“Being unable to trust anything is the same as being unable to sense other people’s love.” —Yoshino Yuusuke
Summer draws swiftly to an end, and on a weekend prior to the continuing of term, Tomoya dreams about his past while watching a baseball game with Nagisa, Sanae and Akio. Akio later asks Tomoya to help him assemble a baseball team ahead of a match with a neighbouring shopping district, and while Tomoya does his best, speaking with a variety of people (including Yuusuke and Misae) with the aims of getting them to join, his mind also drifts towards the future and what it might entail. On the day of the game, Mei shows up as well to meet Yuusuke and watch the baseball game. The game is characterised by the unique brand of encouragement and antics unique to Tomoya and his friends. Despite this, Tomoya’s team takes the lead early into the game. After Nagisa is asked to step up to bat when Akio is injured by a stray bat, this lead is closed. Tomoya manages to score a game-winning run batted in (a play where a batter for making the play that allows a losing team to win) and in the aftermath, celebrates with the Furukawas. While perhaps not starting quite as profoundly as CLANNAD did in its opening, CLANNAD ~After Story~ (~After Story~ from here on out for brevity) opens to a strong start that gives viewers a chance to see the new status quo that has developed since Tomoya asked Nagisa to be his girlfriend. However, despite this change, things in ~After Story~ remain much as they have previously. Tomoya shares a warm friendship with those around him, and where the moment calls for it, can step up to the occasion for those around him. Through moments of hilarity, excitement and energy, ~After Story~ swiftly reintroduces viewers to CLANNAD and the world following the first season: characters are established, and baseball is again used as a metaphor for life events, foreshadowing that nothing is ever certain or final. Although Tomoya and his team may have given up a lead, things are never truly over until they are over. This message, so subtly touched on in the first episode, will return later, and for the present, ~After Story~ brings audiences back to those relaxing days Tomoya enjoys as a new term begins.
While relationships are commonly seen as major life events, ~After Story~ shows that for everything that’s happened, things largely remain as they did before. Tomoya might be a little closer to Nagisa than before, but the excitement and energy he feels from spending time with his friends endures, as do the moments of hilarity. Things feel very much as they did before Tomoya began realising his feelings for Nagisa, and whether it be through his exchanges with Kyou, or wisecracks whenever Tomoyo tramples Youhei, ~After Story~ makes it clear that Tomoya is still the same kind-hearted individual with a penchant for pranks as he was previously. The point that ~After Story~ makes with this portrayal is that on most days, being in a relationship is not so different than being single. There are some days where being in a relationship is count oneself as among the happiest in the world, and yet other days where a relationship feels like a shackle one is doomed to bear. This incredible range of contrast is something that ~After Story~ will explore, and consequently, it makes sense to begin in the realm of the ordinary, giving audiences a chance to gain a sense of what life is typically like for Tomoya. In contrast with the first season, however, this ordinary life is a world apart from the existence that Tomoya knew at the beginning of CLANNAD; living in the moment and looking out for those around him is the new norm, and reflecting this new Tomoya, ~After Story~‘s first episode is a vividly colourful one, filled with warm hues and inviting light. However, such things are also transient: a cooler colour fills the classroom when Tomoya wonders about his future, signalling to viewers that such moments do not last forever. The ending of youth, the ending of those summer days, comes to a close, setting the stage for what is to come in ~After Story~.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The last time a CLANNAD post graced this blog, it was late March, a day before the Vernal Equinox. The Nagisa arc was my favourite act of CLANNAD, and Nagisa is my favourite character of the series, as well. I’m invariably drawn to the main characters of a given series, an indicator of my own personality in that when I set out to do something, I will focus on that something with my all. The end result of this is that I tend to present satisfactory results on the central task at the expense of missing anything that was not explicitly defined in my assignment.
- The consequence of this in something like an anime review is that I will tend to connect with and, correspondingly, write more about the central characters than I will anyone else. It leaves my particular brand of reviewing inadequate in some areas. However, in series that are sufficiently well-explored, the opportunity to look at what each character brings to the table is present, and for this, it is fun to go back through an older series and see what things can be picked up by rewatching things. In this re-entry into CLANNAD ~After Story~, I will be keeping to my usual patterns: arc discussions will have thirty, single-episode reviews like today’s will have twenty, and if the need arises, I will have larger posts for particularly special episodes.
- Time genuinely does make fools of us all: ten years previously, I was in my final year of secondary school. My decision to take an honours program in what was essentially a double major in biological and computer sciences stemmed from the fact that I was indecisive at the time, and today, I find that my technical knowledge is nowhere as strong as it can be had I focused on a single field. On the other hand, I am afforded with a unique perspective towards problem solving – a degree leading to a side-grade isn’t so bad, and in a world where being multi-disciplinary is of increasing value, I do not feel that my undergraduate degree was a waste of time.
