The Infinite Zenith

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Category Archives: 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.

The Child of the Wind: Revisiting Fuko’s Arc in CLANNAD At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Right now, Fuuko likes you more than a sea slug” —Fuuko Ibuki

When Fuuko tries to invite Tomoya to her sister’s wedding, Tomoya is initially dismissive and declines. However, as his efforts to help Nagisa gather the requisite number of drama club members falls short, he seeks out Fuuko and learns from Nagisa that Fuuko is the younger sister of Kouko Ibuki, who is Nagisa’s art instructor and moreover, Fuuko is supposedly bed-ridden from a car accident. The two decide to assist Fuuko by carving wooden starfish and passing them around as invitations to Kouko’s wedding, then recreating a high school experience for Fuuko with help from Sanae and some classmates. During the school festival, Kouko attends the school’s Founder’s Festival at Nagisa and Tomoya’s invitation, but cannot see or hear Fuuko. In spite of this, Tomoya and Nagisa convince Kouko to carry on with their wedding, feeling that Fuuko would have the same wish for her. As Fuuko’s condition deteriorates, her memories begin fading. Feeling their time is short, Tomoya and Nagisa prepare a birthday party for Fuuko, celebrating at the school during the night, and while they appear to have forgotten Fuuko by the next morning, they manage to recall Kouko’s wedding. On the day of the wedding, only Tomoya, Nagisa and Fuuko appear, although by means of a miracle, the entire student population attends to wish Kouko and her husband, Yuusuke, happiness. Fuuko disappears after thanking Tomoya and congratulating Kouko, while Tomoya feels that it is possible that Fuuko will recover. In CLANNAD‘s visual novel, Fuuko’s route is the first arc that players must complete: it sets in motion the remainder of the game, and also trigger the events of CLANNAD After Story, so players looking to get the full experience must sit through this section of the game.

Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of CLANNAD faithfully reproduces the events of Fuuko’s arc, which initially begins in a gentle, comedic manner. However, as Tomoya and Nagisa discover more irregularities in their experiences with Fuuko against what others are saying, it becomes clear that CLANNAD is involving supernatural elements into its story. This is most evident in Fuuko being able to freely interact with select individuals, as well as the environment; by the time this revelation is made, it spurs Nagisa and Tomoya to work towards fulfilling Fuuko’s wishes despite Tomoya’s general irritation at Fuuko’s antics. In doing so, the Fuuko arc begins to illustrate that underneath Tomoya’s cynical exterior is the heart of someone who genuinely wishes to help out. In asking Tomoya and Nagisa to attend her sister’s wedding, as well as prompting the two to begin addressing one another by their given names, Fuuko hints that of the possible pairings for Tomoya in CLANNAD, Nagisa is the best fit for him; even though the two are not a couple at this point in the story, they spend a considerable amount of time together as friends, getting to know one another better as he helps her resurrect the drama club. While discussions are numerous on whether or not Nagisa really is the best person for Tomoya, I personally found this to be true; Nagisa is able to bring out the best in him and find things to look forward to, and Tomoya’s encouragement is what gives her the confidence to accomplish her dreams.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While my earlier CLANNAD discussions had twenty screenshots apiece, the talks for each of the arcs will be a bit larger, with thirty screenshots each. This will give me more time to explore some of the elements that I find to be worth commenting on, or else insert a few remarks about what I thought of a particular scene. Five years after watching CLANNAD, my own experiences in the journey of life has advanced in some areas, but in others, remain woefully unchanged.

  • In the early stages of the Drama Club’s revival, the club room remains quite empty aside from some boxes in the back. The members-to-be sit in a desk centred in the room, and the spaces arising from this arrangement give the sense that this is a fresh canvas for Nagisa to create from as she wishes. The cooler lighting suggests a sense of distance that is introduced when Tomoya recruits Youhei to help out, and their conversation here is to first find enough members such that the Drama Club can be brought back.

  • Tomoya never passes up an opportunity to prank Youhei, which is partially why he’s never on the receiving end of any beatdowns that Tomoyo or Kyou are likely to administer. Here, at Tomoya’s suggestion, Nagisa asks Ryou to join the Drama Club, but Nagisa’s hesitancy and the setup that Tomoya proposes leads both Kyou and Youhei to get the wrong idea. The misunderstanding is cleared up, and when Kyou asks her to toss Youhei and Tomoya in favour of her and Ryou’s help, Nagisa feels that for having started the journey with her, she can count them as friends.

