The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: CLANNAD

Walking Towards the Future, Discovering the Past: Revisiting Youhei and Misae’s Arcs in CLANNAD ~After Story~ At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Do not lose to the obstacles that you will meet in the future.” –Tomoya Okazaki

When Mei decides to stick around after Youhei shows no sign of having a concrete course of action following high school, Youhei attempts to find someone to pose as his girlfriend so Mei will stop worrying about him. He is unsuccessful until Sanae decides to help out, presenting herself as Nagisa’s sister. Sanae’s gentle and reliable demeanour causes Mei to continue worrying, and she reveals to Tomoya that the Youhei she remembers was once dependable and caring of those around her. She attempts to go out with Tomoya to draw old Youhei’s old nature, although Youhei seemingly remains unmoved. Youhei begins to withdraw from the others, and Tomoya learns that Youhei was once a soccer player who quit after hazing from more senior players. Mei wishes for Youhei to rejoin and agrees to pick up stray soccer balls as a result, but finds herself bullied by the soccer team. Youhei and Tomoya begin fighting the soccer team, causing their members to disperse. Emotions boil over – Youhei and Tomoya slug it out, stopping when Mei and Nagisa intervene. In the aftermath, Tomoya and Youhei, upon seeing their respective battered visages, recall how they’d first met and share a good laugh. Youhei is terrified to learn that Sanae is actually Nagisa’s mother, and flees from a violent Akio. Mei returns home, while Tomoya and Nagisa continue to spend time with Youhei. Autumn sets in, and with it, the Autumn Festival: while speaking with Misae, Tomoya dozes off. He learns that Misae met an unusual boy, Katsuki Shima, in her final year of high school. Despite being annoyed by his presence initially, Misae comes to spend more time with him after her heart is broken upon learning her crush has a girlfriend already. With his earnest attitude, Misae begins falling in love with him and invites him to the autumn festival. However, Katsuki learnt earlier that his existence is owed to the original Katsuki’s wish to be with Misae. On the night of the festival, Misae admits that she’s in love with Katsuki, and he dissolves into tears, knowing he won’t be able to fulfil his promise to her. Tomoya awakens, and attends the autumn festival. They run into Misae here, and Tomoya recounts Katsuki’s story to Misae, who realises that Katsuki is still with her after all this time.

By pushing Tomoya into considering his friends’ future and the pasts of those senior to him, ~After Story~ provides audiences with greater insight into the directions that Tomoya must take as time passes. In having him resort to putting on a façade to drive Youhei forwards, and eventually physically fighting him, Tomoya shows that while he prefers indirect action to motivate people, he is not afraid to get his hands dirty and be direct. A real friend is someone who is open and honest, even when what they say is not pleasant to listen to. A real friend similarly can listen to this and come away stronger for it. Thus, when Tomoya encourages Youhei to find focus in his future, the resulting fight and resolution does eventually have an impact on Youhei. In the immediate future, Youhei remains the source of comic relief, but subtle changes can be seen, as well. Besides the future, the past is also explored: listening to Katsuki’s story and recounting things to Misae shows that Tomoya is perceptive. He sees commonalities between the lessons and experiences of his seniors, and those of his own experiences. In this case, Tomoya understands what falling in love is like and the strength of these feelings, as well as what can happen when these feelings go unacknowledged. Acting on what he feels is right, Tomoya is able to help Misae attain closure when he learns Misae’s cat is actually Katsuki; in doing so, Tomoya also shows that he is aware of Kyou and Tomoyo’s feelings for him to some extent, further illustrating that despite his appearances, Tomoya is a complex, multi-dimensional character whose experiences, especially with Nagisa, have begin bringing back the side of him that genuinely represents his personality and beliefs. While seemingly unrelated to the main events in ~After Story~, Youhei and Misae’s stories serve to give Tomoya a chance to interact in a context where romance is not a possible outcome. His experiences in both show that regardless of who it is at the receiving end, Tomoya is ready to listen or fight his way to a solution.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I deal with Flickr’s upcoming plan to eliminate half the life in the universe everything except my thousand newest images, I still have a few posts that I can continue using Flickr for, such as this post for ~After Story~. Readers looking through my older posts may find the images to be a bit fuzzier than they were before: this was because I used a tool to quickly resize images and publish them to Imgur for hosting. Once I’m done the migration, I’ll consider different avenues or methods to host new screenshots.

  • It’s been a while since I’ve written about ~After Story~, and last we left off, Tomoya had won a baseball game. Immediately, ~After Story~‘s first episode gaves off a melancholy vibe, and in doing so, sets the expectation that Youhei’s backstory has a similar weight as that of anyone else’s, even if he is the comic relief character. However, like CLANNAD has done previously, things open up with a humourous tone, allowing audiences to laugh as Youhei gets bested by his circumstances at every turn. Here, he runs afoul of Kyou after trying to get Ryou to pose as his girlfriend.

  • Ahead of Mei’s appearance, Youhei decides to find someone willing to pose as his girlfriend in a bid to convince Mei that all is well with the world. There are some that posit one has their game together if they are in a relationship; while it is true that a relationship can be indicative of maturity (it takes maturity to reach compromises, solve problems and work together), a hastily thrown-together relationship of the sort that Youhei is looking for here will lack the elements of a real relationship, and as such, audiences are left to wonder if Mei will see through Youhei’s ruse.

  • Making only brief appearances until now, Mei is the opposite of Youhei, being motivated, determined and attuned to the environment around her. Mei is voiced by Yukari Tamura, whom I know for her roles as Onegai Teacher‘s Ichigo Morino, Mai Kawasumi of Kanon, Remon Yamano from Ano Natsu de MatteruKiniro Mosaic‘s Isami Omiya and Rika Furude in Higurashi When They Cry (yes, I watched Higurashi some years ago). It’s stated that the Sunohara family resides in the inaka, so Mei’s travelling to visit Youhei is a big deal.

  • Sanae agrees to pose as Youhei’s “girlfriend”, and a part of the dramatic irony is wondering how long the ruse can be kept before Mei suspects something; after all, she’s very observant. However, for the most part, Mei seems unaware of anything out of the ordinary, attesting to Sanae’s ability to sell it and play the role of Nagisa’s “older sister”. I’m not sure how easy or hard it is to spot these things in real life, but in Tom Clancy’s Threat Vector, NOC Adam Yao is described as being able to play a second role convincingly to allay suspicion from those who would tail him.

  • When Mei sees Sanae, she worries that Sanae is the sort of person to dote on Youhei and inhibit his growth. One of the things that CLANNAD excels at over its predecessor, Kanon, is that even the comic relief character has a worthy backstory: Kanon‘s equivalent of Youhei, Jun Kitagawa, is relegated to a minor role and does not gain much development. In many ways, CLANNAD feels like the successor to Kanon, utilising very similar elements to tell a much more nuanced, compelling story by applying all of the learnings from Kanon.

  • While on their “date”, Mei calls Tomoya “onii-chan“, sending a chill up his spine. While used typically amongst siblings, women will occasionally use it to refer to older men in an endearing fashion, and given the application of honourifics in Japan, this is typically used only amongst people who are close, hence the embarrassment factor. Here, Mei manages to evoke an expression I don’t think we’ve seen from Tomoya up until this point in CLANNAD.

  • Kyou, Ryou and Kotomi run into Tomoya while he’s under the influence of Mei’s onii-chan, and the three run off in terror. The joy of the moment is quickly lost, but it is typical of CLANAND to create these one-off moments that lighten the mood up. Subsequently, Tomoya and Mei do the things that one might do on a date; Mei acts more akin to a younger sister than a date, and in retrospect, her mischievous mannerisms bring to mind those of GochiUsa‘s Maya. Such characters previously were not particularly noteworthy for me, but since GochiUsa, this feeling has dissipated, and I do find it fun to see what kind of dynamics that such characters bring to the table.

  • Exemplary use of lighting in CLANNAD continues into ~After Story~: when Mei reveals to Tomoya and Nagisa Youhei’s past as a soccer player, the lengthening shadows create a sense of hopelessness and distance. Application of colour in CLANNAD allows Kyoto Animation to convey emotions and feelings that dialogue and aural cues alone cannot, and with this in mind, Kyoto Animation does tend to rely more heavily on lighting in drama than in comedies: series like Violet Evergarden and Sound Euphonium similarly use time of day and weather patterns to accentuate a mood, while more comedic works like Amagi Brilliant Park and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid tend to go with facial expressions to convey comedy.

  • Eventually, the decision is reached, that Youhei might need to rejoin the Soccer Team. It’s admittedly a short-sighted solution to a much bigger problem, and while we are a society that holds quitting is for losers, there does come a point where one can only endure so much before it becomes a better choice to seek different avenues. I would tend to argue that Youhei’s solution would not be to rediscover his interest in soccer, but to find another path to walk with conviction.

  • ~After Story~ paints this in a very blunt manner: the Soccer Club evidently does not want Youhei back, and they make it clear by setting a Sisyphean task for Mei. Seeing enough, Tomoya confronts the club’s leader, and when they begin bullying Mei openly, he makes to fight them. In CLANNAD, hostile characters have deliberately small, narrow eyes that make them immediately detestable. One admires Tomoya’s restraint in not engaging them immediately on the basis of appearances alone.

  • Youhei appears at the last, last second and opens the fight after the Soccer Club members begin bullying Mei physically. While often at the receiving end of a beating, Youhei and Tomoya manages to fend off the entire soccer team, causing them members to flee. The mechanics in CLANNAD are very inconsistent; Tomoyo can defeat entire gangs on her own, and Kyou’s capable of throwing books that punch through concrete, while Youhei can survive encounters with both without lasting damage. However, against the likes of the soccer club, real damage is caused.

  • The sense of melancholy at day’s end gives way to a rain shower: the dark skies and heavy rain mirrors the grim mood that Tomoya and Youhei both feel. Exhausted from their fight with the Soccer Club earlier, Tomoya and Youhei’s own fight shows their exhaustion, with each punch and throw exposing just how physically tired both combatants are at this point in time. However, driven on by their feelings, and sense of what is right, they exchange blows until Mei and Nagisa implore them to stop.

