"Aren't families great? The happiest and the most painful, everything is there. That's precisely what it means for people to live."
As Liam Francis Traveller observed in his post on Shima's arc on The School's Trees, Clannad borrows plot devices and such from earlier works by the same company, Key. Not only does it borrow from Kanon, but it also borrows from Kanon's successor, Air. Having just finished watching Air for the second time, I've noticed many similarities to Clannad in it. In this post, I'll attempt to explain some of these similarities (though I'm sure there will be many that I miss). I also recommend watching Air: even though I realized I don't like the first half or so as much as I did the first time I saw it, I still think the second half is amazing, and the ending is definitely powerful. I'd probably give it a 9/10 (though sometimes when I think of the last couple episodes, I want to give it a 10/10).
Now, on to the similarities! (WARNING: There will be spoilers here.)
Minor Arcs That Seem Separate from the Main Plot
This is one of the things I've heard some people mention about Clannad as well. "Sure, Fuko's arc was great, but what does it have to do with Tomoya and Nagisa?" Hopefully this blog, as well as The School's Trees, has helped you realize how interconnected everything in Clannad really is. I think the same could go for Air as well, though the connections might be more hidden here. Like Clannad, sometimes these minor arcs just help explain the supernatural aspects of the show (Kano's has some of this, and Kanna's is basically all about the winged beings and the supernatural backstory). Sometimes, their main help is to add to the theme of the show. In Air, I think the main theme is family, specifically motherhood. Minagi's arc doesn't really seem to have a point unless viewed in this light, I think. I could go through each arc in Air and explain how they connect, but I think you get it: even though they seem completely separate and meaningless, they really connect into the coherence of the show as a whole.
Characters Who Are (Somewhat) Ghosts
Now, I know the characters in these shows are not ghosts, technically. But what I mean is that these characters aren't really entities that exist solely, completely uniquely. That might not be a very clarifying explanation. Examples would work better. For instance: Fuko, of course, is in a coma. But she's also running around, wreaking havoc and carving starfish. That Fuko is a sort of "ghost" of Fuko in the coma; it's sort of her soul taking on a physical form and running around, interacting with people. Air has a bit of a parallel to this in Michiru. Michiru is a younger girl who can be annoying as hell at times (at least to Yukito); yet she's also Minagi's dead little sister; and she's also Minagi's alive younger half-sister (who she's never met). No matter how you try and describe it, she's definitely some sort of "ghost"-like creature, or at least something that has some supernatural help in being around. I wish I knew some better metaphysics to attempt to explain this logically, but I'm not really sure if there is a way. Anyway, the main point of this is that Micihiru is a bit of a first take of Fuko.
Characters Who Become Animals
This is the specific parallel that Liam Francis Traveller drew between Kanon and Clannad, but it's also present in Air. In Clannad, we have Shima as the example of this: a boy who is really a cat. In Kanon (according to Liam: I haven't watched the show yet), we have a girl who's really a fox. In Air, it's a little different. Yukito is not a bird by nature who became a human just for a limited time. Instead, he's a guy who is so devoted to Misuzu that he wants to do everything over and be at her side forever (sort of sounds like Shima's declaration to Misae...). How does he do this? By going back in time and becoming a crow, Sora (or "Sky" in the English dub). I find it interesting that not only do Clannad and Air both have characters that become animals, but both these characters have the same direct goal: to be at someone's side forever. So, Shima/Nana-kun is the antitype of Yukito/Sora (that might be a little strong: I'm not sure if I can use full typography on Key shows...)
The Strong Influence of the Supernatural
This is a key factor in both these Key works (ha ha...it's a pun). In Air, we have the winged beings (included Kano's cursed feather) and the "girl in the sky" as the main contact with the supernatural, but we also have Michiru and Sora as well (and we can't forget that strange puppet passed down over a thousand years). In Clannad, we primarily have the lights and the invisible world (the girl and the robot) for the supernatural, but we also have Fuko and Shima as well. The point is this: without the supernatural, these shows would not exist. There's no possible way to have these shows with that influence that defies natural logic: it can't be done. Maybe, instead of "the strong influence," I should have said "the ESSENTIAL influence of the supernatural."
