Welcome to my super late entry into the Kanon (2006) AniTwitWatches shindig. AniTwitWatches is a community-centric anime watching event that is hosted and ran by Jon Spencer of Jon Spencer Reviews. Folx vote on an anime to watch and we all see it as a community and share our thoughts and musings, usually on a Monday. If you want more information, please check out Jon’s Info page here.
Kanon (カノン) is a 2006 anime adaptation of a shōnen romance visual novel produced by studio Kyoto Animation with twenty-four total episodes. There’s an earlier anime that was made in 2002 by Toei Animation, but for the purposes of this watching event, we’re all checking out the 2006 version, which is streaming on Funimation.
Please note, I shall be sharing my thoughts on Kanon as I watch, two or three episodes at a time, so if my musings here feel slightly disjointed at times, that is why. I wanted my reactions and thoughts to be unfiltered and unedited here.
The anime follows a dude named Yūichi who moves into a home with his cousin and aunt after not having seen them for a handful for years, and begins to attend the local high school there. He doesn’t remember anything from the last time he visited them due to some strange sort of amnesia. The more that he resides in town and the more people he bumps into, the more of Yūichi’s absent memories start to come back to him in bits and pieces.
My first impressions of the series based off episodes one and two is that everyone is a moron in their own way and that thus far the series feels like a very standard harem without the unnecessary gratuitous fan service nonsense. It’s much more slice-of-life focused. The animation and artistic style is quite reminiscent of Clannad, which is another visual novel adaptation. I remember thoroughly enjoying Clannad when I first saw it years ago, so even though everything felt very average here, I feel on some level that I would like it eventually.
The things that I noticed initially is how irritated Yūichi gets with his cousin, Nayuki. I’ll admit that she can be pretty annoying, so there were no complaints from me on that part. I also really like his sass and sarcasm. He delivers it with such a straight face that it reminds me so much of Madame Gabs. That sort of stoic manner just adds to the amusement for me and shows us that while Yūichi can feel like a stuck-up dude, he’s actually got a decent sense of humour, one that I suspect (and hope) shall get him into a lot of trouble as the series moves onwards.
The last thing that I found to be rather intriguing from the first two segments was Yūichi’s spontaneous coffee date with a girl, Ayu, that literally slammed into him on the sidewalk. The song playing in the background was Canon in D Pachelbel, which is a common Western wedding song. I kind of wondered if this was some sort of on-the-nose romantic foreshadowing.
In episodes three and four, we are introduced to a few more characters, most of them are girls and most of them have issues with amnesia or are very ambiguous all around. The running theme of everyone having memory problems makes me ponder at a few different possibilities. Is there a curse that’s plaguing the people of this town? Is there a supernatural being that is messing with folx’ memories because they a) haven’t realised they are dead or b) have unfinished business and aren’t ready to move on from, thus everyone else is stuck in a manner of speaking? Are the people with memory issues connected or is it just some supremely random fucking thing?
I like that the series is making me question everything, particularly the seemingly random-as-fuck elements (e.g.: the girl with a katana who hangs out in school at night to hunt potential demons) because it means that I’m getting invested in what is happening and genuinely want to know the truth behind the mystery of it all. It sneak attacked me, this level of interest I’ve developed, as I was really rather apathetic about Kanon when I began. Plus, each episode title is correlated to classical music in one form or another while also providing a subtle hint at the episode’s content. The attention to detail there, combined with the musical choices in a couple of the segments, are all contributing heavily to my growing fascination and curiosity.
In episode five and six, we watch Makoto (one of the girls with full blown amnesia that has no idea who she is, that also happens to be residing with Yūichi and Nayuki due to plot things) and Yūichi interact more in a playful and mischievous manner. The chemistry between them is developing quite gradually, which I appreciate. They’re constantly picking on one another. At first glance it seems they may be enemies, but really I think pulling pranks on Yūichi all the time helps Makoto to forget (ironically) that she’s essentially homeless and identity-less.
Yūichi also treats Makoto in a very paternal manner, scolding her for spending grocery money on manga or for taking a prank one step too far into dangerous territory. He seems to have this impact on most of the girls in the series, but it’s more intimate with Makoto. It makes me feel like he’s a big brother watching over a younger sister, which could make the romance qualities very complicated. I’m having such conflicted feelings about their relationship, honestly speaking. Like I’m not sure if I should root for them to kiss or not because I don’t want to accidentally cheer for something possibly incestuous. The ambiguity due to the memory losses and mysteries of everyone’s backgrounds can feel pretty chaotic, yet I’m enjoying that chaos, which is definitely strange.