  • While seemingly pointless, Tomoya and Youhei’s fight serve to show the other the conviction each has in their respective beliefs, as well as the absurdity of their choices. While no more words are to be had here, it is implicit that Tomoya and Youhei come to an understanding here on both what needs to happen as the move ahead. They leave the soccer field battered and bruised, in the company of those who care about them.

  • The next day, under beautiful skies, Tomoya and Youhei realise the comedy of their situation and burst out laughing. Summed with their tacit agreement from the day before, it’s clear they’ve made up. The weather reflects this in full, and as the two share a laugh, Nagisa, Kotomi, Kyou and Ryou show up, clearly puzzled as to what’s going on. Much as how friendships between women can be a bit of an enigma for men, the way men interact with one another can similarly be confusing for women, as well.

  • To make it absolutely clear that a new status quo is reached, the question on everyone’s mind, of whether or not Youhei ever learns that Sanae is actually Nagisa’s mother, is answered at the end of Youhei’s arc. It is absolutely hilarious, resulting in Akio chasing down Youhei for having messed with his wife. Nagisa and Sanae are shocked, while Tomoya is busy laughing at Youhei’s predicament. With this, Youhei’s arc comes to an end, affirming Tomoya and Youhei’s friendship to audiences.

  • While it is important to look ahead and plot one’s course for the future, there are lessons from the past that can also be relevant. The contrast between future and past foreshadow the role that both will have in Tomoya’s life later down the line, but at present, these stories primarily serve to illustrate the way Tomoya handles his challenges and also further the sense of depth and connection present in CLANNAD that makes this series particularly memorable and timeless.

  • Before delving any further, Misae’s arc and story with Katsuki is entirely told in a dream, being detailed enough so that one could reasonably surmise that it is faithful to what Misae experienced. This story is recounted to Tomoya while he dozes off at Misae’s place, and because of how time perception in dreams work (as well as just how limited our understanding of dreams generally is), it is not implausible that Tomoya would have heard the entire story over the course of a 10-15 minute span.

  • Katsuki’s involvement is simple: he appears out of the blue to grant Misae one wish in exchange for having helped restore his spirits some years before, while he was recuperating in the hospital. Misae sees him as little more than a nuisance: when he learns that Misae holds feelings for one Igarashi, he tries to help her advance things along in fulfilment of his promise to her. However, Katsuki’s naïveté works against him.

  • Misae is this generation’s Kyou and Tomoyo rolled into one, having a bit of a temper and is quick to violence whenever annoyed. She also happens to be the student council president, and is best known for managing to encourage perfect attendance for a full week amongst her students. This similarity is likely deliberate, showing that while things change, there are also things that remain quite similar. I imagine that this is one of the things that teachers will appreciate – having taught cohort after cohort of students, similarities between different students will become apparent.

  • At Katsuki’s insistence, Misae attempts a kokuhaku to Igarashi, only to learn he already has a girlfriend. While she’s heartbroken, Katsuki is inconsolable, feeling that it is his fault for having brought pain to Misae. It takes a bit of convincing for Katsuki to lighten up, and it is also here that Misae opens up to Katsuki. While the day is ending, the colours of the scene are also richer, more saturated; audiences are left with the sense that even though something is ending, something new is beginning, as well.

  • Misae’s feelings for Katsuki emerge as the two spend more time together; while he might not be forward and confident, his gentle and kind mannerisms are his strong points. Fiction often has a second love be successful, and I know of a few stories in reality where folks became happy couples after one or both suffered recent heartbreak. I’m happy that people can find their promised people in this manner, but for me, romance and the prospect of finding someone special remains consigned to the realm of fiction. Since that event of four years previously, things simply have not been working.

  • One day, while waiting for Misae to finish her duties, Katsuki runs into Misae’s friends. They decide to pull off some fieldcraft with the aim of allowing Katsuki to see Misae while she’s on her student council work, and the result is quite amusing; he manages to pull off the disguise effectively and fools most everyone, save Misae.

  • ~After Story~ continues making use of blood reds and oranges in an environment filled with shadows to signify a particularly foreboding or difficult moment. One could guess what will happen even without dialogue owing to the colours. Here, Misae’s friends take him back home after he confesses to forgetting where he lived, and learn that Katsuki Shima had been deceased for quite some time. Katsuki learns here that the original was a young boy who’d died, and that the boy’s feelings had been strong enough to manifest in human form to pay back Katsuki’s gratitude to Misae.

  • Because the blacks and reds give way to a gentler palette of evening colours, viewers immediately feel a sense that the revelation, while shocking in the moment, is something that isn’t meant to be taken as a game-ender. Misae’s friends attempt to reassure Katsuki here, and audiences familiar with Kanon will be reminded of Makoto’s arc, where Yuuichi similarly remembers that he’d once befriended a fox whose gratitude was strong enough to manifest in a human form for a time. This is a recurring theme, and suggests that Maeda considers love to transcend species, being something that is quite wonderful.

  • On the night of the autumn festival, Misae and Katsuki share a moment together: by now, Misae is in love with Katsuki, but Katsuki regrets being unable to reciprocate her feelings. Despite her promise to be with him forever, the magic that allowed him to retain a human form expires, and Katsuki vanishes. In spite of him returning to his original form, Katsuki’s feelings remain, and he manages to find Misae once again. From Misae’s perspective, it would be fate that the stray cat she encountered happens to be Katsuki.

  • I’ve long heard that the things one experiences in life, and the reason why they happen, remain an enigma. Supposedly, this is why some people go through many occupations and prospective partners before finding the right ones for them, while others seem to make their first choices work out of the gates. Fate and free will has long been a subject of debate, and with my experiences, I find that reality will present individuals with both. Others have characterised the relationship between free will and fate as being one where neither can exist without the other: fate creates a decision, and free will is consciously choosing which decision to take.

  • While it’s subtle, I wonder if Nagisa and Tomoya being together at the autumn festival could qualify as foreshadowing of what is to come; after all, Katsuki and Misae were separated here, reuniting again later. Tomoya decides to tell Misae of what his dream showed him and helps Misae reach closure at the very same festival where she discovered her love for Katsuki.

  • ~After Story~‘s opening arcs take a very similar approach as CLANNAD, although the focus has shifted towards world-building. Supernatural elements and everyday elements are explored to further humanise the characters – Maeda’s use of the supernatural is intended to provide a tangible explanation for why things in life happen the way that they do, attesting to how complex and mysterious life is. With these two arcs over, the next stage in ~After Story~ will deal with the balls of light and the world outside of school.

Besides building out Tomoya’s character further, ~After Story~ capitalises on its earlier episodes to further develop the other characters and the universe to build a truly well-thought out, captivating world. From a narrative perspective, having Tomoya deal with Youhei and reigniting Youhei’s motivation shows the strength of their friendship. Audiences now understand why Youhei and Tomoya remain friends in spite of Youhei’s flippant attitude and Tomoya’s penchant for pranking Youhei: their friendship holds weight after what audiences have seen, and we thus come to appreciate that in spite of the comedic, even idiotic interactions between the two, the reality is that Tomoya and Youhei do support one another when the moment calls for it. Similarly, exploring Misae’s story and introducing an element reminiscent of Makoto’s arc in Kanon reinforce that there is a supernatural component in CLANNAD. While the supernatural had always been subtly present in CLANNAD (and in Fuuki’s arc, not-so-subtle), that it is making a more noticeable appearance now means that there are forces at work in CLANNAD that should not be so quickly dismissed. The sum of these two stories in ~After Story~ thus act to set the expectation that every story Tomoya experiences have weight, and that it is the sum of his actions, in conjunction with the supernatural aspects of his world, that will come to impact and shape his future.

The Goodbye at the End of Summer: Another Beginning For CLANNAD ~After Story~ at the Ten Year Anniversary

“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.

Two Shadows: Revisiting Nagisa’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“We didn’t give up on our dreams! We changed our dreams into your dream. That’s what parents do. That’s what family does.” —Akio Furukawa

Tomoyo signs off on the drama club’s authorisation to share advisors, and with instructor Toshio advising the club, Nagisa and the others can finally begin their preparations. However, Tomoya becomes disgruntled when his homeroom instructor visits is residence and speaks with his father about Tomoya’s future. Realising that Tomoya’s relationship with his father is rocky, Nagisa offers to have him stay with the Furukawas. Nagisa decides to perform a play she’s only vaguely familiar with, and while hunting for more clues about this play, enter a shed that houses Akio’s old performance recordings. He later explains to Tomoya that Nagisa very nearly perished as a child, and that he and Sanae have since discarded their original aspirations to ensure Nagisa’s future. At a picnic with the Furukawas, Nagisa reveals that she has feelings for Tomoya. Preparations for their play are under-way, with Kyou, Ryou, Kotomi and Youhei pitching in to work on lighting, sound, stage directions. Their rehearsal proceeds smoothly, but later, when Nagisa attempts to find a flashlight, she stumbles upon her parents’ old diaries, learning that they’d given up their careers for her sake. Falling into a melancholy, Tomoya and the others attempt to help her lighten up, but ultimately, feelings of guilt and doubt overwhelm her – on stage, Nagisa dissolves into tears. Akio and Tomoya intervene, declaring respectively that their dreams are now to see her dreams succeed; with her motivation re-kindled, Nagisa delivers a solid performance. In the aftermath, the drama club celebrates in full, and the next evening, Tomoya decides to confess his love for Nagisa, who returns his feelings under a vivid sunset in the drama club room.

After the drama club is restored and preparations have begun in earnest for Nagisa’s play, the central conflict of CLANNAD’s final arc (in the season) is Nagisa’s own back-story and the events that led her parents away from their dreams to be with her. In giving up their chosen professions, Akio and Sanae demonstrate the strength of their commitment to Nagisa’s well-being. A status quo was thus created, lasting until Tomoya set in motion the events to change things; by introducing the disruption, Tomoya inadvertently brings out Nagisa’s stubbornness, as well. Her kind and gentle nature is already established, and CLANNAD has already illustrated that Nagisa is willing to put others ahead of herself even when it is at her own expense. It illustrates her respect and love for those around her, although to a fault; Nagisa’s insistence seemingly prevails even when it jepordises the efforts of her friends and parents. Culminating in her bursting into tears on the day of her performance, the sum of Nagisa’s guilt and regret manifests in full. With encouragement from her parents and friends, however, she manages to summon the courage to continue. Owing to the strength of her negative emotions, it stands to reason that the connections she’s formed, and the positives, have far out-weighed the negatives. It is a powerful reminder of the impact that Tomoya has had on Nagisa’s life and world-views, that she is able to overcome her past doubts and embrace the present. In doing so, Nagisa successfully puts on her performance, marking a triumphant return of Hikarizaka Private High School’s drama club.

