Genre: Drama/Romance
Format: 13 Episodes
Allegiance: Toei Animation/Key
Director: Takamichi Ito
Vintage: 2002
Intelligence Agency Report by: Kuzu Ryu Sen
His parents having been reassigned to a foreign country, Aizawa Yuuichi has been forced to move in with his cousin Minase Nayuki and her mother Akiko. It’s not Yuuichi’s first visit to Nayuki’s snowy town though, as he experienced a similar situation seven years prior. However, Yuuichi cannot recall any specific memories of his time with the Minases seven years ago, a condition that is constantly on Nayuki’s mind. Yuuichi himself is stricken by mysterious dreams involving a crying girl. Now, facing the same places, the same family, the same objects, and even surprise visits by the same people as seven years ago, will Yuuichi’s mind finally awaken from its long dream and remember just exactly what came to pass?

Field Agent Report by: Kuzu Ryu Sen 
Plot
Characters
Impact
Visual
Audio
8.50
8.25
9.50
9.00
8.25
Overall 8.75
(not an average)

Anime adaptations of visual novels are by nature tricky things. The open-endedness in terms of plot and character development that is a trademark of the genre makes it very difficult for anyone to produce a “complete” adaptation. In the case of Kanon, the game responsible for the relative popularisation of the genre both in Japan and North America, Toei has released what could be best summarised as a “tsundereanime.” That is, a show that appears cold, detached, and irritating at the outset, but gradually shows its true colours until finally sweeping the viewer’s mind and heart away with a stirring and powerful conclusion.

Much like Yuuichi’s first impression of Kawasumi Mai and Sawatari Makoto, the principle players in Kanon’s first two plot arcs, one’s first impression of Kanon’s plot is generally negative. After all, the first half of the series is rather stale and detached, dedicating most of its time to introducing characters in a systematic manner. Admittedly, given the nature of the dating sim, it’s difficult to expect much in this department from Toei, but given the creativity exhibited by the staff in the latter half, the lack of any variety at all in the first six episodes is highly disappointing.

On the plus side, Kanon is very pleasant to look at during its tsuntsun phase. While the character designs are plain (and to be honest, there’s not much Toei could have done in that department), the CG effects are excellent, and certainly add an extra layer of atmosphere to the show. The backgrounds are not only very detailed, but clever animation effects cause them to spring to life, giving the setting (and the series) a certain energy and vibrancy. However, artistically, the biggest and most pleasant surprise came from the absolutely beautiful opening and ending songs; gems in a genre populated by generic J-pop.

Outside appearance can only take one so far, and thankfully, Kanon underwent a transformation from cold and sterile to heart-wrenching and passionate during the Sawatari Makoto arc. Suddenly, all the characters seem to acquire rather engaging personalities, and the plot, while still incorporating fantasy elements, became far more palatable. All these elements forge a climax that provides some of the best moments in the genre, and in anime in general. While the final arc is notably weaker in terms of sheer emotional impact, it can definitely still hold its own. Combined with a seamless transition (something not easily accomplished given the conclusiveness of the preceding episodes), Kanon ends not with a wild emotional roller coaster ride, but a gradual dénouement to a down-to-Earth conclusion. As such, the viewer is given ample opportunity to recover from the Sawatari Makoto plotline, yet still able to enjoy the Tsukimiya Ayu arc for the conclusiveness it provides.

Quite fitting for an anime whose fortunes were dependent on its main “tsundere” character, Kanon started off very bland and cookie-cutter and ended as one of the most powerful anime in the romance genre. Many will decry the first half of the show as a leading example of the degeneration of romantic anime, but much like the pretty, tall, and long-haired tomboy next door, if you’re patient and give Kanon the attention it deserves, eventually, your efforts will be repaid fourfold.