|Clannad Original Soundtrack
|Magome Togoshi; Jun Maeda; Shinji Orito; riya; Lia; kiku
|August 13, 2004
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.
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.
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
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.
“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
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.
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.
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.