Posted by psgels on 3 March 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews


I originally dropped Kyoani’s version of Kanon after about ten episodes because the characters got on my nerves way too much. Still, after having been completely surprised at how good Air and Clannad’s After Story turned out, so I just had to finish Kanon at one point. This review is going to contain a few spoilers here and there, but in any case, the thing that immediately struck my mind when I picked it back up: those eyes! It feels like they watch right through you!

In all seriousness, though. The reason that Air and Clannad made such a big impression on me was that they started with the biggest heap of cliches imaginable, played a bit with them, and then went into a totally unique and original direction which blew me away in the end. For Kanon I was anticipating something similar. And it indeed started out with a huge amount of cliches: sick girl, tomboy, silent samurai girl, nice girl, energetic male, cute mother, et cetera. However, at the end of the series, I was still waiting for it to turn into something special.

I think that in the end, this series was trying too hard and ended up forced for me. It tries very hard to be cute: there is Ayu with her Uguu~, Makoto with her Au~, Nayuki with her Unyuu~, Mai with her delayed reactions, but all of this feels forced, and even though there’s more comedy in it than any other key adaptation, none of the jokes really live up to the few scenes that Air devoted to it (all the Uguu~s in the world couldn’t even come close to the awesomeness of the Stegosaurus t-shirt). The same goes with the drama: this series aims to be a huge tear-jerker, though I never cried once. It felt like the series kept clinging too much to its harem roots, which resulted in a few very strange plot twists. Twice, we have Yuuichi come very close to a girl, only to dump her in a hospital and move on to the next one.

Parents have always played a very big role in Key adaptations, but the extremely forceful way that Nayuki’s mother inserts herself into the drama didn’t sit well with me either. It felt like the creators were going “we need more drama! Let’s insert a random car crash!”. And there are a few more of these contrived plot twists that only serve to keep the story on the right track, rather than to get the best out of the characters (for example, it was quite convenient for Mai to suddenly lose her powers, otherwise she would have instantly solved nearly all of the problems in this series). The final episodes also included some deus ex machina that didn’t also sit too right with me.

However, do note that this is all compared to Air and Clannad (a very high standard). For me it feels like if you’ve seen both of those, then Kanon doesn’t have anything new or additional to add. However, when you look at the series as a standalone production, then it definitely has some good points. The air of mystery is very good throughout the series, the slice of life moments are also pretty well done, and Yuuichi is actually a pretty good lead for a harem series like this. Not because he’s a continuous sarcastic wise-cracker (that actually was annoying most of the time), but because he’s a seriously flawed character who already made a lot of mistakes in his life. One of the nice things about this series is seeing him realize what an incredible idiot he has been, and learning from his mistakes.

And yeah, this is a Kyoto Animation series, so the animation is very detailed if you can ignore the often very weird eyes. The character-designs definitely aren’t the most appealing ones out there, but the way they are animated makes up for it. There’s one particular aspect of the designs that I did appreciate, though: the architecture of the school that the characters go to. You can see that either the creators spent some time on designing it, or the creators thoroughly searched for some of the best school architecture out there and made an anime version of it.

Overall, Kanon isn’t bad by far. I liked watching it, but it’s just not that good. There’s nothing outstanding, ground-breaking or awesome about it, but it is definitely a good dark mystery romance series. If you like these sorts of very sad romances, then you’ll like this one, but it’s not going to make you see the light if you hate the genre.

Storytelling: 8/10
Characters: 8/10
Production-Values: 9/10
Setting: 7/10

17 Responses

  1. kuro says:

    Everyone has different tastes.. As for me Kanon is the best kyoani anime so far. I didn’t see there many love poligons except Nayuki, and Ayu. Makoto And Mai’s behavior was explained very well. I mean I really dislike genetic harems(so many elements were in Clannad first season, thats one of the reasons I was dissapointed with it after Kanon and Air). And to begin with Kanon is prototype of this trilogy ^^ At least Yuiichi sin’t such “Dame Ningen” as Okazaki

  2. Lxre says:

    wow… that’s what i call contradicting yourself

  3. midenz says:

    Kanon, imo, was on par with the first Clannad, maybe even better! Though Clannad ~After Story~ totally blew Kanon awayy!! It’s a pretty good anime overall and enjoyable too, some sad moments here and there and like u said, feels a bit forcd but its still pretty good :] !