  • After classes, Tomoya and Nagisa run into Kouko, who asks if the two are dating. Nagisa’s response is immediate and says that there are others worthier. As Tomoya’s single, Kouko feels that Nagisa’s odds with him are good, and subsequently asks if Tomoya finds Nagisa agreeable, putting both on the spot. Sharp thinking from Nagisa steers the conversation away from these waters. It’s a conversation that I’m somewhat familiar with, and in the aftermath of my MCAT, entering my fourth year, some folks wondered what my sitrep was. The story itself has been recounted countless times by now, and while I note that CLANNAD indirectly precipitated what would happen, it’s not too relevant towards talk of the Fuuko arc.

  • It is in conversation with Kouko that hints of the supernatural in CLANNAD begin materialising, when she reveals that Fuuko is hospitalised in a coma following a vehicle accident. Pieces in CLANNAD do not initially add up from a logical sense, leaving audiences wondering what’s going on. Nagisa becomes quite fond of hugging Fuuko when the opportunity presents itself, and with the impression that Fuuko chikd-like in nature, it foreshadows Nagisa’s maternal sense. Here, Tomoya and Nagisa diffuse a situation where Fuuko nonchalantly swipes the Furukawa’s neighbours’ surnames, leading Tomoya to swat her.

  • The race to carve starfish-shaped invitations for Kouko’s wedding with Yuusuke is on, and here, large wooden blocks await turning into invitations. The process of creating the shape with a small carving knife is arduous, although the hand-made quality reinforces the notion that Fuuko, and those helping her, are putting their genuine feelings into making the invitations – using a jigsaw would allow for a much larger number to be produced in a shorter time, but at the expense of the message that can be conveyed with hand-made carvings.

  • Whenever Fuuko begins thinking about starfish, her concentration is diverted from reality and can be subject to various pranks without being fully aware of them. Tomoya usually is responsible for said pranks, and while Fuuko resents their happening, she’s unable to prevent it. Fuuko is shut down in a similar manner when Nagisa hugs her, bringing to mind how cats grow limp when held by the scruff. Mother cats will do so to kittens to quickly move them safely and never do so as a disciplinary measure.

  • When Fuuko wishes to attend high school normally, she foreshadows her own supernatural presence. Not knowing the full story but sympathising with her, Nagisa asks her mother to help set up a mock class to give Fuuko the experience. Voiced by Kikou Inoue, whom I best know as Ah! My Goddess‘s Belldandy, Sanae is surprisingly adaptive and can convincingly take in the air of almost any profession or role asked of her. She plays a school teacher surprisingly well, and while it’s not immediately apparent, this also foreshadows at Sanae’s past interests.

  • A conversation between Nagisa and Tomoya leaves Nagisa embarrassed when she likens them to being Fuuko’s mother and father. It’s another hint of what’s upcoming; Nagisa is slowly growing more accustomed to Tomoya’s presence and is the first person to begin unearthing a side of him that folks previously did not see. A loud silence lingers between the two until they encounter Yuusuke, and it is here that both learn that Kouko is marrying Yuusuke’s. At their suggestion, Yuusuke agrees to try and convince Kouko to check out the Founder’s Festival.

  • The operation to invite as many people as possible to Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding means going into overdrive and creating as many wooden stars as possible. The effort exhausts Fuuko, and she falls asleep while making one. Tomoya feels that it is imperative to bring Fuuko and Kouko together to work out what the mystery surrounding them entails.

  • To make sure Fuuko isn’t late for school, Tomoya carries her on his back, while Nagisa hauls the stars they’d made the previous evening for distribution at the school festival. Fuuko herself is hauled into one of the activities, giving the sense that she’s an ordinary student, and Nagisa helps her class as a waitress. The combined efforts of everyone mean that excitement for Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding is tangible amongst the school’s student population: some folks have even started a Fuuko fan club and will go to the end of the earth to keep her from harm.

