Three weeks after the original broadcast on TBS, CLANNAD has finally started its widescreen edition run on BS-i.
Unfortunately for us, BS-i is not the most wonderful of stations, and inferior to its big brother BS-J which actually provides proper high definition video with good sound. Simply comparing image quality between the 4:3 TBS version and the 16:9 BS-i version from the same capper, we find that the BS-i version looks like it’s been covered by a shit filter, losing contrast and colour intensity along with sharpness. If 2ch sources are to be believed, both TBS and BS-i use 128kbps bitrate for sound, so no points won there either.
So what are the benefits of waiting three weeks before watching new CLANNAD episodes? The widescreen edition feels more harmonious, with a better balance cinematographically. Clicking the thumbnails above will show you full screencaps where I’ve merged the TBS version on top of the BS-i version and added two red lines to show what has been cut away. The 4:3 version looks much more cramped, with many scenes leaving a character cut in half. Other scenes entirely exclude surrounding people, which gives an illusion of the school being much less crowded than it really is. This is particularly evident in the shot where Nagisa and Tomoya seem alone in the 4:3 version, but the widescreen shows they’re not. In order to keep important bits on the screen, the 4:3 version uses panning – moving its focus area from left to right – as can be seen in this shot of Sunohara’s dorm room.
If both editions were airing simultaneously, it would be easy to recommend watching the show in widescreen, because I’m fairly confident that with a good encoder and a proper source the image quality issue can be minimized. The reason is simply that KyoAni’s exceptionally beautiful art direction comes through so much better when the entire frame is used as was originally planned. However, you don’t actually miss anything vital when watching the 4:3 version, so if you want to keep up-to-date with online discussions about new episodes, there’s no point in waiting. Except perhaps for the DVD release.