“Life can bring lots of hardships, but it’s always important to keep in mind that there are people around you who care for you, and are willing to help you through whatever you’re dealing with.” –Nagisa Furukawa
After helping Yukine resolve a long-standing feud with gangs in town, graduation for Tomoya and the others near. Kyou aspires to be a kindergarten teacher, while Ryou decides to become a nurse. Kotomi plans on studying abroad, and Youhei aims to be a model. However, Tomoya is uncertain about his future. When Nagisa falls ill during Christmas Eve, he spends time with her. After graduation, Tomoya takes a job with the Furukawa bakery, and Nagisa returns to school. He moves out into an apartment with Nagisa, and accepts a new job as an electrician. Determined to prove his worth, Tomoya works diligently with Yusuke, who promises to withhold that Tomoya has a shoulder injury. While Tomoya earns the respect of his coworkers with his effort, he also begins to spend less time with Nagisa, missing most of the day at the school’s Founder’s Festival. One day, while working with Yusuke, Tomoya learns from him that he was once a songwriter who descended into depression. He returned home and encountered Kouko again, regretting giving up his dreams of singing for her. Back in the present, Tomoya has been presented with a new job offer, but this is rescinded when Tomoya’s father is arrested. Tomoya is consumed with frustration that his past is inescapable, but Nagisa intervenes and calms him down. In the aftermath, Tomoya proposes to Nagisa under a hot summer’s day, who accepts. From his final days in high school to the transition point where he becomes a full-fledged member of society, Tomoya’s journey has been a tumultuous one. His kind heart dominates his apathy, and spurred on by friends, Tomoya’s closes off one chapter of his life, moving onwards in the world ahead. However, as he learns, the real world is not forgiving; lacking any direction, Tomoya initially decides to regroup and occupy his time by working at the Furukawa bakery, keeping himself from idling. Despite not having a clear plan for the future, Tomoya has always been skillful at making the most of things. Keeping busy while he works out a plan, Tomoya eventually becomes an electrician and finds it a job he enjoys.
However, in taking up a new job, Tomoya is faced with the task of proving his worth, and so, struggles to find his work-life balance. This becomes evident when he begins dozing off during dinner, and later, misses his promise to be with Nagisa at the Founder’s Festival. Spending time with loved ones is a vital part of life, and of late, work-life balance has been discussed more widely, since working too diligently has been attributed with a decrease in performance at one’s job. There is another cost in one’s personal relationships; working more means spending less time with the important people in one’s life, and this is evidently has taken a toll on Tomoya, whose time with Nagisa has been decreasing. In the real world, this can be a point of contention amongst couples, and the couples that are similar to Tomoya and Nagisa, who are willing to accept one another and work things out, are usually those that end up sharing their futures together; Nagisa is very understanding of Tomoya and does her best to accommodate him. By presenting Nagisa as patient and accepting, ~After Story~ makes it clear that Nagisa is the person for Tomoya, being a gentle and compassionate foil to his energy and determination, constantly looking out for him even when things become difficult. After learning his offer to work at a larger company was rescinded because his father was arrested, Tomoya’s reaction is a forceful one, and Nagisa’s actions here, to physically stop Tomoya from injuring himself, show that she’s willing to do what it takes for Tomoya’s interest. Realising that Nagisa has gone to these lengths for him, Tomoya decides here to propose to her. While the moment is not likely to be counted as the most romantic proposal of all time, it’s certainly moving and fitting for the challenges the two have survived thus far.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Originally, I was thinking to write about ~After Story~ earlier this month, following Tomoya’s graduation, but it felt more appropriate to showcase his graduation, the transition into society from high school and then his decision to propose to Nagisa in a single post. Before we can get there, however, there’s also Yukine’s arc. The caretaker for the reference room, Tomoya and Youhei visited here after Tomoya dropped by to find resources for Nagisa. Yukine was originally intended to be a primary character, but difficulties in writing her story led her to be reassigned.
- It turns out that Yukine is well-acquainted with delinquents in opposing gangs because her brother, Kazuto, had been a part of one of the gangs. Yukine later finds a young boy who worries about his older sister’s association with such individuals and decides to help him out. Tomoya and Nagisa join in, learning that the delinquents that Yukine knew were kindly individuals even if they were rough around the edges.
