The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

On The Hillside Path Where The Cherry Blossoms Flutter: Beginning The Journey in CLANNAD at the Ten Year Anniversary

“You think you’re living in color, until completely by chance you meet someone who changes your world, and suddenly everything is so alive, and everything inside you is awakened.” —Ab imo pectore

While CLANNAD officially had its ten year anniversary back in April 2014, a time I better recall for other matters, today marks the ten year milestone to when the anime adaptation of the visual novel began airing. The first episode follows Tomoya Okazaki, a delinquent who whiles away his days, skipping classes with Youhei Sunohara and resenting the relationship he has with his father. While wondering if his life could possibly change on the way to school one day, he runs into a girl speaking with herself. Speaking with her in greater detail during lunch, Tomoya learns that she’s Nagisa Furukawa, and her dream is to resurrect the high school’s drama club. She’s a year older than he is, and that an illness has kept her from attending the previous year. Later, he is invited over to dinner at the Furukawas, meeting Sanae and Akio. CLANNAD‘s ordinary-seeming start belies an anime so moving, the medium has not seen anything quite matching its calibre: the first episode eases viewers into the intricate world that is CLANNAD, introducing some of the major characters and helping audiences connect with them by means of humour. The establishment of characters, presentation of each of their stories and Tomoya’s kindheartedness creates a tangible emotional impact, and the sum of the elements in CLANNAD means that even now, very few anime can come close to moving its viewers quite to the same extent as CLANNAD.

CLANNAD‘s opening moments serve to establish the story’s direction, firmly setting down the foundation for the beginnings of Tomoya’s journey. The use of colour and lighting immediately informs viewers that for the longest time, Tomoya views the world in a dull monochrome; despite slacking off with Kouhei and cutting classes ostensibly for fun, Tomoya is not satisfied with his world, where existence itself is a monotony lacking any value. When ascending a familiar walk to school, he runs into Nagisa. As he talks to her and offers encouragement despite not fully understanding who she is, the world flashes into the warm colours of a spring morning. The vegetation becomes verdant and full of life, while the cherry blossoms lightly flutter about in a gentle shade of pink. This transition can only be described as a fateful meeting, the sort that I’ve longed to experience and have felt precisely once; falling in love is powerful enough to give the world a newfound dimensionality, and while Tomoya here finds Nagisa little more than a curious individual, it marks the beginning of an incredible journey of effort, love, sorrow and togetherness for Tomoya. Quite simply, if there was a way to describe what falling in love might feel like, then through CLANNAD‘s first moments, Kyoto Animation has wholly captured it, and with it, my very own journey in CLANNAD was initiated.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I might be minus one now after the events many years ago, but I’m still here and still doing what I do best. A part of strength is being able to look back on the more painful things and learn from them, rather than being consumed by them: reviewing CLANNAD is going to bring up some old memories for me, speaking to the strength of the narrative in both the visual novel and the game. For this post, I’ll stick to the manageable number of twenty screenshots, which is the norm for single-episode reviews.

  • The page quote comes from a former colleague and friend, describing falling in love as seeing the world properly for the first time. The metaphor certainly applies in CLANNAD; Tomoya’s world is flipped inside out and he begins appreciating it from a new perspective after meeting Nagisa, but unlike most narratives, CLANAND takes the time to develop the relationship between Nagisa and Tomoya. They begin with Tomoya interested in helping her out to stave off boredom, and the two eventually become friends before releasing the extent of their feelings for one another, finally becoming a couple.

  • The opening of CLANNAD is surprisingly similar to the first episode of The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi. I admit that I was not a fan of the series until I heard about The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi, and subsequently, I’m glad I took the time to watch it (even Endless Eight). Both Haruhi and CLANNAD open with a monochrome colour scheme that transitions to colour once their series’ respective protagonist meets the girl who changes their lives forever. The signs in Haruhi are rather more subtle, but strictly speaking, Kyon and Haruhi are very well-suited for one another: he’s practical and grounded, while she’s a creative visionary. Together, he is able to reign in her plans and make them a reality, while she forces him out of his comfort zone to experience more. Tomoya and Nagisa have a different, but equally rewarding dynamic.

  • Looking back, my experiences will likely tell me that this is the world’s finest example of confirmation bias: I began watching CLANNAD roughly at the same time my heart was being swayed, and it is more than likely CLANNAD acted as a catalyst of sorts for this. That’s enough reminiscing; it’s time to return to what’s happening in CLANNAD itself, and here is an after school scene as Tomoya makes to hang out with Youhei. The artwork and animation in CLANNAD far surpasses anything of its time, and Kyoto Animation’s craft generally is comparable to Makoto Shinkai, Studio Ghibli and P.A. Works’ best.

  • The comedic aspects of CLANNAD means that the anime is immediately accessible for folks who were unfamiliar with the visual novel, and back in 2007, Steam would not have had it for sale, as it released in 2015. I picked up CLANNAD during a discount a ways back, but I’ve yet to actually open it and play it. I’ve heard it’s got fantastic replay value comparable to Skyrim and GTA V, but with the slew of awesome titles upcoming (Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus comes to mind), I don’t think there’s enough hours in the day to get everything in.

