanae suggests helping her, but Sunohara blows it off. Suddenly, an older boy runs out of nowhere and chases the bullies off; it appears he is her brother. The two are lost, though, so Sanae, due to Sunohara's apathy, eventually goes over and offers to help them find their home. In the end, then, everything works out for the kids. But Mei looks worried...



Soon after, she explains to Nagisa and Tomoya why the kids affected her so much: they were exactly as she and her brother were when they were younger. She would get bullied, and her brother would fend off the bullies. As Sunohara got older and better at soccer, though, they started to drift apart. Mei wants the caring brother back she used to have, so she comes up with a daring plan to elicit a response from him: she lies. Mei tells Sunohara that the real reason she came to visit the city was to see a boy she liked. She says the boy is older than her and is teaching her lots of "mature things." Sunohara is slightly annoyed at first, but he quickly returns to apathy. Then Mei runs outside to meet her boy, and Sunohara does nothing. Nagisa runs out after Mei, and Tomoya rebukes Sunohara, but to no avail.

Sunohara continues to be apathetic, only sitting around, longing for phone calls from Sanae, ignoring Mei. As he says once, "When faced with this beautiful thing called love, who has time for a little sister?" While he is doing this, Tomoya takes Mei out to see the city, leading to an encounter with Sunohara, where he claims to be her boyfriend...and Sunohara doesn't care. Mei is becoming more and more troubled by her brother's apathy: it's even to the point of him skipping school. She tries one last ditch effort to help him: get him back on the soccer team. When he was a first year high school student, Sunohara got on the soccer team, and played well, but he couldn't stand when the older students would make fun of him and ridicule him for being younger. One day he snapped at them and was kicked off the soccer team. When Mei, Tomoya, and Nagisa go the soccer team to ask for Sunohara's readmittance, they are forced to go through the long, grueling task of collecting soccer balls, only to have their request denied. Mei won't give up, though. The three persist in their request, and in return the soccer team grabs Mei and causes her to cry, when suddenly Sunohara appears and begins to beat them down: his brotherly nature has returned.


After he and Tomoya beat down the soccer team, everyone collapses outside in the rain...but the fighting's not over yet. Tomoya rebukes Sunohara for his failing to be a good brother until now, in the wake of all of Mei's provocation, and they begin to fight.



In the midst of fighting, Sunohara offers some rationale: when he found out that Mei's older boyfriend was Tomoya, he was fine with it, because he trusts Tomoya. At the end of the vicious fist fight, the two friends fall on the ground laughing, and Tomoya explains their backstory: they were both delinquents taken to a teacher's office for fighting early on in high school. When they each saw how the other looked, covered in scratches and bruises, they couldn't help but laugh at each other and themselves, and thus they became best friends. After this montage of their friendship, Mei leaves once again.


Following his arc, Sunohara becomes a background character again, but he's still present for a while. Due to his altercation with Misae, his dorm mother, Nagisa and Tomoya begin a conversation with her, leading to her story arc. And during Yukine's story arc involving her gang, Sunohara pretends to be her older brother, the gang leader. Then he leaves like everyone else after high school; he dyes his hair black, and at the New Year's Party, he asks Tomoya what it's like to be a father. In his final shot, he's shown driving a car...or attempting to, at least.

Effect on the Main Plot

Most of Sunohara's effects on the plot are described in the "Story" section: it's easier to just read them there than to discuss them again here. Mainly, he is a good friend to Tomoya, and, while he is pretty immature a lot of the time, he still helps his friend out as best he can. The fact that he is almost always at Tomoya's side throughout high school means he becomes involved in basically everything Tomoya is involved in, whether it's the drama club, the starfish, the play, the baseball game, Yukine's gang, everything. His actions are a mix of small things and big things that altogether help advance the plot of many minor arcs and of the entire plot overall: he does support Tomoya and Nagisa (no matter how much he has a crush on Nagisa for a while due to her parents' bakery...). So while there's no one big thing that Sunohara does to affect the main plot, a lot of his actions do affect it in some way, and almost all of them in the context of his friendship with Tomoya. The montage at the end of this arc illustrates this friendship well.



