“Right now, Fuuko likes you more than a sea slug” —Fuuko Ibuki
When Fuuko tries to invite Tomoya to her sister’s wedding, Tomoya is initially dismissive and declines. However, as his efforts to help Nagisa gather the requisite number of drama club members falls short, he seeks out Fuuko and learns from Nagisa that Fuuko is the younger sister of Kouko Ibuki, who is Nagisa’s art instructor and moreover, Fuuko is supposedly bed-ridden from a car accident. The two decide to assist Fuuko by carving wooden starfish and passing them around as invitations to Kouko’s wedding, then recreating a high school experience for Fuuko with help from Sanae and some classmates. During the school festival, Kouko attends the school’s Founder’s Festival at Nagisa and Tomoya’s invitation, but cannot see or hear Fuuko. In spite of this, Tomoya and Nagisa convince Kouko to carry on with their wedding, feeling that Fuuko would have the same wish for her. As Fuuko’s condition deteriorates, her memories begin fading. Feeling their time is short, Tomoya and Nagisa prepare a birthday party for Fuuko, celebrating at the school during the night, and while they appear to have forgotten Fuuko by the next morning, they manage to recall Kouko’s wedding. On the day of the wedding, only Tomoya, Nagisa and Fuuko appear, although by means of a miracle, the entire student population attends to wish Kouko and her husband, Yuusuke, happiness. Fuuko disappears after thanking Tomoya and congratulating Kouko, while Tomoya feels that it is possible that Fuuko will recover. In CLANNAD‘s visual novel, Fuuko’s route is the first arc that players must complete: it sets in motion the remainder of the game, and also trigger the events of CLANNAD After Story, so players looking to get the full experience must sit through this section of the game.
Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of CLANNAD faithfully reproduces the events of Fuuko’s arc, which initially begins in a gentle, comedic manner. However, as Tomoya and Nagisa discover more irregularities in their experiences with Fuuko against what others are saying, it becomes clear that CLANNAD is involving supernatural elements into its story. This is most evident in Fuuko being able to freely interact with select individuals, as well as the environment; by the time this revelation is made, it spurs Nagisa and Tomoya to work towards fulfilling Fuuko’s wishes despite Tomoya’s general irritation at Fuuko’s antics. In doing so, the Fuuko arc begins to illustrate that underneath Tomoya’s cynical exterior is the heart of someone who genuinely wishes to help out. In asking Tomoya and Nagisa to attend her sister’s wedding, as well as prompting the two to begin addressing one another by their given names, Fuuko hints that of the possible pairings for Tomoya in CLANNAD, Nagisa is the best fit for him; even though the two are not a couple at this point in the story, they spend a considerable amount of time together as friends, getting to know one another better as he helps her resurrect the drama club. While discussions are numerous on whether or not Nagisa really is the best person for Tomoya, I personally found this to be true; Nagisa is able to bring out the best in him and find things to look forward to, and Tomoya’s encouragement is what gives her the confidence to accomplish her dreams.
Screenshots and Commentary
- While my earlier CLANNAD discussions had twenty screenshots apiece, the talks for each of the arcs will be a bit larger, with thirty screenshots each. This will give me more time to explore some of the elements that I find to be worth commenting on, or else insert a few remarks about what I thought of a particular scene. Five years after watching CLANNAD, my own experiences in the journey of life has advanced in some areas, but in others, remain woefully unchanged.
- In the early stages of the Drama Club’s revival, the club room remains quite empty aside from some boxes in the back. The members-to-be sit in a desk centred in the room, and the spaces arising from this arrangement give the sense that this is a fresh canvas for Nagisa to create from as she wishes. The cooler lighting suggests a sense of distance that is introduced when Tomoya recruits Youhei to help out, and their conversation here is to first find enough members such that the Drama Club can be brought back.
- Tomoya never passes up an opportunity to prank Youhei, which is partially why he’s never on the receiving end of any beatdowns that Tomoyo or Kyou are likely to administer. Here, at Tomoya’s suggestion, Nagisa asks Ryou to join the Drama Club, but Nagisa’s hesitancy and the setup that Tomoya proposes leads both Kyou and Youhei to get the wrong idea. The misunderstanding is cleared up, and when Kyou asks her to toss Youhei and Tomoya in favour of her and Ryou’s help, Nagisa feels that for having started the journey with her, she can count them as friends.