- After classes, Tomoya decides to speak with electrician Yuusuke Yoshino with the aim of trying to get him on board for baseball, a man whose background remains quite unexplored at this point in CLANNAD: the only hint of his past is that he knows Kouko and has a tendency to be dramatic, making various quotes and poses. Initially reluctant to join Tomoya and his crew, Yuusuke relents after Tomoya explains that Youhei looks up to him.
- Tomoya is a skillful liar who can turn any situation in his favour with a few tall tales; this part of his personality adds to his ability to create humour even during high-tension moments. Further accentuating the humour are the others’ reactions to his lies: Youhei evidently regards Tomoya highly, and, befitting of his slower wit, buys Tomoya’s lies easily. On the other hand, Nagisa’s naïveté and innocence she genuinely believes Tomoya.
- Misae Sagara runs the dormitory that Youhei stays at, and insofar, she is presented as the sometimes-kindly-sometimes-violent dormitory manager. While support characters normally serve secondary roles, helping protagonists along, CLANNAD‘s length allows all characters to be explored. Besides giving their experiences more weight, this exposition also provides further insight into the world that is CLANNAD – this series’ detractors assert an undue amount of deus ex machina in its progression, but I counter that the detractors have not been paying attention. Small, subtle details (and other, not-so-subtle elements) indicate that as normal as the world of CLANNAD is, there is a substantial supernatural component, as well.
- If I had to guess, the reason that Jun Maeda utilises the supernatural in his visual novels and stories would be because the journey that is life is a winding one with no clear future, and that the way things sometimes play out can seemingly have little explanation beyond what might be considered magic. The supernatural also allows Maeda’s characters to explore themes and experience situations that are more melancholy than what is possible in the real world, although with the success of his works, Maeda’s stories, referred to as nakige (泣きゲー, literally “crying game”), also tend to follow a very formulaic approach, opening with comedy, building up the rising action through romance, reaching a climax with tragedy and then closing with a reunion.
- It’s been a year and a half since I purchased CLANNAD‘s visual novel on Steam, and I’ve yet to actually even open the game. My challenge with visual novels are that because they are a cross between a picture book and a novel, I cannot read as quickly as I’d like or completely utilise my mind’s eye to imagine a scene. Further to this, I’m used to reading for long periods with physical books, and staring at a screen for the equivalent amount of time is very exhausting, so as far as going through a visual novel goes, I’m going to likely need a different approach.
- Kyoto Animation’s craft in CLANNAD yields a world that is simultaneously detailed and clean. This art style is refined by the time of Sound Euphonium and Violet Evergarden, both of which have an incredibly detailed art style rivalling those of Makoto Shinkai’s. While Kyoto Animation is known for their animation quality and artwork, not every series in their repertoire has this level of detail: shows like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Lucky Star and Nichijou utilise a much simpler art style.
- On the day of the baseball game, the skies are of a deep blue, giving the sense of a hot summer’s day. With Mizuho having an average high of 31ºC in August and 28ºC in September, the vivid colours of CLANNAD do much to capture the temperatures within the series. Anime typically use colour and sound to indicate heat: deep colours and the sound of cicadas indicate hot days almost universally. In western animation, heat is indicated through use of distortion effects, a faint “sizzling” sound and emphasis on the sun. Depending on the series, visual humour is also employed.
- As it turns out, Mei is indeed a big fan of Yuusuke’s and is amazed that she is able to meet him in person; as Youhei says, such is her excitement that she immediately sets off for Mizhuho to see him in person for the baseball game. While the youth are engrossed in their own conversation, the adults share a moment together, as well: Yuusuke, Kyouko and Misae all know one another from an older age.
- The precise stakes of this match are about the same as those of Futurama when the Globe Trotters challenge Earth to a basketball game: their leader, Bubblegum Tate, states that with no stakes or threat, the only thing on the table really is the shame of defeat. Akio believes the same: while ostensibly a friendly match between two teams, he threatens that if they should lose, Sanae’s bread will await them. While both CLANNAD and the MCU make reference to earlier instalments in their respective universes, ~After Story~ requires complete knowledge of the first season in order to be at its most effective.
- I am not familiar with baseball in any capacity, save the fact that it is an American institution that was introduced to Japan in 1872 by professor Horace Wilson, and after a thrilling match, Japanese interest in baseball soared. Today, it is the most widely played sport in Japan, to the extent that Japanese people are surprised that baseball is just as big in the United States. While I can’t really watch baseball (the sport itself is unexciting for me), I am much more familiar with the realm of ice hockey. The 2018-2019 season starts today, and after an amusing pre-season that saw the Calgary Flames square off against the Boston Bruins in Shenzhen and Beijing, we’re going up against the Vancouver Canucks.