- Eventually, the violence between the gangs escalated, and with the threat of law enforcement intervening, the gangs agree to settle things in a mano a mano with Kazuto squaring off against the opposing gang’s leaders. Not knowing that Kazuto’s been dead for some time, and worrying about the consequences associated with this, Tomoya agrees to step in. He shows incredible resilience in the fight, enduring for hours until Yukine appears and attempts to stop the fight.
- Because Kazuto’s death is known, the gangs agree to set aside their animosity and pay their respects to Kazuto. A globe of light appears and floats into the sky afterwards. Having long established that Tomoya is willing to go to great lengths to see things through, his role in helping Yukine is not particularly useful in providing more insights into Tomoya’s character. However, the arc does establish that the town Tomoya lives in has its share of problems as well, and that the right person, in the right place, can help set things right without escalating the conflicts.
- For me, Yukine’s arc was a side story that I would consider to be the weakest in ~After Story~, and after revisiting things, my thoughts have not changed dramatically. This is why discussions on the arc is so short: we move swiftly into Tomoya’s final days as a high school student, where he struggles to determine what to do with his future upon graduation. The remainder of his friends have concrete aspirations, and even the unreliable Youhei has decided that he wishes to be a model. Back in high school, picking a future and sticking with it was always a challenge for me: this has come back to haunt me occasionally, but I’ve found that with my experiences in university, I’ve finally found something I enjoy doing.
- Nagisa’s birthday is on Christmas Eve, and her friends swing by to visit, lightening the mood up. Tomoya gifts to her Dango plushies that she takes an immediate liking to; the Dango Daikazoku have a much smaller presence in ~After Story~ owing to the fact that there is no drama club to re-establish, but their reappearance here shows that Tomoya’s not forgotten what Nagisa is fond of. Subtle but meaningful, these elements contribute much to the human aspects of ~After Story~.
- The Dango Daikazoku song is one of the most famous songs from CLANNAD, being immediately recognisable to those who hear it, and is also the subject of numerous remixes and covers. Its magic comes from a combination of its lullaby-like composition and association with CLANNAD. The forward lyrics indicates Nagisa’s innocence and belief in good; while a naïveté, Nagisa’s persistence in finding the positives in everything ultimately describes CLANNAD‘s message.
- Through the events of CLANNAD, Nagisa and Tomoya have gained lifelong friends: the strength of their friendship is so that even after Nagisa and Tomoya become a couple, Kotomi, Ryou and Kyou do not seem bothered and openly support them as friends would. It’s a different reaction than what I’ve known: in every case after someone rejected me, they also chose to burn bridges, as well. I move on fairly quickly and aren’t really bothered, but being less versed in these sorts of things, I turn to the reader to see if there’s an explanation for why this occurs.
- Nagisa has an illness of an indeterminate nature, and while some folks at Tango-Victor-Tango were quick to diagnose her with a viral autoimmune disorder, then proceeded to argue that since CLANNAD is set in the nineties, such a disease would not be well-characterised, hence why it cannot be identified. The reality is that the virus responsible for this disorder was identified in 1983 (whereas CLANNAD is set in the early 2000s) and there are antibody tests that can be done; further to this, other observations in CLANNAD quickly dispel that it’s an autoimmune disorder. I won’t bother directing more time towards this discussion, since the precise nature of Nagisa’s illness is irrelevant to the story.
- Graduation ceremonies from high school in Japan are not so different than the ones here in Canada, although we tend to have a celebration in addition to the ceremony. It’s a major turning point in people’s lives as they transition into adulthood, a time to be excited about seizing the future. That Tomoya and Youhei have reached this point despite their prior challenges speaks volumes about the impact that friendship has had on them: to support others and be supported have allowed the two former delinquents to get their game together and embrace the future.
- After graduation, Tomoya spends time with Nagisa on a walk, hand-in-hand. My previous experiences with graduation was a nice dinner after the ceremony, as well as farewells with peers and instructors alike. Representing the true turning point in life, graduation in ~After Story~ is where the story truly turns from a great one to one that is unparalleled. Most stories end with high school, leaving characters’ fates open as they step into the future, but ~After Story~ presents what futures may hold with honesty – it is not “happily ever after”, but a world filled with both new promise and difficulties.
- Nagisa’s illness eventually causes her to miss enough classes to be held back another year. Tomoya pushes ahead in his life, while Nagisa is left to continue high school on her own now that everyone’s graduated. The very prospect of this is immediately melancholy to viewers, but at the same time, Nagisa’s also become far more motivated than before. Even if Tomoya and the others are not in her corner physically, their time together gives Nagisa the resolve to continue with the drama club.
