Clannad Review

8 04 2008

 
Genre: Renai, Key Visual Novel Adaptation
Main Studio: Kyoto Animation
Episodes: 23

Obligatory Spoiler Warning

I’ve probably mentioned this show a few times over the last few months, mainly whenever I am talking about a renai show, this is because it’s the product of the only notable production team that specialise good at making this sort of show. Kyoto Animation, while best known for series like Haruhi and Lucky star, also have a team that has been dedicated to adapting Key’s classic visual novels to anime form. They originally worked on Kanon, then did Air a while ago which is the first one that I watched. Haven’t seen Kanon yet actually, but probably will at some point soon. It’s also worth noting that they all have the exact same intro.

So why should you watch any of these eh? Well they are bloody brilliant, if you must know. Oh, If only it were that easy to convince…. Anyway if I had to boil it down I would say that all of these shows are about a bloke and his interaction with some chicks. The bloke in question being Tomoya Okazaki, and the chicks in question being many of the girls at the high school he attends. Much of the show involves Tomoya becoming involved with the girls for various reasons, there’s also the token best friend character just to balance out all the girls.

Nagisa and Tomoyo
Main characters Nagia and Tomoyo, debating Nagisa’s astonishing lack of friends.

Tomoya is a bit of a delinquent as demonstrated by his squint tie, and rarely attends school. He has a chance encounter with a girl called Nagisa who HAS NO FRIENDS. Of course a cute girl having no friends cannot stand in this generally upbeat sort of show, so they become friends and thus the problem is solved forever. Of course her problems continue in thatthat she has this odd desire to start a theatre club at school and put on a play that seems to be rattling around inside her head for some reason. To this end, Tomoya helps Nagisa try and recruit people into the theatre club, which is where most of the other characters come in. This inevitably results in them meeting all the schools odd-balls and other friendless weirdoes. Some of these characters go on to have their own arcs about their own set of horrible problems as well.

The central theme of Clannad is family, so most of the characters have issues along this general line. Tomoya for example has an alcoholic and possibly abusive father who he despises and treats as a stranger. Nagisa has this odd feeling that she ruined her parents life at some point, but can’t quite remember the details. Another girl they meet is Kotomi who spends all day sitting in the library reading, and has absolutely no social skills whatsoever. One of the story arcs is devoted to trying to teach her how to be more normal, and yes, get over some of her pressing family issues! The show tends to be upbeat, definitely it is cheerier than Air ever was.


According to Clannad, this is what a world that ended looks like.

One of the main things that draws me to these Key/Kyoani shows is their odd ethereal tone. In Clannad this is mainly actioned by these odd sequences that seem to take in a “world that has ended” which is an odd desolate future in which exists only a girl and a mechanical/clockwork bear that she made out of sheer boredom. These sequences are obscenely well animated, and are inserted into the show seeming at random at least initially anyway. They are eventually worked into the main in a way that makes sense. It’s a nice juxtaposition between this and the relatively ordinary goings on of ordinary high school life anyway. This section eventually gets tied into the main story in a way that doesn’t seem totally crazy, which is always nice.

Another element that characterises Key’s stories is slight supernatural elements. In Air, the main character could make a small doll walk around and perform little acts using his mind, but no-one ever seemed to think it was particularly interesting. Uh, also he became a crow at one point. In Clannad, at some point the characters realise that one of their friends whom they hang around with every day is actually in a coma in a hospital one town over, which comes as quite a shock to them. This arc deals with them working out how the hell to handle such a situation. I found this the most enjoyable arcs in the show.


To be honest, being main character in one of these shows is a pretty sweet deal.

If you haven’t seen this sort of show before, I can imagine there would be a little reluctance given the evidence presented. They just don’t sound that interesting when described, and it’s hard to really pin down what makes them good. It’s not a comedy, though there are comedic elements. It’s not a mystery show but there are mysterious elements. It’s not a romance show but there are romantic elements, etc, etc. The main draw of the show is I guess it’s excellently likable characters, and good development of said likable characters. This is definitely a character centric show that I can get behind.

If you had to start with one of these shows, this would probably be one of the better ones, though Kanon would also be an option. You aren’t going to see anything particularly badass (except a few scenes where the feisty sporty girl gets into fights), but you will receive a touching heart-warming sort of affair, and there’s still room for that sort of thing isn’t there?

Arbitrary Rating: 9 – Dango Dango Dango Dango, Dango Daikazoku

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Sam & Max 202: Moai Better Blues Review

1 04 2008

 Title!
Developer: Telltale Games
Platform: PC
Genre: Adven…It’s Sam & Max, dammit!

