Having started watching anime in 2009, I never left the comfort zone of the “big 3” until 2012, when I watched Sword Art Online, my first “shorter anime”. About a month after I watched SAO, I had decided to watch my first drama anime, since I wanted to see how I would like the genre. I disliked it for the most part outside of the anime medium, so I wasn’t too confident. The anime I chose for this purpose was Angel Beats, and it was the show that became my “gateway anime”, the anime that taught me just how amazing this medium can be. It paved the way for many of the non-shounen entries in my list, and is still an anime I hold dear to heart to this day, almost 3 years later. At this point, I did not know what “Key” was, and I took Angel Beats as an individual work.
Around 2 months later, I decided to watch an anime that had been recommended to me ever since I got into the medium. Indeed. It was the very well-known Clannad. When I watched it, I couldn’t believe what I had seen. It was the first time a fiction work managed to draw an emotional reaction out of me that was so powerful that it actually made me cry. Considering I am a pretty emotionless guy, I never expected fiction of all things to actually change me in that regard. Even though I definitely need to rewatch it at this point in time, I have no doubts that I will enjoy it just the same, even if I might have some mixed feelings for the ending.
In the following months (first half of 2013), I started talking with a lot of Key fans, and they all told me I should try the visual novel medium, the source material of all Key works. Seeing how I had loved both Angel Beats and Clannad, I thought I’d give a try to the most acclaimed work by their author – Little Busters. My experience with LB, as my first VN, was very similar to Clannad, and once again I found myself crying in awe during Refrain, its true route. It became one of my favorite works, and like the other two, it’s still a work I hold very dear to this day. Yes, like Clannad, it’s a work I look back to the ending and think it could have been better, but that doesn’t change the fact that it managed to deliver a great story with very well written characters. After reading LB, I decided to read Clannad’s VN, and while I didn’t enjoy it as much as I could’ve, mostly due to my anime bias, it was still a worthwhile experience.
So at this point I had seen/read the three most popular Key works for the general audience. In May 2013, I thought I’d dig a bit deeper, and I found Kanon (the 2006 version). While it did not give me the same feelings that Refrain and Afterstory did, I was amazed at how it still had that Key feeling I came to love so much in both of those works. It was shorter in length, and definitely didn’t pack the same punch emotionally, but heck I loved it back then, and having rewatched it last year, I can safely say I still like it a lot. Unfortunately, I never really got into the visual novel, simply because I ended up being content with my anime experience. Whether I will one day read this visual novel or not, who knows. It’s on my “List of things to do before dying” though. Sometime later in 2013, I also ended up playing a minor visual novel by Key called “Planetarian”, which was very appealing to me due to having a post-apocalyptic setting. While on a smaller scale, it felt like a Key work at its finest, especially by the end, and it really showed me how sometimes even a 3 hour-long work can be so good.
My Key journey went through a very rough time in the summer of 2013, when I watched Air. Air still had some great moments, but it was too short and unlike the previous works, I never really got emotionally attached to the characters, there just wasn’t enough time for anything. Fortunately, this bad memory was erased half a year later, when the visual novel got a fully functional translation, and I was able to read it. My experience with the visual novel was completely different from the anime this time around, as the source material was actually written in a way where it’s very unlikely that you won’t be emotionally attached to the main characters by the time the true route hits. And let me tell you, that ending hit me LIKE A TRUCK. It was the moment I cried the most to this day, and one that will haunt me forever. Indeed, Air went from being my “black sheep of Key” to my second favorite Key work in a matter of 6 months thanks to the visual novel.
However, what’s my favorite Key work to this date? After finishing Little Busters and Clannad in the visual novel medium, I began reading Rewrite. It is considered to be the most “controversial” Key work because of how different it is from the others. While most Key works belong to the Nakige genre (visual novels focused on bringing out emotions from the viewer), Rewrite was very different, and for the first time, the lead writer of Key, Jun Maeda, was not involved in this project. My first attempt with Rewrite was in spring 2013, and I ended up dropping it in the middle of the common route. Yes, that common route still gives me nightmares to this day… Some months later I tried picking it up again, but failed yet again. It wasn’t until November of the same year that I picked up Rewrite and decided to give it a serious chance. I consider this to have been the best decision I’ve made so far regarding anime/visual novels. After the painfully slow common route, what the work has to offer is some amazing heroine routes that worked really nicely as standalones (unlike most other Key works that relied on the true route), plus a couple of really complex true routes, that did have their problems throughout, but were very, VERY enjoyable regardless. Rewrite ended up becoming not only my favorite Key work, but my favorite piece of fiction even today.
And now, in 2015, I find myself eagerly awaiting the next visual novel by Key, the Angel beats VN adaptation… indeed, it’s finally happening! My anime taste has changed a lot over the years, I went from liking Sword Art Online to loving Legend of the Galactic Heroes, and I became much more open-minded about stuff in general during these 3 years, but even in the face of my constant changes, one fact still persists: I am still a Key fan, now and forever. Yes, Key’s drama is wish fulfillment for the most part, it uses supernatural elements to fix some of the characters’ problems, and they use reset endings which aren’t always the best way to go at it. But guess what, those flaws do not make me like it ANY less. I believe that a true Key fan is someone who can still say “I love Key” while admitting to the problems in its works, and thus I consider myself one. The world will change a lot in coming years, and heck I will most certainly change a lot as well, but my inner Key Fan… that will never change.