Kanon

Kanon

is a Japanese adult visual novel developed by Key and released on June 4, 1999 for the PC. An all ages version for the PC was released in January 2000, and was later ported to the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable. The Kanon Standard Edition was released for the PC in November 2004 playable as a DVD-ROM in adult and all-ages versions; this version incorporates the few extra graphics added to the earlier all-ages version of the game. Both Standard Editions add support for Windows 2000/XP and other technical changes such as more save slots. Otherwise, the all-ages Kanon Standard Edition is the same as the original all-ages version released for the game.

The gameplay in Kanon follows a linear plot line where the player interacts at predetermined times to choose several options that appear on the screen. The game was developed so that the focus for the player would be an intricate plot and the appeal of the five female main characters. The title is generally believed to be derived from the musical term canon; the second TV adaptation plays on this association by using of Pachelbel's Kanon D-dur, or Canon in D major, as a background piece at certain instances throughout the series.

Kanon has been adapted into light novels, drama CDs, and two anime and manga series. The first anime was a thirteen episode TV series that aired between January and March 2002; this version includes a one episode original video animation, Kazahana, released in May 2003. Both the original anime adaptation and the OVA were produced by the animation studio Toei Animation. The second anime adaptation, created by Kyoto Animation, contained twenty-four episodes and aired in Japan between October 2006 and March 2007 ; this series was first licensed by ADV Films, but the license was transferred to Funimation in July 2008 and is being released in English.

Gameplay

Kanon's gameplay requires little interaction from the player as most of the duration of the game is spent simply reading the text that appears on the game screen which represents either dialogue between the various characters or the inner thoughts of the protagonist. Every so often, the player will come to a "decision point" where he or she is given the chance to choose from multiple options. The time between these decision points is variable and can occur anywhere from a minute to much longer. Gameplay pauses at these points and depending on which choice the player makes, the plot will progress in a specific direction.

There are five main plot lines that the player will have the chance to experience, one for each of the heroines in the story. To view all five plot lines, the player will have to replay the game multiple times and choose different choices during the decision points to progress the plot in an alternate direction. Jun Maeda, who worked on the scenario for Kanon, commented in March 2001 that it may have been due to Kanon's influence on the Japanese public which likened Key to making soothing games, but Maeda affirms that there was not one person who worked on Kanon who thought that. One of the goals of the original version's gameplay is for the player to enable the viewing of hentai scenes depicting Yuichi and one of the five heroines having sexual intercourse. Later, Key released two editions of Kanon without the erotic content. The versions that include the adult content include one explicit sex scene in each of the five main story routes, 50-75% of the way through, excluding one fantasy scene. Outside of these, there are two scenes with nudity which use the same CGs. Yūichi Suzumoto, a scenario writer who worked on later Key titles, commented that the sex scenes in Kanon are very self-contained, and can be easily removed without altering the story. Maeda was asked what he thought if the sex scenes had been written in order to promote human reproduction, but he remarks that it would not work in games like Kanon or Air.

Plot

Setting and themes

There are several important locations featured in the Kanon story that are based on those of the city Moriguchi, Yokohama, Tokyo, and Sapporo, located in Japan. Key have consistently used real world locations as inspiration for their game settings; their later game Air also takes place in a city inspired by a real world location. The location names are seldom mentioned explicitly in their works. The time of year the story occurred in was during winter, and since it often snowed periodically over the course of the entire story, the city was always presented covered in a layer of snow.

There are recurring themes that appear throughout the story. A music theme is present, as the name of the series is generally believed to be based on a classical composition named Canon in D. The episode titles from the 2006-2007 anime have parts in their titles related to music, such as overture and introit. Furthermore, miracles play a large part in the story; Kanon's plot line and characters are influenced by various instances where miracles occur. The act of promising and keeping promises is found throughout the story. Yuichi eventually makes important promises to the five main girls while at the same time fulfilling past promises he had made with them when he used to visit the city as a kid.

One of the sub-themes in the story is amnesia, or the loss of memory; three of the main characters—Yuichi, Ayu and Makoto—suffer from amnesia in varying degrees; this is used as a plot device to advance the story. Another sub-theme deals with the favorite foods of the five main heroines. Newtype USA stated in an article on Kanon that, "it's when the characters are eating something really tasty that they seem most beautiful and alive," despite the somber setting and overall tone of the series. These five foods of choice are: taiyaki (Ayu), strawberries (Nayuki), nikuman (Makoto), ice cream (Shiori), and gyudon (Mai).