Episode seven made me want to punch Makoto. In the segment, she muses about being alone and being forced into a situation where you learn to survive, or you die. During that conversation, she drops a kitten who has taken a liking to her onto oncoming traffic from an overpass bridge. Luckily, the kitten manages to survive, but I was so fucking fuming. My jaw dropped with rage. I am a bonafide cat human. I’m obsessed with them; I’ve even rescued four of them. So, to witness such an irresponsible act of negligence and abuse was infuriating. I respected Yūichi for yelling and berating the shite out of her because she needed to understand what she did was damn cruel. Honestly, if the cat had died, I would’ve dropped the series. I drop books for similar reasons.
While I’m still angry at Makoto and I shall probably hate her from this point moving forward (I know she ended up saving the kitty, but she still never should’ve done what she did), the things that she had to say about feeling lost and alone, particularly with her condition, was evocative. It puts her behaviour into perspective in many ways. Her constant need for attention and acting out roguishly so she can feel validated and wanted, like someone cares enough to parent her, gives her character more much more depth.
Even with these lessons and wholesomeness, or maybe because of the nourishing family dynamics, I can’t help but feel like a shite storm is coming for Yūichi and the other characters, but especially for him. Everything is too merry and happy-go-lucky. That rarely ends well. I’ve been warned that the series starts to take a less light-hearted turn once we encroach onto episode ten, so the next three instalments shall be seen with a small level of anxiety for me.
Episode eight reveals quite a lot about Makoto and morsels of Yūichi’s past as it may pertain to her. I expected some of it, such as her not being exactly what she seems to be and her connection to our male protagonist, but there’s also some stuff I wasn’t expecting at all. I’m also starting to feel like this show is going to sucker-punch my feels when I least expect it to. Even with all of these attributes, my biggest concern is for the cat that Makoto takes in. I sincerely hope Piro doesn’t die or get lost because that would be the worst thing to happen (obviously, my priorities are top-notch). I’m curious as to how everyone else plays into what is going on and who may be involved or influenced by what was revealed here. We haven’t seen Ayu in a while, for example, and her absence along with the absence of other girls has me questioning their involvement in the narrative and what that involvement means as a whole.
Episode nine was the absolute hardest for me to watch. It hit so unbelievably close to home that I sat in my chair after it ended and just felt so incredibly emotional. In this segment, Makoto’s condition starts to unravel a bit as the facets that are keeping her alive and able to spent time with Yūichi and his family begin to dissipate slowly. As a result, she falls into an excessively childlike demeanour. Yūichi confides in his aunt and cousin about what is happening with Makoto and then takes time off from school to spend with her as she further deteriorates.
I’ve never spoken of my own condition to anyone aside from Madame Gabs, but I have a mental health condition in which my mind is slowly reverting to a childlike state. I still maintain my intelligence and all of that, but one day my mannerisms and behaviour shall become wholly childlike, akin to a five- or six-year-old, and there’s very little to nothing that can be done about it. In fact, this is already started happening to me more and more frequently. As a result, I need to live with a caretaker for the rest of my life. I’m fortunate enough to have a loving companion like Madame Gabs, who means more to me than she’ll ever know. But watching this segment was like watching a part of my own life, a very personal and very difficult chunk of a possible future and it basically knocked my emotions out from right under me.
It can be so difficult to try and communicate when one falls into a state of mind that cannot fully express their thoughts or feelings; to have difficulty even understanding what one is experiencing themselves at times. It’s even harder on loved ones who have to witness and support these folx. So, watching Makoto become this way made me feel a variety of reactions. Losing her cat Piro also exasperated all of it, I’m sure, as she has such strong feelings towards abandonment and with Piro gone, she maybe feeling like she’s being discarded all over again, or in some way she may feel like she’s letting Piro down (Piro hasn’t died, only disappeared from the house… that we know of so far).
Now that I understand what is going on with her, I don’t dislike or hate her as much as I did (which in my defence was mostly because of what happened with Piro). The parental vibe that was established between Makoto and Yūichi makes a ton of more sense now. There’s a lot of little details too that are starting to connect and flesh out the tale and relationship between them. It is very heart-breaking to see and there’s still fourteen episodes left! I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to make it to the end if I’m already such a hot mess.
Suffice to say that so far I’m really enjoying Kanon a lot more than I thought I would. There’s stuff here to unpack that I never expected and the surprises along the way, both good and bad, have created a rather rewarding watching experience. I’m only slightly bitter about the fact that this is turning into a tragedy as I most definitely was not prepared for that in any shape or form (silly given the similarities that this shares with Clannad).
If you’re interested in watching this series, as I mentioned earlier, it is available for streaming on Funimation, in both dubbed and subbed versions. Just a brief FYI: even though it says 2002 on the Funimation website, the anime is the 2006 version, not the 2002 one.