Clannad is part of a large franchise that includes visual novels, light novels, manga, drama CDs, and the anime that I’m currently watching.
This does make me wonder if I’m running into a “Sometimes More Is More” scenario where familiarity with the base story is assumed, and explanatory details omitted.
However this has clearly been kept to a minimum, if it is happening at all. There are some unexplained elements, but the story has stood on its own well enough so far.
Speaking of which, it looks like Clannad isn’t going to be one story but several. The first few episodes introduce the two lead characters Tomoya Okazaki and Nagisa Furukawa, and establish the basics of their “not really a relationship”.
This calls back to the visual novel origin of the series where there would be multiple paths through the game; the scriptwriters have chosen one path and established that as the bridge between the stories of the other characters.
It is worth noting that Tomoya’s façade of only acting out of boredom starts wearing out its welcome fairly quickly, as does the high pitched “childish” voices affected by several of the female characters .
The remainder of the first nine episodes deal with the story of Fuko  Ibuki. Fuko’s tale is interesting, delivers an emotionally effective ending , but is perhaps a touch too long at six episodes.
Despite one dubious moment of Gainaxing in the opening credits, the fanservice has also been light to non-existent.
There are also some fascinating hints of things yet to be revealed in the opening, and I do admit that the opening is leaving me curious at the moment.
It is hard to pin down why I’m so ambiguous about Clannad. It has been good enough to keep me coming back one episode at a time, but not good enough to make me blitz through it.
The Interim Verdict
So far I’m rating Clannad as “worth watching once”, and I’ll keep going for the moment. The biggest concern is whether my interest will depend on the side stories rather than the “not really a relationship” between Tomoya and Nagisa.
I’ll finish up with the oddly cute end credits: