I started rewatching Clannad last week. I’ve viewed my favorite episodes of the series multiple times, but I’ve only made my way through the show in its entirety once. Based mostly on those particular episodes, my opinion of the series has risen over the years, and though I remembered thinking that it was often clunky when I first watched it, I assumed a rewatching would justify my elevated rating of the series. It hasn’t – not so far. Clannad is pretty and emotional and audacious…and clunky. I realize that if I’m going to complete this second-go-around, it won’t be easy (though the prize, I think, is worth the effort).
I used to rewatch shows all the time. When I first became an anime fan, I would watch the same series and movies over and over and over: Evangelion, Tenchi Muyo, Trigun, Princess Mononoke, Rurouni Kenshin. I’d memorize every bit of dialogue in those shows, and I can still pull out an article about any one of them just because I knew them so intimately. But these days, I rarely revisit these or other shows; there are just too many series available. I’d rather even watch new, mediocre shows than go back to my favorites.
I don’t think I’m alone. My guess is that while many of you probably have your “go to” selection of series that you’ll return to, the vast majority of your viewing is in “first time” watching. Experiencing the new is more worthy, it seems, than re-experiencing the past. While there’s worth is looking at the artistic integrity of some great series, like the storytelling of Wolf’s Rain or music of Kids on the Slope, or certainly in developing new content from some familiar series, like a blog post or school report, the choice between past and present seems clear.
But for its foibles, I feel like Clannad is teaching me that maybe newer isn’t the better choice. When I rewatched the first episode of Clannad, and in particular the scenes involving Nagisa, I got that feeling in my heart – you know, the one that twists you a little, makes you emotional, turns you a little sad, and even threatens to squeeze out some tears. “But wait!” I thought to myself. “I’m not supposed to feel this way for another forty-five episodes!”
It’s true that I’ll never again be surprised by what happens in After Story – or by the last episode of Cowboy Bebop, or magic of Spirited Away, or addictiveness of The Perfect Insider. But I can feel the nostalgia I associated with those shows and relive a bit of what it was like to view them for the first time, long ago, but with the knowledge and excitement that what’s to come will deliver, because I won’t waste my time rewatching shows that I don’t find wonderful. This is in contract to how I approach new series, with a hope that they’ll turn out great, but no promise that they will.
I’m glad I felt that little shaking in my heart during episode one. It took me to a place in time when I was younger and less busy and more excited about anime. For a moment – and maybe for many moments in the next 52 episodes – I’ll remember the experience of who I used to be. And though perhaps less significant than viewing a photo or reading through a yearbook, I’m receiving the added benefit of entertainment, 22 minutes of story and animation in each episode as I enjoy myself in the now while reminiscing about myself in the past.
And while I can’t live there, I can’t deluge myself totally in nostalgia – I don’t have the time for it nor would I want to – I can slow down sometimes and remember how I used to be, which I think helps me become a better me now. Just as I would be missing something if I get too caught up in the ride of current shows, I miss the profound potential to love those around me more, to see people with kinder eyes if I relax, remember, and refix my gaze. The past then becomes something not just left to memories, but something better – that which reminds me of where I was while resisting the temptation to move back there, or even to stay fixed where I am now.