Themes

Again, the very obvious theme, for Sunohara as well as almost every character in Clannad, is family. Like with Kyou and Ryou and with Fuko and Kouko, Sunohara displays sibling love between him and his sister. Unlike these other examples, though, Sunohara and Mei really show an example of imperfect sibling love. True, we saw a bit of this with Tomoyo and her brother, but only the Sunoharas' story truly delves into this imperfection and its effects. Sunohara, at the very least during his story arc, is very much an example of a bad brother. He lies to his sister (about the girlfriend), and he is apathetic concerning her, as he is apathetic towards most things. Even when she tells him she is dating an older man (a large age difference in a couple always has the possibility to be precarious, but it's downright disturbing when it's a middle school girl and a guy who's a senior in high school), he basically shrugs it off. This is very blatantly not an example of a good sibling relationship. But what's important is that this relationship changes: it improves. Change is an important theme in Clannad, so it's good to see some here. In the end, Sunohara shows what it means to be a good brother: he comes to his sister's defense; he protects her; he cares for her. That's a special thing about the sibling relationship with the Sunoharas: it starts off imperfect, but it improves, and we get deep insight into it the whole way.


Outside of that, there's not too many themes in Sunohara's story. There's nothing supernatural directly related to him; he shows a little perseverance (like when he tries to get people to recognize Fuko as they start to forget); self-sacrifice isn't too big a theme with him (unless you count him taking on the dangerous role of Yukine's brother, the gang leader). Really, the only other theme would be the influence of the past on the present (which I should have been mentioning more often with other characters). Sunohara mentions how he hates club activities; that's due to his being kicked out of the soccer team as a sophomore. His prior actions as a good brother also influence how Mei expects him to be (which I'll discuss more in her profile). It's not extremely prominent with Sunohara, but it's still there.

Reflection

Sunohara is a comic relief character: there's no denying that. A lot of the funniest moments in the series come from his actions (such as the scene linked to above where Nagisa believes him to be in love with Okazaki, or the classic "something light blue" scene). But, like all characters in Clannad, he also has a dramatic side, which is really cool. I love the fact that in Clannad, even the obvious comic relief character has his moment to reveal truth and pull at your heartstrings. It's one of the great things about the show. Even though sometimes you wonder if Sunohara is even a hnau (if you don't know what that is, read C.S. Lewis' Out of the Silent Planet), he still shows his emotional, relational side. It's just so amazing!

Besides that, I don't really have much to say about him. Yes, he is frakking (if you don't know that word, watch Battlestar Galactica, the new version) hilarious most of the time. And yes, his arc was interesting to see. Yes, he did lots of small actions to influence the plot (or plots, if you count minor arcs as separate). But besides that, I don't really have much more to say. I'll just end with this: Sunohara, you are a hilarious character and (eventually) a good brother...and a toilet seat cover.


Thanks for reading. God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All clips are from the Clannad Central YouTube channel run by the Clannad (クラナド/Kuranado) fan page on Facebook. All character themes and other music from the show can also be found on said fan page, in the music player. My gratitude to them and all the work they do.

Monday, July 26, 2010

きりひと讃歌 (Ode to Kirihito)


Ode to Kirihito is a medical drama manga from 1970-1971, written by acclaimed manga master Osamu Tezuka (creator of Astro Boy, Black Jack, and the recently-reviewed classic Metropolis).  It is the story of Osanai Kirihito, a young doctor intrigued by a strange ailment known as Monmow Disease, which turns all of its sufferers into animalistic creatures with dog-like physical features, cravings for raw meat, and difficult-to-control impulses.  Osanai goes to the town of Doggoddale (in the original Japanese, Inugamisawa), where it seems all (or at least most) of reported cases of Monmow Disease originate.  As Osanai investigates this ailment, a disturbing change occurs in him, and he is led on a wild odyssey around the world searching for the answers to this disease and trying to return home to Japan.  There are also many, many subplots, including the fate of Osanai's fiancee, Yoshinaga Izumi, the aspirations to authority of Osanai's superior, Dr. Tatsugara, the investigations of Osanai's coworker, Dr. Urabe, and the stories of numerous individuals Osanai meets on his journeys around the world.

