Whether you know Clannad as the classic Japanese visual novel or popular 2000s anime series, it can be hard to grasp just everything that’s drawn new fans to the series for almost two decades.
Clannad was originally a visual novel developed by studio Key in 2004. While the game wasn’t published in English until 2015, the slice of life romance made its way to America via Kyoto Animation’s popular adaptations in the late 2000s.
Here’s everything you need to know about the series’ plot before diving in.
Clannad follows Tomoya Okazaki, a delinquent third-year at Hikarizaka Private High School, as he encounters five girls who push him to reconnect to society and rethink the meaning of family. Most of these young women are love interests, each providing a path in the branching story that can take 60-80 hours to fully complete.
The sprawling plotlines of the series are united by a common theme of family. Motivations and personalities are shaped by the presence and absence of parents or siblings in each character’s lives, and in some cases the cast comes together as a sort of chosen family. There are five main female characters, and a whole host of side characters Tomoya grows up with.
Nagisa Furukawa is the main heroine and the love interest of the final “good” ending. She’s the auburn-haired girl on the cover and lives with a chronic illness that has delayed her graduation. Kyou Fujibayashi is the purple-haired tsundere and class representative who falls for Tomoya while trying to help her twin sister get with him. The blue-haired Kotomi Ichinose is the quiet, bookish archetype. Then there’s Fuko Ibuki, the more childish first year. And finally there is the stoic, silver-haired Tomyo Sakagami. A capable fighter and the student council president, she’s featured as the main love interest in Clannad’s sequel spin-off.
Key’s first productions were the popular eroge, or Japanese adult VNs, Kanon and Air. Since Clannad, undoubtedly their most popular work, they’ve continued to make VNs and have even worked on original anime. While Clannad was released for all ages, its sequel spin-off, Tomoyo After: It’s a Wonderful Life, returns to the eroge format. Set after the events of Clannad’s first arc, Tomoya remains the main character while Tomoyo becomes the main love interest. Originally released in 2005, it was published in English in 2016.
Toei Animation released an animated film adaptation of Clannad in 2007, focusing on Nagisa’s story. Shortly after, Kyoto Animation’s own anime adaptation began airing. The series was directed by Tatsuya Ishihara, who had adapted Key’s first two games with KyoAni and just finished the first season of the Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. The series ran for 23 episodes and featured an OVA, which are all available on Netflix and HIDIVE today.
The same team worked on Clannad After Story immediately afterwards, adapting the VNs second arc into 25 episodes that concluded in 2009. After Story is also available to stream on HIDIVE.
While there are many other adaptations of Clannad from light novels to internet radio shows, the VN and anime are the main starting points to get into the series. The only other thing you might need is a walkthrough to reach all of the games’ many, many endings.