- I understand that I’ve got a number of Canadian readers, and a larger number from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, at that, but unfortunately, being a Calgary native means I’m a Flames fan through and through: I look forwards to seeing if the Flames can trample the Canucks in the season opener tonight. Back in ~After Story~, Youhei butchers a play and when Kyou calls him a blight, he retorts that he’s up against a pro: Youhei is referring to Koshien Stadium, where high school players compete at the national level. When Youhei challenges Kyou to do better, she does.
- That this game is meant to be friendly is reinforced by the fact that after Akio is injured, the other team offers to provide a replacement. Akio refuses and sends Nagisa onto the field. Her low athleticism is offset by the fact that she’s playing alongside skilled teammates, who help her out. However, their lead begins shrinking as the match progresses: Tomoya’s shoulder prevents him from hitting effectively, and when it’s Kotomi’s turn, she spends more time trying to figure out what the best play is rather than reacting on instinct and skill. She marginally hits the ball and reaches first base.
- Several more interesting plays occur after Nagisa strikes out: Tomoyo declares she wants to hit like a girl, and Tomoya decides to try something new, keeping in mind his shoulder. However, while Nagisa might not be an athlete, she does have her moments, and later in the game, will manage to hit the ball. The baseball game retains its momentum pushing ahead, and while a real baseball game would never see the antics of ~After Story~, their presence here does much to liven a sport up that I normally would not otherwise watch.
- The most over-the-top events belong to Yuusuke: one of his monologues befuddles the other team and also costs him a run, when he is tapped out after walking dramatically between the bases.
- Despite his limitations, Tomoya’s strength is his resolve. The game’s become such that Tomoya must score a run batted in to win, and despite his shoulder, he is spurred on by the others. The lengthening shadows signify the day’s end, and simultaneously mirror the closing of a window. The opposing players become faceless, little more than obstructions, and driven by those he cares about, Tomoya puts his all into his final play.
- In the aftermath, everyone celebrates. This scene stood out to me for its use of incidental music: the track “Town, Flow of Time, People” plays. Normally used during more melancholy moments, it imparts a heavier atmosphere that does not line up with the jovial, energetic mood at the Furukawa residence following the game. While subtle, it again foreshadows what is upcoming in ~After Story~, suggesting that the proverb “Sing before breakfast, cry before night” very much holds true here. It ultimately boils down to not celebrating before something is over, and while things look normal, happy now, ~After Story~ does have one helluva ride for its audience.
- There is an equivalent phrase in Chinese, 高興太早 (jyutping gou1 hing1 taai3 zou2), which literally translates to “happy too early”. As the first episode to ~After Story~ ends, a cut of the robot in the Imaginary World and the light orbs are seen. Little more than a curiosity in the first season that formed the basis for Nagisa’s play, the Imaginary World and its inhabitants play a much more substantial role in this second season, and I will spend a bit more time detailing their relevance to the main story as ~After Story~ continues. In addition, I will need to figure out what the best way to break up the ~After Story~ posts is, and with our entry into the fall season, two shows have appeared on my radar as being worth writing about: P.A. Works’ Iroduku Sekai no Ashita kara, which is of a genre and setup that catches my interest, and the slice-of-life Anima Yell!.
As I have done for the first season’s tenth anniversary, I will be revisiting CLANNAD ~After Story~ in a similar manner as I did for CLANNAD. There are a total of twenty-two episodes in ~After Story~, and as readers have doubtlessly discovered, having me come by, week after week, to do episodic reviews is a bit of a pain in the rear – things get stale quickly, and I find it difficult to write about things on a weekly basis. So, I will be writing about ~After Story~ in arcs. However, ~After Story~ is not quite as well delineated as its predecessor; some stories are shorter than others, others are longer, and others yet serve to set the stage for ~After Story~‘s final act. I am still determining what the best way to break down ~After Story~ is for the present, but I will note that writing for this will be an interesting exercise in introspection: even more so than CLANNAD, ~After Story~ led me to re-evaluate who I was and what I was doing with my life, as well as help me understand what it was I wanted from life. It’s been over six years since I went through CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~, but the messages and ideas this particular story imparted on me have endured, attesting to the timeless character of the writing in this series. Six years is a considerable amount of time, and so, while I’ve largely forgotten what specifics about ~After Story~ that made it such a life changing experience, the opportunity to write about this series in full at the ten year anniversary means that I’ll certainly rediscover the magic that is CLANNAD ~After Story~ anew, and this time, armed with six more years of life experience, I think I can offer thoughts on things that were not possible the first time I watched CLANNAD.