CLANNAD‘s final arc serves as the culmination of the experiences and learnings Tomoya has up until this point. Each of the past arc served as a primer to Nagisa’s story: because of the developing connections between Tomoya and Nagisa, Tomoya’s path to helping Nagisa make her first-ever play a success faces additional challenges. Succeeding also becomes a more personal matter for Tomoya, who has come to realise that his own persistence and resolve in helping her stems from his trying to make one final opus magnum before his time in high school ends, staving off having spent most of his days in complacent idleness. Progressing through each of Fuuko, Kotomi, Kyou and Tomoyo’s stories, Tomoya’s efforts become increasingly focused around making Nagisa successful. As he pushes towards helping each of Fuuko, Kotomi, Kyou and Tomoyo, he engages in activities he never would have considered at CLANNAD‘s beginning, and he displays aspects of his personality that make him less of an enigma, and more of a friend, to Nagisa. Over time, Tomoya and Nagisa grow to understand one another very well, having committed such a monumental effort towards restoring the drama club, and in the aftermath of a highly successful performance, both come to understand that, far beyond a friendship that’s developed along this journey, the feelings that each feel towards one another are the consequence of having spent so much time being open, genuine and trusting towards one another. It is therefore a fitting conclusion to CLANNAD‘s animated adaptation, that Tomoya and Nagisa accept one another’s feelings at the conclusion of one milestone in CLANNAD, paving the way forwards for its successor, CLANNAD ~After Story~.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • With Tomoyo’s support, the drama club gets their go-ahead to begin operations. The student council, under her leadership, has no objections to the unique arrangements that Nagisa required to restart the club, and with a critical juncture resolved, the major objective driving CLANNAD up until now has finally been settled. Before we continue too much further into this post, I note that this post is a bit special, and so, there will be forty screenshots rather than the usual thirty.

  • Wasting no time after being formally accepted as a club, the drama club immediately begin preparing for their performance, to be set during their high school’s culture festival. While its existence is only official towards CLANNAD‘s end, the drama club was really revived the day that Tomoya and Nagisa found a disused classroom, and when Tomoya encouraged Nagisa to rebuild the club in her choosing, leading her to create a Dango Daikazoku poster. I do not believe I’ve mentioned thus, but I’ve long found that だんご大家族 is somewhat phoenically similar to the Cantonese 蛋糕大家族 (jyutping: daan2 gou1 daai6 gaa1 zuk6), and so, when I began watching CLANNAD, I thought Dango referred to “cake” rather than a small dumpling more similar to mochi.

  • When things sound phonetically similar but have radically different meanings, they are counted as false friends. These can lead to some hilarious results for folks who are just learning a language – when I began learning German back during high school, one term that threw people off was “Gymnasium”: in German, it refers to an academic-focused institution (known in British English as a grammar school), but for most English-speakers, it is a place of exercise. One of the most amusing false written friends between Chinese and Japanese is 湯 (jyutping: tong1, romaji: yu): in Hanzi, it means “soup”, but the Japanese see the Kanji as “bath”. Similarly, 刀 for Chinese people is “knife” (jyutping: dou1), but the Japanese read it as “katana”, which corresponds with the Chinese character 劍 (jyutping: gim3).

  • When Chinese people go to a Japanese restaurant and order 焼肉 (jyutping: siu1 juk6), it therefore may come as a surprised that they get yakiniku beef rather than crispy skin pork. This topic could go on forever, so I return things back to CLANNAD. As the spring gives way to summer, the vivid azures of the sky begin making their way into the town, which is based off the town of Mizuho. The depiction of summers in anime has left me with a permanent impression of what a summer proper should look like, and I often feel that the long, warm days of summer is the time of year when one’s heart may begin wandering in search of adventure, accommodated by a sky that is inviting of exploration.

  • It’s quite rare to see Nagisa so motivated and determined: after Tomoya escapes an instructor who wishes to talk to him about his future, Nagisa chases him across campus and manages to exhaust Tomoya, who cannot figure out why Nagisa is doing this. She later sees him off, and does her best to make sure Tomoya does not peace out a second time. This is done purely for comedy, but the mood soon transitions once Tomoya reaches the street where his house is.

  • Tomoya’s father explains to the instructor that Tomoya’s decisions are his own, when the instructor visits to speak with him about Tomoya’s future. The dramatic contrast between the relationship Tomoya and his father share, against the dynamics of the Furukawa family, serve as a constant reminder to Tomoya about why he hates his situation and constant longing to be anywhere else. From CLANNAD alone, the backstory for Tomoya’s father is not explored; audiences do not know much about him beyond his fight with Tomoya.

  • Nagisa’s motivation and determination wilts away after Tomoya explains to her what his situation is, and what he makes of it. She subsequently invites Tomoya to stay with her until he’s settled down. Motifs associated with light make a return: Tomoya and Nagisa’s brief chase happen during the bright summer afternoon, but as the light begins fading, the mood turns more melancholy. Tomoya accepts Nagisa’s invitation, and retreats to the warmly-lit Furukawa residence, mirroring his consent to regroup and deal with things another day.

  • Against the dark of night, the Furukawa residence is very welcoming indeed. The drama playing out between Sanae and Akio here is prima facie to lighten the atmosphere for audiences, but it also foreshadows the two’s past. Akio remarks that Tomoya’s harem has evaporated with this action; by this point in time, it is evident that Tomoya and Nagisa are going to end up together. At the Furukawas’, a flute variation of Nagisa’s theme can be heard.

  • After Youhei messes around with the synthesiser and sets up some unusual scenarios with the synthesiser’s more outlandish sound options, the time has come to decide on a play, and Tomoya recalls that Nagisa had a performance in mind. While Nagisa’s vaguely got an idea of what the play entails, she’s not in possession of a script, which would make it difficult for the drama club to properly prepare. Tomoya figures that finding a copy of the script will be useful.

  • Upon arriving back at the Furukawas’, Tomoya finds the place filled with small children, one of whom kicks his ass for frightening another child. Sanae arrives and explains that she runs a private tutor program to help children study, hinting at her background. On the topic of tutors, I remark that on the maternal side of my family, every single one of my aunts is involved in education, and almost all of my cousins are likewise engaged in education.

  • Looking back on this whole CLANNAD series of posts at the ten year anniversary, it’s a little crazy to think just how much time has elapsed even since I started considering doing something for the decade that’s passed since CLANNAD originally aired. The idea was floated back in February last year when I did a simulated date with Nagisa, and a shade more than thirteen months later, we’re on the last of the CLANNAD revisitation posts.

  • Tomoya and Nagisa’s search for the script for the latter’s play leads them to hunt in the shed, where some unusual items are found. Akio dissuades them from hunting in there, and feeling that Tomoya should understand why, spends a bit of time trying to secure some space so the two may talk. They are interrupted at very nearly every turn, finally settling on the roof of the Furukawa residence. While audiences are smiling throughout this scene, especially with respect to the ludicrous image of Tomoya and Akio on the roof, the conversation soon becomes more sobering as Akio explains their past to Tomoya.

  • It turns out that Akio was once an aspiring actor, and Sanae was an instructor. Both led busy lives, and when Nagisa fell ill, they decided to leave her to rest on her own. Nagisa, being ever-concerned by those around her, had decided to stick around outside, awaiting their return in the snow. Over-exertion brought Nagisa to the brink of death, and in a fit of desperation, Akio begged the heavens to spare Nagisa’s life. Since then, both have changed their careers to ensure Nagisa’s future, and while Akio admits that they are happy with the way things are, he is concerned that learning the truth will be detrimental to Nagisa and asks him to keep it as a secret between them.

  • The Furukawas take Tomoya out on a picnic, during which Nagisa accidentally makes her feelings for Tomoya known to him. Throughout CLANNAD‘s anime adaptation, there have been subtle hints as to which way the wind has been blowing: from Fuuko’s insistence that Nagisa and Tomoya refer to one another more affectionately, to adults feeling that Nagisa and Tomoya are a couple, signs of growing feelings between the two become more overt as CLANNAD progresses. CLANNAD represents my favourite fictionalised depiction of how a relationship could start: without any common clichés seen in other series, things happen very naturally in CLANNAD.

  • Kyou leads the drama club tongue twister exercises – while Nagisa might be the president of the drama club, Kyou is the de facto leader, attesting to her take-charge and forward attitudes. The drama club makes considerable strides in getting to the point where Nagisa can perform at the school’s culture festival for the narrative’s sake. Pacing invariably quickens as a story pushes towards its climax, and it is generally seen that this causes stories to lose something in the process. However, in CLANNAD, there is no loss because the drama club has a solid base. We’ve spent the entire season showing glimpses of Nagisa preparing for the club’s reviva, so it follows that she’s able to immediately drive things ahead now that the club is operational.

  • Even five years after I’d watched CLANNAD, the progression of Tomoya and Nagisa’s relationship set the standard I’ve come to expect in fictional relationship growth. Your Lie in April and The Moon is Beautiful are the two other anime I’ve seen that matches CLANNAD with respect to the strength of how well romance unfolds. Watching powerfully-written love stories, however, comes at a great personal cost for me: long-time readers of this site will be familiar with my story about CLANNADthe MCAT and an unrequited love, so when watching these emotionally-stimulating series, I am reminded of these days long past and find myself somewhat melancholy.

  • Nagisa gears up for her performance while the remainder of the drama course looks on. Having just spent the past few days looking at Girls und Panzer ahead of Das Finale‘s first instalment, it suddenly strikes me that Nagisa can be seen as being somewhat similar to Miho Nishizumi: while it is clear that knowledge in armoured warfare and theatrics are not shared between the two, watching Nagisa and Miho interact with their respective casts finds that both have very similar personalities.

  • In general, both Miho and Nagisa are quiet reserved and shy, but in the presence of friends, become more animated. Both care greatly for those around them, to the point of putting others ahead of themselves, and oftentimes, do not easily open up to others with their concerns unless asked. Of course, once they do open up in their respective narratives, it then becomes a joy to see new sides to their personalities.