The art is fantastic.  It's dark and edged; defining lines and expert shading abound.  All the art is drawn in the style of gekiga ("dramatic pictures"), a term coined by mangaka Yoshihiro Tatsumi to refer to serious comics, in contrast to manga ("irresponsible pictures").  One analogy is that it is like the term "graphic novel" in the United States.  In analogical form, manga : gekiga :: comic books : graphic novel.  In all, this means that the art is meant to be serious rather than whimsical, and its focus on shading, shadows, darkness, rigid lines, and more realistic imagery certainly portray that.

The story is very complex.  All the subplots blend into the main plot, and for the most part everything is resolved.  The weaving of the plots is truly masterful, and, unlike Metropolis (which I felt was rushed far too much), the plot makes progress, but it takes its time.  The pacing is focused and powerful.

It's hard to do justice to how much the manga makes the reader think.  This story is not for the faint-hearted: one major idea in the book is how physical depravity does not equal moral depravity; instead, they can often be opposing forces.  The morality is complex, to say the least; things are not black-and-white, although there is a lot of black.  Christian symbolism (even to the point of depictions of the Way of the Cross) are surprisingly common (it's rare for manga to reference Christianity), most often in connection with the intriguing (though not perfect) character of Sister Helen Friese.  Psychological illness is explored somewhat, although I believe every case of it in the book is violent, adding to the stereotype of the mentally ill as always violent.  What it means to be a doctor and the power of altruism are evident here as well.  This brief overview is just a glimpse into the fascinating, multi-layered world of this work.



I must say, I think this work far, far surpassed Metropolis, the other manga by the same author I've read.  Not only was the pacing much more effective, but the art blew me away.  Sometimes I couldn't believe I was reading the same mangaka who created the kid-friendly art of Astro Boy.  This is a dark, deep, complex, questioning work.  Even though sometimes it may seem like a work that portrays the world as hopeless, on the whole it is positive about the goodness in humans and the dignity of humanity.  That's not to say that all the humans in the work are good: far from it; moral depravity is rampant, especially in regards to the terrifying character of Master Mahn (just thinking about him makes me sick).  The Christianity (actually, Catholicism: the Christian character is a nun in a convent) present here took me by surprise, but I think it was portrayed very well.  While I'm a bit wary on some parts of the Christian character, overall I think it's a positive view of Christianity (for those who actually live it out, that is).

In conclusion, I must say that I was blown away by Ode to Kirihito.  While for now I'm giving it a 9/10, further reflection may up that score to a 10: we'll see.  It is a complex and challenging work.  While I'd love to recommend this manga to everyone, I have to say: Ode to Kirihito is NOT for the weak-hearted.  Totaling 822 pages in the single-volume edition, it's a hefty tome.  That's just a mild reason for my caution, though; the content can be very disturbing at times. WARNING: This manga portrays much moral depravity (in a negative way, but it's still present) including, but not limited to, racial discrimination, murder of the innocent, prostitution, rape, bestiality, sexual perversions, and disregard for common decency.  That's just some of the very blatant stuff that can be summarized easily: there is much more that can be disturbing, but is hard to explain succinctly.

My final comment is this, then: I give Ode to Kirihito a 9/10, and I'd highly recommend it, but only for those who are up for reading a work which can be very disturbing at times.  Read at your own risk.  But if you are able to get through it and reflect on it, I think you'll find it to be a fascinating and worthwhile read.

Thanks for reading.  God bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All images from Google Image Search.  Thanks to Wikipedia for background information on this work and on the concept of gekiga.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

坂上智代 (Sakagami Tomoyo)

"The answer I've found is family...I don't expect others to accept it, but it's the answer I've found for myself."


Sakagami Tomoyo is a often-seen minor character who has some extra prominence in Episodes 17 and 18 of Clannad.  She has a somewhat background story arc, involving her backstory and her running for student council president.

(Like with Kyou, I know Tomoyo has an Alternate World episode, but I will not be mentioning that in this post; it may be discussed in a separate post later).