- After classes, Tomoya and Nagisa run into Kouko, who asks if the two are dating. Nagisa’s response is immediate and says that there are others worthier. As Tomoya’s single, Kouko feels that Nagisa’s odds with him are good, and subsequently asks if Tomoya finds Nagisa agreeable, putting both on the spot. Sharp thinking from Nagisa steers the conversation away from these waters. It’s a conversation that I’m somewhat familiar with, and in the aftermath of my MCAT, entering my fourth year, some folks wondered what my sitrep was. The story itself has been recounted countless times by now, and while I note that CLANNAD indirectly precipitated what would happen, it’s not too relevant towards talk of the Fuuko arc.
- It is in conversation with Kouko that hints of the supernatural in CLANNAD begin materialising, when she reveals that Fuuko is hospitalised in a coma following a vehicle accident. Pieces in CLANNAD do not initially add up from a logical sense, leaving audiences wondering what’s going on. Nagisa becomes quite fond of hugging Fuuko when the opportunity presents itself, and with the impression that Fuuko chikd-like in nature, it foreshadows Nagisa’s maternal sense. Here, Tomoya and Nagisa diffuse a situation where Fuuko nonchalantly swipes the Furukawa’s neighbours’ surnames, leading Tomoya to swat her.
- The race to carve starfish-shaped invitations for Kouko’s wedding with Yuusuke is on, and here, large wooden blocks await turning into invitations. The process of creating the shape with a small carving knife is arduous, although the hand-made quality reinforces the notion that Fuuko, and those helping her, are putting their genuine feelings into making the invitations – using a jigsaw would allow for a much larger number to be produced in a shorter time, but at the expense of the message that can be conveyed with hand-made carvings.
- Whenever Fuuko begins thinking about starfish, her concentration is diverted from reality and can be subject to various pranks without being fully aware of them. Tomoya usually is responsible for said pranks, and while Fuuko resents their happening, she’s unable to prevent it. Fuuko is shut down in a similar manner when Nagisa hugs her, bringing to mind how cats grow limp when held by the scruff. Mother cats will do so to kittens to quickly move them safely and never do so as a disciplinary measure.
- When Fuuko wishes to attend high school normally, she foreshadows her own supernatural presence. Not knowing the full story but sympathising with her, Nagisa asks her mother to help set up a mock class to give Fuuko the experience. Voiced by Kikou Inoue, whom I best know as Ah! My Goddess‘s Belldandy, Sanae is surprisingly adaptive and can convincingly take in the air of almost any profession or role asked of her. She plays a school teacher surprisingly well, and while it’s not immediately apparent, this also foreshadows at Sanae’s past interests.
- A conversation between Nagisa and Tomoya leaves Nagisa embarrassed when she likens them to being Fuuko’s mother and father. It’s another hint of what’s upcoming; Nagisa is slowly growing more accustomed to Tomoya’s presence and is the first person to begin unearthing a side of him that folks previously did not see. A loud silence lingers between the two until they encounter Yuusuke, and it is here that both learn that Kouko is marrying Yuusuke’s. At their suggestion, Yuusuke agrees to try and convince Kouko to check out the Founder’s Festival.
- The operation to invite as many people as possible to Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding means going into overdrive and creating as many wooden stars as possible. The effort exhausts Fuuko, and she falls asleep while making one. Tomoya feels that it is imperative to bring Fuuko and Kouko together to work out what the mystery surrounding them entails.
- To make sure Fuuko isn’t late for school, Tomoya carries her on his back, while Nagisa hauls the stars they’d made the previous evening for distribution at the school festival. Fuuko herself is hauled into one of the activities, giving the sense that she’s an ordinary student, and Nagisa helps her class as a waitress. The combined efforts of everyone mean that excitement for Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding is tangible amongst the school’s student population: some folks have even started a Fuuko fan club and will go to the end of the earth to keep her from harm.
- When Kouko arrives at the Founder’s Festival, she enjoys herself but is unable to see Fuuko. The mystery deepens here, as Kouko clarifies that Fuuko’s been in a coma for quite some time, leading to inconsistencies with what audiences share with Tomoya and Nagisa. The revelation changes Tomoya’s perspective of Fuuko, and while he’s still willing to play the occasional prank on her, he begins to view Fuuko as someone who’s quite precious.
- This change in perspective is not unlike that of Makoto’s arc in Kanon, where Yuuichi kicks Makoto’s ass in all things related to pranks and finds himself growing irritated with her, but when he learns that Makoto is really a fox spirit taking human form and is rapidly losing her memories, he spends more time with her even as her cognitive capacities fail. In both Kanon and CLANNAD, supernatural elements contribute to both extraordinary challenges and their attendant miracles. We return to CLANNAD, where the quest to distribute the wooden stars as wedding invitations continue even in light of the unusual information that Kouko’s brought to the table, and here, Fuuko gives one to Kotomi.