  4. wackedfoo says:

    kanon is my 2nd favorite key adaptation after clannad after story. i just think it had everything and was done well, despite the flaws you mentioned. air was just too condensed and clannad’s drama isn’t quite as strong to me(even if kanon’s drama is pretty forced). i think kanon has the best comedy out of all of them too.

  5. Son Gohan says:

    I think that Kanon’s biggest fault was that they didn’t build the Ayu-Yuuichi relationship very well. When they confessed and kissed, it surprised me because they were acting as siblings until the episode before.
    I cried only once, during Makoto’s arc. Her slow regression to infancy was painful to watch. I didn’t particularly care for the other dramas, though I liked Mai.

  6. Ant says:

    Kanon the OVA, which means the first one the original before the 24 or 26 episode Kanon was made, was the first I saw, where the animation was simple, and not that high, and the main characters voice was less mature, I remember watching it to a certain point where I got bored, and stopped and picked it up again, and found myself crying as I saw the rest of it.

    Then Air was released, I noticed the style of drawing instantly which made me watch it, and this too was a great series, an a tear jerker, especially the end.

    When I heard they were going to remake Kanon, I had mixed feelings on whether or not it would be good. and I was happily suprised, it was good, it had the old music “last regret”, and all the characters sounded the same, the animation being upgrade, was another upside. and overall the reminising and the new comedy parts, was good, and i enjoyed it and still brought a tear to my eye.

    Then Clannad appeared, and I was shocked by Okazaki’s voice, but got over that, and enjoyed it, and it ended quite well, though more could have been done for the twins and tomoyo. As I wanted to know more about them. but still another tear jerker.

    But to judge Kanon, after Clannad, I guess everyone has different views ^_^

  7. Lor says:

    i just finished watching Kanon 2006 for the first time. Mostly because Clannad was so ****ing brilliant. (Air is next on my list).
    And coming straight from Clannad which, like Kanon, I marathoned through, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of similarities… (anyone notice that the giant doll that Sayuri gets for Mai also in Clannad, the first Fuko ninja insert after her arc ends).

    Some of these similarities were a bit disconcerting. The Makoto arc and the Fuko arc were just too similar for me to be able to get into it. Possibly because i kept comparing Makoto to Fuko and found her amusing, butl acking (plus the Fuko arc was quite frankly better). Although I will admit that I found the continued references back to Makoto more involving than the amnesia experience in Clannad (8 episodes of character development gone really peed me off)

    That said the Mai arc was MUCH better than the Kotomi arc. In Clannad, Kotomi’s story just seemed a bit… well dull after Fuko. It was good, don’t get me wrong. But I just fpund it excessively clichéd. Especially the who teddy bear thing. Or maybe I was just in emotional desensitivity after fuko… Anyway Mai however was defiantly more interesting than Kotomi. Sure some of its scenes seemed a tad bit forced but it stepped up the drama and brought home more of the supernatural parts of the story (which Clannad watered down quite a bit even though it ends up becoming arguably more magical than Kanon). And lets not forget the dance scene which was hands down my favourite in Kanon (doesn’t hold a candle to Clannad’s first scene though).
    The Shiori arc was quite well done but I do have to complain about how Mai was effectively cast off. She didn’t show up much afterwards and after the Shiori doesn’t show up until the final episode after her story ends. Yes both are explained and the plot works but it seemed to deduct from the final result.
    Nayuki wasn’t very well done to say the least. Her story was told but it kept being broken up into small remote pieces. And even though she and Yuichi had some of the largest amounts of screen time together they just never seemed to get beyond the sibling stage (which they reached early on). Every high point of her and Yuichi relationship was almost always overshadowed by one of the other girls. Even the highlight of Nayuki’s story, were her mother gets comatosed (cliché but what the hell) was dulled by Ayo (or lack there of)
    Which brings us to Ayo. Well she can be broken down into two parts. Pre relationship and post relationship. The only problem I have with Ayo, and I do mean the only problem (brilliant character) is that the transition between the two states is almost none existent. She’t undergoes barely any character development during the Mai and Shiori arcs (ok there is some, such as her moving into their house etc etc but then they begin to act like brother and sister) and then suddenly they are kissing. It just doesn’t seem to fit properly. Especially as Yuichi appears to be closer to both Mai and Shiori (and lets not forget Makoto whom he ‘married’) at that point. This is something which Clannad does so MUCH better. It was obvious who would end up with Tomoya in the end and the story used that (especially when Nagisa was absent from the story for a few episodes) to make their bond stronger. Kanon tries to leave you guessing who will end up with Yuichi… ok maybe the fact that two thirds of the opening credits and the entirely of the ending credits are devoted purely to Ayo gives it away but still…