Personality

Tomoyo is high school junior with a knack for physical strength and athletic prowess; she's somewhat of a strong, silent type.  While she is not as reserved and untalkative as, say, Kotomi, she doesn't seem to be a fan of unnecessary conversation: her speech is usually direct and to the point.  Her most well-known characteristic is her extraordinary strength and athletic ability: she doesn't even break a sweat when disposing of some aggressive bikers (or an annoying Sunohara) with a flurry of quick kicks, and almost every sports team or club wants her as a member.  While she has an aggressive side, her violent acts are normally out of self-defense, against gang members, bikers, or crude high school boys.  She's also a very determined young woman (hence her theme song's title: "Her Determination"), in terms of her student council aspirations and in terms of protecting her friends. 

Overall, her speech-conservative, physically powerful, and protectively determined self can be seen in her first appearance:



Story

As shown in the video above, Tomoyo first appears to defend the school from some aggressive bikers.  After seeing this display of fighting prowess, Sunohara decides that Tomoyo is too strong to be a girl, and thus, she must be a guy.  This nonsensical idea leads to many awkward scenes between the two of them (with Tomoya in the background), usually ending in Sunohara's destruction under a volley of kicks.  Throughout all these scenes, Tomoyo is despaired by the fact that no one treats her like a girl; she doesn't want to be treated like a guy, but Sunohara keeps doing that, so she is noticeably annoyed (his manner of going about it isn't too suave either).  All this culminates in the following hilarious scene of Sunohara's complete destruction at Tomoyo's feet:



Following this series of humorous incidents (which can be seen here, here, here, here, here, and above), Tomoyo takes more of a backstage until after Kotomi's arc.  Then we learn that she is working to be elected as president of the student council.  To get either respectability or practice for being president, she decides to start by correcting the school's delinquency problem.  Her way to do that?  Go visit the two worst delinquents (Tomoya and Sunohara) and wake them up every morning so that they won't be late to class. 


Her focus turns more towards Tomoya rather than Sunohara (though she still wakes him up as well).  At one point, she even say she is possibly "interested" in Tomoya.  That feeling never becomes too strong, though; their most serious moment is when Tomoyo explains her reasons for wanting to become student council president: to save the cherry trees.



Her backstory (seen above) is summarized thus: when she was younger, she became involved in gang violence, to the point of being a gang leader; her fighting prowess let her easily dominate any competitors.  She had a younger brother, though, who saw this violent persona, and it was not a good model for him.  As she admits, she was not a good older sister to him.  Due to a variety of circumstances (including her fighting, I'm guessing), Tomoyo's parents become cold and even disdainful towards each other, and they declare that they are going to get a divorce.  Tomoyo's younger brother can't handle that, so he tells them he will jump off a bridge if they go through with it...and he makes good on his word.  Thankfully, he survives the jump, and his radical action knocks a message into the heads of the Sakagami household: family is the most important thing.  The parents realize this and reject their plans for a divorce, and Tomoyo rejects her gang ways.  As her brother is recovering, the entire family would walk down a path lined with cherry trees, and her brother would comment on how he wished they'd always have family moments like this.


Cut to the present, where some people want to cut down these cherry trees.  Tomoyo won't have that, so she strives to be student council president in order to save the trees (the school's trees, since they are located on a hill leading to the school), those trees that, for her, represent the sort of re-creation of her family.  As she's explaining all this, Tomoyo offers Tomoya wise words about family (seen in the above video and described in the subsequent sections of this post).

Because of Tomoyo's athletic ability, all the sports teams and clubs have been wanting her to join, and she's been rejecting them.  Tomoya thinks, though, that agreeing to play matches against these clubs (and thoroughly defeating them) could boost her reputation and help her election campaign (since her background as a gang leader has been hurting her reputation).  During one of these matches, a tennis match, Nagisa is hit by a stray ball, and Tomoya becomes strongly protective of her, and he helps her to medical help.


Following this, Tomoyo fades more into the background.  She wins the election and becomes student council president.  She works to save the cherry trees, and she helps with the drama club.  Misae, Sunohara'sYukine, Sunohara, and others from a rival gang.  When Nagisa has to repeat her senior year yet again, she ends up being in the same class as Tomoyo for a year.  At the New Year's Party get-together, Tomoyo is only present via postcard.  Her final shot shows her standing on a beach, her hair blowing in the oceanic breeze.