- Kouko expresses a desire to have a wedding at the high school with her fellow instructors and students. Tomoya asks about the kind of person Fuuko was, and learns that Fuuko’s never really been good around people. During the whole of the conversation, Nagisa is fighting back the tears, but the next day, Nagisa gets into a bit of a dispute with Fuuko about what is more adorable. In the eternal war between starfish and dango, I’d have to say that dango win: Nagisa can be a bit immature at times, and this early in the game, Tomoya lacks the familiarity with Nagisa to put her back on track.
- As preparations for the wedding plough forward, Kouko informs Nagisa and Tomoya that Fuuko’s condition has worsened, reducing her odds of waking up from her coma. Presumably from overexerting herself trying to project a Force Ghost, Fuuko’s placed a great strain on her body. The pattern of setting up a fall right as things are proceeding smoothly is not unique to CLANNAD, although CLANNAD certainly has a way of evoking a powerful response from audiences. Quick to tears, Nagisa takes the news quite hard, and even the normally-stoic Tomoya begins tearing up.
- Tomoya comes to the realisation that Fuuko’s efforts might have resulted as a desire to see her older sister happy, and so, while she’s not physically present, the strength of her feelings allows her to manifest as a physical presence. While hanging out with Youhei later, Youhei remarks that he cannot help but feel as though he’s forgetting something. Fuuko’s ability to maintain her presence seems tied with her health, and corresponding with abrupt decline, people begin losing their memories of her.
- It would appear that the strength of Fuuko’s memories is directly tied to how close people were to her, and while the remainder of the student population is beginning to forget, the Furukawas, Tomoya and Youhei manage to retain their memories longer than most. Nagisa fears losing her memories of Fuuko, treasuring their time together, and Tomoya reassures that Nagisa that they won’t forget, encouraging her with optimism that they’ll be able to see things through because Kouko’s wedding is close. Relative to his interactions with the other female characters, Tomoya’s unconscious decisions to look after Nagisa suggests that he is drawn to looking after and supporting her, even though the two aren’t really close yet. Similarly, while Nagisa isn’t terribly fond of Tomoya’s way with words, she likes the fact that his actions are always considerate and his intents are kind.
- Fading memories and the attendant increasing sense of loss are mirrored in darkening lighting conditions and pronounced shadows inside the school, but when Fuuko, Nagisa and Tomoya leave classes, they set off under a warm evening’s light. Oranges and yellows give the sense of a quiet end to a day where the three can share yet another memory together; the mood lightens when they decide to go buy something for Fuuko. They settle on a small birthday party kit, which Fuuko finds agreeable.
- Watching CLANNAD again frame-by-frame reveals some minor inconsistencies in the animation, although on the whole, the animation quality in CLANNAD is of an incredibly high standard. Known for their top-tier animation, Kyoto Animation’s quality and consistency were among the strongest in the animation industry a decade ago, featuring detailed backgrounds and making use of animation that only became more commonplace recently. Some of Kyoto Animation’s recent titles, including Hibike! Euphonium and Koe no Katachi are so detailed that they rival Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s films in terms of detail.
- While the memory loss has been a nagging feeling for audiences since Youhei mentions it, the enormity of its impact is not really felt until Sanae collapses in tears and says that, try as she might, she can no longer remember Fuuko. Her anime incarnation greatly resembles Belldandy, and the melancholy here is compounded with the use of colours: red tinges appearing in the evening light indicate that the sun’s very nearly set, and is a fantastic visual metaphor for how Fuuko’s presence is disappearing.
- Thus, after the sun sets, Nagisa and Tomoya are left wondering what options they have available to them; after deciding where the best place to go is, they settle on returning to school. The moment admittedly brings to mind Poe Dameron’s quote from The Force Awakens, where, during the assault on Starkiller Base’s Thermal Oscillator, he rallies his fellow pilots after they learn their attack run has no effect on the target:
“Remember, when the sun is gone that weapon will be ready to fire. But as long as there’s light, we got a chance.”
- Star Wars isn’t known for having the best dialogue in the world, and I remember it best for things like The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise, that spinning is a good trick and the importance of having the high ground, but The Force Awakens and Rogue One have acceptable dialogue now, so I’m hoping that The Last Jedi will follow in this pattern. Back in CLANNAD, Fuuko wastes Tomoya after Tomoya’s prank on her backfires.
- For me, this was the magic moment in CLANNAD, nine episodes in. There was something indescribable about the light cast by the candles that Tomoya and Nagisa light. They decide to have celebration commemorating Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding, and here, Fuuko sees something that Kouko spotted: the distance between Nagisa and Tomoya has lessened somewhat, leading her to wonder why the two aren’t calling one another by their given names yet.
