Clannad Original Soundtrack – Review

Clannad OST Cover
Album Title:Clannad Original Soundtrack
Anime Title:Clannad
Artist:Magome Togoshi; Jun Maeda; Shinji Orito; riya; Lia; kiku
Catalog Number:KSLA-0012~0014
Release Type:Soundtrack
Release Date:August 13, 2004
Purchase at:Play-Asia

Review: Clannad’s anime soundtrack, like the anime itself, yield a mixture of the wonderful and bittersweet. Its story is that of a rich emotional brew that tells of how its characters, Tomoya Okazaki and Nagisa Furukawa, fall in love and face the obstacles that fate has puts in their path together. Through it all, Clannad serves as a reminder that family is forever. In the face of tragedy, no bond is stronger, no foundation of support better.

And as we sit through Tomoya’s ups and downs, Clannad’s OST lets its emotions flow discreetly, but effectively. Its power is such that the right melody transforms a scene that’s merely sad into one that’s emotionally wrenching. Much credit goes to Key’s Jun Maeda, Shinji Orito, and Magome Togoshi for delivering unto us a soundtrack that is absolutely beautiful in the way it captures the mood of the series and to Lia and riya, whose performances made this album truly shine as my favorite soundtrack to a Key/Kyoto Animation collaboration.

Clannad’s Character Themes are Exquisite

The question is where exactly one starts when addressing this soundtrack? There’s no doubt that the characters themes are particularly delightful. For example, Fuko’s theme, “Hurry, Starfish,” will elicit cheers and groans depending on one’s perception of her, but there’s no denying that the piece’s light-hearted, spritely aura gets her eccentric, capricious nature down pat. Kotomi’s theme, “Études pour les petites supercordes,” expresses her bumbling but good-hearted nature that endears her to the audience.

Hurry, Starfish

Of all the character themes though, I consider Nagisa’s to be the most important because of the role she plays in Tomoya’s life and, by extension, the anime. Her theme may be simplistic, but it illustrates her warm personality, her caring nature, and her determination to see things through in spite of her health problems. Regardless of the emotional ups and downs, “Nagisa’s” beautiful melody buoys us with a hope that happiness is just around the corner.

Nagisa

After all, “Nagisa” makes its appearance after “Town, Flow of Time, People,” which is depressing as it illustrates the hopeless, despairing thoughts that have encumbered Tomoya’s mind. Its grim aura is suffocating, paralleling the city’s atmosphere that carries the weight of the painful memories he’s associated with it. But “Nagisa” comes in like a healing wind, and this transformation brightens Tomoya’s prospects considerably. This allows tracks like “Spring Wind” and “Country Lane” to blossom with optimism as the listener gets a respite and can share in Tomoya’s brief moment of happiness.

Town, Flow of Time, People

Spring Wind

Clannad OST’s Tragic Second Disc

Clannad’s tragedies are housed in the second disc, where the melancholy themes take over. For example, “Snowfield” exemplifies the same sort of hopelessness that “Town, Flow of Time, People” carries by hinting at the tragedies that are soon to come. What really struck me when listening to “Snowfield” was the sense of loneliness that emanates from this track. Not only does it hammer the feelings of despair, this suffering is something that Tomoya goes through alone when the person he cares for most is taken from him. This emotional turmoil is also evident in “Roaring Tides II” which moves at a slower, more deliberate tempo, capturing the extent of Tomoya’s despair. Its pacing evokes an image of a weakened Tomoya that becomes more vulnerable to what will happen next.

Snowfield

“Nagisa ~ Farewell at the Foot of a Hill” deals him the final blow, and by incorporating Nagisa’s theme into the piece, the audience acutely feels his pain. While I have discussed the effect of this piece during the scene which depicts Nagisa’s passing, it bears repeating that what makes this piece so powerful lies within the context of the scene. When the music plays, it kindles memories of happier times, making her death that much more tragic. Its synth backdrop near the end makes her death finally sink in. With that, Tomoya’s life unravels from the shock and pain.