 Effect on Main Plot

Like Kyou and Ryou, Tomoyo is another girl whose feelings Tomoya rejects in favor of Nagisa, although Tomoyo's interest seems weaker than theirs.  She provides some support for Nagisa's drama club, especially with her involvement in the student council.  She's there as a friend when Nagisa has to repeat her senior year the second time.  Overall, her most direct connection to Nagisa and Tomoya's relationship would be the tennis match mentioned above, where Tomoya, in actions rather than words, declares his commitment to Nagisa.  Without the setting of the tennis match to build Tomoyo's reputation, that important moment might not have occurred.

One thing she does that could affect Tomoya and Nagisa's relationship is saving the cherry trees.  Those trees play a key part in their relationship, I think: they first met on the hill lined with those trees, so I think their relationship is somehow connected to them.  The first shot of them after their marriage shows them under those cherry trees (if I recall correctly).  And when Tomoya is going through his emotional crisis during the last two episodes, he always brings himself back to that meeting under the trees.  I feel like saving those trees is a bit like saving a symbol of their relationship: of course, that's just my personal opinion.

The only other thing with Tomoyo that relates to the main plot is her explanation of her backstory, especially her comments on the importance of family.  I think these are helpful (maybe only implicitly) to Tomoya in his realization of the true worth of family.  These comments will be discussed in the Themes section below.

Themes

Like I said, family is a big theme with Tomoyo, as in Clannad as a whole.  Before I discuss that, though, I want to mention one other theme Tomoyo's story has helped me notice: breaking out of conventions.  I don't mean rejecting social conventions and becoming "alternative" or reverting to the 1960s.  I mean more of breaking out of stereotypes or other peoples' false views of you.  Tomoyo's example is her desire for people to see her as a girl.  Due to her exceptional physical ability and speech-sparse, somewhat emotionally detached demeanor, some people view her as extremely masculine.  The extreme example of this is Sunohara, who is determined to prove that Tomoyo is truly a guy, as seen in the clip below:



While Tomoyo doesn't mention this too often, it's a part of her character.  She wants people to recognize her femininity and not treat her as a man just because she is strong and detached.  Sometimes she even apologizes for utilizing her strength because she feels it makes her less feminine, as she mentions once when she is batting.  Though it's a bit of a minor theme for Tomoyo, it's present in other parts of Clannad as well: people can't fit into simple labels.  For instance, Fuko is a childish, hyperactive girl, but she also cares deeply for her sister; Kotomi can often be a social recluse who seems to only care about studying, but she still wants friends, and she loves to play the violin (however badly); Tomoya is a delinquent, but he is truly courageous and compassionate, not selfish and harsh, as the stereotypical delinquent is.  Thus Tomoyo has helped me recognize this theme in Clannad.

Now, back to her main theme: family.  As you can see in her backstory above, her family is what led her away from her life as a gang leader.  Her brother's desperate action showed her and her parents how important family is.  Like I mentioned with Kotomi, people's personal growth can be stunted or stopped altogether without familial love.  I think Tomoyo's brother realized that, and so he risked his life to keep his family together, because he knows how important it truly is. 

In explaining her backstory to Tomoya, I think Tomoyo helped him learn how important family is.  At the very least, her story is one of the many examples Tomoya runs into of how essential family is to a true, full life.  Tomoyo discusses how rebellion is a constant temptation, and it can be ruinous if lived out; thankfully, many people are able to control that disastrous impulse.  But why?  “The answer I’ve found is family. If you have family, you’ll be able to restrain yourself….The thing is to have something like a family. I don’t expect others to accept it, but it’s the answer I’ve found for myself.”  I think that's the answer not only for Tomoyo, but also for Tomoya, and for everyone.  She admits that sometimes your family can actually be your friends, not your biological or legal family (which is how Tomoya manages to survive and grow, at least for the first season of Clannad)), but she won't give up the fact that you need some sort of support system, some type of family, to truly live.  And family is not always perfect; a family is made of imperfect humans, and thus they can fail us; they can turn cold and sometimes cruel.  But, as Tomoyo says, “No matter how cold they seem, what’s precious hasn’t changed. I believe family is something like that.”  And that's a message that resonates through the show; it's especially important in the second half of After Story.  In the end, then, Tomoyo helps to teach Tomoya and us some important lessons about the essentiality of family.