Principal characters

The player assumes the role of Yuichi Aizawa, the protagonist of Kanon. He is a cynical seventeen year-old high school student, and is known to play jokes on the girls his age he knows and interacts with throughout the story. Despite this, Yuichi is very loyal and will go to great lengths in order to please others, even at the expense of his own time and money. He generally has a selfless personality and does not ask much from others in return for what he does for them. Ayu Tsukimiya, the main heroine of Kanon, is a short, strange, and mysterious girl immediately recognizable by her winged backpack, red hair band, and tendency to refer to herself with the masculine first-person pronoun . She has a fondness for eating taiyaki, and is notorious for her catch phrase, , which she mutters as an expression of various negative emotions such as frustration, anger, and fear. Yuichi's first cousin Nayuki Minase, another of Kanon's heroines, has been in love with him since childhood, and must learn how to deal with her feelings, especially with the threat that he may fall in love with one of the other girls. Nayuki talks noticeably slower than those around her, and has constant trouble waking up in the morning except on a few occasions when she is up before Yuichi, much to his surprise.

Yuichi is accosted a few days after arriving in the city by Kanon's third heroine Makoto Sawatari, a young girl who has lost her memories, but despite this she is sure that she holds a grudge against Yuichi from when he last visited the city. Makoto has a mischievous side and constantly plays pranks on Yuichi. She has an affinity towards the spring and once wished that it would stay spring forever. Yuichi coincidentally runs into Shiori Misaka, another heroine and first-year high school student suffering from an unexplained illness since birth. Her affliction has caused her to become very physically weak, and she is almost always absent from school because of it. She tries to be strong in the face of her condition, and gets along well with others, even though she does not know very many people her age due to her condition. The fifth and final heroine in Kanon is Mai Kawasumi, a third-year student of the same high school that Yuichi attends. She has a cold attitude towards almost everyone, but despite this, she is actually a very kind and caring person; she "punishes" someone who makes a playful joke about her by giving them a light karate chop to the head.

Story

Kanons story revolves around a group of five girls whose lives are connected to the same boy. Yuichi Aizawa is a second-year high school student who had visited the city where the story takes place seven years prior to Kanon's beginning. The story opens on Wednesday January 6, 1999 when Yuichi arrives in the city and is very detached from the it and its inhabitants. Prior to his return, it is decided that he is to stay with his first cousin, Nayuki Minase, and her mother, Akiko. After his long absence, Yuichi has forgotten almost everything except minor details of what happened seven years before and is in need of being reminded of what he left behind. Nayuki initially tries repeatedly to jog his memory, but is unsuccessful. Throughout the story, as he learns about the supernatural undertones of the city, Yuichi is reminded of the events of seven years ago in the city.

On the day after Yuichi's return, he is out with Nayuki who is showing him around city. Nayuki remembers that she has to buy things for dinner, but Yuichi is reluctant to go into the store with her, arguing that he might get lost. Moments after Nayuki leaves him waiting on the sidewalk, a strange girl named Ayu Tsukimiya barges into him with little warning. Upon recovering, she drags him away to a nearby café and confesses to inadvertently stealing a bag filled with taiyaki after being accidentally scared away by the salesman before she had a chance to pay. Yuichi drags Ayu back to the salesman, where they both apologize for the trouble, and Ayu is forgiven. They decide to meet up again another day and Ayu scampers off. A few days after he has been in the city, Yuichi is accosted by a girl named Makoto Sawatari who has lost her memories, though still remembers that she has a grudge against him from when he last visited the city. After she collapses in the street, he takes her home and learns about her situation. Akiko gives her permission to live with them for the time being, which is against Yuichi's plan to hand her over to the police.

Another girl who is connected to Yuichi's past is Mai Kawasumi who attends his high school as a third-year. She takes it upon herself to fight and defeat demons at night while the school is deserted. Due to this, she is constantly blamed for accidents because she never denies them, being too sincere to say anything and knowing that no one will believe that there are demons in the school. Yuichi coincidentally meets a fifth girl named Shiori Misaka for the first time who he gets to know along with the other four heroines in the story. She has suffered from an unexplained affliction since birth which makes her weak to the point of missing school because of it. Yuichi starts to talk with her more after noticing her in the school courtyard one day. It turn out that Shiori stands outside on the school grounds nearly every day because she wants to meet someone dear to her.