    And the ending. Well you will either find it brilliant or you will rage. Why, well the last episode tries just a tad bit to hard to give a happy ending. I wont go into it but my only critism is that it too many people were miraculously healed. Even those who didn’t need to be, and yet no Makoto (well unless you count that blurry red shape in the final scene). Sigh. Put this way, if you were one of people who had seen Clannad After Story and didn’t (honestly though, how could you NOT get it) then you might find Kanon’s ending more believable thanks to the highert focus on the supernatural compared to Clannad’s vague references to light orbs and imaginary worlds. Or you might find your self pissed at the emotional manipulation that Key is so darn good at.

    Over all a brilliant series. Had I been given a choice between Kanon and Clannad series 1 then I would have to go Kanon. It’s more much dramatic and its plot is much more final and frankly interesting that Clannads. Kanon is not as linear or developed in some aspects and it doesn’t look as good (weird face make up is an understatement) but if your willing to pass those minor laws over then the story and characters more than make up for them.
    Bring in After Story and Kanon goes out the window but to be able to top the first series is a mark of high praise.

    I wonder how Air and Kanon 2002 match up…

  8. Gotank says:

    Kanon has been by far the best Kyoani series for me. The whole fantasy element that slowly gets weaved into the story is fascinating.

    Interestingly, Ayu’s story was actually what impressed me the most. I didn’t care too much for slow drama that typically comes with impending death situations, so Makoto and Shiori’s arcs didn’t make much impact for me. Unfortunately, we never really got to see Nayuki’s full story, due to how much it would conflict with Ayu’s. Mai’s story was also quite unique and well-conceived though.

    While I actually didn’t enjoy it too much on my first run through, Kanon 2006 has, in hindsight, become one of my favorite series of all time. Cheers.

  9. Solaris says:

    Kanon 200X is a remake, and teorethically comes before both Clannad and Air. You’d speak about Kanon as the reference for the other two, and not vice versa. So discovering some unoriginal arcs in Kanon with respect to Clannad (i.e.) makes the latter at fault.
    Kyoani experimented peculiar narration styles from Kanon to Clannad and we also should remember that both Kanon and Air come from erogames (But not Clannad). So the harem format fits Kanon and Air very well. Kanon IS the most “harem” like of the three and each heroine is belonging to a definite arc. The format is just standard.
    But Air is not random harem. Its genre is evolving into something new thatt will take a definitive form in Clannad. Air is divided into three different sections and the main focus is given to one of the main char. That is one heroine gets promoted from the very start and the other girls remain as secondary chars in secondary arcs. This style has been extablished in the final show, clannad. Anyhow the execution in Air is not flawless, so much it seems to watch three different animes at once. I could speak more in the Air section, eventually. Let me say the last arc is way too forced and depressing in comparison to the first two arcs. I thought it ruined the phatos quite a bit, but alas. overall Air was quite good.
    Clannad, in the end may seem an Harem but it’s not. There is only one main lead heroine selected from the very start and all the other girls are secondary. Clannad is just really the story of Nagisa. I felt quite sad when at half the serie it was clear there was no place for them at all. Clannad lacked in the harem field, after all.
    So three series sharing some similar development, but are very different in structure, each with their good and bad points. I don’t know wich one of the three i liked less or more, but i just fell in love with the nice chars and touching stories. Maybe i liked more some side stories like Kanon’s fox girl or Air’s never born daughter with respect to the main lead girls.

  10. Nalyd says:

    Since Kanon came before Air and Clannad, comparing them and then saying that kanon was the unoriginal factor sounds off a bit. Hmm I thought that Air was the worst out of the three though, I mean it had some good parts to it, but definitely I would personally never rate it over Kanon or Clannad. Kanon and Clannad are pretty tied up for me though, I loved them both! Kanon is near the top of my list for sure. Clannad after story was great till the end, the ending of it left me with such a horrible taste in my mouth though that I couldn’t rate that above Kanon.

  11. Dm says:

    The first Kanon (Toei version) was much better, even though I didn’t watch the whole show! The remake version had too much unecessary drama, while the original kept it more subtle, IMO.