- Five years after watching the scene where Nagisa, Fuuko and Tomoya spend time together in the drama room, I think that the magic comes from the symbolism that is present in this moment: if the light is representing the strength of everyone’s memories of Fuuko, then darkening skies visually indicate that people are beginning to forget. Against this, the act of lighting candles is then important for the fact that Tomoya and Nagisa are willfully trying their best to remember, even as the candles deplete; they spend Fuuko’s last moments close together.
- The next morning, Nagisa and Tomoya have forgotten the events of the previous evening. The cold, grey ambiance in the classroom is a far cry from the inviting warmth candlelight cast in the room: the closing distance between Tomoya and Nagisa seems undone somewhat, as seen when the two address one another as they did prior to Fuuko’s suggestion.
- When they recall Kouko’s wedding, Fuuko reappears before Nagisa and Tomoya’s very eyes. The cool morning skies give way to warmer hues that signify the return of something important, and encouraged by her return, Nagisa warmly hugs Fuuko.
- On wedding day, only Tomoya and Nagisa show up for the proceedings, with the rest of the world seemingly having forgotten about the wedding. However, when the ceremony is over, and Yuusuke and Kouko are wedding as husband and wife, Kouko, Yuusuke, Nagisa and Tomoya are treated to a sight that can only be described as a miracle. The first sign that things have turned around is the arrival of Botan, who is accompanied by Kyou and Ryou.
- Here’s a bit of random trivia about my blog and the way I romanise things: while I usually roll with macrons for long vowels in Japanese on my blog, such as “ō” in place of “ou” (おう) and “ū” for “uu” (うう) CLANNAD remains one of the exceptions owing to the way that it’s romanised. Quite simply, I’m used to spelling out things the long way: Kyō and Ryō look a little different than what I’m accustomed to, so in CLANNAD, I’ve chosen to pick one style and be consistent with it. Another bit of trivia is that I learned Japanese during my undergrad formally and so, have a bit more of a consistent approach in romanisations, whereas with Cantonese Chinese, I grew up with it, and so, struggle to convey things: I’ll likely stick with the jyutping system.
- I’m thankful that I do not review Cantonese movies, otherwise, I’d get my ass kicked. For now, we return to CLANNAD, where an entire group of students have arrived to watch Kouko and Yuusuke get married. Sharing her sister’s happiness with the world has succeeded by dint of Fuuko’s determination and substantial assistance from both Tomoya and Nagisa: in CLANNAD‘s visual novel, this is supposed to unlock the globes of light that players can collect as karma points, as well as allowing Fuuko to randomly appear at inopportune moments to lighten the mood up.
- In a fitting close to CLANNAD‘s first true arc, both sisters are able to see one another; Fuuko congratulates Kouko and disappears, but not before thanking Tomoya and Nagisa one final time. With her life force no longer spent on projecting a Force Ghost, Fuuko is able to focus on recovery, and Tomoya feels that she will reawaken later. I realise the rest of the world counts Fuuko an ikiryō (literally, a living ghost), but as I am not versed in Japanese lore or anything occult, I’ve chosen to fall back on what I do know. With this being said, Fuuko is not a true Force Ghost, being neither deceased or Force sensitive. With this CLANNAD post in the books, I will be returning in mid-January to write about Kotomi’s arc, and in December, my focus will continue to be directed towards Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter, my journey continuing journey through Tom Clancy’s The Division and my experiences with Battlefield 1‘s “Turning Tides” DLC.
With its combination of humour and poignancy, the introduction of the supernatural as being a very real part of their universe and a remarkably enjoyable soundtrack, CLANNAD‘s first arc draws to a close. While it might only be the first act, CLANNAD wastes no time in delivering a highly poignant narrative whose resolution comes about not because of deus ex machina, but because of Tomoya and Nagisa’s joint efforts in seeing Fuuko’s wishes through to the end. As much as Tomoya would rather not deal with Fuuko, Nagisa’s gentle insistence and his own desire to help overcome his general annoyance with Fuuko: the arc shows the true nature of Tomoya’s character and consequently, will continue to reinforce the notion that while there are miracles within CLANNAD, these miracles only occur because Tomoya takes the initiative to make things better and finish what he’s committed to. This aspect of his character is intended to bode well for Nagisa and her wishes to restart the drama club: Tomoya isn’t the sort of individual to give up, and is very resilient, making him the perfect partner in helping the gentler but also more hesitant Nagisa reach her dreams.