Now that the bookclub has up and started, it's time to get discussion rolling! I started reading this pretty close to the time it was released (instead of waiting for the bookclub to start) because reasons but because life kind of interrupted, I had to postpone my reading for 2 weeks or so. That being said, I finished the "Tomoya Arc" a few months ago, so let's hope my memories still remain fresh for this discussion.
The main cast is built up of the 5 that spend their time in Tomoya's apartment. I notice a lot of people are discussing and comparing their personalities so I thought I'd just give my own two cents on them.
I feel like Tomoya is a pretty believable personality continuing on from Tomoyo's route in Clannad. While the Tomoya in other routes in Clannad is totally different, I can believe his personality here being hardworking, trying his utmost to make himself better for his own and Tomoyo's sake, plus being a bit of a pervert.
Tomoyo, I think, got the best treatment in terms of characterization. Her flaws are made bare in this VN, and these flaws (her being headstrong and pushy) are put into much more emphasis in the VN. She no longer feels like a character that everyone in the story would blindly support, and the addition of Tomoya, Takafumi and Kanako, who all go against her at one point or another, makes her feel more human.
Takafumi is a pretty cool character and very level-headed albeit pretty stubborn. His character, by itself, is not interesting, but I like him either way. Always nice to see a straight man in these stories.
Kanako is just hilarious. She's like Haruka (same VA, too!) but with a lot more crude jokes and pranks. Despite all this, she has this innocence to her that makes you realize that none of her jokes are really meant in offense; she just has a weird way of thinking. And I think that's fun to see.
Tomo is just precious. Not only does she have the innocence becoming of a toddler, but she is also pushy about this innocence, and while it adds in to the humor at times, it also offers perspective to the adult characters, who have gotten more cynical over the years.
Arguably, the story really only starts after the opening sequence. The whole costume perversion thing is something that can be ignored and skipped (just as much as the continuous H-scenes in its original version could) without losing any bearing on the story. Can't say I wasn't entertained by it, though!
Tomo arrives and it hits a pretty dark spot real fast. Yes, Tomoyo's father has an illegitimate child. Not only is it something heavy, its also believable. Tomoyo deciding to raise her like that, despite Tomoya being more objectionable (trying to find her mother and everything) shows absolutely everything about their personalities well enough. Tomoya even knows that Tomoyo may not be able to control herself once confronted with Tomo's mother, as is shown by the choice in the middle of this arc.
We then go into meeting Kanako, more hilarity ensues, and then Tomoya finds out some thugs are out to get Tomoyo and takes it upon himself to beat the shit out of them. With the help of Kanako, he succeeds. The message of this arc is pretty clear-cut; Tomoya needs to improve himself to make himself a man worthy of loving Tomoyo. Regardless of whether he is that kind of person at the beginning, he does it through not only perseverance, but through appreciating his connections with other people (namely, Kanako and Takafumi). The story tells us that we should never take the easy but wrong way out, because we will fail to learn from this experience. However, we should not be afraid of humbling ourselves and asking for help from those willing to do so.
However, I feel that the story does not make this believable enough. Tomoya beats a bunch of thugs, day after day, then suddenly, after beating some crazy dude, they decide that it is enough. Yes, he is rewarded for his hardwork, but I honestly feel like this reward is not quite believable. Thus the impact of the message somewhat cheapens. Yes, if we work hard enough, good things will happen. But that being in the form of our adversaries simply just getting tired and giving up seems too hard a pill for me to swallow.
That being said, I gave this arc a 3/5. As much as I enjoyed the introduction of the characters and the "common" route, the crux of the arc had enough flaws for me to not consider it up to par. At the least, it set up some really really good themes that I personally thought are brought up again later in the story.