But amidst the melancholy and despair are some bright spots like “To the Same Heights” and “Shining in the Sky.” “To the Same Heights,” in particular, raises the specter of hope that things don’t have to be so bad as long as that familial foundation of support still exists. This bittersweet brew tastes more sweet than bitter and the message I got from this wonderful piano melody is that fate may deal one a terrible hand, but by maintaining one’s relationships, one can overcome those difficulties and soar on to a brighter tomorrow. That it’s used as the basis for “Toki wo Kizamu Uta” makes for an interesting comparison since my first impression of this piece had been an uplifting one rather than the mournful feel that I derived from the Clannad After Story opening.

To the Same Heights

“Shining in the Sky” is also mentioned as a bright spot. This track carries an aura of contentment as it brings its air of finality through the crescendo around 1:53. Through the music, one gets a feeling that the struggles had been a valuable lesson and the characters have learned to move past the tragedy to become stronger as a result. “Country Train” takes the feeling of optimism further by adding in a dose of resolve through its rhythm and tempo which allows one to not only hear the swift-moving train, but to also feel as though Tomoya has awakened from the pits of despair. This newfound energy gives him a reservoir of love, and he uses it to make amends (especially towards Ushio) and reconnect with the people he cherishes so much.

Shining in the Sky

Country Train

The Vocal Tracks Carry the Anime’s Emotions to the End

The best aspect of the second disc belongs to the three vocal pieces though. “-Two Shadows-” has a nostalgic feeling imparted through riya’s upbeat and emphatic delivery and “Ana” is also a beautiful track that utilizes Lia’s ability to express herself. Although the lyrics can be incoherent at times as it talks about a paradise that goes through cyclical changes, Lia’s soaring vocals carry a peaceful, almost ethereal aura to channel the song’s lofty sentiments.

-Two Shadows-

Ana

Of the three vocal songs in Clannad, “Tiny Palm” is absolutely unforgettable. It starts with the theme from “Nagisa” but quickly makes way for riya’s heartfelt delivery which takes us through the story from start to finish. The initial meeting with Nagisa is heard at the very beginning and through that fateful encounter, their lives are changed, and for the better. Although the feelings of love take awhile to build up, when it shines, it does so radiantly. Riya expresses the characters’ hopes and dreams in the chorus, delivering a strong vow to face life’s challenges as a couple. I cannot get over how beautifully this song imparts its themes as it uplifts the spirit through the genuine emotions it instills in my heart. It is by far the best song on the soundtrack.

Tiny Palm

Although the third disc consists of enjoyable arrangements, they’re nowhere as integral as the first two discs. But it’s worth finishing since it’s the conclusion of a long, but fruitful journey in the same way the anime series is. In Clannad OST, the music succeeds in being a heartfelt addition as it takes us through the joys and the sorrows, but also serves as a subtle reminder to us all to cherish the relationships we have and to build new ones along the way.

Rating: Excellent

zzeroparticle

Anime Instrumentality's Founder and Editor-in-Chief. As you can probably guess, I'm a big anime music junkie with a special love for composers who've put out some beautiful melodies to accompany some of my favorite anime series. I tend to gravitate towards music in the classical style with Joe Hisaishi and Yoko Kanno being a few of my favorite composers, but I've come to appreciate jazz and rock as anime music has widened my tastes.

31 thoughts on “Clannad Original Soundtrack – Review

  • September 22, 2009 at 6:44 pm
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    Excellently worded review. I like Tiny Palm as well and I agree with you. Hurry, Starfish? *groan*

    Maybe I should get around to finishing the After Story sometime.

    Reply
  • September 23, 2009 at 9:00 am
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    @Reltair
    You should! The first 8 episodes of the ~AS~ might be a hit or miss, but once you get past that, it starts getting really really good.