- Tomoya’s past with the Furukawas allow him to earn a position here to help out. While not exactly a career with a bright path ahead, working somewhere allows Tomoya to have focus. Idling in high school was what led to his days of unprofitable boredom, so his seizing the opportunity to do something while working out his future shows that with the right people in his corner, Tomoya is motivated and determined.
- Nagisa’s time in high school is marked with her making few friends and being unsuccessful in continuing the drama club. Her difficulties are mirrored in the composition of this still: Nagisa is not the central subject and is alone in the drama room under lengthen shadows of a sunset. Being alone on school grounds after hours creates a sense of melancholy. I recall those days on campus during the summers after research, when I would walk around the grounds to relax: empty halls and classrooms elicit a sense of loneliness.
- Tomoya rushes out to meet Yusuke and entreats him for a job as an electrician. While ~After Story~ deals with the world outside of school in a highly detailed manner, its focus means that some aspects are passed over: I’m certain that getting a job is not as simple as asking a friend as a referral, since there are still formalities that must be dealt with, for instance. With this being said, ~After Story~ is about family, not the job search; since Tomoya finding a job is integral to the story, audiences accept that he is able to find work and have an income, allowing the story to focus on other things.
- Tomoya decides to move out, and with a suggestion from Ryou, finds a place nearby with low rent. Tomoya’s apartment was based off an apartment in Suita, Osaka, which was demolished the same year that CLANNAD was aired. CLANNAD itself is set in a location inspired by Mizuho, Tokyo, and while the anime is not a hundred percent faithful to the real world locations, the similarities are quite visible. I imagine that this location is near the Tama River.
- Tomoya is offered a job with the company that Yusuke works for, and immediately sets about learning the ropes of being an electrician. I’m not sure how it works in Japan, but back home, there’s a four-year apprenticeship program that one must take, then complete the Journeyman Certificate programme and work under an employee. Some institutes offer programs, but high school students in my province can be hired into a company as an apprentice after graduation, as well, taking the same route that Tomoya takes.
- Early in his career, Tomoya would make just enough to support moving out and living independently, and after his first day of work, he comes home to a home-cooked dinner Nagisa’s made.
- When I think about it, I see in an ideal partner someone whose priorities are trust, commitment and honesty, someone who accepts handling tough times together and accepts that not every step of our journey together is going to be sunshine and rainbows. In the knowledge of this, they’d be willing to stick it out. I grew up with old-fashioned values, and it seems that this is largely incompatible with what most people expect.
- Nagisa embodies the sort of mindset that I’ve come to value and respect – no matter how tough things get for Tomoya, she continues to see the good and support him. For these two, an evening stroll together is as enjoyable and meaningful as a couple’s vacation overseas; the former might not be an Instagram-worthy moment, but that doesn’t stop it from being a good way to relax.
- While Tomoya might be working hard to support his new family, things with the Furukawas are still as much as they once were: one particularly memorable prank involves a lizard that Akio’s acquired from a shop owner after a fierce toy lightsabre duel. Unlike Tomoya, who’s working his rear off, the Furukawas have managed to find that work-life balance in their lives, and here, the cost of their prank is a heavy one: Sanae tackles both Tomoya and Akio on her way out of the shop in a panic.
- Getting used to a new job is a challenge; when I first watched CLANNAD ~After Story~, I did not have the experiences to really appreciate what Tomoya was experiencing. With this being said, I knew that there would come a day when I would finish the MCAT and graduate, so I wondered what working would feel like. I can now honestly say that it is a world apart from being a student, and that Tomoya’s effort to excel at his work is very real as he strives to prove his worth to his new employer.
- For me, an honest effort to do the best job possible, and the humility to ask for help are two of the most vital traits in someone worth working with. On the topic of transitions in life, it takes about a two weeks to adjust to a new environment, and then a month to settle down and make the most of the routine. This first while is always the trickiest, and the closest analogy I have is trades in sports teams like in the NHL: although one might be wearing a different jersey, they are still playing the same sport, and so, once one adjusts to their new team, things become more routine and familiar with time.
- Tomoya’s initial efforts come at the expense of his relationship with Nagisa; he ends up missing most of the Founder’s Festival and arrives late, but Nagisa does not mind, understanding Tomoya’s effort to earn his keep. It’s one of the surest signs that make Tomoya and Nagisa such a good couple: every couple I know that is in a strong, healthy relationship understands that relationships are give and take, about weathering tough times together as much as enjoying good times together.