  • When Kouko arrives at the Founder’s Festival, she enjoys herself but is unable to see Fuuko. The mystery deepens here, as Kouko clarifies that Fuuko’s been in a coma for quite some time, leading to inconsistencies with what audiences share with Tomoya and Nagisa. The revelation changes Tomoya’s perspective of Fuuko, and while he’s still willing to play the occasional prank on her, he begins to view Fuuko as someone who’s quite precious.

  • This change in perspective is not unlike that of Makoto’s arc in Kanon, where Yuuichi kicks Makoto’s ass in all things related to pranks and finds himself growing irritated with her, but when he learns that Makoto is really a fox spirit taking human form and is rapidly losing her memories, he spends more time with her even as her cognitive capacities fail. In both Kanon and CLANNAD, supernatural elements contribute to both extraordinary challenges and their attendant miracles. We return to CLANNAD, where the quest to distribute the wooden stars as wedding invitations continue even in light of the unusual information that Kouko’s brought to the table, and here, Fuuko gives one to Kotomi.

  • Kouko expresses a desire to have a wedding at the high school with her fellow instructors and students. Tomoya asks about the kind of person Fuuko was, and learns that Fuuko’s never really been good around people. During the whole of the conversation, Nagisa is fighting back the tears, but the next day, Nagisa gets into a bit of a dispute with Fuuko about what is more adorable. In the eternal war between starfish and dango, I’d have to say that dango win: Nagisa can be a bit immature at times, and this early in the game, Tomoya lacks the familiarity with Nagisa to put her back on track.

  • As preparations for the wedding plough forward, Kouko informs Nagisa and Tomoya that Fuuko’s condition has worsened, reducing her odds of waking up from her coma. Presumably from overexerting herself trying to project a Force Ghost, Fuuko’s placed a great strain on her body. The pattern of setting up a fall right as things are proceeding smoothly is not unique to CLANNAD, although CLANNAD certainly has a way of evoking a powerful response from audiences. Quick to tears, Nagisa takes the news quite hard, and even the normally-stoic Tomoya begins tearing up.

  • Tomoya comes to the realisation that Fuuko’s efforts might have resulted as a desire to see her older sister happy, and so, while she’s not physically present, the strength of her feelings allows her to manifest as a physical presence. While hanging out with Youhei later, Youhei remarks that he cannot help but feel as though he’s forgetting something. Fuuko’s ability to maintain her presence seems tied with her health, and corresponding with abrupt decline, people begin losing their memories of her.

  • It would appear that the strength of Fuuko’s memories is directly tied to how close people were to her, and while the remainder of the student population is beginning to forget, the Furukawas, Tomoya and Youhei manage to retain their memories longer than most. Nagisa fears losing her memories of Fuuko, treasuring their time together, and Tomoya reassures that Nagisa that they won’t forget, encouraging her with optimism that they’ll be able to see things through because Kouko’s wedding is close. Relative to his interactions with the other female characters, Tomoya’s unconscious decisions to look after Nagisa suggests that he is drawn to looking after and supporting her, even though the two aren’t really close yet. Similarly, while Nagisa isn’t terribly fond of Tomoya’s way with words, she likes the fact that his actions are always considerate and his intents are kind.

  • Fading memories and the attendant increasing sense of loss are mirrored in darkening lighting conditions and pronounced shadows inside the school, but when Fuuko, Nagisa and Tomoya leave classes, they set off under a warm evening’s light. Oranges and yellows give the sense of a quiet end to a day where the three can share yet another memory together; the mood lightens when they decide to go buy something for Fuuko. They settle on a small birthday party kit, which Fuuko finds agreeable.

  • Watching CLANNAD again frame-by-frame reveals some minor inconsistencies in the animation, although on the whole, the animation quality in CLANNAD is of an incredibly high standard. Known for their top-tier animation, Kyoto Animation’s quality and consistency were among the strongest in the animation industry a decade ago, featuring detailed backgrounds and making use of animation that only became more commonplace recently. Some of Kyoto Animation’s recent titles, including Hibike! Euphonium and Koe no Katachi are so detailed that they rival Studio Ghibli and Makoto Shinkai’s films in terms of detail.

  • While the memory loss has been a nagging feeling for audiences since Youhei mentions it, the enormity of its impact is not really felt until Sanae collapses in tears and says that, try as she might, she can no longer remember Fuuko. Her anime incarnation greatly resembles Belldandy, and the melancholy here is compounded with the use of colours: red tinges appearing in the evening light indicate that the sun’s very nearly set, and is a fantastic visual metaphor for how Fuuko’s presence is disappearing.