    And hey, Fuko has fans. I know they exist :p

    Reply
  • September 24, 2009 at 4:22 am
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    Couldn’t agree more~

    A good example of high quality ost that needs more exposure. The ost, just like its anime, is just filled with emotions.

    Reply
  • September 24, 2009 at 4:51 am
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    This is the one album where I wouldn’t mind listening to every instrumental piece. 🙂
    It’s just a roller coaster ride of goosebumps, wet eyes and more goosebumps.

    @zzero @reltair
    Fuko fans comes in hordes! Lol… 🙂
    lostty@animeprincess and meimi@meimi132 are some of them. I like her too though not a big fan or anything.

    Reply
  • September 24, 2009 at 6:01 pm
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    It really seemed like Orito hated this soundtrack. He has some really great, memorable themes (Fuuko’s, Nagisa’s, Kyou’s), but then the majority of the OST-ish parts are incredibly bland and forgettable. Not coincidentally, there are a billion remixes of the memorable themes which requires less mentally-taxing composing and more rearranging which is muuuuch easier.

    you should do GiTS OST! =p

    Reply
  • September 24, 2009 at 9:01 pm
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    @depthchargex
    Yup, it’s a wonderful OST. When you’re looking for emotional, heartfelt tracks, this one of those albums that’ll definitely come to mind.

    @blur
    One of its strong points is its ability to take you on that long, emotional journey, but one that bears fruit at the very end, so yes, very good from start to finish.

    @lelangir
    Nagisa was composed by Maeda and Togoshi did Fuuko’s. Which effectively leaves him with Kyou’s theme. The bland-ness, I think, is something that’s true for most VN soundtracks since the music is oftentimes meant to generate an atmosphere to go with the narrative, but even here, I thought it was good (obviously, your mileage varies since this is, through and through, background music).

    I’ll consider this a request, though what happened to you and your Yoko Kanno is BAD!!! sentiments? :p

    Reply
  • September 26, 2009 at 8:27 am
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    “the music is always hovering just out of sight, but the impact it delivers when it needs to can transform a scene that’s merely sad into one that’s emotionally wrenching.”

    I cannot agree with you more. The background music in Clannad helps to bring out the emotions of the character best. The animation and the voice acting contributed a lot to it as well, it’s just that the background music helps to give some sort of finishing touch.

    Overall I love Clannad’s music. OST2 also contain some VERY good and emotional music pieces. I hope to see your review of it as well ^_^

    Reply
  • September 28, 2009 at 10:43 pm
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    @guuzen
    Is there an OST2? I don’t recall hearing such a thing, so if you can point it out to me, that’d be very helpful :p

    Reply
  • October 2, 2009 at 1:42 pm
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    @depthchargex
    I’m guessing it’s a mistake or something since I don’t think I would have let something like that slip under my radar (though it’s happened before!). None of my sources confirm the existence of such an album.

    Reply
  • November 27, 2009 at 2:04 pm
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    Where can I buy this soundtrack? I can’t find it anywhere.

    Reply
  • December 1, 2009 at 2:19 pm
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    @Henu
    I got mine from Kinokuniya, though I lucked out since they didn’t have that many copies left. Best of luck in finding this album though. It’s worth it!

    Reply
  • December 23, 2009 at 12:38 am
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    When I first watched Clannad, I thought the music was pretty forgettable. I don’t know what I was smoking at the time. I also thought the first season was rather boring, but it won me over because the main male actually got with the main female.

    For example, I watched Shakugan no Shana solely for the romance. When it got ruined in the first episode of the second season, I couldn’t bear anymore. That’s just me, I guess, and I absolutely adored Shana’s character, so it was a shame.

    So when After Story came out I:
    A) Thought it would be more harem stuff and sine the first season seemed dull to me, it wasn’t worth it
    and
    B) Thought it was an OVA that only lasted a few eps. I clearly didn’t do any research.