  12. Ferdinand says:

    I watched air, and in my opinion its not that good like people talking about, the story so confusing, I found the dialogue between characters are boring, I never cried at air. however kanon 2006 gets me cried a lot, i like all of the arc especially shiori arc and also i found all of the humour is funnier than air, heck i even choose kanon 2006 over clannad, but clannad after story is different though.

  13. BeeTee says:

    Your review is perfect. Kanon really is a big disappointment after AIR’s tight story and Clannad’s sentimental factor. Although, personally, I loved Nayuki’s Unyuu~ all through the story, the moe factor barely lived up to AIR’s piko piko~ and Fuko in Clannad. There are many implausible bits in Kanon, and IMHO, Clannad’s ONE BIG IMPLAUSIBLE THING AT THE END FOR THE BETTERMENT OF ALL is a far better option.

  14. BeeTee says:

    And, even though Kanon did come out before AIR or Clannad, somehow it felt less original than the other two, and gave an impression like it was made of bits and pieces and residues of the Clannad, AIR

  15. BeeTee says:

    One last thing >

  16. Me says:

    For me, Kanon is an extremely good series. From the first episode they’re pointing towards the last. You wonder who that is, dreaming… You see how Ayu and Yuuichi met when they were young, and they’re not rushing it. They give the correct amount of hints through the series and at the end, I found myself crying while all the threads connected. The athmosphere with this anime- I love it! They’re in a snowy town, they focus on the big tree beside the two young kids, and the lovely hill~ And that cute shopping district. What I think Kanon has, which not many other series have are the symbols- we’ve got the angel which has three wishes- which he goes looking for for a long while, and finally the last wish unfolds and ye.. And then we have Makoto’s bells which she heard from when she was a fox years earlier. And the red hairband, which he never gave to her, but she still wore it, I just think all those symbols is very well executed and makes the series spectacular. The tayaki is also mentioned a lot of times. Everything just claffed in the end. The only thing I didn’t like was the small add at the end where she cut her hair and stuff- cute it was, but it was unncessesary. That will not ruin my impression of this series though, absolutely one of my faves.

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  • AidanAK47
    (Saturday, Mar 7. 2015 02:00 AM)
    @Vxien, Not sure who that recommend is for but whoever it is has seen death note. It’s like recommending Cowboy bebop. Anyone calling themselves an anime fan has likely already seen it and anyone that hasn’t…should watch it immediately.
  • Vxien
    (Saturday, Mar 7. 2015 12:41 AM)
    Might I recommend Death Note if you haven’t already.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:47 AM)
    I remember that same guy, during end of eva, pausing it over and over during that scene where asuka dies with all of those fast moving clips too.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:39 AM)
    I remember catching it also when I was young with a friend and we looked back on a fanservice scene with shinji and rei and he mentioned “You know if you think about it that scene is damn disturbing when you think she’s a clone of/modelled after you know who…”
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:36 AM)
    Before Eva, when I was 11 or so my image of a mech anime was Nadesico…then it was eva and then I was like…Whoah…whoah God halp! =O
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:34 AM)
    I suppose credit where I feel it due, the angel designs are excellent and I remember getting the shock of my life when shinji’s eva went nuts and then there was a bit with Bardiel infect Toji’s unit. I remember at least Masatos boyfriend being a likeable character.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:31 AM)
    I don’t think anyone was prepared for Eva, whether they liked the show or not, at 11 I can remember being horrified by end of eva and the series original ending as well as having my first moment of “Feck…theres a first…an anime that did something that scrambled my mind, I actually feel kind of thick now, this show is smarter than I am”.
  • Bam
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:27 AM)
    It really wouldn’t have been that hard to put a satisfying ending to the original series, wrap up the threads nicely and put a pretty ribbon on the package to finish it off. But Anno and friends took a risk and went against the tide and end up becoming the trope-namer for the Gainax Endings. That took balls and made things unexpected and fresh, cuz god knows that ,good guys win the day ‘is tired and boring.
  • Emma
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:26 AM)
    Requiem for a dream. I remember the guy who recommended that film saying to me “Even someone such as yourself who finds it hard to find/has high standards an emotionally investing film will get something out of requiem for a dream”
  • Bam
    (Friday, Mar 6. 2015 03:17 AM)
    @Emma: leaving a bad taste is pretty much the point of Eva, just as getting bummed out by Requiem For a Dream is the naturally intended effect. I don’t mind that you don’t enjoy Eva all that much Emma, l actually appreciate it over dishonest admiration. Just keep in mind that Eva deserves it’s special place in anime.

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