CLANNAD, Kanon, and Key’s Nontraditionalism

Just finished up CLANNAD episode 5–Nonaka Ai is totally awesome–and it got me thinking on how “non-traditional” it is, especially compared to something like Kanon.

Kanon, of course, is a classic of the dating sim/eroge versions of visual novels, but, as far as I’m aware, Kanon was the first game that could be properly called a “visual novel” in the sense that it focused more on story than other, similar games (although Sakura Wars came first, it was more of a tradtional game than a visual novel), and certainly the first to have such a tragic story.

What I find interesting about Kanon (here referring to the 2006 version) over other eroge adaptations is that it doesn’t quite feel like a dating game. I mean, Yuuichi does spend and awful lot of time talking to the various girls, but the impression I got was that he was less trying to get into their pants and more trying to help them. This, of course, leads me to believe that the sex scenes in the original Kanon visual novel were tacked on as a kind of afterthought to better be able to market the game to a more receptive audience; one who wouldn’t buy a game for the PC featuring a lot of pretty girls if they couldn’t have SEX with them. That’s the way Kanon always seemed to me, less an eroge than a visual novel with porn in it.

So fast forward to CLANNAD, which began as an all-ages Key game. The anime (and, I presume, the game) feels as different from Kanon as I imagine Kanon (the game) felt from other games at the time. With the porn removed, Key is left able to tell a story without having to insert romantic undertones to justify the sex (or resort to rape, for that matter). And so, what we get is even less of a “harem”/dating sim story than Kanon was–although we’re only getting started on Fuko’s arc, it honestly feels like Tomoya is helping Fuka because he wants to, not because he’s trying to date her. The only possible romantic storyline I see in CLANNAD is between Tomoya and Nagisa. And this really impresses me–for a genre as cluttered as the visual novel/eroge scene is, for a company like Key, who has success and popularity on their side, to take a bold stand and ditch the porn is an admirable thing. I can only hope companies like TYPE MOON follow suit. Not because I have some kind of moral objection to sex and porn–I most certainly do not–but because it just interests me what kinds of stories could be told in this format could be told if the focus on sex was removed. We see steps toward that in CLANNAD and TYPE MOON’s games, but, honestly, I’d love to see a game come out that actually is a visual novel. I think that’d be a great step to take it–turn what essentially started out as cheap titillation for bored PC owners into a new style of storytelling itself. We’ve gotten mostly there, I think, so it’s probably just a matter of time until we get people taking risks in the industry.

This post turned into less about CLANNAD and more about me blathering on, so I will conclude with cute and very much relieved Fuko:

It’s Futarou, actually, but a.f.k. saves the day again with another brilliant joke-conversion. Would you want to be called Fubob? Thought not.

Oh, and if any of you who know more about visual novels than me (which isn’t a hard feat to accomplish) and bring to my attention just how wrong I am, then I will most certainly give you a high-five, Fuko-style.


3 Responses to “CLANNAD, Kanon, and Key’s Nontraditionalism”

  1. 1 rah2 26 November 2007 at 11:07 am

    Thing is, if Type Moon really did do an all age game, there would be fire and brimstone, cause…well, we all know how hot the Type Moon girls are in comparrison to the KEY girls (usuallly on the cute and younger side). Also, Type Moon’s stories are a lot darker then KEY’s, on average, so it may be a hard sell to the otaku crowd…of course they could warm up to it though.

  2. 2 onegreatturtle 26 November 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Well, there would certainly be fire and brimstone, but I’d really like to see the potential avenues of exploration in the visual novel area to be explored, and I think that, for that, we need to abandon sex. We’ve gotten Phoenix Wright, which is really fun, but it’s still a visual novel with a gameplay gimmick. Still, better than nothing.

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