Development

After leaving Tactics under Nexton, most of the team that had been involved with One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e formed the company Key sometime in 1998. Key's first project once under the publishing company Visual Art's was Kanon. The planning for the visual novel was headed by Jun Maeda, and Naoki Hisaya who were also the two writers for the scenario used in the game. Art direction was headed by Key's well-known artist Itaru Hinoue who worked on the character design and computer graphics. Further computer graphics were split between three people—Din, Miracle Mikipon, Shinory—and background art was provided by Torino. The music in the game was composed primarily by OdiakeS and Shinji Orito. After the completion of Kanon, two of the main staff—Naoki Hisaya, and OdiakeS—left Key to pursue a similar line of work in other visual novel studios.

Release history

Kanon was first introduced to the public in Japan on June 4, 1999, playable only for the PC as a CD-ROM. The next year was followed by two separate releases: an all-ages version released on January 7, 2000 and the first consumer console port of the game for the Sega Dreamcast on September 14, 2000. The second consumer port for the PlayStation 2 was released on February 28, 2002, and featured different cover art for the disk case. After the PS2 game sold enough units, two years later, on December 22, 2004, a cheaper version for the PS2 also known as the "Best Version" went on sale for about half the original price.

The Kanon Standard Edition was released on November 26, 2004 with added support for Windows 2000/XP as a DVD-ROM. Only this version and the original release contained pornographic scenes. Three months later, on January 28, 2005, the same game was released with the hentai content removed. A PSP version of the game went on sale in Japan on February 15, 2007. The first release of the PSP version came with a special DVD featuring a message from five of the voice actors and a recompiled opening video from the video game version. The five voice actors on the DVD included: Mariko Kōda as Nayuki Minase, Akemi Satō as Shiori Misaka, Mayumi Iizuka as Makoto Sawatari, Yūko Minaguchi as Akiko Minase, and Tomokazu Sugita as Yuichi Aizawa. Yui Horie as Ayu Tsukimiya voiced the short introduction of the DVD, but was not featured in the contents of the DVD itself. A version playable on FOMA and SoftBank 3G mobile phones was released by Prototype through Visual Art's Motto in May 2007. In the original release, there was no voice acting for the characters, but in the later versions produced for the Dreamcast and PlayStation 2, full-voice acting was included in order to heighten the experience. The only exception was Yuichi, who was not voiced in either version. However, the PlayStation Portable release features voice acting for Yuichi, provided by Tomokazu Sugita.

Adaptations

Light novels

There have been five light novels written by Mariko Shimizu and published by Paradigm which were released in Japan between December 1999 and August 2000. The cover art and internal illustrations were drawn by Itaru Hinoue, the artist who drew the artwork in the visual novel. The basis for each novel was one of each of the five heroines and had titles that were taken from the musical themes pertaining to each character in the original game. The first released was , in December 1999. Later that same month was released becoming the second in the series. The third was released in April 2000 and the fourth novel was entitled The Fox and the Grapes (Makoto), released two months later. The final novel entitled was released in August 2000.

Drama CDs

There are three complete sets of drama CDs based on Kanon, containing five CDs each, for a total of fifteen CDs; these drama CDs were released over the course of three years, between September 29, 2000 and April 26, 2003. The first two sets focused on each heroine separately per CD; the cover of the album would depict which of the girls was to be presented. The third set did not follow this format, but instead were anthology drama CDs which depicted Akiko Minase on the cover of the albums in this set.

Manga

The first Kanon manga was serialized in the Japanese manga magazine Dengeki Daioh on October 21, 2000, running until May 21, 2002. The individual chapters were later collected into two separate volumes published by MediaWorks under their Dengeki Comics label. The story was adapted from the visual novel version that preceded it, and was illustrated by Petit Morishima. There were six chapters in total, three in each volume. Aside from the prologue in volume one and the epilogue in volume two, the other four chapters concern four of the main heroines. From chapters one through four, the main heroines presented are: Shiori Misaka, Makoto Sawatari, Mai Kawasumi and Ayu Tsukimiya. To make up for Nayuki not getting a chapter of her own, the story is altered in that Nayuki is in most of the scenes Yuichi is in. The first manga is different than the visual novel in that Shiori's, Makoto's, and Mai's stories are not told in their entirety. Near the end of each of these girls' stories were originally intended to give the viewer the remaining answers, but the manga version ends these girls' stories prematurely. This was due to the manga putting more focus on Ayu's story.