  • Although their interactions might suggest otherwise, Youhei Sunohara and Tomoya are best friends. Tomoya is particularly adept at deceiving Youhei or otherwise landing him in hot water for his own amusement, but when the moment calls for it, both Tomoya and Kouhei genuinely do care for one another. Here, Tomoya trolls members of the rugby team: of all the characters, Youhei defies biological and physical constraints with the greatest frequency. He is tossed around like a ragdoll but can take as much damage as the Doom Slayer.

  • After Ryou Fujibayashi attempts to read Tomoya’s fortune and succumbs to nerves, her more assertive twin sister, Kyou, appears. Both have feelings for Tomoya, but in the visual novel, players only have the option of playing Kyou’s route (and Tomoya ends up with Ryou if sub-optimal decisions are made). Some have considered Kyou to be a suitable match for Tomoya – supplementary materials and the progression of her route in the game tend to support this. Here’s a surprise for me: Kyou is voiced by Ryō Hirhashi, of Tamayura‘s Komachi Shinoda and Aria‘s very own Alice Caroll.

  • Voiced by Mai Nakahara of Higurashi: When They Cry‘s Rena Ryugu fame, Nagisa quickly became my favourite character on CLANNAD. Sweet, sensitive and gentle, her disposition happens to be what I would fancy about a person. In conjunction with commitment and trust, these attributes happen to be the very things that I value in a relationship.

  • This screenshot illustrates the transformations that have yet to occur: at this point in CLANNAD, Tomoya and Nagisa are quite unfamiliar with one another and refer to one another by their surnames, considering one another as little more than fellow students. One of my favourite moments in my undergraduate career was working on a project for Japanese class, only for one of my colleagues from health sciences to ask if I were in a relationship, as they’d seen us practising for a skit. At this point, I regarded the comment as little more than a light-hearted joke. Another colleague made a similar remark a year later, and leading me to wonder what would happen if I Reached into Infinity and see where things would take me.

  • Resolute, determined and forward, Tomoyo Sakagami has a well-known streak of violence and is shown to be capable of fighting as effectively as Donnie Yen. Despite this, her main goal is to become the student council president with the goal of saving the sakura trees that she longs to see with her family with the hopes of mending past ills. Early in CLANNAD, she’s present primarily to lay the ultra-beatdowns on Youhei for comedic effect. As impressive as her martial arts are, what is more impressive is Youhei’s resilience.

  • Nagisa’s wish to resurrect the drama club stems from a longstanding desire to act; long denied the opportunity as a result of her illness, Nagisa wishes to do something in her final year as a high school student. I’ve never been a particularly good actor, being very stoic in most situations that may elicit responses from those around me, but on the flipside, I’m okay with presentations and speaking to an extent, lending my unusual sense of humour to draw in audiences before proceeding with my main content.

  • Reaching into Infinity ended up causing a bit of hurt, but also imparted on me life experiences I’ll carry with me and value forever owing to their instructive value. With that being said, I do miss the warmth of a smile and words encouragement prior to undertaking something difficult: throughout CLANNAD, Nagisa and Tomoya constantly support one another even as they find themselves entangled within their own challenges, and for Tomoya, he always manages to make time to help Nagisa out with the drama club even as other characters require his attention.

  • Tomoya is voiced by Yūichi Nakamura (Gundam 00‘s Graham Aker), and the surname Okazaki brings to mind Okazaki fragments, which are formed on the lagging strand of DNA during replication. They were discovered in the 1960s in experiments on E. coli by Reiji and Tsuneko Okazaki along with their colleagues: in eukaryotes, the fragments are a few hundred base pairs in length, and later, DNA Ligase seals off the strand. My memories of biochemistry are strong: I finished my introductory biochemistry course shortly before beginning CLANNAD mere months before.

  • After running into Tomoya on the way home, Nagisa asks if he’s interested in having dinner with her family. Within nothing else to do in the evenings besides return home, Tomoya accepts. Shortly after I finished CLANNAD and its sequel, I wrote a combined review for the anime, delving into the thematic elements and covering briefly what aspects of the anime I felt to have made it worthwhile. During this time, I still primarily wrote to my website, with this blog being more of a support resource; it was not until later that I made the transition, accounting for why I have not covered CLANNAD to any extent here until now.

  • A long-running joke in CLANNAD is the fact that any criticisms (real or perceived) of Sanae Furukawa’s bread will immediately lead her to run off in tears, forcing Akio to run off after her and declare that said bread is in fact delicious, even if it is composed of uncommon or unusual ingredients. While done frequently enough to elicit the occasional laugh, this particular action is shown to serve another purpose later on.