Warning: This review is positively spoiler-stuffed.

Telltale games have done an excellent job being the only developers actually able to produce the much vaunted Episodic Content that everyone was blathering on about a while back. Episode 202 is the 8th episode they’ve managed to get out, and they are still as reliable as ever. Unfortunately, this probably the weakest of the ones I’ve played so far. The worst episode in the first season was episode three or 103 – ‘The Mole, the Mob, and the Meatball’, which was mainly far shorter than the other episodes, and not really that funny or interesting.

Episode 201 was a great start to the season, and had Sam & Max going to the North Pole to deal with an out of control Santa. Rather than that reasonably solid premise albeit slightly borrowed premise, Episode 202 has you going to Easter island, to do a succession of unrelated tasks that might stop a volcano, or Bermuda triangles, or become a priest, or something.

Like most Sam & Max episodes, this one starts in your office. By this point in series, the majority of the actual objects in their office have been replaced by references to the earlier episodes. I was fine with this when it was limited to the items in their closet, such as Brady Culture’s afro, and Leonard Steakcharmer, but now it’s a totally insane pile of crap that I can barely remember where half of which came from.

Triangle
I hope you like triangles, because this episode is stuffed with them.

A scream from outside shows that Cybil is being chased around the street by a floating triangle thing, and the first part of the game involves working out how to stop it. This section is fine, and by the numbers. You wander around and talk to Stinky, Bosco, the usual. There’s nothing especially wrong or difficult about this section, infact the solution to the triangle puzzle is remarkably simple (It involves triangles).

After you’ve stopped it, you go through the triangle and wind up on Easter Island. It is populated by Ocean Chimps, Moai heads, and the baby versions of famous lost people, like Glenn Miller and Amelia Earhart. Now I’m all for having new characters in these games, infact I would say that the desperately need as many of them as possible, but seriously? 5 new characters who are all babies? It’s just disturbing.

Urgh
Oh good, babies.

Anyway, it’s in this section that the game really starts to break down. For the first time in the series, I got the feeling that I was fighting against obnoxious adventure-game logic that would make the Gabriel Knight developers choke on their biscotties. You want an example?

So….

There’s a baby version of Jimmy Hoffa guarding a cave that you wish to enter. Hoffa is thirsty, and you have to give him some water from the nearby fountain of youth in order to de-age him out of existence. The fountain of youth is full of piranhas that are preventing you from scooping up any water. There are some sentient Moai heads nearby who control the elements. There is a head that can control the wind, but is too depressed to demonstrate it’s power. There is another Moai head that is buried in the earth which controls thunder, and will produce a miniature thundercloud above it’s head when angered. There is also a series of Bermuda triangles that can be moved around the area by shooting colour coded poles.

Stupid bloody puzzle
That giant sandal shows up in your office in the next episode. Oh, the referenceness!

What do you do?

Naturally you adjust the triangles so that one is opposite the Moai head that will blow wind when happy, and the other is near the Fountain of Youth. You play a conch recording of baby Glenn Miller’s latest hit (inspired by your car horn), which will make the wind-controlling head start whistling. You then shoot the buried head so that it creates a thunder-cloud. The cloud is blown through one triangle, out the other and over the fountain of youth. The thunder cloud emits lightning that kills the piranhas. This allows you to safely collect the water, and de-age baby Jimmy Hoffa out of existence and enter the cave.

…huh.

Can’t I shoot the fish? Can’t I just shoot Hoffa? Why didn’t the fountain de-age the fish? Isn’t it awfully convenient that all these portals are all over the place? Why is any of this logical? It’s all too computer-gamey! Now I’ll be first to admit that complaining that a computer game is too computer-gamey is inherently dumb, but then SO IS THIS FUCKING PUZZLE. Yeah, I showed you!

On top of that, the writers seemed to of forgotten to write jokes, and a plot at this point. The game just sort of ends without much of a climax. Something about an evil fish? I dunno. The hint system which amounts to Max almost telling you the answers to the puzzles should get you through it, so you don’t have to keep alt-tabbing to a walkthrough, it’s just a shame that the puzzles aren’t logical enough to be worked out on their own.

Anyway, if you are playing through these episodes it’s not like you should just skip this one or anything. It’s also incredibly unlikely that you would start the series at this point, so this is a review for people who are going to play this game anyway, or not at all regardless of what I say. Oh well, at most it’ll only consume 3 hours of your time, and is still vaguelly amusing. The next episode is about zombies, and from what I have played of it is much much better. Zombies always makes thing better.

Arbitrary Rating: 6 – Babies