The second manga, under the main title with the subtitle each regret of Kanon, was serialized between June 29, 2006 and October 20, 2007 in the Japanese manga magazine Dragon Age Pure published by Fujimi Shobo. The story was adapted from the visual novel version that preceded it, and was illustrated by Kinusa Shimotsuki. The first bound volume was released in Japan on April 1, 2007 and focused on Nayuki's story. There were five chapters in volume one, starting with a forty-six-page chapter one, followed by two smaller extra chapters twelve pages long each. Chapter four was forty pages long, followed by a six page epilogue. The second bound volume was released on December 8, 2007 and focuses on the other four heroines. There are four chapters in volume two, one for each of the other heroines not featuring in volume one, starting with Makoto's thirty-eight-page chapter, followed by Mai's with eighteen pages, Shiori's with twenty, and finally Ayu's with forty-eight pages.

There have also been many releases of manga anthologies produced by different companies and drawn by a multitude of different artists. The first volume of the earliest anthology series, released by Ichijinsha under the title Kanon Comic Anthology, was released on November 25, 2000 under their DNA Manga Comics label. Volumes for this series continued to be released for another two years, ending on December 26, 2002 with the fourteenth volume; an additional fifteenth volume was released later on February 24, 2006. Ichijinsha also released two more volumes of anthology collections of four-panel comic strips entitled Kanon 4-koma Kings on April 25, 2001 and June 25, 2001. The second anthology was released in a single volume by Softgarage on December 20, 2002 entitled Kanon Anthology Comic. On April 17, 2004, Ohzora released an anthology comprising of works based on both Kanon and Air entitled Haru Urara: Kanon & Air. Between April 17, 2004 and August 18, 2004, Ohzora also released five separate volumes of manga based on Kanon drawn by five separate artists. Ohzora later collected some of the previously published manga anthologies into two volumes entitled Kanon Anthology Comics Best Selection released on December 26, 2006 and January 31, 2007. Additionally, Ohzora released another thirteen volumes of an anthology series entitled Kanon under their Twin Heart Comics label. The now-bankrupt published Raporto also released sixteen manga anthology volumes entitled Kanon under their Raporto Comics label. The last manga anthology, a collection of four-panel comic strips released in a single volume by Enterbrain entitled Magi-Cu 4-koma Kanon, was released on January 29, 2007 under their MC Comics label. Each of the anthology series are written and drawn by an average of twenty people per volume.

Anime

There are two different anime adaptations of Kanon. The first series adaptation in 2002 lasted thirteen episodes, followed by a single original video animation in 2003. In 2006, the Kanon anime series was completely remade and lasted twenty-four episodes.

The first Kanon anime was made by the Japanese animation studio Toei Animation and aired in Japan between January 31, 2002, and March 28, 2002 spanning a total of thirteen episodes. Later, a single original video animation entitled Kanon Kazahana was released on May 3, 2003. The original anime used the songs "florescence" and "flower" for the opening and ending themes respectively. While it did not appear as the ending theme in the first twelve episodes or in the OVA, the game's ending theme "Where the Wind Reaches" was used as the ending theme for the series in episode thirteen. Additionally, the game's opening theme "Last regrets" is played near the end of episode thirteen during the flashback scene.

Starting in 2006, Kyoto Animation, the animators of another Key game-turned-anime, Air, decided to animate a new adaptation of Kanon. This 2006-2007 version aired between October 5, 2006 and March 15, 2007 on the Japanese television broadcasting station BS-i, containing twenty-four episodes. In a magazine published interview, studio producers stated that the primary reason for considering animating another Kanon anime was largely in part due to Kyoto's Air anime being well-received by viewers. In the second episode of Air, in fact, the studio procured the rights and the original voice actors to give Ayu, Nayuki and Makoto a cameo as Kano Kirishima's school friends. Consequently, Kyoto Animation received numerous phone calls from viewers expressing their desire for the studio to animate Kanon. ADV Films announced on September 21, 2007 at the Anime Weekend Atlanta anime convention that they have officially licensed the second Kanon anime series. ADV had previously posted a trailer for the series in August 2007, but was soon taken offline once the news had been spread on the Internet. The first English-dubbed episode was made available via streaming online at Anime News Network between December 23, 2007 and December 30, 2007. In July 2008, the licensing rights of the second Kanon anime were transferred from ADV to Funimation Entertainment who will continue to produce the series in North America.

The second TV Kanon animation features the same voice acting cast as the original version released in 2002, with the exception of Yuichi and Kuze. This version is longer at twenty-four episodes instead of the previous thirteen, and has updated animation quality. Unlike the first anime, the actual theme songs from the Kanon game are used for the second anime's opening theme, ending theme and soundtrack. There is one song featured as an insert song in episode sixteen that did not come from the visual novel. It was entitled "Last regrets -X'mas floor style-" from I've Sound's first album Regret. Other songs are used from the arrange albums released over the years, which include Anemoscope, Recollections, Re-feel, and Ma-Na.