Reflection

Tomoyo's not among my top favorite characters of Clannad, but she's still a good one.  Her backstory is great, and her beatings of Sunohara add good comic relief during the first season.  I just didn't connect with her character as much as some of my friends did (again, I have friends who's favorite character is Tomoyo, just like with all the other girls; they say part of it is due to her Alternate World episode).  One interesting opinion I heard about her though is that she's sort of the runner-up to Nagisa: a.k.a., if Nagisa wasn't in the show, Tomoya would end up with Tomoyo.  The proponents of this opinion point to Tomoyo's strong, caring nature, which is similar to Nagisa's.  While I can't imagine Tomoyo ending up with anyone other than Nagisa, I guess the creators of Clannad could, because the original visual novel had a sequel called Tomoyo After, which is (as you can probably guess) basically After Story with Tomoyo (although the events are very different). 

All in all, Tomoyo's a good character, but her personality isn't delved into too much, besides her backstory (and her Alternate World stuff).  So, while she's a good character, she's not my favorite.  I do appreciate her saving the cherry trees, though: cherry blossoms are beautiful.


Thanks for reading.  God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All clips are from the Clannad Central YouTube channel run by the Clannad (クラナド/Kuranado) fan page on Facebook. All character themes and other music from the show can also be found on said fan page, in the music player. My gratitude to them and all the work they do.

君が望む永遠 (Kimi ga Nozomu Eien) (Rumbling Hearts)

Kimi ga Nozomu Eien (Literal translation: The Eternity You Desire), released in the U.S. as Rumbling Hearts, is a 2003-2004 romantic drama anime based on a 2001 visual novel of the same name (a visual novel that definitely fits in the dating sim category).  The story centers mainly on Takayuki Narumi (Japanese name order is used in this post) and his two friends Suzumiya Haruka and Hayase Mitsuki.  After a terrible tragedy occurs early in the show, the relationships among these friends and others (including their mutual friend Taira Shinji and Haruka's sister, Suzumiya Akane) are radically altered.  The anime explores these relationships and the effects of the tragedy on them; it is often cited as an accurate depiction of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the characters, due to this tragedy.  A major theme of the series is the necessity to take action, commit, and make decisions, not to just let life happen to you.

As for my reaction to the series, here it is: the art is pretty good, but nothing spectacular; I'd count the music the same way: it's unobtrusive, but not a soundtrack that really stands out to me.  The plot moves slowly, especially in the opening episodes before the tragedy; I often felt bored at times, due to the slow plot.  There is some comic relief in the series (mostly from the two waitresses at Narumi's work), but overall it is very heavy on relational drama.  For a while when I watched the show, I was undecided about whether to watch it; each episode I'd think, "That was okay, but I have a feeling it'll really take off in the next episode."  While I'm not sure if it really "took off" as I wanted until the last episode, but I did end up growing somewhat attached to these characters, to Haruka at least.  In conclusion, I found Kiminozo (as it is often abbreviated) to be a somewhat engaging anime with a worthy theme, but I wouldn't consider it top-tier.  I give Rumbling Hearts a 7/10.  WARNING: There is some nudity and sexual content in this anime, along with some instances of mild cursing (mostly from one of the waitresses); the tragedy involves some bloodshed as well, so it could possibly be disturbing.

A Deeper Look


As I said above, I think a main theme of Rumbling Hearts is the need for action. Most of the show's tension came from lack of action on the characters' parts. This also caused tension for me: I, like other viewers of this show, often wanted to smack some of these characters in the head, particularly Narumi. The majority of the drama in the show comes about from his lack of commitment: he won't choose between Haruka and Mitsuki. Now, I realize part of that might come from the PTSD, but I think it's something that's in the show from the beginning. For instance: when Haruka first confesses to him, he doesn't really give a definite response. And after he finally goes to her and says he'll date her, Shinji complains that Narumi won't take Haruka on a real date. And then when Narumi actually has plans with Haruka, he doesn't carry them out: he gets distracted by Mitsuki. Now, I know he's just trying to be a friend to her, but he could at least let Haruka know when he's going to stand her up, like at the festival! I also can't help thinking that if Narumi didn't stop to buy a ring for Mitsuki, he could have made it to the station in time and saved Haruka from the accident.