  • Thus, after the sun sets, Nagisa and Tomoya are left wondering what options they have available to them; after deciding where the best place to go is, they settle on returning to school. The moment admittedly brings to mind Poe Dameron’s quote from The Force Awakens, where, during the assault on Starkiller Base’s Thermal Oscillator, he rallies his fellow pilots after they learn their attack run has no effect on the target:

“Remember, when the sun is gone that weapon will be ready to fire. But as long as there’s light, we got a chance.”

  • Star Wars isn’t known for having the best dialogue in the world, and I remember it best for things like The Tragedy of Darth Plagueis The Wise, that spinning is a good trick and the importance of having the high ground, but The Force Awakens and Rogue One have acceptable dialogue now, so I’m hoping that The Last Jedi will follow in this pattern. Back in CLANNAD, Fuuko wastes Tomoya after Tomoya’s prank on her backfires.

  • For me, this was the magic moment in CLANNAD, nine episodes in. There was something indescribable about the light cast by the candles that Tomoya and Nagisa light. They decide to have celebration commemorating Kouko and Yuusuke’s wedding, and here, Fuuko sees something that Kouko spotted: the distance between Nagisa and Tomoya has lessened somewhat, leading her to wonder why the two aren’t calling one another by their given names yet.

  • Five years after watching the scene where Nagisa, Fuuko and Tomoya spend time together in the drama room, I think that the magic comes from the symbolism that is present in this moment: if the light is representing the strength of everyone’s memories of Fuuko, then darkening skies visually indicate that people are beginning to forget. Against this, the act of lighting candles is then important for the fact that Tomoya and Nagisa are willfully trying their best to remember, even as the candles deplete; they spend Fuuko’s last moments close together.

  • The next morning, Nagisa and Tomoya have forgotten the events of the previous evening. The cold, grey ambiance in the classroom is a far cry from the inviting warmth candlelight cast in the room: the closing distance between Tomoya and Nagisa seems undone somewhat, as seen when the two address one another as they did prior to Fuuko’s suggestion.

  • When they recall Kouko’s wedding, Fuuko reappears before Nagisa and Tomoya’s very eyes. The cool morning skies give way to warmer hues that signify the return of something important, and encouraged by her return, Nagisa warmly hugs Fuuko.

  • On wedding day, only Tomoya and Nagisa show up for the proceedings, with the rest of the world seemingly having forgotten about the wedding. However, when the ceremony is over, and Yuusuke and Kouko are wedding as husband and wife, Kouko, Yuusuke, Nagisa and Tomoya are treated to a sight that can only be described as a miracle. The first sign that things have turned around is the arrival of Botan, who is accompanied by Kyou and Ryou.

  • Here’s a bit of random trivia about my blog and the way I romanise things: while I usually roll with macrons for long vowels in Japanese on my blog, such as “ō” in place of “ou” (おう) and “ū” for “uu” (うう) CLANNAD remains one of the exceptions owing to the way that it’s romanised. Quite simply, I’m used to spelling out things the long way: Kyō and Ryō look a little different than what I’m accustomed to, so in CLANNAD, I’ve chosen to pick one style and be consistent with it. Another bit of trivia is that I learned Japanese during my undergrad formally and so, have a bit more of a consistent approach in romanisations, whereas with Cantonese Chinese, I grew up with it, and so, struggle to convey things: I’ll likely stick with the jyutping system.

  • I’m thankful that I do not review Cantonese movies, otherwise, I’d get my ass kicked. For now, we return to CLANNAD, where an entire group of students have arrived to watch Kouko and Yuusuke get married. Sharing her sister’s happiness with the world has succeeded by dint of Fuuko’s determination and substantial assistance from both Tomoya and Nagisa: in CLANNAD‘s visual novel, this is supposed to unlock the globes of light that players can collect as karma points, as well as allowing Fuuko to randomly appear at inopportune moments to lighten the mood up.

