Kanon, released on June 4, 1999 was a visual novel that changed the bishoujo game industry forever. It featured deep melodramatic story lines for each girl that gave a sense of sympathy and sadness (along with the optional eroge scenes). The one that was behind this masterpiece is Key/VisualArts. They continued to create other masterpieces like Air and Clannad that released several years later.
Back in 2002, Toei Animation made their own version of the Kanon Anime. I guess many fans of Key back then were excited about it. However, Toei’s version of Kanon did not turn out well since it suffered from poor animation and an unfaithful adaptation. Three years later, Kyoto Animation made their adaption of Air. Air TV gathered a lot of praise even though it wasn’t perfect. The adaptation was pretty close to the source material and it used the opening/closing themes from the visual novel. The element that was most raved from the whole show was the animation. The animation of Air looked pretty, well detailed and colorful. After their smash hit Suzumiya Haruhi and the cameo featuring Ayu, Nayuki and Makoto in Air Episode 2, there was no doubt that many wanted Kanon be remade in the same fashion as Air.
Back in December of 2009, I decided to watch a few episodes of Kanon (2006) after being amazed by how well Kyoto Animation adapted Haruhi and Lucky Star. The animation, music and the story of Kanon eventually pulled me into the story. Eventually, I fell in love with the show. Several months later, I decided to play the actual visual novel despite the weird sex scenes they have. What I observed is that most of the stories of Ayu, Makoto, Mai, Sayuri, Shiori pretty much stay the same with a few differences. For Nayuki, her story got shafted in both adaptations. It would have been nice if Kyoto Animation decided to have a OVA dedicated to Nayuki’s arc like they did with Kyou and Tomoyo in the Clannad Anime adaptation. I guess that would have taken too much time and money to produce.
The story basically have Yuuichi moving back to the town of his childhood since his parents moved elsewhere. He lost his child memories in the town that happened 7 years ago. He stays at Nayuki’s, Yuuichi’s cousin. From there, he meets four other girls that have their own problems:
- Nayuki Minase – Yuuichi’s cousin. She has feelings of love towards Yuuichi, but heartbroken because of an event that happened to her 7 years ago. (VN Arc Review for what actually happens in Nayuki’s arc)
- Ayu Tsukimiya – A taiyaki thief who is trying to find something that she lost.
- Makoto Sawatari – A moeblob tsundere that lost her memory. Does not like Yuuichi, although she warms up to him over time.
- Mai Kawasumi – A senior. Fights demons that she fabricated because the loss of her childhood friend 7 years ago.
- Shiori Misaka – A freshman that had been out of school for a long time because of an illness. Her older sister, Kaori avoids her because it’s painful to her to watch Shiori to become weaker. Likes drama and vanilla ice cream.
The adaptation splits the girls’ arc in a specific block of episodes. For instance, Makoto’s arc started from Episode 7 until Episode 10. Next, Mai’s arc continued from Episode 11 to 15 and so on. Ayu and Nayuki’s shafted arc was mashed together in the last few episodes. The organization worked pretty well. However, it gave feeling that Kyoto Animation shoved the girls into the hospital or some place just to focus on a different arc. It wasn’t bad or anything, it just felt a bit strange.
A noticeable theme most people will realize off the bat besides the typical tragedy is miracles and the supernatural. Makoto’s, Ayu’s and Mai’s arcs have a lot of these elements and then some. Miracles are an important element in Kanon since the main character and the girl needs to go through a period of hardship and turmoil and overcome it. Once they overcome it, this is when the miracle happens as a reward. The miracles give the all the girls’ arcs a happy resolution and a feeling of happiness after looking/watching the arc. Besides the miracles, there are a number of supernatural events like a fox turning into a human and the demons for example. Kanon is pretty much on par on the supernatural compared to Air that had a lot of supernatural elements happening in the story.
Lastly, the girls in the story were so moe that it made my nose bleed. The catchphases from the girls pretty much contributed to the excessive moe and cuteness. So much that I can not resist repeating these verbal tics/catchphases that come out of their mouths such as the infamous “Uguu~” along with some others like Unyuuu~, feito day~o, “Usotsuki!”, Auu~, “…”, “Hae~”, “Ahaha~” and so on…
The animation looks gorgeous and was on the same exact level as the first season of Suzumiya Haruhi or even better. While the setting looks detailed and pretty, most would be amazed by how they animated the snow on the ground and from the sky. The emphasis on the snow allowed to give the emotional feeling of the show, thus many referring Kanon as the ultimate “sad girls in snow” show.
Kanon like with Clannad and Air had powerful music that went well with the current mood of a scene. Kyoto Animation’s version leaves the original opening and closing themes by Ayana untouched and they sounded nice. In addition to the original visual novel music composed by Jun Maeda, OdiakeS and Shinji Orito, the remake also features remixed versions from the Recollections best arrange album.
Overall, I enjoyed Kanon like most people would. I have to admit that I did shred manly tears because the stories were touching. Out of the five girls, Shiori’s story hit me the most. Her situation was pretty realistic that we can relate to it in real life. Even after playing Shiori’s arc from the Kanon Visual Novel, it made me appreciate her more. Her ambition and the strength to keep on going on was one of the qualities that make her my number one favorite anime character along with Nagisa, who had similar qualities to Shiori.
In the end, Kyoto Animation outdid themselves with the remake. It turned out to be a masterpiece with a few small flaws. There is no doubt that most people that enjoys the romance drama genre and/or Air/Clannad will no doubt enjoy and love Kanon.