Paul Browne on the many musical talents behind Clannad
The touching anime series Clannad presents a slice-of-life story that follows high school delinquent Tomoya Okazaki. As a troubled soul, Tomoya battles a fractious relationship with both his father and his school. But Tomoya’s life is about to radically change when he meets the shy, soft-spoken Nagisa Furukawa.
Clannad originally began life as a ‘visual novel’, an interactive computer game through which the player makes decisions that influence the direction of the story. Developed by Japanese studio Key (who were also responsible for Kanon and Air), the popularity of Clannad as a game led to the development of the story as an anime series first screened in 2007.
The developing relationship between Tomoya and Nagisa propels the story through themes of romance, responsibility and family. These themes are enhanced by the music used in the series, produced by contributions from a broad background of the Japanese music scene.
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‘Mag Mell’, the plaintive melody of the opening theme, comes courtesy of Japanese musical combo Eufonius. Emerging in 2003 with the release of their eponymous album, Eufonius are essentially a duo consisting of vocalist Riya and composer and keyboard player Hajime Kikuchi (who also handles the arrangement of the songs).
Eufonius have established themselves as composers of themes for a variety of anime and visual novel releases. This includes titles such as Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl, Himawari!, Noein and True Tears. As a recording outfit, the songs of Eufonius are marked by the distinctive airy style of vocalist Riya – as seen in the gentle melodic strains of Clannad’s opening theme (which is actually a remixed version of the song used in the visual novel version).
Meanwhile, Clannad’s evocative ending song ‘Dango Daikazoku’ features the wistful tones of singer Chata, a musician who has built a career out of contributions to several doujin music circles. ‘Dango Daikazoku’ carries over elements of the original visual novel as it uses the same melody as ‘Chiisana Tenohira’ – the ending theme which features in the After Story segment of the original visual novel.
In 2007, Chata collaborated with composer Yoko Shimomura and released her first major debut album ‘Murmur’. Chata also contributed the ending theme to the anime series Potemayo the same year and has also turned her focus to a large number of theme songs for video games.
Continuing the story in the follow-up anime series Clannad After Story, the evocative theme song ‘Toki o Kizamu Uta’ is delivered by Lia. A former member of famed Japanese techno label I’ve Sound, Lia has a history of dabbling in genres such as happy hardcore and trance (you can read more about her here). There’s an element of this in Lia’s opening theme to the Clannad visual novel spin off Tomoyo After: It’s a Wonderful Life. Lia also sings After Story’s jaunty closing song ‘Torch’.
Lia’s talents also appear on a variety of anime titles, it’s her sweeping vocals for instance on the end theme for Gunslinger Girl -Il Teatrino-. She also worked on Angel Beats! and School Rumble. But Lia is probably better known as providing the voice of the Vocaloid IA (‘Aria On The Planetes’), which transcribes Lia’s distinctive vocal style to the Vocaloid 3 engine.
Interestingly, Lia’s contribution to the Gunslinger Girl sequel was composed by Jun Maeda, founder member of Key – the studio that created Clannad to begin with. As a musician himself, Jun (in collaboration with fellow Key founder members Shinji Orito and Magome Togoshi) also composed much of the background music used in the Clannad series. It’s also led to the creation of a dedicated musical outlet, Key Sounds Label, through which much of Clannad’s musical legacy was released. This included the impressive 3 CD release ‘Clannad Original Soundtrack’ which boasts 56 songs used in both the visual novel and anime versions.
Clannad delivers a heartfelt story that’s bolstered by a diverse selection of musical talents. Enjoy, but keep a box of tissues handy for the sad parts!
Clannad, the Complete Story Collection is out on DVD on 5th August from Manga Entertainment.