Hey friends! It’s been a while since I reviewed a series that wasn’t currently airing (or a review of any series for that matter), so I decided to review a series that I’ve been sitting on for a while. The series I’m of course referring to is Kanon 2006.
The slice-of-life genre and I don’t necessarily always get along. When it comes to genres of anime that I find routinely enjoyable, slice-of-life is a rather fickle mistress. Most of the time, slice-of-life can’t hold my attention by itself. I was never able to really get into shows such as Lucky Star or Hidamari Sketch because they are decisively slice-of-life; nothing else defines them. Some slice-of-life shows with other elements like Blue Spring Ride, the fantastical Aria series, and even the great Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya had a hard time holding my attention at some points, even being as good as they are.
However, some slice-of-life series have captivated me in the past. Clannad and especially the following Clannad: After Story definitely kept me hooked as did Anohana, Hyouka, and Hibike! Euphonium. One of my favorite anime of all time, Great Teacher Onizuka, is technically a slice-of-life anime. So when I saw Kanon 2006, I thought it had a lot of potential, being made Kyoto Animation and all. Did it live up to my expectations?
Yeah, pretty much.
If you can’t already tell, Kanon 2006 is the second anime adaptation of the titular adult visual novel made by Key Studios. The original adaptation was made in 2002 by Toei Animation and was allegedly a lot worse and looked a shitload stupider (which is probably why KyotoAni remade the series). This adaptation was directed by Tatsuya Ishihara…the same dude behind countless other KyotoAni works (Air, Clannad, Cho-Ni, K-On!, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Nichijou just to name a few).
I was actually fairly excited going into this series. It had been a while since I had seen anything vaguely resembling a slice-of-life series and I had had this series planted firmly in my MAL “to watch” list for almost three straight years. Plus, I had just recently bought the DVD set for $19 from Amazon via the Anime Inspectors store, so I had no reason not to watch it.
Without spoiling anything, the general plot of Kanon 2006 is really easy to grasp seeing that these types of shows have plotlines that are. Basically, a teenage guy named Aizawa Yuuichi moves in with his cousin and aunt for the upcoming school year. The catch is that he cannot remember anything before the age of 10. Then out of the blue, he starts meeting girls around the town that remember him, but he cannot seem to remember himself. Moreover, each of these girls can’t seem to remember certain things either: Ayu cannot remember where she put something nor what it is that she has lost, Makoto cannot recall her own name, Shiori is unable to go to school for seemingly no reason, and Mai just doesn’t say much. Of course, as with most of these Key Studios adaptations, Yuuichi is nice enough to help each one of them out and begins to recall more and more about his own past through them. I like this setup for the most part. It allows for each girl to get adequate character development and screen time. However, like in other Key adaptations like Clannad and Angel Beats!, after the girls have their share of the spotlight, they fade into the background…sometimes more literally than you’d expect.
However, what I do like is that the plot stays linear and the pacing stays relatively constant like Clannad and unlike Air or Angel Beats!. The character interactions are also genuine, adorable, and as realistic as the situation allows. But that’s to be expected from the tag team of KyotoAni and Tatsuya Ishihara. Your mileage may vary with this series because some of the situations involving Yuuichi and his female companions require quite the suspension of disbelief. The series retains a mostly realistic portrayal of the universe, but it does incorporate some fantasy elements into the mix just to keep one from being bored. For me personally, I think a couple of the situations were a little obscure for even my taste and I had to really stretch my imagination to allow for it to work in my mind. I know the series was just being true to the source material, but still. Lastly, as with most slice-of-life anime, this series moved pretty damn slowly. If you’re used to the sluggish speed of the slice-of-life/romance genre or if you like a slow burn, this won’t bother you too much. However, I know it can be a huge issue for some anime viewers.
It’s sad to say, but if you’ve seen one slice-of-life, you’ve seen them all…at least in terms of characters. Seriously, you could replace the main characters in this series with main characters from Clannad or Angel Beats! and you’d probably have almost the exact same series, just different character designs. However, for your sake, here’s a quick rundown of everyone: Yuuichi is the generic male lead, Nayuki is the sweet, caring one, Shiori is the ditz, Makoto is the tsundere prankster, Ayu is the loli jailbait, Mai is the silent, stoic one, and Jun is the only other male present in the series who’s only purpose is comic relief.