The Importance of Family
Obviously, family is THE key theme of Clannad (heck, it's the name of the game! (Yay for puns!)). It's also the theme of Air. All the arcs revolve around family, often mothers in particular: Kano's is, in the end, about her relationship with her deceased mother, and the story of the mother being told through the cursed feather. Minagi's is all about her sister(s) and her mother's relation to both of them. Kanna's is all about finding her mother, and it also involves the family that comes to be out of her friends Ryuuya and Uraha. And Misuzu's (or is it Haruko's?) is in the end all about truly becoming part of a family: first with Yukito's care for her being the care of a family member, and secondly with Haruko finally truly acting like a mother. You can't help but feel a love for family after this show (hence the opening quote from Haruko). While Air often has a focus on motherhood, though, I feel Clannad has more of a focus on fatherhood (like with Akio, Naoyuki, and Tomoya).
And now for some less serious similarities...
Yes, Luci Christian is a connection between these two shows. This voice actress voices Haruko in the English dub of Air (which I think is a fabulous performance) and Nagisa (sorry, NaGEEsa) in the English dub of Clannad (which I think is a terrible performance). As I just mentioned, I think her voice works great for Haruko, and she definitely helped in making the Air dub great. However, I think her voice just fails at being Nagisa. I just feel like it's a completely different (and more annoying) character when she's voicing her. She definitely helped in making the Clannad dub painful (in my opinion). I'm not saying all of the dub is horrible, but ruining Nagisa's voice is terrible. Anyway, Luci Christian. She's can be a great voice actress sometimes, and a horrible one at others. I guess that just proves she's imperfect, like all humans.
Great Opening Themes
The opening theme of Air, "Tori No Uta" by Lia, is one of my favorite openings out of any anime I've seen. It's upbeat, yet since it often uses minor chords, it has an air of sadness about it too. Plus the melody sounds absolutely beautiful when used for some of the background music throughout the show. Clannad also has amazing opening themes, particularly the opening to After Story. I guess when you have the same team work on the music for both shows, and one show has great music, the other is bound to have some as well. And with that comes...
Beautiful Background Music (Especially Main Themes)
One thing I will always remember about both these shows is the background music. I love background music in anime, and I think Clannad helped me realize that, and Air doesn't do a bad job with it either. As I mentioned above, the same music team, Magome Tagoshi, Shinji Orito, and Jun Maeda (who also wrote the scenarios for the visual novels), worked on both of these shows, hence there being beauty in both of them. In particular, I absolutely love the main themes in both shows. For Clannad, that's Nagisa's theme (which provides the music for "Dango Daikazoku" and part of the music for "Chiisana Te No Hira"). For Air, that's "Natsukage," which might be construed as Misuzu's theme, though I'm not sure if it is officially. I feel like both these songs really sum up the shows, and I can feel a lot of the emotions of the show running through these songs.
So...I think that's about it. There's lots more similarities I didn't go into here, like the character similarities: a parent who at first seems rough around the edges, but turns out to truly care for his/her child (Haruko/Akio); a main heroine who is clumsy, has a somewhat unusual obsession, and has trouble making friends (Misuzu/Nagisa); a main character who's somewhat of a vagrant (Yukito/Tomoya); a pet with a cute catchphrase (Potato/Botan); a quiet girl who is very smart (Minagi/Kotomi). You get the picture. Like I said, I'm sure there's more similarities between these two shows, but I hope this post has given you a hint at some of them. While it shows that not everything in Clannad is completely original, I think it shows that Clannad can take ideas from other shows (by the same creators, mind you) and make them even better and even more powerful. And that just adds to the amazingness of Clannad.
Thank you for reading, and God Bless.
Nota Bene: All images are screenshots taken by me from the Air DVDs released by Funimation. The videos were found via YouTube's search function.