Clannad & Clannad: After Story
Episodes: 22 & 22 (plus bonuses)
Genre: Drama, High School, Romance, Devastating Feels
Clannad is the anime adaptation of one of the most popular visual novels ever released in Japan. It follows the high school life of Tomoya Okazaki, as he wastes his days away as a delinquent with his only other friend, Youhei. After a chance encounter with the timid and sickly Nagisa, Tomoya ends up halfway courting nearly the entire female school population, as is usually the case with these sort of shows.
In terms of structure, Clannad and especially Clannad: After Story, good god, is precisely calibrated to deliver devastating emotional payloads. The majority of the series is your standard sort of high school comedy, but it always eventually segues into serious childhood trauma. The visual novel origin means you will become extremely familiar with each of the main love interests throughout mini-plot arcs with little, if any, sort of “payoff.” This changes in the last few episodes as the plot solidifies around one person in particular, and… well. Just keep some tissues handy.
Clannad and its After Story is one of those anime that I both hesitate to recommend while also requiring other people to eventually watch. The series is a great response to someone asking if an anime can be just as emotional as a book or film, and Clannad arguably beats the majority of both. I am not exactly walking away from the anime with a sense of well-being, but the catharsis is real. And to be fair, that sort of thing is extremely hard to pull off.
Code Geass – Lelouch of the Rebellion & R2
Episodes: 25 & 25
Genre: Drama, Giant Robots, Supernatural, Cerebral
The best way I could describe Code Geass is Death Note meets Gundam. Which is more than a little ironic, considering that Code Geass was released concurrently with Death Note back in 2006. It follows the travails of Lelouch vi Britannia, an exiled prince in hiding, as he schemes to destroy the empire of his birth to save his disabled sister from political machinations. His plans are greatly accelerated in high school when a chance encounter with an immortal witch grants him Geass: the ability to force anyone to follow any command he gives… once, and via direct eye contact only.
Over the course of two seasons, Code Geass remains fairly consistently serious. Outside of a cat episode early on, the plot is filled with drama, betrayal, and impossible scenarios in which Lelouch has to rely on his uncanny brilliance to escape. Lelouch’s fight with Britannia doesn’t quite reach the labrythine depths of Death Note’s Light vs L showdown, but it remains pretty satisfying nevertheless.
It is not going to change your life or anything, but Code Geass is worth a view in my opinion. It rather successfully marries the kinetic, mecha action to the more cerebral, supernatural anime. If you only like one of those genres, chances are you will still enjoy this blend. And if you like both? Buckle up, because this show is for you.