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Visual novel
Developer Key
Publisher Visual Art's (Windows)

NEC Interchnnel (DS, PS2),
Prototype PSP, FOMA, S3G)

Platform Windows, DC, PS2, PSP, FOMA, S3G, Android
Genre Eroge, Visual novel
Mode Single-player
Rating 18+ (Windows)

All ages (Windows)

Release Date June 4, 1999

  Kanon (カノン?) is a Japanese adult visual novel developed by Key released on June 4, 1999 playable on Windows PCs. Key later released versions of Kanon without the erotic content, and the game was ported to the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable. The story follows the life of Yuichi Aizawa, a high school student who returns to a city he last visited seven years ago, and find that he has trouble remembering certain events from his time there during winter holiday. He meets several girls and slowly regains his lost memories. The gameplay in Kanon follows a branching plot line which offers predetermined scenarios with courses of interaction, and focuses on the appeal of the five female main characters by the player character. The game ranked as the second best-selling PC game sold in Japan for the time of its release, and charted in the national top 50 several more times afterwards. Kanon has sold over 300,000 units across several platforms.


Kanon Ayu screenshot

Average dialogue and narrative in Kanon depicting the main character Yuichi talking to Ayu.

Kanon is a romance visual novel in which the player assumes the role of Yuichi Aizawa. Its gameplay requires little player interaction as much of the game is spent on reading the text that appears on the screen, which represents the story's narrative and dialogue. Kanon follows a branching plot line with multiple endings, which involves Aizawa making decisions that will ultimately lead to establishing deeper relationships with one of the female leads.

There are five main plot lines that the player will have the chance to experience, one for each of the heroines in the story. Every so often, the player will come to a point where they are given the chance to choose from multiple options. The game's progress is determined by the choices the player makes, which determines which ending they will get. To view all plot lines in their entirety, the player will have to replay the game multiple times and choose different choices to reach an alternative ending. After Mai's scenario is completed, a replay of her route will offer an additional choice to play through Sayuri's back story. Jun Maeda, who worked on the scenario for Kanon, commented in March 2001 that the Japanese public may have fallen under the impression that Key makes soothing games because of Kanon's influence, but Maeda affirmed that there was not one person who worked on Kanon who thought that.

In the adult version of the game, there are scenes with sexual CGs depicting Yuichi and one of the female leads, depending on the route the player takes. Later, Key released versions of Kanon on subsequent platforms featuring an "all ages" option. The versions that include the adult content have one explicit sex scene in each of the five main story arcs, in addition to one fantasy scene. Outside of these, there are two scenes with nudity. 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 in an interview if the sex scenes had been written to promote human reproduction, but he responded that it would not work in games like Kanon or Key's later game Air.


Setting and themesEdit

There are several important locations featured in the Kanon story, though the names of locations in games developed by Key are often given generalized names, such as The City of Snow. The story of the game takes place during winter, with the city depicted as being covered in a layer of snow for the entirety of Kanon. The shopping district is featured throughout the story when the characters go into town, and especially when Ayu appears in the early story. The high school where Yuichi and the other main characters attend, including the school grounds, is shown predominantly in Shiori's and Mai's stories, and is otherwise a general setting where Yuichi interacts with other characters.

There are recurring themes that appear throughout the story. A music theme is present, which is carried over to the names of episodes featured in the 2006 anime include words associated with classical music, such as overture and introit. Miracles play a large part in the story; Kanon's plot line and characters are influenced by the supernatural powers of Monomi Hill, such as with Makoto's arc. Making and keeping promises is central to the plot of Kanon. Yuichi eventually makes important promises to the five main girls while at the same time fulfilling past promises he remembers from when he visited the city seven years ago.

One of the motifs in the story is memory loss; three of the main characters—Yuichi, Ayu and Makoto—suffer from amnesia. Yuichi's memory over the course of the story comes back after certain interactions with the girls helps him remember the promises he made to them. Another motif 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), nikuma (Makoto), ice cream (Shiori), and gyudon (Mai).

Main charactersEdit

The player assumes the role of Yuichi Aizawa, the protagonist of Kanon. He is a cynical yet charismatic seventeen year old high school student, and is known to play jokes on the girls he interacts with throughout the story. Despite this, Yuichi is very loyal and will go to great lengths 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, mysterious, and seemingly naive girl immediately recognizable by her winged backpack, red hair band, and tendency to refer to herself with the masculine first-person pronoun boku (僕). She has a fondness for eating taiyaki, and is notorious for her catchphrase], "ugū" (うぐぅ) which she mutters as an expression of various negative emotions such as frustration, pain, fear, and embarrassment. Yuichi's first cousin Nayuki Minase, another of Kanon's female leads, 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 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 female lead 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 female lead and first-year high school student suffering from an unexplained illness since birth. Her affliction has caused her to become physically weak to the point she faints at the opening ceremony after returning from winter holiday, and she is almost always absent from class, although she is often seen wandering around the school courtyard during lunch. 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 female lead featured in Kanon is Mai Kawasumi, a third year student that attends the same high school as Yuichi. 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.


Kanon's 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 the events of Kanon. The story begins on Wednesday January 6, 1999 when Yuichi arrives in the city and finds himself feeling detached from 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 ago, which he struggles to remember until he starts to interact more with the girls. 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 what happened seven years ago and the promises he needs to fulfill.

