[VN] Kanon

KanonRelease: 1999 (KEY)
Writers: Hisaya Naoki (Ayu, Nayuki, Shiori); Maeda Jun (Makoto, Mai)
Japanese difficulty: Easy
English: NDT & Haeleth
(7.82); EGS (7.98)


Who is Hisaya Naoki (久弥直樹) and why is Maeda Jun, and not him, the main writer of KEY right now? Most of KEY’s visual novels are mixed bags of momentarily flashes of Maeda’s brilliance and walls of boring text written by a bunch of hacks. How come, then, that it’s Maeda’s parts that look shoddy in comparison in Kanon? KEY, can you please get that Hisaya guy back?

Kanon follows the daily life of Aizawa Yuuichi as he moves to his relatives house in a town of perpetual winter. There he meets a whole bunch of eccentric girls, each of whom are hiding a secret that is at least partially related to the dreamy supernatural nature of the town.

Though, as per usual to KEY works, the eccentricity level of all heroines is right there with mental hospital inhabitants, most of them are absolutely charming and their weirdness only adds to their appeal (except for Makoto in whose route you seriously feel like you are romancing a retarded child). The nearly self-destructive antics of Ayu make the script itself overflow with energy whenever she’s on screen; while, contrastingly, the lethargic demeanor of Nayuki adds a good measure of relaxing humor to the affair. Makoto’s constantly backfiring attempts to prank Yuuichi are always hilarious; and so is the, otherwise cool and collected, Mai’s obsession with food and animals. Finally, Shiori, who seemingly starts as a mysterious ditz, not only turns out to be the most mature but also has, probably, the darkest back-story of the whole cast.

The plot sucks you in pretty much from the get-go with constant humorous situations that are genuinely funny, and text that flows very well. Ironically, I enjoyed the humorous set-pieces at the beginning even more than the actual serious bits of the individual routes.

The stories written by Hisaya, while not overly ambitious or mind-blowing, are heartfelt and well paced. The somewhat forced dramatic turn in Nayuki’s route is a bit ridiculous, but both Ayu and Shiori offer fairly well thought-out, engrossing, tear-jerking stories. They might not be the pinnacle of romance fiction, in fact, the attempts at romance are fairly weak, as per usual to KEY, but they are beautiful stories about growing up, fickle beauty of life and heartfelt friendship.

Meanwhile, the routes written by Maeda are poorly paced with needless digressions, and nearly ruined by their ludicrous fantasy elements and suspension of disbelief shattering twists. By the end of her route, despite liking her initially, I couldn’t treat Makoto’s character seriously, while the last few scenes of Mai’s route, which actually has a fairly good psychological twist, suddenly rewrite the back-story of both of our leads, effectively making it impossible to treat anything on the screen seriously anymore. Maeda tries to be more ambitious than Hisaya, but, in the end, only succeeds at self-destructing by the clunky way he goes around at establishing his ideas. Though again, it took him until Clannad to actually get the good sense of balance between fantasy/realism and Little Busters to truly implement it well, so I wasn’t expecting anything else from one of his earliest works.

All in all, I might be sixteen years late playing Kanon in 2015, but it holds up surprisingly well (no thanks to Maeda Jun), and is an entertaining, heartfelt drama that is accessible to pretty much any reader not instantly turned off by melancholic works.

Positive: Negative:
Cozy, dreamy atmosphere Sluggish pace (Maeda)
Beautiful dreamy music Phony, inexplicable amnesia plot device
Eccentric, charming characters A couple of ridiculous magical plot points break immersion (Maeda)
Good pace (Hisaya) Supposed “romance” comes off more like friendship than actual love
Genuinely funny humor Ultimately simplistic and forgettable
Curious magical mysteries
A couple of good emotional scenes

4 thoughts on “[VN] Kanon

  1. I was honestly a bit surprised that you just recently read Kanon. Seeing as Kanon is the only work by KEY that I really liked, I completely agree that they should get back Hisaya Naoki.

    Also, even as a fan of the Visual Novel, I must admit that I actually preferred the 2006 anime adaptation.


    1. Haha, yeah, even back when I started reading VNs (~2005) Kanon already was considered ancient and I kinda never got around to check it out since KEY’s stuff never really was my thing. I’m glad I did though, I liked Hisaya’s upbeat text a lot better than anything I’ve seen from that company so far, short of LB’s refrain, I guess.

      I should get around and check the anime one day too, keep hearing good things about it. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had known Key for a while and played their games, but I liked the 2006 anime a lot, and just watched through it last Christmas.

        The visual novel is another thing. I picked it up after the anime and read only the routes that appealed to me, namely Makoto, Ayu and Shiori. Even seeing your point of an idiotic tsundere that’s hard to empathize with because of (spoiler…), I kind of took a liking to Makoto. Her slow “fading away” was very Maedaish, but it’s sad. Shiori and Ayu are more like the real thing, can’t decide on one.

        And, whomever wrote and arranged “Fireworks of winter” is a true genius.


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