  • A successful dress rehearsal, followed by a near-catastrophic failure, is a staple in fiction, and whenever performances are involved, my inclination is to wait for the progression of events that see a performance threatened. This particular pattern became visible to me only as a consequence of having watched numerous shows since then, including Anthem of the Heart, which was a fantastic film. Similar to CLANNAD in some regards, it was centered around the impact that words can have. In its narrative, disparate individuals came together to put a play together through song that would convey their feelings and in doing so, allowed them to take a step forwards.

  • Now that I think about it, it is a bit strange to be dropping into a talk in CLANNAD mere days before Girls und Panzer: Das Finale will available for viewing; leafing through my earlier posts, it’s clear that Girls und Panzer and CLANNAD require a completely different mindset to write about, and both anime are detailed enough so that one could create a dedicated blog for each respective series alone, and there’d still be enough content to keep it going for a few years. Girls und Panzer requires that I dive into military history and interest in weapons, but CLANNAD necessitates I take a step back and consider my experiences with love, life and everything in between.

  • I count myself incredibly thankful that in reality, there is not a need to introduce additional drama or impediments on the eve of something major. While Nagisa’s want for a flashlight eventually leads her to learn the truth about her parents and their old dreams, I spent the week leading up to the MCAT relaxing and doing nothing in general. On the day of the exam, stress, brought on by a server failure at the examination site and a malfunctioning HVAC system dumping too much heat into the building resulted in my developing stomach problems. Between the physical sciences section and verbal reasoning, I sought out the countermeasures and wrote the remainder of the exam without too much difficulty.

  • After learning about her parents’ sacrifice for her sake, the mood transforms to that of melancholy, and the colours, an overcast grey washing out colour in the environments, serves to reinforce this. Weather and lighting patterns in CLANNAD are now well-established in helping set the atmosphere, and so, viewers will have become quite accustomed to using visual cues, such as colour and time of day, in order to gauge a situation even when the dialogue might imply a situation is better than it is. I do not believe there is another Kyoto Animation title out there that has made such masterful use of environment cues to capture how the characters feel since CLANNAD.

  • It speaks volumes to how close the drama club’s members have become since the start of CLANNAD, as Kyou and the others quickly determine that Nagisa is not her usual self. Ever-mindful of Nagisa, Tomoya tactfully explains that she’s simply nervous about the presentation, steering the conversation away from Nagisa’s learnings from the previous evening and lessening the stress on her. He is careful to give just enough information to Youhei to keep him in the loop without overstepping; Youhei might be lacking in some areas, but he is also loyal, respecting Tomoya’s decisions.

  • Tomoya takes Nagisa around the Culture Festival with the goal of taking her mind off things, and while Nagisa does her best to enjoy things, she’s unable to shake feelings of guilt. The school’s interior, normally of a lighter colour, take on a grey colour, with only the characters being rendered as they normally are to constantly convey to viewers that despite Tomoya’s efforts, things will need to worsen before they get better.

  • After losing sight of Tomoya, Nagisa makes her way to the reference room, where she finds Yukine and asks to see the school’s old drama performances. Finding Akio’s old performances and the passion with which he delivered his performances, Nagisa falls into a melancholy; the old videos seem to reinforce the idea of just how much of an impact that Nagisa’s had in Akio and Sanae’s dreams, and when Tomoya finds her at the reference room, he wordlessly accompanies her to the stage to help her get set up.

  • Nagisa is voiced by Mai Nakahara, (Rena Ryūgū of Higurashi When They Cry, Hai-Furi‘s Mashimo Munetani, Saki‘s Teru Miyanaga and Haruno Yukinoshita of My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU); of her roles, Nakahara’s performance as Rena is probably one of her most memorable. Rena is Higurashi‘s signature character, and while normally similar to Nagisa in personality, save for an insatiable desire to take adorable things home, she also has a violent streak comparable to that of B.J. Blazkowicz’s. Here, with her dull eyes and lack of energy, Nagisa reminds me somewhat of Rena, but being CLANNAD, there’s no chance of a bath of blood occurring.

  • The moment has finally come for the drama club’s effort, the culmination of a season’s worth of efforts, to be known. Nagisa stands alone on the stage, but when recollections of her father’s performance enter her mind, doubt and guilt kick in. This scene, even more so than watching Kyou, Ryou and Tomoyo learn of Tomoya’s feelings for Nagisa, is the hardest-hitting point in CLANNAD. While billed as an anime that can make grown men cry, CLANNAD‘s first season is more focused on establishment. As such, no tears were shed while watching through the first season.

  • The sum of Nagisa’s doubts overwhelm her, and with the play threatened, Tomoya prepares to shut things down. Before he can, Akio arrives and declares that Nagisa’s done nothing wrong, and that as her parents, their dreams were ultimately to see her happy. Tomoya chimes in, as well, reminding Nagisa that living in the present is what made her stand out to him and made everything possible. Realising that the past has no bearing on her now, and accepting that her parents’ dreams never really vanished, Nagisa regroups and prepares to deliver her play as planned in CLANNAD‘s climax.

  • Nagisa’s put in a great deal of practise, far more than CLANNAD‘s illustrated; even after crying her eyes out, she continues into the play’s introduction without missing a beat, and as she presents the story of the Girl in The Illusionary World, the scene changes. Audiences have seen this Illusionary World on several occasions before: in a world with only a girl and an animated robot as its inhabitants, this space consists of endless fields of brown grass, signifying the end of all life, and in spite of its desolation, the play seems to deal with hope. The significance of the Illusionary World in the context of CLANNAD is restricted to Nagisa’s play, which is why I’ve not given too much focus on it: it is in CLANNAD ~After Story~ where the Illusionary World has a more significant role to play.

  • The animation style in the Illusionary World is different than that of CLANNAD‘s, being more fluid and ethereal in nature. I’ve heard folks from Tango-Victor-Tango claim that these sequences are animated in 60 FPS, but having run tests on the Illusionary World scenes, I can say that this is not the case. These scenes are 24 FPS, same as everywhere else in the anime, with the effects being accomplished by animation techniques that I am not too familiar with.

  • As evening sets in, Nagisa and Tomoya discuss the play. Tomoya feels it is unusual that Nagisa chose to end with “Dango Daikazoku”, but she feels that it is an appropriate song. While seemingly out of place, considering who the Girl in the Imaginary World is supposed to represent, the choice of song is actually a well-chosen one. It was under similar skies that I walked out of my MCAT some five-and-a-half years ago now, and while I was given the recommendation to have something sweet, I went for a hearty dinner instead before proceeding to sleep the best sleep I’d slept all summer.

  • In the aftermath of the play, the drama club celebrate in full. It’s a joyous event, and I definitely know the rush of finishing a milestone successfully: in the end, my MCAT earned the equivalent of today’s 517, which is considered to be a pretty solid score. My aspirations eventually shifted from medicine to software, and I actually ended up doing what is commonly known as a gap year while trying to figure out my path. Looking back, the MCAT imparted on me some lifelong experiences, both good and bad.

  • One can imagine that Tomoya and Nagisa are dancing in front of a bonfire, as is customary for some high schools in the wake of another excellent culture festival. Youhei’s stuck dancing with Mei here, and throughout CLANNAD, his role is primarily that of comic relief. He does have his serious moments, however, and one would look no further than CLANNAD ~After Story~ for these stories.

  • The question then becomes whether or not I have any plans on writing about ~After Story~: while I say it’s a bit early to be considering this, the fact remains is that time is very unforgiving. October 3, 2018 is “merely” a half-year away, and so, it’s probably not too early to entertain the possibility of writing about what I found to be CLANNAD‘s stronger half. This is saying something, considering how greatly I enjoyed the first half.

  • I think that whether or not I write for ~After Story~ will be determined by a very simple test: reader interest. I hold you, the reader, in very high regards because of the feedback and conversations that can result. As Tomoya steels himself for the greatest challenge he’s faced in all of CLANNAD thus far, I will note that as long as there is even one reader who will enjoy reading about ~After Story~, then I will write about it with the same detail and rigour as I have for CLANNAD once the ten year anniversary arrives for it.

  • As this post draws to a close, I will share another anecdote for readers that I do not believe I’ve mentioned yet. A summer after I wrote the MCAT, I began feeling drawn to the individual who’d supported me through the journey and who had continued to encourage me while I was working on my undergraduate honours thesis. Both our summers were busy, and the Great Flood of 2013 prevented us from meeting up in person. I had planned to ask her out at the top floor of a spot on campus with a fantastic view of the mountains. However, no opportunity presented itself. As the days began lengthening, I felt as though the window was closing to see where things went.

  • On the morning before I was set to leave on a vacation, I decided to walk the same path as Tomoya did. I figured that, having conqured my honours degree and an MCAT, asking someone out should be a bloody cakewalk, right? As it turns out, the MCAT and undergraduate defense had been easier than this, and my heart was racing away. In the five years that has elapsed, I’ve not forgotten the response I received:

That’s very kind of you to say I’m interesting (when really.. I’m not haha) but the thought although the gesture wasn’t done is very sweet. Well, I apologize I wasn’t able to see you before I go. Perhaps asking again when I come back will be better? 🙂

  • There was no opportunity to ask again; being separated by distance and introducing another fellow into the picture tends to do that. If Tomoya had experienced what I did, CLANNAD would end right here, right now, and that wouldn’t make for a very interesting narrative. Fortunately, in fiction, there can be happy endings, and so, considering everything that Tomoya and Nagisa have gone through during the course of CLANNAD, it is very natural that they end up accepting one another’s feelings.

  • Given my advanced age now, I imagine that being able to ask out someone special in a classroom is probably well outside of my reach now. When I first watched CLANNAD, I had yet to experience precisely this, and so, when I return now to provide my thoughts on Tomoya’s kokuhaku, I can offer a bit more insight into things. The brilliant light of dusk casts a multi-coloured spectrum in the room: unlike every other evening shot, when Tomoya asks Nagisa out, the rich, warm lighting suggests the beginning of things, rather than the end. The hesitation, doubt and resolve in Tomoya’s voice is also remarkably well-done. With Nagisa accepting Tomoya’s feelings, CLANNAD‘s first season draws to a close.