    So over this last summer I ran into the scene of Nagisa giving birth and I cried like a baby. After spoiling a few more things for myself, I vowed to watch it after school let out.
    I did, and it was fantastic. Now I’m planning to rewatch the entire series as soon as I get time, and have asked for the DVDs for Christmas.

    Reply
  • December 23, 2009 at 1:41 am
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    @Rin
    Oh yes, that episode of Nagisa giving birth made for one of the most unforgettable moments of the show because of how heartrending the moments were during that segment. The music, I thought, was definitely spot-on in capturing that moment since it brings back so many fond memories that one can’t help but feel a deep sense of loss as a result.

    Glad you found the show (and the soundtrack) enjoyable!

    Reply
  • December 29, 2009 at 8:53 am
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    The music for Clannad After Story is really excellent, my particular tear-raiser is “The place where wishes come true”. Even today just rehearing so much of the music I have had to bring out the tissues. Clannad was an experience, and it was made so much more emotional by the music that went with it.

    Reply
  • December 30, 2009 at 12:32 am
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    @DRW
    Definitely. The power that the music adds to the scenes are just too good because of how subtle it is, yet, it hits all the right triggers to bring on that rush of emotions.

    Reply
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  • September 8, 2010 at 9:17 am
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    did you know Snowfield’s sheets for piano can somebody help me please

    Reply
    • September 8, 2010 at 10:28 pm
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      @autf54
      You might want to ask some of the transcribers like Josh and AnimeNZ for some sheets if that’s what you’re looking for. Sorry that I can’t help =P

      Reply
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  • January 29, 2011 at 3:39 pm
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    One of the musics that gives a real blow when you play the Visual novel is “Distant years”. The scene when Nagisa remember everything that happened until she graduates is outstanding and this music gives this scene a strong effect. But, Nagisa ~ Farewell at the Foot of a Hill it’s still the best, no doubts about that.

    Reply
    • January 30, 2011 at 6:04 pm
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      @Hoshi Akari
      I can imagine and I really did like the music that played during the graduation scene. But like you said, nothing hits harder than “Farewell at the Foot of a Hill” in terms of emotions. Gotta love how the extent of the pain is brought out through the music.

      Reply
  • December 24, 2011 at 3:40 am
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    where can you buy this?

    Reply
  • July 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm
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    i really enjoy hearing the melody “nagisa” . for some reason it gives me a special feeling like all that harsship i have had and happiness of my life come together and form some type of diffrent feeling its not like i just dont feel this anime but i can interact with it i have been looking for this melody i really like it and its won of the few was i really feel and enjoy thank you alot for posting this and taking the time to do this it really means alot for me

    Reply
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  • December 15, 2013 at 8:46 pm
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    I have a question. Are there any Anime OSTs of this quality? I don’t think I have ever listened to a whole album this satisfied before. I’d like a bland of catchy music to go with some beautiful and/or emotional music.

    Reply
  • December 20, 2013 at 8:37 pm
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    I watched this show a few years ago, and while I’m not totally head over heals for it, I do appreciate the soundtrack.

    Actually, it has piqued my interest in Celtic folk music, particularly that of Scottish and Irish influence.

    I have to admit I’m a total newbie when it comes to this style of music, and I would love any recommendations that you Mr. Nguyen (zzeroparticle, or anyone else I suppose) could give.

    I particularly enjoy the sound of “Run Along the Chartreuse Pavement” (Moegi iro no Ishidatami wo Kakeru) – on the Clannad ost ‘Mabinogi’.

    I’m not going to ask you to search Google for me, but if you could give me the name of the style of music, perhaps more specific, or different, than Celtic folk music. Anything with flutes or bagpipes would be a good place for me to start.

    Thank you for your time and have a great day,

    Chillbro88

    Reply
    • January 3, 2014 at 3:01 am
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      Well, if you’re looking for some place to start, I’d definitely recommend checking out the soundtrack to Someday’s Dreamers. It’s got a lot of folk music strewn in there and makes for a very wonderful, laid-back listen.

      Reply
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