And that's just the first two episodes. I feel like most of the show is about Narumi not making a real decision: for a while, it seems like he only sees Mitsuki because Haruka is in a coma (hence her complaint of being Haruka's "replacement"). If Narumi would pick one or the other, Mitsuki or Haruka, the former wouldn't have gotten drunk repeatedly, slept with Shinji, and left Narumi, and the latter wouldn't have been led on so much. I think the show teaches by negative example; it shows, "Here's what happens when you don't take action and don't make commitments." By showing you the consequences of inaction and apathy, it drives you to actually do things.

Then again, maybe I'm being too hard on these characters. They did suffer a major tragedy, and they have PTSD (from what I've read). It's obvious that his affected Narumi very harshly at first, as shown in the flashbacks of Episode 5. But I can't help feeling that some of it is Narumi's fault as well; like I said, he showed signs of inaction and apathy before the tragedy. But, all in all, I think the show really is about how Narumi's inaction hurts everyone, himself included; isn't that what Shinji tries to knock into him multiple times?

On a side note, I could also say that the show (implicitly) depicts some results of premarital sex. I mean, Narumi had sex with both Haruka and Mitsuki, thus forming a deep bond with both of them...if he hadn't had sex, would he have been able to decide easier, and thus save everyone lots of pain and hurt? That's probably just me reading a message I want to see into the work, but it's something to think about.

In conclusion, then, Rumbling Hearts is not a show I'd watch again, and probably not one I'd really recommend. It does have some value, though, in teaching the dangers of inaction and apathy. I also have to admit that the "farewell" scene with Haruka and Narumi hit my heart a bit because it was bittersweet: Narumi didn't choose Haruka (the girl I was rooting for), but he did finally learn to make a decision. And that was Haruka's gift to him, as it was Mayauru's gift to his friend.


Thanks for reading. God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: The first two images come from Google Image Search, while the last image is a screenshot I made from the video of the final episode on Funimation's website. Thanks to Wikipedia for providing me with background information about the show, especially about the PTSD present in it. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

メトロポリス (Metropolis)


Metropolis is a 1949 manga classic by master mangaka Osamu Tezuka (creator of such famous series as Astro Boy and Black Jack).  It explores the effects of strange "black spots" that appear on the Sun one day; one of the most important effects is that these spots allow for the creation of synthetic cells, to the point of making an artificial being, Michi.  The manga follows, in intertwining plots, the story of Michi, the effects of these black spots, and the search for a dastardly criminal by the name of Duke Red, along with his governmental subordination group, the Red Party.  Overall, it is a tale of the danger too much technology poses for the human race, among other themes.  A lot happens in a very, very short amount of time across these 160 pages; I feel the plot moves too fast, leaving each page cramped with events and dialogue, sometimes crowding out the art.  I also feel the very quick plot does not give ample time to deeply explore the characters and connect strongly with them (which I think is a major part of a good work of art), besides a few somewhat endearing characters.  In general, I feel Metropolis is a work with a tight, complex plot, good artwork (even if it's not my favorite style), and a needed message, but I feel it all moves too fast, not leaving enough room for either strong character development or too much exploration of the theme.  In conclusion, I would give Metropolis a 7/10: it's worth reading, even if it's just for its status as a classic in manga.

A Deeper Look

As mentioned above, probably the biggest theme of Metropolis is the danger that too much technology can pose for the human race.  In our increasingly technology-obsessed society, this is always something to keep in mind: technology can be a great tool, and but it can also be a corrupting force and a devastating destructive power.  This is shown most of all by a sequence near the end of the manga: the robots with artificial intelligence created by Duke Red were used as meaningless slaves by him to do his dirty work, and if one displeased him, he would destroy it.  When Michi, who recently learned of his/her (it can change gender) being an artificial being, learns of this cruelty, he/she helps lead a rebellion of the robots against the humans who heartlessly used them.  While never explicitly shown, it is assumed that the humans defeated the robots, especially after Michi's synthetic body fell apart.  His/her existence was only possible because of the man-made black spots on the Sun; when those were removed, his/her body made of synthetic cells could not sustain itself.  I guess it shows that, even though technology can be dangerous in and of itself, humans can still overpower it (although when they use it on each other, it can be devastating, such as in the second volume of Tezuka-sensei's (I've been informed that is the proper way to refer to a mangaka) Phoenix). 


