WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Clannad, available on.
Every anime has within it the capacity to absolutely destroy the emotions of any given viewer. From Naruto to Higurashi, any series can take you by surprise. There's still one anime, however, that reigns supreme in terms of outright depressing sadness. For instance, Clannad seemed like a fairly normal everyday drama, but its heartwrenching second season completely ripped the floor out from under the characters, and the viewers.
Seemingly giving the main character everything he ever wanted before violently taking it away from him, Clannad succeeds so well at being sad thanks in part to how happy it was beforehand. Here's a look at exactly why Clannad, specifically its second season, continues to be the saddest anime ever.
Clannad & Clannad After Story
The Clannad anime produced by Kyoto Animation was an adaptation of a Key visual novel series. While arguably a sort of slice-of-life harem, the series would eventually delve into much deeper and darker territory. The protagonist, Tomoya, is a slacker high school student with a carefree attitude, wasting away his academic career down in the doldrums.
His attitude changes when unwittingly befriends a strange girl named Nagisa, whose dream is to revive her drama club. Feeling that there's nothing better to do, Tomoya aids her in her quest, eventually befriending several other girls. Through helping them all with their problems, Tomoya himself begins to open up, enjoying and appreciating life a lot more.
However, the second season, Clannad After Story, is where things really take a turn for the melancholy. Several years after the first season, Tomoya and Nagisa are now adults in love and hope to start a family of their own. Things become a bit more serious than usual when the daily grind of adult life starts to wear on the two. Later, Nagisa is diagnosed with a strange illness that claims her life right after she delivers her and Tomoya's child Ushio.
This sends Tomoya into a dark depression, as he leaves his child, who he's completely unable to become attached to, in the care of his friends. What follows is an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows that makes what began as a simple harem-esque anime an unforgettably sad ride..
Why Clannad Is So Sad?
Clannad succeeds so well at being sad because of the fact that for the most part, the story isn't. The first season had its own sad drama, but nothing too disheartening. At the same time, it was realistic almost to the point of mundanity, showcasing high school life and drama in a way that never felt over the top or ridiculous. This was ramped up in After Story with how realistically the cast began to deal with the responsibilities of adulthood, as well as how their town was changing along with the circumstances of their lives.
This believable storytelling and almost complete lack of the supernatural enhance the tone when things do finally take a turn for the worst. Not only have viewers come to know and grow with the cast, relating to their trials and struggles in and outside of high school, but they're able feel for them when they deal with horrendous problems that are still real. People who have watched friends, parents or even children die from diseases or other unfortunate situations know exactly how Tomoya feels, especially for viewers who may have planned lives with lost loved ones in the same way that he did.
This isn't a situation where sad situations come from people dying in battle or trying to protect the world against monsters or alien invaders. Clannad depicts an all-too-real condition with responses that are also grounded in reality. This heavily contrasts tonally similar shows like Elfen Lied, where attempts to be sad are just as over the top, extreme and unnecessary as everything else in the series. This, combined with so much of what else Clannad had going for it, is what sets it apart among other sentimental anime, getting to the heart of its characters and themes in a way that tugs at the heart of the viewers like no other show.
Those wanting to cry their eyes out are also in luck, as the show's easier than ever to watch. Along with Hi-Dive and VRV, the show can also be streamed on Hulu and Netflix.