  • It would be unfair to give CLANNAD‘s first season a numerical and letter grade score in the knowledge that it is really the first half of a whole, and so, I’ll conclude this talk with a screenshot of Tomoya and Nagisa’s names on the blackboard. With this final post for CLANNAD‘s first season in the books, let me know down below whether or not this you’d like to see more of these CLANNAD posts, what you’d like to see from future CLANNAD posts if the existing ones were worth reading about, and finally, for both the ladies and gentlemen amongst our readers, if you’d ended up rejecting someone, what advice would you have for them? The last one’s a bit of a tall order, so I’m not expecting an answer for that. In the meantime, it’s time to turn my sights to the future: upcoming posts are Yuru Camp△Slow Start, and A Place Further Than The Universe‘s finales. Early in April, I’ll also see if I can write about The Division and Overgrowth.

CLANNAD‘s first season, through the sum of its events and outcomes, is intended to set the stage for CLANNAD ~After Story~ by presenting the theme of family. During its run, Tomoya learns more about and influences the Ibuki, Ichinose, Sakagami, Fujibayashi and Furukawas; each of the families have their own standing points and challenges. This was an intentional decision from the writers; as Tomoya goes through each arc, he gains insight into what other families are like. While it does not help him reconcile his relationship with his father in CLANAND’s first act, Tomoya begins to form an idea of what he desires to have in a family. By the conclusion of this first act, Tomoya’s journey is really just getting started here: with Nagisa, he begins walking on the path towards a family of his own, and its attendant responsibilities. This sets in motion the events of CLANNAD ~After Story~, and also brings what was a six-month series to a conclusion for the present. The masterful balance between the comedic and dramatic, strong characters, even pacing and a top-tier execution from Kyoto Animation allows CLANNAD to entertain and move audiences even to this day. The anime is timeless, as are its messages, and even though it might be a decade since CLANNAD first began airing, Kyoto Animation’s presentation of CLANNAD is so masterfully done that from a technical standpoint, the anime still stands up against modern animation marvels. It should be no surprise that I greatly enjoyed CLANNAD: on its own, CLANNAD‘s first season earns a strong recommendation.

Courting Hope: Revisiting Kyou and Tomoyo’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“If the results come true, it’s as if there’s only one future. If it fails, we can think that other futures exist…I want to believe that in our future, there are many possibilities waiting.” –Kyou Fujibayashi

With the drama club acquiring the requisite number of members, Tomoya and Nagisa focus next on securing a club advisor, but when they speak with Toshio Koumura, they learn that he’s already the advisor of the choral club. Nagisa decides to stand down after she discovers a letter warning her to back off, and Tomoya decides to visit Yukine. Youhei believes that a basketball game where Tomoya is victorious could get the choral Club to reconsider, but Tomoya refuses. When Youhei’s sister, Mei visits, she worries for him and cleans up his room. As she cannot stay with him, she lodges with the Furukawas, and later, Tomoya agrees to the basketball game. Kyou decides to participate, as well, and the choral Club are brought in to watch. Tomoya’s team is off to a strong start against their rookies, but the basketball team decides to switch in their starting line, who even the scores out. Tomoya manages to score the final basket when he is spurred on by Nagisa, and the choral club consents to share their advisor with them. The Student Council intervenes and states that such an arrangement is prohibited, and later, Nagisa collapses in school, forcing her to rest at home. In this time, Kyou tries to bring Tomoya closer to Ryou and ends up trapped in the equipment storage room with him. Later, Tomoya decides that, if Tomoyo were to become president of the Student Council, the drama club’s fate could be turned around. When he speaks to her after class one day, some thugs appear with the intent of fighting her; to prevent her chances from being jeopardised, Tomoya takes the blame and is suspended. Tomoyo, Kyou, Ryou and Kotomi visit him, and when he returns, he decides that the best way to help Tomoyo is to have her help out with various sports clubs. Tomoya learns of Tomoyo’s reason to become president; she wishes to preserve the sakura trees on the walk to school as a promise to her brother. Nagisa returns to classes and watches a tennis game with Tomoya: Tomoyo is participating, and during the match, Tomoya inadvertently shows his devotion to Nagisa when a stray ball strikes her. Kyou and Ryou are heartbroken with this revelation.

Initially starting his journey out of a selfish desire to stave off boredom during his monotonous days, Tomoya’s quest to revive the drama club sees him investing a considerable amount of effort into making things work. As CLANNAD progresses through its next arc, the source of his determination and persistence begins to shift: evident in Kotomi’s arc, Tomoya is driven by intrigue and a sense of duty to do right by those around him. When he finds himself making a basket during a match after hearing Nagisa’s voice, he begins to develop a greater interest in Nagisa, whom he has regarded as a friend until now. The two seemingly complement one another, and Nagisa’s absence further accentuates this sense of mystery. Tomoya begins to wonder how he feels about her, and while she remains at home, he sets about doing what he can for her. When Tomoya seeks Tomoyo to help out with resurrecting the drama club, he puts his fullest efforts into working out ways of boosting Tomoyo’s reputation amongst the students. He learns from Tomoyo that she wanted to save the sakura trees for her family’s sake, and here, it is significant that he learns of this late in the game: this is intentionally done to show that Tomoya’s efforts are entirely driven by Nagisa, rather than purely by a desire to help and drive off monotony. The extent of his efforts remain strong even without Tomoyo’s exposition to really illustrate who his efforts are for. In this arc’s final moments, where instinct kicks in during the tennis match, what Kyou and Tomoyo have suspected is confirmed: Tomoya’s fallen in love with Nagisa.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Toshio Koumura is an older instructor at Hikarizaka Private High School. Behind his understanding demeanor lies exceptional wisdom and experience: as a teacher, he is able to motivate even the most disinterested students into turning their lives around and is credited with turning unruly students into people who care about the world around them. At Hikarizaka, he acted as the drama club’s advisor previously, and noticing that Tomoya and Youhei seemed unusual, guided the two along a better path from behind the scenes.

  • A conflict arises when Nagisa learns that Koumura is already acting as advisor to the choral club; Rie Nishina vehemently opposes the proposal to share Koumura between the two clubs. It turns out that Rie was once a talented violinist who had suffered an accident that left her unable to properly grip a violin. With her hopes of performing abroad dashed, she fell into a depression, but Koumura encouraged her to find another path in singing. Since then, she’s helmed the choral club and has rediscovered her happiness, so when Tomoya and the others ask her to consider sharing Koumura’s time, her best friend feels that Tomoya is threatening to take away the dream that Rie had worked so hard to reassemble.

  • Nagisa has a difficult time believing that Rie and her friends could be behind the note left in her desk; ever willing to see the best in everyone, Nagisa is kind to a fault, and in CLANNAD, a different side of her personality begins appearing late in the game. Although normally quiet and reserved, Nagisa can become quite animated and determined when the situation calls for it.

  • When Youhei manages to call out Sugisaka, Rie’s friend responsible for the note, Nagisa steps between the two to defuse an impending physical beating and promises to listen to whatever Sugisaka says. It is here that Rie’s story is made known: Youhei dismisses it as a call for sympathy, but Nagisa is visibly moved and agrees to stand down, leaving Youhei frustrated. Youhei’s remarks, seemingly tactless, mirror the audience’s perspectives that many of CLANNAD‘s moments come from characters with uncommonly difficult or even tragic backgrounds.

  • Tomoya explains to Nagisa that Youhei’s strong reaction to her decision in standing down is a consequence of his own past: he was formerly a soccer player who was forced to quit after fighting with a senior. Recalling Tomoya’s background, Nagisa begins crying, and Tomoya comforts her, feeling it the right thing to do. The golden light of the early evening and volumetric lighting suggests to audiences that Tomoya is touched by how selfless Nagisa is, marking the beginning of his interest in her, but before anything can happen, Kyou shows up and tears Tomoya a new one for having allowed Nagisa to stand down.

  • When Youhei suggests taking the fight to the choral club, Tomoya mentions that the act would further sadden Nagisa: it’s another subtle sign that he’s concerned for her. Youhei decides to slack off, but Tomoya takes him to the reference room, where Yukine suggests a basketball game, and later, runs into Tomoyo, who is accosted by members of the judo club. He extricates her from the situation, and earns Tomoyo’s thanks. In the process, this incident is what allows Tomoya to devise his solution later, having heard from Tomoyo her goals of running for the Student Council presidency.

  • In a bold move, Tomoya takes Nagisa by the hand and brings her outside of campus to evade Youhei, who is quite enthusiastic about the idea of a basketball game to turn the choral club around. When Youhei catches up, Nagisa lies that she’s seeing Tomoya, hence their need for space. It’s noteworthy that this is the first thing that comes to her mind; she’s willing to risk embarrassment to cover for Tomoya. Once Tomoya gets over his initial shock, written all over his face, he is happy that Nagisa is willing to go to these lengths for him. In the awkward silence following, both Tomoya and Nagisa wonder how to best react, showing that the feelings are probably mutual, even if both are too bashful to be forward at this point in time.

  • Things are interrupted when Mei, Youhei’s younger sister, shows up to visit. Mei plays a much larger role in CLANNAD ~After Story~; in CLANNAD, she visits for a few days to check up on Youhei, whom she considers as a bit of a rogue element. After gifting him something he does not need, Mei helps him clear up his room. However, because of the dormitory rules, Mei cannot lodge with Youhei, so the Furukawas agree to have her stay over.

  • Source documents indicate that Nagisa was born in 1984, and Tomoya in 1985. In 1984, the MacIntosh computer was release to the market, and the Sino-British Joint Declaration was announced to outline what would happen when Hong Kong would be handed back to China in 1997. A year later, Calvin and Hobbes began running in newspapers, and Mikhail Gorbachev replaced Konstantin Chernenko as the leader of the Soviet Union. While the Furukawas share dinner with Tomoya and Mei, a glance around the Furukawa’s home suggest that the anime is set in an older time: the dates are closer to the start of the new millenium – mobile phones have yet to be common, and televisions are still of the old CRT type.