On the day after Yuichi's return, he joins Nayuki, who offers to show him around town. Nayuki remembers that she has to buy ingredients for dinner, but Yuichi is reluctant to go into the store with her. Soon after Nayuki leaves him waiting on the sidewalk, a strange girl named Ayu Tsukimiya collides with 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. They decide to meet up again another day and Ayu scampers off. A few days after he has been in the city, Yuichi is confronted 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 student. She takes it upon herself to fight and defeat demons at night when the school is closed. 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 who he gets to know along with the other four female leads 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 turns out that Shiori stands outside on the school grounds nearly every day because she wants to meet with someone close to her during lunch.


Most of Kanon's development staff originally worked for the visual novel publisher Nexton under the brand Tactics. After the release of the brand's third game One: Kagayaku Kisetsu e, most of Tactics' staff left Nexton to pursue work in another publishing company where they could have the freedom to produce their next game. Itaru Hinoue, who had previously worked at Visual Art's once before, introduced Key's founding members to the president of Visual Art's, Takahiro Baba. Baba gave the developers the freedom they desired, and they officially transferred to Visual Art's where they formed Key on July 21, 1998 and started production on Kanon. The planning for the visual novel was headed by Naoki Hisaya who was also one of two scenario writers with Jun Maeda. Hisaya wrote the scenarios for Ayu, Nayuki and Shiori, while Maeda wrote the routes for Makoto and Mai. Art direction was headed by Key's artist Itaru Hinoue who worked on the character design and computer graphics. Further computer graphics were split between three people—Dinn, Miracle Mikipon, Shinory—and background art was provided by Torino. The music in the game was composed by OdiakeS, Shinji Orito and Jun Maeda. Kanon was the first and last visual novel developed by Key that two of the main staff—Naoki Hisaya, and OdiakeS—worked on before pursuing a similar line of work in other visual novel studios.

Release historyEdit

Kanon was released as an adult game, or eroge, on June 4, 1999 in limited and regular editions, playable on a Windows PC as a CD-ROM. The limited edition came bundled with the remix album Anemoscope featuring new versions of background music tracks featured in the visual novel. Key released an all ages version on January 7, 2011 for Windows. An updated adult version called the Kanon Standard Edition was released on November 26, 2004 with added support for Windows 2000/XP as a DVD-ROM. The Standard Edition incorporates the extra graphics added to the earlier all ages version of the game, and other technical changes such as more save slots. An all ages version of the Standard Edition was released on January 28, 2005. An updated all ages version of Kanon compatible for Windows Vista PCs was released by Key on July 31, 2009 in a box set containing five other Key visual novels called Key 10th Memorial Box. Another all ages updated version compatible for Windows 7 PCs called Kanon Memorial Edition was released on April 30, 2010.

The first consumer console port of the game was released for the Dreamcast on September 14, 2000 by NEC Interchannel. A PlayStation 2 (PS2) version was released on February 28, 2002 also by NEC Interechannel. The PS2 version was re-released as a "Best" version on December 22, 2004. The PS2 version was bundled in a "Key 3-Part Work Premium Box" package together with the PS2 versions of Air and Clannad released on July 30, 2009. An adult version playable as a Blu-ray Disc was released on December 16, 2011 by Asoberu! BD-Game, a brand of Visual Art's.

A PlayStation Portable (PSP) version of the game was released in Japan on February 15, 2007 by Prototype. 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 downloadable version of the PSP release via the PlayStation Store was released by Prototype on October 9, 2009. A version playable on FOMA and SoftBank 3G mobile phones was released by Prototype through Visual Art's Motto in May 2007. A version playable on Android devices was released on November 30, 2011. In the original release, there was no voice acting for the characters, but in the later versions produced for the Dreamcast and PS2, full voice acting was included. The only exception was Yuichi, who was not voiced in either version. However, the PSP release features voice acting for Yuichi, provided by Tomokazu Sugita.


The visual novel has two main theme songs, the opening theme "Last regrets", and the ending theme "Where the Wind Reaches" (風の辿り着く場所 Kaze no Tadoritsuku Basho?), 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 girls have leitmotifs. Ayu's theme is "A Sunny City" (日溜りの街 Hidamari no Machi?); Nayuki's theme is "Girl in the Snow" (雪の少女 Yuki no Shōjo?); Makoto's theme is "The Fox and the Grapes"; Mai's theme is "Girls' Prison" (少女の檻 Shoujo no Ori?); Shiori's theme is

" Beyond the Smile" (笑顔の向こう側に Egao no Mukōgawa ni?) . The first soundtrack released for Kanon was Anemoscope, which came bundled with the original release of the game 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. An album featuring the soundtrack rearranged for piano 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.

Reception and legacyEdit

According to a national ranking of how well bishōjo games sold nationally in Japan, the original Kanon release for Windows peaked at number two on the list. Three years later in June 2002, the original release was featured on the list at 45, and then again at 46 the following two weeks. The original release also made the list after that at number 41 in early July 2002. The Kanon Standard Edition premiered at number 16 on the list. The Kanon Standard Edition remained on the top 50 list for the next two months, achieving the rankings of 47 and 35. The all ages version of Kanon Standard Edition premiered at number 42 on the list, reaching 35 by the next month, and would not appear on the list after that. The Dreamcast port sold 42,379 units its first week and was the fourth top selling console game in Japan for that week. Kanon has sold over 300,000 units across several platforms, not including the PSP release.

The first PS2 release in 2002 was reviewed by the Japanese video game magazine Famitsu where the game received an overall score of 29/40 (out of the four individual review scores of 7, 8, 7, and 7). 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 50 best bishōjo games were released. Out of 249 titles, Kanon ranked fifth with 71 votes.

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:_Kagayaku_Kisetsu_e 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 appear in works outside Kanon, such as in strip sixty-seven of the webcomic Megatokyo where Ayu is shown eating taiyaki.

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.

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