This theme of the dangers of technology has been a common one in the past century (see, for instance, the film version (I haven't read the original yet) of Isaac Asimov's I, Robot or the sci-fi film trilogy The Matrix; even Satoshi Kon's anime adaptation of Yasutaka Tsutsui's novel Paprika deals with the idea of not letting technology completely overwhelm our humanity).  Even the namesake of Tezuka-sensei's work has that theme.

Speaking of the namesake: Tezuka-sensei was inspired to write this manga partially based on a single screenshot of the female robot in the classic 1929 German silent film Metropolis.  While Tezuka never saw the movie (at least not before he wrote his manga), that one screenshot inspired him, and he adopted the name as well (though the story is very different).  Another work of the same name is an anime film from 2001 called Metropolis, which is a loose adaptation combining pieces of both the silent film and Tezuka-sensei's manga.

In my opening section, I lamented how cramped the work can feel at times.  This is due to the fact that Tezuka-sensei had a 160-page limit when he wrote this manga.  Even though the original draft was longer (including more character development, especially for Emmy, and more theme development, such as more coverage of the robot rebellion), he had to cut it down to make it fit the limit.  Sadly, I feel like this reduced the quality of the work: I think I would have found it a much greater work if it were longer and more fleshed-out.

While overall I did not feel too impressed by the majority of this work, it did have some very good parts.  Even though there was little time spent on character development, I did become somewhat attached to them, especially Michi, Emmy, and Mustachio.  It is a mark of a good artist that I was able to become connected in so short a space (although these characters are not too high on my list of most connected characters).  I also enjoyed the times when Tezuka-sensei broke the fourth wall: for instance, once Mustachio is asked to describe recent events, and he says, "For the details, you'll have to ask the people reading this comic."  Also, there are some giant "rats" caused by the radiation of the black spots, and their scientific name is "Mikimaus Waltdisneus."


In conclusion, I think Tezuka-sensei created an entertaining work with many bits of comic relief, a very quick-moving and somewhat complex plot, a still-relevant theme, and a few characters you could get connected to.  While I wouldn't go so far as to call it a masterpiece, it definitely ranks as a classic, and all in all a good read.

Thank you for reading.  God bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All images in this post come from Google Image Search.  I would also like to thank Wikipedia and Tezuka-sensei's afterword in the print version of Metropolis for providing me with background information regarding this manga.

Some Additions

Since all the Clannad-based content of this blog is being posted to The School's Trees as well (which I highly recommend reading, since there are two other Clannad bloggers there), right now this blog has no original content.  But don't worry...that's about to change.

Instead of keeping this blog solely based on Clannad, I've decided to add reviews/reflections for other Japanese works I've come across.  While most of these will be anime, there will also be some manga, and possibly the occasional live-action film as well (Kurosawa, anyone?).  So those will be started soon, beginning with a review of Osamu Tezuka's manga classic Metropolis.  The posts will be split into two parts: a quick summary, review, and rating (using Anime News Network's rating qualifications: 7 is Good, worth seeing; 8 is Very Good, don't miss it; 9 is Excellent, should be anyone's collection; 10 is A Masterpiece, exquisite beyond words (if there's anything I'd rate lower than that, I probably won't take the time to write a review for it)), followed by a more in-depth section called "A Deeper Look."  WARNING: "A Deeper Look" sections will quite probably contain SPOILERS!!!

And to justify not changing the blog's title: I'd been exposed to bits of manga and anime in my life before I got to college.  Once I got there, I really got started in anime with Azumanga Daioh and Fullmetal Alchemist.  But it was watching Clannad that really showed me the power and potential of Japanese works (although FMA had some of that as well).  So, since Clannad was my gateway into truly delving into Japanese media, all the works I've seen/read since I saw Clannad could be linked back to it; thus they are all part of the "Big Family of Clannad."  Also, I just like the name.

So, my first new review will be up soon.  And don't worry: there will still be lots of Clannad as well!

Thanks for reading.  God bless, and peace.