  • In a previous comment, I remark that Valentines’ Day is something I am largely neutral about. Last year, I wrote a thought experiment wondering what a hypothetical date with someone like Nagisa would be like, and concluded that it would be possible to make things work. I had planned on doing a similar talk about Miho Nishizumi, but as her Meyer-Briggs personality type is similarly consistent with Nagisa’s, such a talk would have been exceptionally boring, differing only on what a date with Miho might entail. I would lean towards a museum, and given my choices, I suppose it speaks volumes about the sort of personality I’m drawn to. It’s a bit of a surprise as to just how quickly a year’s elapsed: during that thought experiment, I also announced that I would be revisiting CLANNAD. With this series of post very nearly in the books, I look ahead to next year and wonder about how ~After Story~ should best be handled, provided that I’ve still time to write about it.

  • Kyou and Tomoya take great fun in trolling the living daylights out of Youhei when they discuss the organisational structure of their team of three; Kyou mentions the master-slave dynamic, and I’m certain she’s not referring to the cooperation concept that I implemented for a multi-agent rescue robot simulation for my project. The scene is meant to indicate that Tomoya gets along with Kyou rather nicely: for their differences, they share a similar sense of humour, and while Kyou does her best to set Tomoya up with Ryou, she comes to see Tomoya as someone she can count on, a far cry from her initial distaste in him.

  • The confrontation between Kyou and Tomoyo is hilarious – it’s the first time the two clash, and while there’s no physical violence, it’s amusing to see Kyou outmaneuvered when Tomoyo implies that Kyou might have feelings for Tomoya. It is during this arc that Kyou begins trying to put Tomoya into more situations with Ryou, with the aim of helping Ryou bolster her confidence, and as she spends more time with the two, Kyou herself begins to realise she’s in love with Tomoya. The outcome of this is covered quite separately in an OVA, and in CLANNAD proper, is addressed at the appropriate time. Similarly, Tomoya’s efforts in helping Tomoyo secure presidency of the student council leads her to see him differently, and this is also covered in an OVA.

  • When Tomoya, Youhei and Kyou begin making the junior players look bad, the basketball team bring their top line into play. The equivalent of bringing an NHL team’s first line to bear against junior players, it’s deliberately unfair, done to preserve the basketball team’s integrity, and their skill quickly evens things out. When the score reaches a tie, Tomoya manages to make a shot despite his bad shoulder after hearing Nagisa’s voice, allowing his team to take the win. This is yet another sign that Nagisa is Tomoya’s special person; I am reminded of my MCAT and the encouraging conversations I had prior to my exam. In the years following, I’ve since counted entirely on my own skill and experience to carry the day: there’s no one in my corner offering this sort of encouragement, so I fall back on myself to get by.

  • In the aftermath of the match, the basketball team captain compliments Tomoya on his hand-eye coordination and remarks that even with his injury, he might still be valuable as an asset. It seems, however, that this particular competition was unsanctioned, and when an instructor finds them, the players and entire audience make a break for it. Later, Mei remarks that in spite of Youhei’s minimal contributions to the game, she nonetheless respects him for having put forth the effort. She departs on a high note.

  • Nagisa, ever considerate of those around her, has given Tomoya (and audiences) very little insight into her background: when she falls ill for the first time in CLANNAD, audiences do not initially make too much of a deal about it, since occasional illness is a common enough occurrence. Nagisa’s absence, while seemingly insubstantial early on, imparts a noticeable change on Tomoya and his friends. He becomes sullen, while Kyou decides to spur Ryou on in pursuing a relationship with Tomoya, all the while concealing her own accumulated feelings for him. Here, Tomoya, Kyou, Ryou and Kotomi visit the Furukawas, who update them on Nagisa’s status.

  • It pains me to say that, even though I’d bought CLANNAD a year ago during a Steam Sale, I’ve yet to actually touch it. I’ve heard that the visual novel is tougher than Halo‘s Legendary difficulty, and even puts DOOM‘s ultra-nightmare setting to shame: one mistake will send Tomoya to Davy Jones’ locker. One of my readers recommends playing through CLANNAD with a guide, and I’ll probably have to do just this, since I have no intention of dying in a game that can trade blows with Wolfire’s Receiver in difficulty. The timeline for this particular endeavour will likely be when my gaming rig can no longer keep up with contemporary titles – with Far Cry 5Metro: Exodus and Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown coming out this year alongside a new Battlefield title, I think that my machine’s finally met its match.

  • I’m looking at the housing market at present, so things like a new gaming rig will have to wait until things settle down, and while my current computer might not be able to run the latest and greatest, I still have a backlog I’ll need to get through, so CLANNAD will definitely be on my list of games to get into. Back in CLANNAD The Anime™, Ryou recoils in embarrassment, complete with infrared emissions and even steam, from one of Kyou’s remarks.

  • The issue of sharing an advisor with the choral club is settled, but with the arrangements in violation of school rules, Tomoya begins putting his backing behind Tomoyo’s campaign to run for the presidency of the Student Council. In exchange, she begins visiting him and Youhei each morning to encourage their punctual arrival to school, as a part of her campaign. While Youhei is constantly trying to fight her and gets his arse handed to him each time, Tomoya treats her as he does everyone else and ends up sharing meaningful conversations with her.

  • While carrying some volleyballs, Kyou runs into Tomoya after classes. Yukine had earlier shown Tomoya a charm, feeling that his feelings for someone is bothering him. It’s surprisingly specific, and it is quite telling that the first person Tomoya thinks of Nagisa. However, in her absence, Tomoya picks Kyou, feeling that the charm’s improbability means that things are unlikely to happen. His choice mirrors prevailing thoughts on the best person for Tomoya, as some find that Kyou’s fiery personality would be a good match for Tomoya’s grounded and practical mindset.

  • The charm ends up putting Kyou and Tomoya inside the storage room. Yukine refers to her spella as a charm, and under J.K. Rowling’s definitions used in Harry Potter, a charm is a spell that alters the properties of an object without changing it fundamentally. While CLANAND largely remains the realm of realistic, there are supernatural elements present to advance the story: how much of it can be accounted for by hard science and how much of it is left to the realm of magic is not particularly relevant, since the strength of CLANNAD always lie within each arc creating a compelling story that immerses audiences into whatever Tomoya is dealing with.

  • Kyou reveals her reason for bringing Ryou and Tomoya together, although she’s also flattered by the fact that Tomoya decided to think of her for the charm. There are numerous conflicting emotions here, as Kyou begins to accept that she may have feelings for Tomoya, but before anything unsuitable for CLANNAD can occur, Tomoya recalls the countercurse that nullifies the charm. He manages to stay hidden and extricates himself from one of CLANNAD‘s most amusing situations.

  • Tomoyo is confronted with a large number of ruffians, and teachers arrive to drive them off. Tomoya subsequently shoulders the blame to ensure that Tomoyo’s record is not tarnished, taking a suspension from school in the process. Tomoyo begins to see Tomoya as someone who cares about her, and she continues visiting him every morning to ensure he awakens on time. However, in the grand scheme of things, helping Tomoyo out really was a means to an end, and Tomoya’s sights are set squarely on helping Nagisa resurrect the drama club.

  • The dramatic changes between the amusing and serious in CLANNAD were one of the reasons why I enjoyed it to the extent that I did: I find that it humanises the characters so that audiences can really empathise with them. Following Tomoya’s suspension, Kyou, Ryou, Tomoyo, Kotomi and even Fuuko visits him, bearing food. What happens next is a food challenge worthy of Adam Richman. However, outside of these moments, Nagisa’s absence is taking a toll on Tomoya, who becomes more silent and grim than before. Kyou and Ryou begin to notice this, as well, and while it cast doubts on whether or not Tomoya might return Ryou’s feelings, as well as Kyou’s unrequited love, Kyou continues holding onto hope. It’s a surprisingly painful place to be, as I can attest.

  • Tomoya’s suspension concludes before Nagisa recovers, and when he returns to school, he learns that the incident has torched off rumours that are harming her chances of becoming the president for the Student Council. In response, Tomoya devises an inspired solution: having long noticed how virtually all of the athletic clubs at Hikarizaka long to recruit her, he decides to have her perform against the athletic clubs, turning her considerable strengths and skill towards something constructive to illustrate her as being a well-adjusted individual worthy of being the Student Council president.

  • Subtle imagery in this scene remind audiences that even the aloof Tomoyo has her tender moments. Stories of this class, with their multiple female characters and lone male lead, often are frustrating to watch because the male protagonist is indecisive and lacks the sort of determined personality that would make them appealing to the female leads. In contrast, CLANNAD presents Tomoya Okazaki as a kind-hearted individual who, despite his cynical views of life, can and will put forth his genuine best when asked of him. In short, he is someone who earns the affection and interest of the female characters around him.

  • As the evening sets in, Tomoyo shares with Tomoya her story: her greatest desire is to make her younger brother happy again, after he fell into a river and nearly drowned as a consequence of trying to stave off their parents’ divorce. The incident left him injured, forced Tomoyo’s parents into re-evaluating their situation, and while things appear to have reached an equilibrium, Tomoyo’s brother had a request to see the sakura blossoms. With the plans to cut them down, Tomoyo feels that her ability to honour this promise is to reach a position where she can influence the decisions of those around her to preserve the things that remind her of what family means.

  • As the evening sets in, Tomoya and Tomoyo spend a quiet moment together on the hillside. By this point in time, it’s apparent that CLANNAD sets most of its most emotionally-charged moments during the evening, when the sun is setting. Casting the landscape in golds and reds long-wavelength light serve to suggest that that evenings, long-associated with endings and unwinding, are the time when people begin relaxing. With their normal vigilance dialed back, people begin opening up, and allow others to learn more about them. It is during the evenings that Tomoya learned of Fuuko’s condition, remembers his friendship with Kotomi, watches as Nagisa yields the drama club to the choral club and hears about Tomoyo’s family: this time of day begins to create a sense of melancholy in viewers.

  • The tennis match in CLANNAD is what I consider to be the turning point of the series: after numerous hints and subtle clues, it is here that the way in which the wind is blowing becomes apparent. Tomoyo and a male tennis player begin their match, and as it increases in intensity, a stray ball hits Nagisa in the ankle. The song “Over” can be heard playing in the background: the lyrics are upbeat and cheerful, suggesting a ceaseless sense of wonder about the surrounding world, as well as the gradual ending of things. It seems to be sung from Nagisa’s perspective.