  • In a fitting close to CLANNAD‘s first true arc, both sisters are able to see one another; Fuuko congratulates Kouko and disappears, but not before thanking Tomoya and Nagisa one final time. With her life force no longer spent on projecting a Force Ghost, Fuuko is able to focus on recovery, and Tomoya feels that she will reawaken later. I realise the rest of the world counts Fuuko an ikiryō (literally, a living ghost), but as I am not versed in Japanese lore or anything occult, I’ve chosen to fall back on what I do know. With this being said, Fuuko is not a true Force Ghost, being neither deceased or Force sensitive. With this CLANNAD post in the books, I will be returning in mid-January to write about Kotomi’s arc, and in December, my focus will continue to be directed towards Yūki Yūna is a Hero: Hero Chapter, my journey continuing journey through Tom Clancy’s The Division and my experiences with Battlefield 1‘s “Turning Tides” DLC.

With its combination of humour and poignancy, the introduction of the supernatural as being a very real part of their universe and a remarkably enjoyable soundtrack, CLANNAD‘s first arc draws to a close. While it might only be the first act, CLANNAD wastes no time in delivering a highly poignant narrative whose resolution comes about not because of deus ex machina, but because of Tomoya and Nagisa’s joint efforts in seeing Fuuko’s wishes through to the end. As much as Tomoya would rather not deal with Fuuko, Nagisa’s gentle insistence and his own desire to help overcome his general annoyance with Fuuko: the arc shows the true nature of Tomoya’s character and consequently, will continue to reinforce the notion that while there are miracles within CLANNAD, these miracles only occur because Tomoya takes the initiative to make things better and finish what he’s committed to. This aspect of his character is intended to bode well for Nagisa and her wishes to restart the drama club: Tomoya isn’t the sort of individual to give up, and is very resilient, making him the perfect partner in helping the gentler but also more hesitant Nagisa reach her dreams.

The First Steps: Revisiting CLANNAD After Three At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Everyday people keep hurting each other, it’s no wonder why you doubt what other people in the world tell you.” —Yuusuke Yoshino

After hearing about Nagisa’s dream of resurrecting the Drama Club, Tomoya helps her create and place posters promoting the club around campus. He later encounters the enigmatic Kotomi Ichinose in the library and confiscates a knife from Fuuko Ibuki upon seeing her with an injury. When Nagisa learns that Tomoya was once a basketball player, she invites him to a game, but Tomoya skips on account of the rain. Feeling that Nagisa might’ve shown up anyways, he finds her alone at the court and reveals to her that he injured his shoulder long ago in a fight with his father. She subsequently faints, and Tomoya visits her the next day, learning that Nagisa had always been frail, falling in and missing a year of high school as a result. On the way back home, he helps defuse a situation between Yuusuke Yoshino, an electrician, and another fellow accusing Yuusuke of damaging his car. Back at school, Tomoya and Nagisa meet Yukine Miyazawa in the reference room, and when classes end for the day, Tomoya helps Nagisa practise answering questions to prepare her for becoming the Drama Club’s new president. CLANNAD appears quite ordinary after three episodes, although underlying the sense of normalcy are the hints that Tomoya’s world is a lot more challenging than what audiences initially see. Even after a mere three episodes, Tomomya’s troubled relationship with his father are presented, and similarly, the goal of reviving the Drama Club is not as straightforwards as acquiring new members. CLANNAD thus sets the stage for what Tomoya must overcome, and by contrasting this with gentler, light-hearted moments, audiences empathise with Tomoya; as his interactions with the other characters continue, we begin rooting for him more strongly.

CLANNAD‘s arcs follow a very well-defined pattern; the introduction of a particular story is initially characterised by the liberal application of humour and exposition. As Tomoya learns more about the individual he’s helping, more of their story is exposed, revealing more depth to things. This approach allows for a very natural progression for the narrative; audiences grow accustomed to laughing with the characters and enjoying their experiences. This humanises them and creates a sense of connection to the characters, so when the mood takes a turn for the serious, audiences grow concerned with what awaits the characters, compelling them to continue following the story. It’s surprisingly simple but effective: the first few episodes demonstrate hints of the darker underpinnings in Tomoya’s life, and also begin suggesting that Nagisa faces her own challenges. The masterful use of foreshadowing in CLANNAD means that events that subsequently happen do not come out of left field and surprise audiences, resulting in a sense of closure when all of the pieces come together at a particular section’s end. Already successfully applied in Kanon, CLANNAD continues on with this approach, which is similarly used to great effect in Angel Beats! to create highly moving anime that I greatly enjoyed watching.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • CLANNAD deals with human emotions as acutely as though one were experiencing them, but when the situation calls for comedy, CLANNAD similarly delivers. Here, Tomoya deals with the aftermath of a near-miss where Kyou very nearly earns a roadkill medal on Tomoya with her scooter. Curiosity lead me to wonder what exactly the difference between a scooter and a moped is, and it turns out that scooters have a platform for resting one’s feet on, as well as a slightly more powerful engine.