Each of these characters owns their own distinctive archetype to a tee and really has no other defining feature. However, if you or anybody else was expecting more from a Key Studios visual novel adaptation, you have some learning to do. Though they’re admittedly one-dimensional, the characters do have adorable, genuine, and at times, witty interactions with each other; in time, you’ll care about each of the characters to some extent. They come with their own backstory and situation which is usually tragic in some way, shape, or form. And although it is a little less subtle than in other shows, character development is present and seems believable considering the plot of the series.
The problem I have is how character and relationship development is presented in this series. Because of how the plot is set up from the beginning, the way character relationships are developed is through the usage of flashbacks. The reason that shows like Clannad and Anohana were so effective at drawing our raw emotion from me was because I got to see the relationships between the cast develop on screen. In Kanon 2006, I only got to see part of that. Instead of seeing the entirety of a relationship unfold or reappear on screen, we instead only get to see portions of flashbacks and the characters reactions to said flashbacks. Since Kanon is a story about memories, it makes sense. Still, I believe it makes the character development less sincere in a way. Maybe it’s just me, but I like being able to grow with the characters throughout the series. In Kanon, I didn’t get that.
In terms of music, it’s still more of what you got with Angel Beats! and Clannad, only Kanon 2006 came first. Jun Maeda is the composer and he does what he does best: he takes core tracks from the source material and makes it catchier. The soundtrack is solid, but nothing special. Unlike the previously mentioned anime, Kanon doesn’t have a standout track to yank at your heart strings. The OP is weirdly catchy though. I didn’t like it at first; I thought it was boring and generic. But as I watched on, I guess I found it catchier and more endearing or something. Who knows?
In terms of dub vs. sub, I’m going sub all the way here. I stand by the notion that English voice actors can’t do moe and this series just solidifies that. I love Chris Patton, Colleen Clinkenbeard, and Jessica Boone as much as the next guy, but it just doesn’t work here. This is the first Key adaptation that I’ve seen that hasn’t been licensed by Sentai Filmworks which should be a good sign…yet it doesn’t matter. Go Japanese here, guys. You’ll thank me later.
If there is one thing I can say about Kanon 2006, it’s that I got exactly what I prepared myself for. I thought it would end up somewhere between Air and Clannad on the enjoyment scale and that’s exactly what it did. It’s a Key Studios slice-of-life/romance series with fantastical elements thrown in to set it apart from other series of the same genre. The plot is streamlined, the pacing, while slow, is even and consistent, and some of the character interactions will definitely draw a grin or a giggle from you at points. Depending who you are, this also could be a tear-jerker toward the ending portions. However, if you’re like me, you may find the way the series went about character development a little disappointing in terms of how your feelings for the characters don’t evolve with the characters themselves. You could also be a little irritated with how the series ended. I was. However, that depends on how well you thought things deserved to turn out.
Like all KyotoAni/Jun Maeda products, the animation was superior for the time and holds up quite well today. The music, while still retaining it’s visual novel feel, was catchy and served it’s purpose. The art style could deter some viewers, but looking at the cover art should be enough to tell you whether or not you will be able to stomach it.
Overall, Kanon 2006 was a nice slice-of-life/romance series and was a good palate cleanser for me. It isn’t anything ground-breaking, but it’s super unoffensive in terms of a visual novel adaptation. Honestly, it felt like a less intimate version of the first season of Clannad with a slightly less realistic bend on things. I feel like I should apologize for all the comparisons to Clannad in this review, but the similarities are really uncanny. I sorta feel like they’re fraternal twins. Sure, they do look different and their personalities differ, but they’re obviously twins. Actually, that’s a good transition.
I can’t recommend this series to everyone. If you dislike slice-of-life anime or content with a lot of moe in it, well…how have you gotten this far in this review? But actually, if you don’t like those aspects in your anime, don’t watch this. It will bore you to death. Also, if you’re expecting complete realism, this may throw you off because the reality in this show requires a substantial amount of suspending your imagination. A good way to judge whether you’ll like Kanon 2006 or not is if you liked Clannad or not. If you hated Clannad, you’ll hate this more. If you liked Clannad or loved it, this is right up your ally.
Overall, Kanon 2006 gets a solid recommendation to watch it for all of you who like slice-of-life, romances, and anything in between.