  • Akio is very protective of his wife and daughter, to the point of threatening Tomoya physical harm with a baseball bat. However, all of this is done for comedy, and under his hot-blooded exterior, Akio is deeply caring about his family and those around him. During my original run of CLANNAD, I heard assertions that Akio was voiced by the same person who played G Gundam‘s Domon Kash, but that’s not true. One can hardly blame people for this assumption, as their personalities and spirits share commonalities.

  • The lighting inside the Furukawa residence is bright and inviting, standing against the dark, unkempt interior of the Okazaki residence. The contrast and normalcy in the Furukawa compels Tomoya to continue visiting even in light of Akio’s manner later in CLANNAD. Here, notice the Furukawa’s CRT television – such screens were widespread until the early 2000s, when LED screens began displacing them. One of the joys about the bulky CRT computer screens of old is demonstrated in the mockumentary Pure Pwnage.

  • Tonight is the Mid-Autumn Festival; as per Chinese custom, we celebrated with a fantastic dinner of chicken, roasted pork with crispy skin, shrimps and dong gu mushrooms. The weather’s been remarkably pleasant today, a far cry from Monday, when a snowfall and 90km/h winds hammered the area: it’s a full moon, and while it’s the perfect time to have a bit of mooncake, dinner proved to be superb, leaving no room for desert. Mooncake will therefore be partaken in the upcoming days leading up to Thanksgiving. While multi-yolk mooncakes are an indicator of better luck, I prefer my mooncake without the yolk.

  • This post ended up being a lot more introspective and personal than usual, which is saying something. In upcoming CLANNAD posts, I will aim to stay on mission and explore what each arc contributes to the story overall. It is a journey that will lead us into March 2018. I’m not sure if I’ll have the time to write about CLANNAD ~After Story~ in this manner, but this is something that will be addressed when the time comes.

  • Tomoya later sees Nagisa performing under a street lamp. In CLANNAD, the Illusionary World is presented with a non-trivial frequency; its significance in CLANNAD is that it forms the basis for Nagisa’s play, and in CLANNAD ~After Story~, it takes on a much greater significance. This brings the opening post of my CLANNAD revisitation to a close, and the fall anime season has finally begun. There are three shows on my radar right now: Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero ChapterWake Up! Girls Shin Shou and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou. I am certain to write about Hero Chapter, and with the breathing room available from the blogging front, I have two special topics posts I will be looking to work on before this month is out.

CLANNAD would go on to impact my world view, particularly in matters of the heart and also led me the furtherest I’d been in a relationship. Of course, the real world is simultaneously more kind and more cruel than CLANNAD – my journey in matters of the heart closed a year later, during the visual novel’s ten year anniversary. However, CLANNAD itself remains perhaps the best anime series I’ve seen, and I’ve long felt that it’s time I went back through CLANNAD to explore what precisely made the anime the emotional powerhouse that it is. To this end, I’m going to be writing about CLANNAD in a retrospective format, similar to what I’ve done for Sora no Woto. However, because CLANNAD is a gargantuan series, spanning forty-nine episodes (forty-four of which constitute the actual story) over two season, I will not be revisiting CLANNAD on an episodic basis. Instead, I will explore each arc of CLANNAD. In this format, CLANNAD will have four posts excluding this one, one each for Fuko, Kotomi, Kyou and Ryou, and finally, Nagisa herself. I’ve not seen CLANNAD since I wrote the MCAT in 2012 – armed with five years more of life experience since then, I admit that I’m curious to see how my thoughts on this excellent anime have endured and shifted with the passage of time.

2 responses to “On The Hillside Path Where The Cherry Blossoms Flutter: Beginning The Journey in CLANNAD at the Ten Year Anniversary

  1. jsyschan October 19, 2017 at 20:40

    Not sure if anyone will respond to this especially since its been 15 days since the post came out, but I just want to say something in light of Clannad’s anniversary. I know that she’s not the main focus in After Story, and she did get an arc and an OVA based on her as a character, but I didn’t really like how After Story relegated Tomoya to the sidelines, mainly at the end of the anime. At the end, she was standing at the beach, looking forlorn, and from what I gathered, the wiki said that she went off to college and did many wonderful things. I guess that just rubbed me the wrong way. She just looks so melancholy, as if she never kept with any of her friends, unlike the others. That just makes me really sad.


    • infinitezenith November 4, 2017 at 22:51

      My apologies for the late response, it’s been a month since I originally wrote the CLANNAD post, and as evidenced by the plethora of posts, I’ve been a bit busy. Things have quieted somewhat, so I can respond now. As far as I know, After Story is an extension of CLANNAD‘s central route: under this scenario, Tomoya focused his entire attention towards Nagisa, and all of the other characters were shafted to some extent.

      With respect to her final scene in After Story, I wouldn’t count it as a melancholy scene per se; this is the route that I took after graduation. With that being said, I think that, while the scene does suggest that Tomoyo is largely in solitude, how she really feels is open to interpretation; there’s nothing particularly wrong with walking the future alone, after all, and there are plenty of people who enjoy the quiet afforded by being alone at times.


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