  • It’s evidently spring when the events of CLANNAD kicks off, as evidenced by the presence of cherry blossoms on the trees in the background. Apparently, Youhei’s hair is bleached blonde rather than naturally being blonde, and while he was admitted to this particular high school to participate in its athletic program, he was kicked off for fighting members who would harass younger athletes.

  • While Youhei always ends up on the receiving end of an ultra-beatdown from Tomoyo, she actually does not wish to do anything to him, and usually expresses disappointment that things come to this stage. CLANNAD is the first anime where I began paying greater attention to the eyebrows of various characters, since it helped me gain a better sense of how a particular character was feeling.

  • Tomoya meets Kotomi in the library and initially does not gain much from their initial conversation. While seemingly trivial, Kotomi will play a much bigger role later in CLANNAD. The library of Tomoya’s high school is uncommonly quiet compared to my recollections of high school; even during classes, there were students with spare periods who would study here. While it is during classes, I imagine that differences in how Japanese classes are structured could account for this difference.

  • When Tomoya shares a conversation with Ryou about how Kyou very nearly splattered him with her scooter earlier that morning, Kyou appears out of nowhere and attempts to shut things down, since biking to their high school is prohibited. Later, Tomoya decides to turn this into a bit of a joke, after being cut off when he mentions the word “bike”. He loudly announces that Kyou is “bi”, much to her consternation.

  • I originally picked up CLANNAD after I had finished Lucky StarK-On!The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi and The Disappearance of Suzumiya Haruhi the summer before; the works from Kyoto Animation that’d I’d seen up to that point quite enjoyable and I was wondering what some of their other shows were like. Hence, I decided to give CLANNADKanon and Air a watch. When I started CLANNAD, I was beginning a summer course and MCAT preparation.

  • On clear spring days that gradually gave way to the summer, I studied for the MCAT, and in my down time, I watched CLANNAD, falling in love with the story and its characters. The lengthy story meant that the anime remained with me as I moved through MCAT preparations and began gearing up for the exam itself. Back in CLANNAD, Tomoya’s first act is helping Nagisa come up with ideas for raising awareness for the drama club, and this begins with creating posters under a gentle spring sky.

  • CLANNAD‘s visual novel released in 2004, and the anime came out three years later. During this time frame, dual-core computers and flat screen televisions were becoming more commonplace, but the smartphone was still in its infancy, and tablets were still three years from becoming popular. The lack of consumer electronics in CLANNAD that are ubiquitous in contemporary society gives the visual novel and anime adaptation a timeless sense.

  • Nagisa learns that Tomoya was once a promising basketball player, and hoping to learn a little more about him, invites him to a basketball game. Like Youhei, Tomoya was once an athlete whose struggles led him to leave school teams. The concept of a delinquent student is common in anime, referring to students who tend to come and go as they please and are not beholden to the same rules as other students.

  • While delinquent type characters stand out in anime, they’re much less noticeable in reality. At this point in time, Tomoya does not have a substantial emotional investment towards Nagisa yet, and as such, when the day of the game comes, he skips when seeing the rainy weather, only coming out to check up on Nagisa after recalling their promise. Tomoya reveals a shoulder injury stemming from a fight with his father some time ago, and Nagisa faints in the rain.

  • Nagisa is taken home and will recover after some rest. In the meantime, Akio accidentally insults Sanae’s bread, causing her to run from the shop, forcing Akio to jam a copious quantity of the bread up his mouth, declare it to be delicious and run off after her. This particular act is repeated on several occasions, under different contexts and with different breads, being hilarious in a unique way every time.