- By talking it out, Nagisa and Tomoya reach a proper understanding with one another: although Nagisa has always tacitly supported Tomoya with his career, their communicating with one another means that nothing is left unspoken. Even though they are still a couple at this point, ~After Story~ uses the subtle to convey how close the two are. It is not often that things like trust, commitment and compromise are used in fiction to portray a strong, healthy relationship – more often than not, romantic gestures and dates are used. While more visceral for fiction, the reality is that in a good relationship, there is more communication than there is kissing, despite what social media might otherwise suggest.
- When Tomoya is offered a new position at a larger company, he is conflicted as to whether or not he should take the offer. Yusuke recounts his past as a musician to Tomoya, explaining that he was once a musician who was unable to keep up with his work, and fell into despair after one of his fans committed a crime. Losing sight of why he wanted to perform, Yusuke turned to substance abuse and hit rock bottom. He returned home and met Kyouko, realising that she was his reason for performing. Although no longer a musician, Yusuke learned that as long as one has a focus in life, they will make things work out.
- Tomoya decides to take on this new position, feeling it to be a path to the future. Life is ever-changing, and to pass on opportunity may come with a cost. Youth is a time for exploring new avenues, and Tomoya is excited about the change of scenery. However, at the worst possible time, Tomoya learns that his father’s been incarcerated for possession of controlled substances, and this causes his offer to become rescinded. Feeling his home town is nothing but a place of suffering, Tomoya asks Nagisa if she’d leave with him and make a fresh start elsewhere. Nagisa feels that this town remains special because they’d met here, and it’s how they handle the future that matters, more so than the past.
- Visiting the correctional facility where his father is, Tomoya has no words and mirroring his sense of loss, the scenes are a faded out grey: even with Nagisa by his side, it seems as though there is no colour and hope in the world, where the past continues to haunt him despite his best efforts to break free.
- It might’ve been a beautiful summer day, but Tomoya sees none of this. He finally lashes out and strikes a wall in frustration, but before he seriously injures himself, Nagisa stops him. Another couple passes by, wondering what on earth happened. Besides the sound of cicadas, the scene is quiet until The Place Where Wishes Come True begins playing. A sense of calm is injected into the moment, and here, after seeing Nagisa exert herself to protect him, he comes to realise that his feelings for Nagisa warrant an 愛してる, the strongest expression of love in Japan.
- Again, ~After Story~ defies convention: Tomoya’s proposal to Nagisa is done without a ring, in one of the most unromantic locations possible, but nonetheless creates one of the strongest impacts in an anime. It continues to underline that the ordinary can be extraordinary, and that there is a magic in the everyday. For me, it makes sense to put a way-point here; it marks the beginning of another journey for Tomoya and Nagisa, and a glance at the calendar shows that I will be returning at the end of January for the next post on ~After Story~. I steel myself for this particular post, knowing it will be a difficult one to write for.
It is here in ~After Story~ that the narrative takes a shift from high school to that of adulthood, of a world marked with responsibility and challenges. Immediately relatable is Tomoya’s resolve to keep active even while working out what he wishes to do with his future, and then the struggle Tomoya encounters in finding work-life balance during the early days of his work. By stepping out of school and into the real world, ~After Story~ ventures into a new direction that shows just how uncertain and uncomfortable being an adult is. However, for these difficulties, adulthood also comes with its own joys, as well. Effort in one’s career is rewarded, and people come to appreciate one another’s company even more strongly. In its portrayal of Tomoya and Nagisa, ~After Story~ means to suggest that, far more than romantic gestures and activities associated with relationships, the endgame of the most meaningful relationships is that one finds a partner to stay by their side, acting as a source of support and confidant, while simultaneously, also be someone that one can support and confide in. No matter how difficult things get, knowing that there will be someone reliably in one’s corner is a major boost to one’s morale, and ~After Story~ shows that with the right partner, almost any seemingly-insurmountable problem can be addressed. Seeing all of these things progress, from that day where Nagisa and Tomoya first met, to the present, creates incredibly human characters that audiences empathise and connect with. As they mature, Tomoya and Nagisa seem more life-like, prompting viewers begin to invest more into their story and hope for their happiness as they face the future together. This is what compelled players to continue with CLANNAD‘s visual novel, and why so many became engrossed with CLANNAD‘s animated adaptation.