Music

The visual novel has two main theme songs, the opening theme "Last regrets", and the ending theme , both sung by Ayana. The lyrics for both songs were written by Jun Maeda, and arranged by Takase Kazuya of I've Sound. The five heroines have background music theme songs. Ayu's theme is ; Nayuki's theme is ; Makoto's theme is "The Fox and the Grapes"; Shiori's theme is ; lastly, Mai's theme is .

The first music album released was Anemoscope which came bundled with the original release of Kanon in June 1999. The next release was a single, "Last regrets / Place of wind which arrives", which contained the opening and ending themes plus arranged versions of three background music tracks and a male vocal version of the opening theme. A compilation album containing tracks from the two albums was released in December 2001 called Recollections. The game's original soundtrack was released in October 2002 containing twenty-two different tracks along with short versions of the two theme songs. A piano arrange album was released in December 2003 called Re-feel which contained five tracks from Kanon and five from Air. Excluding the first two albums, each of the albums released for the visual novel version were released on Key's record label Key Sounds Label; this is due to the first two albums being released before the label was formed.

The first anime's first original soundtrack was released in May 2002, and a second followed in July 2002. The first anime's opening theme was "Florescence" and the ending theme was "Flower", both sung by Miho Fujiwara; the maxi single containing the anime's opening and ending themes was released in June 2002. An album containing music box arranged tracks of music from the first anime was released in July 2003 called Orgel de Kiku Sakuhin Shū. The albums released for the first anime were produced by Frontier Works and Movic. A single was released in commemoration for the second anime called "Last regrets / Kaze no Tadoritsuku Basho" which contained the game's original opening and ending themes in original, short, and remixed versions; the album was produced by Key Sounds Label.

Reception and sales

"Kanon was considered by many as the best PC bishōjo game of 1999." The first PS2 release in 2002 was reviewed by the Japanese video game magazine Famitsu. The game received an overall score of 29/40 (out of the four individual review scores of 7, 8, 7, and 7). The Kanon Standard Edition was positively reviewed at visual-novels.net, commenting: "From the amazingly beautiful opening of the game, through the long storyline for each character, to the wonderfully upbeat ending, this game is a marvel. Yūichi Suzumoto commented in an interview in March 2001 that he felt the end of Kanon's story could be summed up as "the prince and princess live happily ever after. The end," resulting in an ending that does not expand on what could possibly happen afterwards. In the October 2007 issue of Dengeki G's Magazine, poll results for the fifty best bishōjo games were released. Out of 249 titles, Kanon ranked fifth with seventy-one votes.

According to a national ranking of how well bishōjo games sold nationally in Japan, the original Kanon release for the PC premiered at number two in the ranking. Three years later in June 2002, the original release ranked in again at forty-five, and then again at forty-six the following two weeks. The original release also made the ranking after that at number forty-one in early July 2002. The Kanon Standard Edition premiered at number sixteen in the rankings. The Kanon Standard Edition remained on the top fifty list for the next two months, achieving the rankings of forty-seven and thirty-five. The all-ages version of the Kanon Standard Edition premiered at number forty-two on the national ranking, went up to thirty-five the next month, and did not appear on the rankings after that. The Dreamcast port sold 42,379 units in the first week and was the fourth top selling console game in Japan for that week. The Dreamcast version sold 49,047 units in total and is ranked the fifty-seventh highest selling Japanese Dreamcast game. Kanon was the seventh highest selling bishōjo game of 1999 selling 39,683 units, and since then, Kanon has sold over 300,000 units, not counting the PSP release.

Characters from Kanon have appeared in several dōjin games not directly based on the Kanon series such as the Eternal Fighter Zero game by Twilight Frontier where most of the playable characters either came from Kanon or from an earlier Key game entitled One. The dōjin game Glove on Fight featured at least two Kanon characters: Ayu Tsukimiya and Akiko Minase in a fighting style game along with various other characters taken from other media. The character Ayu Tsukimiya in particular is known to be extremely popular, and "has had more appearances outside of the original Kanon than any other anime or H-game character ever."

Five days before the first PS2 release for Kanon, a PlayStation 2 printer called Tapis MPR-505 went on sale which enabled the user to print out game screens. Kanon was one of the three games supported at launch, the other two being America Ōden Ultra Quiz from DigiCube and Marle de Jigsaw from Nippon Ichi Software.

References

External links

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