  • Instinctively blocking the tennis player’s efforts to help, Tomoya helps Nagisa to the infirmary. In this single moment, Tomoya accomplishes a triple kill, shooting down Kyou, Ryou and Tomoyo in one action. While Ryou and Kyou’s reactions make it clear that they are hurt, Tomoyo’s also feeling it. Her reaction is a bit more subtle, and she gazes up at the sky in silence. Kotomi seems largely unaffected, and she looks more concerned for Kyou and Ryou. Having experienced this before, I’m confident in saying that time will eventually heal those wounds, and that it’s definitely okay to embrace the ensuing sadness: that one feels so strongly about the loss shows that they have experienced love.

  • This outcome is what motivates my page quote: Kyou generally is optimistic and believes that there will be another way even when things fail. The outcome of Kyou and Tomoyo’s arc is that Tomoyo succeeds in becoming the Student Council president. With her position, she’s able to accomplish what she’d set out to do and save the sakura trees on the hillside road leading up to their school. As appreciation for Tomoya’s efforts, she also allows for the unique arrangement between the choral club and drama club to exist. With the drama club’s future steady, CLANNAD enters its final act as Tomoya prepares to help Nagisa realise her dreams.

A common criticism directed at narratives featuring a prominent male lead and several female leads is that the story ends up nowhere, but CLANNAD does the opposite, providing audiences with subtle hints that foreshadow which direction Tomoya takes. The love that Tomoya develops for Nagisa is a natural progression, brought on by spending time with her. His initial goal of doing something with his time besides his usual routine transforms into intrigue, and when Nagisa falls ill, he comes to appreciate her quiet and gentle company to greater heights. Never forcibly advanced by the narrative, the development of Tomoya’s feelings proceeds at a plausible pace. Once Tomoya becomes aware of his feelings, and his friends find out, the consequences are similarly portrayed in a natural manner. Tomoyo had begun showing interest in Tomoya for his resolute determination in helping her, while Kyou had been trying to suppress her own long-standing feelings for Tomoya by hooking Ryou up with him. Both see their chances with Tomoya evaporate when Tomoya stands up to look after Nagisa; it speaks volumes to how well both Kyou and Tomoyo have come to know Tomoya, as well, when they’re able to understand who Tomoya’s feelings are directed at. From this simple gesture, CLANNAD decisively settles the heading its story is moving towards. Without lingering doubts to sow the seeds for conflict, the risk for a meandering narrative is struck down. CLANNAD is able to enter its final arc at full force, with the story’s goal clearly in mind, as Tomoya deals with the greatest challenge he’s faced since meeting Nagisa for the first time.

A Theory of Everything: Revisiting Kotomi’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“The world is beautiful, even when it’s filled with sadness and tears.” –Kotomi Ichinose

With the drama club still lacking the requisite members to be formally reinstated, Tomoya speaks with Kotomi in the hopes of recruiting her to help out. In the process, he helps her become more sociable, and with Ryou, Kotomi decides to join the drama club. During one meeting, Kotomi becomes drawn to the music club’s violin performance, and when she tries to play for herself, she ends up causing those around her great distress. Hoping to help her improve, Kyou suggests that Kotomi give a live performance. While her performance is abysmal, her friends nonetheless encourage her, although Kotomi grows frightened when a mysterious man appears. Kotomi begins spending more time with her newfound friends and in classes, but one day, she witnesses an accident and becomes withdrawn. Tomoya visits her home and, finding her in a room filled with newspaper clippings, recalls his past with Kotomi: the two had met as children and spent a considerable amount of time together, but when her parents’ university research conflicted with her birthday, Kotomi resented them for not being with her. They later perished in a plane crash, and remorseful at her final words to them, Kotomi had since decided to take up her parents’ work. Tomoya decides to restore the garden in Kotomi’s backyard in the meantime. Nagisa and the others begin helping, as well; moved by this gesture, Kotomi opens up once again. During a small birthday party they host for her, the gentleman reappears and introduces himself to Tomoya and his friends. He reveals that Kotomi’s parents had been thinking about her right up until the end, and their final gift to her had travelled a considerable distance to reach her. The strength of her parents’ love allows Kotomi to reconcile with her past and embrace the future with Tomoya and the others.

After the basics were established, CLANNAD became free to explore different thematic elements related to Tomoya’s story. Kotomi’s arc is the first of the stories explored, and while perhaps better known for Kotomi’s infamous and lethal performances on the violin, the arc itself provides two main contributions into CLANNAD. The first of these is illustrating the extent that Tomoya will put forth his best effort for the people close to him, and while Tomoya did contribute to helping Fuuko make Kyouko’s wedding a special one, it is not until his time with Kotomi where the depths of his concern and caring for his friends become presented. An old childhood friend, Kotomi was born to two well-known researchers on cosmology, and in his youth, Tomoya had visited the Ichinose home frequently, stopping for a spot of tea in the garden with Kotomi. In the years since, the garden has grown decrepit and overgrown with weeds. Wanting to make amends for having halted their friendship, Tomoya feels that it is his responsibility to restore the garden, symbolically restoring his friendship with Kotomi. The other element in Kotomi’s arc sets the standard for what CLANNAD defines to be what constitutes as respectable parents. Long having felt guilty for destroying her parents’ work, Kotomi had zealously pursued her studies with the aim of continuing where they left off, and while it’s revealed that Kotomi had done no such thing, the story that her guardian presents to Tomoya and the others illustrates the love that Kotomi’s parents had for her. In their final moments, they sacrificed their research in favour of their daughter’s happiness – by making the choice to put family above even society, her parents’ decision show that a true parent is someone who is always willing to put their children first. With Tomoya’s help, Kotomi comes to understand and deeply appreciate this message, while Tomoya himself also gains a better insight as to what he himself would want in a parent.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Because this is the Kotomi arc, this screenshot of the thirty will feature Nagisa and Tomoya alone: Tomoya’s found himself in the path of Kyou’s scooter yet again and is knocked down, but fortunately, no major damage has occurred. CLANNAD is a universe where injuries and harm are dependent on the plot: characters can survive ludicrous amounts of damage without ill-lasting effects during moments of comedy, but when the mood turns serious, they will sustain injuries normally.

  • While Tomoya’s encounter of Kotomi in the library initially seems random, the first indicator that there’s a bit more history comes from the fact that of everyone, Kotomi is able to interact with Tomoya where she is much more bashful and quiet around other characters.

  • When meeting the boisterious and straight-shooting Kyou, Kotomi immediately hides behind Tomoya. Kotomi’s initial limitations in communication lead to some misunderstandings, and of everyone, Kyou takes the most initiative to try and bring Kotomi up to speed with everyone; although the two are off to a comically rough start, Kyou and Kotomi do get along with one another over the course of time. Their dynamics are quite fun to watch, and other folks count it as amongst the more endearing moments in CLANNAD when Kyou initially tries to hold a conversation with Kotomi.

  • I’ve always held a fondness for locations with plenty of books; during my time in middle and secondary school, I spent a considerable amount of time in the library, as my preferred place to hang out and work on various assignments. I continued to make use of library facilities during my early undergraduate career – in the quiet, sun-filled workrooms of an early morning, I reviewed for my MCAT and prepared for many a exam here. It was not until I began my undergraduate thesis that I was granted my own office space. During this time, a new library had opened on campus, and I shunned the location.

  • Initially, it was because the location was very busy and crowded, making it difficult to find space to work in; by comparison, my old office space was quiet, well-maintained and the perfect place to write software. After a botched kokuhaku during the Summer of the Flood and the revelation that she was seeing someone else a half-year later, I became adverse to seeing young couples in general. The new library was the premiere place where couples on campus went to “study”, so I pointedly avoided the library unless I was there to help give presentations on my lab’s research. Back in CLANNAD, Kyou messes with Kotomi, who is unaccustomed to Kyou’s approach in dealing with people.

  • It is really Kyou who drives the drama club forward, and her decision to join, along with Ryou, brings the total member count up to five. Despite playing an ancillary role in the drama club, her strong personality means that the other members initially have little choice but to follow in her wake: Kyou is frequently seen lecturing Nagisa, Kotomi and Ryou whenever she’s displeased with their bashfulness.

  • Besides Kotomi herself, off-hand references to the works of Steven Hawking, Brian Greene and other great physicists are what I most strongly remember in her arc. However, for most audiences, Kotomi’s abysmal violin playing is probably the most memorable element; Kotomi is blissfully unaware of her poor skills even as those in her vicinity writhe in agony, as though they were subject to the Cruciatus curse. There’s no indicator that Kotomi is deliberately playing poorly, but the Dunning–Kruger Effect could be in play here: Kotomi’s played the violin previously and is a brilliant student by all counts, but years of being out of practise means that her perception of her ability is inconsistent with her actual ability.

  • While dissimilar in appearance, Kotomi’s voice and personality does remind me somewhat of a friend who had been adrift with respect to their direction at the time, and I spent many an hour chatting with them about research, graduate studies and other related materials. Since then, they’ve managed to engage in research and was accepted into graduate school. Outside of those conversations, we talked about things in all manners, and as the flood waters receded towards days dominated by brilliant blue skies, I wondered if I was developing a bit of a nascent crush on them.

  • Under the warm light of a summer evening, Kotomi and Tomoya begin spending more time with one another as Tomoya tries to help her be more sociable. CLANNAD‘s lighting is generally used in a mundane fashion until the defecation hits the oscillation: when things get serious, lighting and colours are used to great effect in conveying what the characters feel to audiences. The universality of colours is such that I prefer using them to define the emotional tenour of a moment, as opposed to symbols – obscure symbols may have different meanings, and some anime analysis erroneously try to fit the symbol with their conclusions.

  • While Kotomi has ostensibly practised in preparation for her recital, her performance on the day of the recital proves to be abysmal, incapacitating the entire audience. Indeed, Kotomi’s violin skills would find application as acoustic weapons, which are being considered as non-lethal area-denial weapons. Such weapons are largely experimental and have also made the news of late: staff working at an American Embassy in Cuba have been reporting unusual symptoms including hearing loss and irregularities in mental ability. While investigators initially suspected acoustic weapons, they’ve since been ruled out.