  • Tomoya runs into art instructor Kouko Ibuki who once taught Nagisa and is a frequent patron of the Furukawa Bakery. Nagisa greatly admires her, and occasionally acts as a source of guidance for Nagisa and Tomoya.

  • A former musician, Yuusuke Yoshino is an electrician who is fond of dramatic poses and quotes, a callback to his earlier days. He gets into an argument with another fellow who finds a large dent on the hood of his vehicle, and is accused of dropping his equipment on the hood to cause said dent. Tomoya difuses the situation and works out that a cat was responsible. His guess is corroborated by a particularly husky feline who casually saunters by.

  • CLANNAD‘s anime adaptation is able to really bring all of the characters to life, capitalising on the animated medium to portray moments in the visual novel in a fluid manner. However, at the time, technological constraints meant that most audiences likely would not have been able to really appreciate the visual fidelity within the anime.  High definition video was still very much a new technology back in 2007, and the average internet download speed was around 600-800 kb/s. As such, for period reviews of CLANNAD, most screenshots their reviews featured would have been 480p.

  • In 2017, ten years after CLANNAD aired, internet speeds are on average around ten times faster, allowing me to provide 1080p screenshots. When he encounters Fuuko, who is seeking a small carving knife Tomoya took from her earlier to prevent her from continuing to injure herself, he asks her to prove that she’s recovered sufficiently to retrieve the knife. Tomoya treats Fuuko as a small child rather than a fellow high school student; both playful and concerned with her, it shows a side of Tomoya that’s quite unlike his usual quiet demeanour or his more spirited pranks against Youhei.

  • After class one day, Youhei finds a baby boar hanging around campus and proceeds to tease it until his owner appears to defend it. It turns out that Kyou has a baby boar she calls Botan, and she proceeds to kick Youhei’s ass. Botan is not fond of Youhei but takes a liking to Tomoya. Named for the peony flower, Botan has nothing to do with the C++ cryptographic library that is alternatively known as OpenCL.

  • The reference room is a quiet corner of campus that Tomoya and Nagisa frequent, after Tomoya visits to find a resource for helping Nagisa deliver better speeches to motivate the Drama Club’s revival. They run into caretaker Yukine Miyazawa, a friendly second year who is willing to help those she encounters, assisting seekers in finding the information they require. Yukine’s role has long been displaced by powerful search algorithms, and these days, online search engines are capable of giving seekers access to nearly limitless information.

  • In the time since I’ve heard it, “Dango Daikazoku” has become one of my favourite ending songs of all time, reflecting on the gentle and innocent personality that defines Nagisa. The lyrics themselves to the song are befitting of an inviting children’s song, but belie the song’s theme of family, painting vivid imagery of the strength of what family is about and acting as a motif for Nagisa, whose optimistic outlook on family drives change in Tomoya.

  • Tomoya gets to work helping Nagisa improve her speeches, the first step towards restoring the Drama Club. This post is similarly named because the first three episodes of CLANNAD are really about first steps, in establishing the CLANNAD world, the characters and the events that unfold as Tomoya’s story progresses.

  • It’s actually a bit of a curiosity that CLANNAD‘s third episode aired on the same date as this blog’s anniversary, and I will be dropping by later to briefly respect on what six years of blogging has been like. I assure readers that this is a mere coincidence, and that when I started this blog six years ago, I had not watched CLANNAD. Once these formalities are completed, I will be taking a look at the film In This Corner of The World, which I’ve been looking forwards to watching since hearing about it last August, as well as doing the after-three posts for both of Girls’ Last Tour and Wake Up, Girls! New Chapter!, anime that I’m actively following for this season.

With the introductory material in the books, we now move on towards the main stories of CLANNAD. During my revisitations for the ten-year anniversary of the anime, I’ve chosen to break down the anime into separate arcs: reviewing each individual episode will be a gargantuan task that simply won’t be practical. Instead, I’ve opted to write about CLANNAD in four different talks. The first of these will be Fuuko’s arc, followed by Kotomi, then Kyou and Ryou, and finally, Nagisa herself. Each arc has a unique contribution to CLANNAD, being a self-contained story whose consequences nonetheless have an impact on future events. Some of these elements return as hilarious bits of comedy that lightens the mood of a serious moment, while others foreshadow critical aspects of the narrative, setting the stage for each of the upcoming arcs.