In the past few years, visual novel adaptations have been flooding the market, like no other time in anime history. Ranging from Navel’s Shuffle!, to Type-Moon’s Fate/Stay Night, and more recently 0verflow’s School Days, the adaptations have had varying success, and while a portion of the otaku fanbase have welcomed the increase in the adaptations of their favourite stories, while others have bemoaned the same change for varying reasons. Of the VN adaptations, however, none have caught as much attention, nor indeed have drawn as much hype, as Kyoto Animation’s adaptations of KEY’s works, from AIR (TV) in 2005, to Kanon (2006) in the Fall 2006 season. Much praise has been heaped upon the small studio located in Kyoto for their dazzling animation, as well as the faithfulness to the storyline of the original VNs, while their growing fame has inevitably brought forth the detractors oblivious to the quality of its works. Whatever the point of view, it is undeniable that the KyoAni VN adaptation hype is set to continue into Fall 2007, with the coming of CLANNAD (TV).
However, unlike in previous seasons, it appears that KyoAni will have some serious competition in Fall 2007; and it comes in the form of SHAFT’s adaptation of ef ~a fairytale of the two~, a VN by the software house minori. With CLANNAD (TV) airing on 5th October, and ef ~a fairytale of the two~ airing on the 7th, Fall 2007 promises to be the season of riches for the VN fan community, while the rest of the fanbase are no doubt hyping themselves over a certain done-to-death mecha series…
Where animation quality is concerned, KyoAni has since made a name for itself with its much-vaunted, and much-deserved, kami-sakuga. CLANNAD (TV) promises more of the same quality that has endeared the studio to its viewers ever since the days of Full Metal Panic! Fumoffu, and it is almost certain to receive more of the same accolades for its customarily exquisite attention to detail. However, from what can be seen of the absolutely beautiful trailer for ef ~a fairytale of the two~, SHAFT has proven to be just as capable in the animation department, able to compete on an equal footing where art direction is concerned; an achievement that few other studios can boast of. Even if it didn’t quite match the breathtaking opening scene of the game itself, SHAFT’s adaptation can certainly stand on its own; with great OSTs from both series, it is certain that viewers of either (or even both) series can expect a feast for the senses.
As for the source material being adapted, it has to be said that KyoAni has always had a habit of seemingly making things difficult for itself by trying to adapt incredibly large scripts into a limited number of episodes; AIR (TV) is a perfectly good example, as is Kanon (2006). While the animation studio has passed the test with high marks both times, if not with flying colours, there’s still some cause for worry amongst the Kagikko as to how the studio is attempting to tackle CLANNAD, a VN with a behemoth of a script that has been purported to dwarf both Kanon’s and AIR’s scripts combined. The rumours flying around have only been encouraged by the fact that, at the time of the writing of this article, KyoAni has yet to reveal the number of episodes that CLANNAD (TV) will eventually be comprised of, and that is a mere five days before the scheduled airing of its debut episode. The fact that KyoAni has always tried to make its adaptation as faithful to the source material as possible, which is the same thing that would be expected of them by the Kagikko, won’t make things any easier for them either, and whether the broadcast run would eventually be 1-, 2-, or even 3-cours, KyoAni clearly faces an uphill task either way. Nevertheless, it would not be the first time the studio would have stacked the odds against themselves, and clearly the studio’s intentions are to overcome the odds once again, to deliver a VN adaptation that would re-define how works of the same genre should be done, just like it had done once with Kanon (2006). Only time can tell if the little studio from Kyoto can keep up their near-perfect track record.
On the other hand, SHAFT doesn’t have to face the same kind of odds; whereas the CLANNAD VN is purported to take a good 100+ hours per playthrough, the ef ~a fairytale of the two~ VN has been purported to require only 10+ hours; such a huge difference, that the anime adaptation has been confirmed to need only 12 episodes (1-cour) for its run. Moreover, the original storyline is the work of Shinkai Makoto, who was responsible for the critically acclaimed Byousoku 5cm; if that is not pedigree, then I don’t know what is. Because of that, ef’s storyline is a linear one revolving around three different couples, thus SHAFT would also avoid the problem that KyoAni has once again brought upon itself; how to rework several different routes in the game, to fit it into the time-starved anime adaptation. So, for all intents and purposes, SHAFT should have an easier time making the ef adaptation into the masterpiece its VN predecessor is supposed to be. If anything, the studio should have even less of a reason to botch ef up, than KyoAni has to botch CLANNAD up. Even though I am confident that SHAFT should rise up to the occasion and deliver, the last thing I would want to see is for this to turn out to be another Sola; starting out full of promise, but fizzling out at the end.
So, for all intents and purposes, the previews of both anime series suggests that both are the must-watches for the season; despite my Kagikko, and my supposedly pro-KyoAni bias, I cannot in good faith claim that ef ~a fairytale of the two~ is sure to fall short compared to the massively hyped CLANNAD (TV), and only time will tell which one turns out to be the better in the end, if indeed a winner has to stand out. In any case, it is not a problem for me, for I will be following both shows for the coming Fall 2007 season, and filling all of you readers in on the latest on both.
Fall season has never looked this good. Ascaloth, out.