  • Kotomi endures a lecture from Kyou on the basics of the Japanese manzai routine. Ryou and Nagisa’s looks of horror are priceless, as is Kotomi’s vacant stare. It would appear that Kotomi’s attempted to ask Kyou to teach her how comedy works, and here, Kyou shows that she’s quite spirited, possessing the makings of an actress. Like Zoidberg of Futurama, Kyou feels that Kotomi isn’t cut out for the part.

  • The drama club’s members, certainly en route to counting one another as friends, spend a weekend together. There’s a voice-over during this scene, so I’m not too sure what the context of Ryou and Nagisa’s embarassment are, but the voice-over itself provides a bit of foreshadowing as to what’s happening next; Kyou learns that Kotomi’s birthday is upcoming, and so, plans to give Kotomi a birthday bash worthy of remembrance.

  • After a days’ worth of searching around for a suitable birthday gift, Tomoya and the girls are unsuccessful. Tomoya reassures the others that there’s time yet to find a good gift, but notices that she’s spaced out. CLANNAD excels at making use of foreshadowing that astute viewers will catch onto, especially if they’ve played through the visual novel, and for anime-only folks such as myself, it will take a second watch-through in order to catch these minor but relevant details that contribute to the depth of each story in CLANNAD.

  • At Kyou’s insistence, Kotomi decides to prank Tomoya, whose reaction is immediately of embarrassment. According to the supplementary documentation, Kotomi’s assets are larger than anyone else in CLANNAD, and Kyou is fond of messing with her for this reason. Played purely for the audience’s amusement, it also serves as a dramatic setup for the next scene, when Nagisa learns of a vehicle accident, leading to a bit of a panic as Tomoya wonders if anyone was injured.

  • When Kotomi witnesses a vehicle accident, it induces great panic in her; up until now, Kotomi had been making great strides in interacting with those around her, so to see this happen was quite unsettling. It speaks to Mamiko Noto’s capabilities as a voice actor in being able to convey the sense of pure terror at the scene unfolding before Kotomi, adding yet another piece of the puzzle to Kotomi’s past. Besides Kotomi, Noto has also provided the voice for Sakura Quest‘s Sayuri Shinomiya (Saori’s older sister), as well as Taihō of Kantai Collection. Overwhelmed, Kotomi takes her leave, with the others left to wonder what went down.

  • The man that Kotomi had been frightened of earlier turns out to be her legal guardian, and while Tomoya is initially hostile towards him, he consents to listen to the gentleman’s story after he reveals that he is a longtime acquaintance of the Ichinoses. This fellow somewhat resembles Gary Oldman’s Jim Gordon in The Dark Knight trilogy, and Kotomi’s fear of him is not because of any misdeeds he was responsible for, but rather, because she fears the possibility of bearing direct responsibility for what’s happened in the past.

  • While perhaps not quite as powerful as in Fuuko’s arc, lighting is utilised to great effect in the Kotomi arc to convey a very specific sense during a scene. The dying light of a setting sun emphasises the browns and yellows of the decaying yard surrounding the Ichinose residence, reinforcing the notion that this place has long been neglected. That Tomoya visits by sunset shows that the day is ending; given the situation, there is little he can do now but wait for another day to begin so he can properly begin working on a solution.

  • The strong crimson hues inside Kotomi’s room, filled with newspaper clippings concerning her parents, create a highly unsettling sight that conveys to viewers the emotional intensity that Kotomi feels. Here, in a room illuminated in a surreal manner, Tomoya finally recalls the nature of his relationship with Kotomi – they’d been friends in their childhood. CLANNAD transitions into a flashback to fill audiences in on what’s happened previously, and provides a vivid picture of what’s happened.

  • In 2003, Brian Greene’s 1999 book, The Elegant Universe, was adapted into a three-part documentary for NOVA that outlines his research on string theory and how it could be the solution towards reconciling Newtonian physics at the macro-scale and quantum theory underlying interactions at incredibly minute scales. I found the three-part series to be incredibly enjoyable and wondered just how close we were at the time to a theory of everything. It’s been fifteen years since I first watched The Elegant Universe, and the complexity of these systems means that there’s no satisfactory theory that can really account for everything yet.

  • Greene’s research has continued into the idea that the universe is multi-dimensional, with extra dimensions wrapped up into small structures similar to how a strand of hair might be seen as being one-dimensional from a distance. The theory of everything might not be something we can readily demonstrate to hold true at present, but with continued research into properties of the universe, it is expected that our knowledge in this area of physics will only improve. It is this that forms the name for the final episode of Kotomi’s arc in CLANNAD and by extension, this post. Back in CLANNAD, Tomoya recalls how he first met Kotomi and the time they subsequently spent in her family’s garden.

  • Kotomi became frustrated on the eve of her birthday when a conference came up for her parents; such a reaction is not unexpected of someone of her age, and when they failed to return on account of a plane crash, Kotomi felt responsible for the actions. On the assumption that the gentleman was here to take her parents’ research papers, Kotomi tried to torch them with the hope of preserving it, but has since regretted her decision. This is the reason why Kotomi is studious: she aims to atone for her actions by recovering and rediscovering the knowledge that was presumably destroyed with her parents’ deaths.

  • After appraising Ryou, Nagisa and Kyou of the situation, Tomoya decides to restore Kotomi’s garden to its original state, and the group also takes Kotomi’s violin to a repair shop. Owing to the fact that ten years have elapsed since the original airing of Kotomi’s arc, curiosity led me to take a look and see what discussions were like back when internet speeds averaged 3 Mbps (375 kb/s) and the Kentsfield Core 2 Quad Q6600, one of the earliest affordable quad-core CPUs, had only been on the market for a year. To put things in perspective, my MacBook Pro, an early 2015 model, is armed with the i5-5257U, which is around 73 percent faster than the Q6600, and my current internet connection is twenty times faster.

  • Through his efforts, weeds are removed from the garden, and life begins to fill it once more with colour. Looking back at discussions of a decade past, folks largely agree that the Kotomi arc is quite moving and well-written. Appropriately, period discussions were focused on the emotional impact of the story, and even now, CLANNAD discussions tend to not mention any technical elements of multi-verses because, while they facilitate the story in both CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~, how they precisely work isn’t important for us viewers.

  • The reason why I’ve made no mention of Kotomi’s quote from Robert F. Young’s The Dandelion Girl is that I’ve done a separate post on the topic already, which dealt with the original short story rather than CLANNAD. In the case of CLANNAD, one can reasonably infer that Kotomi sees Tomoya as a great friend, someone who continues improving with the passage of time. She references this line because the two had read The Dandelion Girl as children and wishes for him to remember the past friendship that they once shared.

  • Some sources of documentation state that Kotomi’s only seen Tomoya as a friend in the anime, and her response when Tomoya’s feelings for Nagisa come out into the open seem to suggest that this is the case, but her choice of words and steadfast hope of meeting him blur the boundaries. When Tomoya fully recalls the full story, Kotomi is finally ready to face the her friends once again, feeling that she’s in the company of individuals who have accepted her.

  • The evening sky is presented again in great prominence, although now, reds are replaced with a gentler carnation pink to illustrate that the mood has softened. To the audience, this is meant to convey the idea that through Tomoya’s efforts, Kotomi has moved past her own inner dæmons. The next day, Kotomi returns to classes; she’s immediately greeted by her friends, who hand her a receipt for violin repairs.

  • The one remaining unresolved element in Kotomi’s arc at this point is the story dealing with her guardian. Having confirmed him to be a friend, Tomoya and the others feel that it’s time for Kotomi to learn of the whole truth about her parents. As the gentleman explains what really happened in her parents’ final moments, when they chose to save Kotomi’s gift over their paper, a warm golden light fills the room. The dominance of gold and yellow denotes that things have finally reached a resolution, and Kotomi makes peace with her past here.

  • The scene dealing with the suitcase that the Ichinoses left behind and its journey to reach Kotomi has long been subject to analysis for whether or not it added any value to CLANNAD and saw attempts by folks to decipher the different languages being used. Neither are particularly meaningful uses of time: as noted earlier, the whole point of Kotomi’s arc is to illustrate the extent to which Tomoya is willing to go for his friends, as well as a more dramatic example of the extent that good parents are willing to look after their children.

  • In short, the Kotomi arc is where precedent is set for Tomoya’s actions upcoming in CLANNAD. This brings my revisitation of the Kotomi arc to an end, and I found that, compared to the Fuuko arc, I’ve deviated a bit more from the Kotomi arc in my figure captions. Here, Kyou and the others bring Kotomi her newly-refurbished violin, and thanks to her involvement, Kotomi is able to celebrate the birthday party that her parents had once planned for her. In their stead, Tomoya and the others have planned a similarly enjoyable day for Kotomi.

  • Concerned with numbers, Tomoya asks if Kyou’s idea is a good one, and Kotomi remarks that she’s got a big garden…for you. This brings my Kotomi talk to an end, and the next CLANNAD revisitation post will cover Tomoya’s journey to help Nagisa rebuild the drama club. To do so, he hopes to help Tomoyo become student council president, feeling that it could help with the process, and invariably draws both Tomoyo’s and Kyou’s eye, leading to an interesting conflict. The gap between this post and the next will not be quite as long: the arc ended on Valentines’ Day, so this is when I will next write about CLANNAD.

Besides a powerful pair of messages with what family is and the sort of person Tomoya is, Kotomi’s arc also introduces the notion of multi-verses. One of the strengths in CLANNAD is that its portrayal of these multi-verses and the Ichinose’s research in such is given the perfect amount of detail to motivate the story, but no further. One of the issues in anime is whenever authors attempt to fit in immensely technical concepts without an inkling of the laws that govern such systems and the constraints within them. Some anime have taken to mentioning technical jargon with the aim of elevating the gravity in a scene, but in CLANNAD, details about M-theory, branes and interactions between dimensions are noticeably absent. Instead, concepts relevant to the story are presented in approachable terms: it is in one such multi-verse that the mysterious robot and girl’s story is set in. Initially, this world is of little more than a curiosity for the audiences, but as CLANNAD progressed, this alternate reality becomes much more significant towards the narrative overall. The inclusion of this element and sufficiently frequent mention of the possibility thus drive the story forwards, and opens up audiences to the idea that miracles are possible within CLANNAD: all of this is accomplished, permitting viewers to enjoy Kotomi’s story without requiring that audiences pick up Brian Greene and Steven Hawking’s publications as background material.