The Infinite Zenith

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Tag Archives: Misae Sagara

A New Family’s Beginning in the Summer, Departure by a Cruel Winter’s Storm: Revisiting Tomoya and Nagisa’s Marriage in CLANNAD ~After Story~ At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Of course I’ll stay with you. No matter what happens, forever and ever.” –Nagisa Furukawa

Akio refuses to discuss with Tomoya the latter’s intent to marry Nagisa; he stipulates that Tomoya must hit a baseball in a manner that Akio finds satisfactory before he will even consider speaking with Tomoya, and so, Tomoya determinedly practises his hits. Nailing one after lengthy practise, he implores for Akio to accept his marriage to Nagisa. Nagisa graduates shortly after; in the company of her friends, she receives her diploma and marries Tomoya, taking a job as a waitress at a local family restaurant. Tomoya and Akio visit Nagisa while she is working, and fend off some customers accosting her. Later, Nagisa learns that she is pregnant and develops morning sickness, requiring that she take bedrest. Their friends visit, and Sanae hires a midwife to help deliver their child when Nagisa expresses a wish to give birth at home. Because of Nagisa’s frailty, there’s a risk that she may not make it, but both Tomoya and Nagisa decide to go ahead with the birth. Tomoya learns from Akio that after that one day where Nagisa lost consciousness while waiting in the snow for him and Sanae to return home, he carried her to a meadow and begged the gods to spare her. Akio recounts this story to reiterate the value of family and how he and Sanae will support Tomoya and Nagisa. Nagisa and Tomoya decide to name their child Ushio. By winter, Nagisa goes into labour during a fierce blizzard; conditions preclude taking Nagisa to a hospital, and so, she gives birth to Ushio at home. The combined pressure on her body from childbirth and her illness results in her death, devastating Tomoya and ending his dream of raising Ushio with Nagisa. From the highest highs to the lowest low, this arc in ~After Story~ is a difficult one to watch. Having gone through so much, this couple reaches a point where they can make a new start, raising a child and pushing on into the future, but at the last second, this is cruelly taken from Tomoya, who is now made to endure new challenges.

Weather and lighting, having long played a major role in earlier stories within CLANNAD, now come out in full force in ~After Story~. It is no surprise that the symbolism of the different seasons is utilised to its fullest effects to convey emotional tenour as Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage occurs. In spring, shortly after Nagisa graduate, she and Tomoya marry. Spring is a season characterised by new beginnings and renewal: vegetation and animal life begin returning into a warming world as days lengthen. Having finally reached one milestone in her life, Nagisa is quite ready to walk a new road with Tomoya, and their marriage in the spring reinforces that something new has bloomed. This is a time of hope and optimism, to step into the future and make the most of things. Life is at its apex in the summer, when days are longest and the weather is hot. Lengthy days fill people with energy and vigour, instilling a sense of adventure. It is here that Nagisa announces that she is pregnant; a new child represents this adventure, as raising a child is a completely new journey for couples. Filled with spirit and vitality, the summer is a time of exploration and excitement, which is mirrored in the joy Tomoya and Nagisa experience when they begin preparing to welcome their child into the world. Positive imagery abounds in the early stages of Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage: colours are vivid, and the mood light as the characters bounce off one another. However, winter sets in. With its greys and whites, winter is bleak, a time of cold and darkness. It is here that Nagisa perishes while giving birth to Ushio, unable to access medical facilities because a blizzard has rendered dangerous travelling on roads. The winter contributes to Nagisa’s death, and it becomes very clear that ~After Story~ regards winter in a negative light – winter isn’t just an ending to light and warmth or about dormancy, it is the embodiment of death and suffering, of loss and uncertainty.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Tomoya’s determination to make his point clear to Akio is such that he is willing to commit every free moment available to gearing up to make a hit. This is one of Tomoya’s strongest suits: when he feels something is worth fighting for, he will move heaven and earth to accomplish his goals. Viewers have wondered why baseball is so prominently featured in CLANNAD: besides being a national pastime in Japan, it is also symbolic, acting as a visual metaphor for effort.

  • During one Christmas celebration, Nagisa gets hammered after one sip of sake and immediately accosts Tomoya, wondering if he would find Sanae more attractive. Tomoya is cornered, leaving audiences with a good laugh. Moments such as these do much to humanise the characters: we tend to relate to people more strongly if they demonstrate a wider range of emotions, and such moments serve to make the sorrowful moments even more poignant.

  • Nagisa’s frailty becomes more apparent as ~After Story~ wears on, and she falls ill again. However, it is fortunate that Nagisa’s illness does not cause her to miss a protracted amount of class. As winter transitions into Spring, Nagisa finally graduates, having completed the requirements needed to earn her diploma.

  • Under the beautiful spring skies, Nagisa receives her diploma as sakura blossoms flutter about. The colours of this scene parallel those seen when Tomoya first met her, and the idea that spring is a time of new beginnings; with Nagisa finally done her high school education, she and Tomoya can move ahead and embrace their future together.

  • When I last watched ~After Story~ some five years ago, I was gearing up for an MCAT and had not even finished my undergraduate programme yet. Going through CLANNAD was a bit of an eye-opener – the series shows a world beyond the familiar environment of school and steps into the realm of what adulthood entails. In the full knowledge of what unfolds in CLANNAD, I can say that real life can sometimes be as unforgiving and unfair as CLANNAD. Such unknowns cannot always be easily foreseen, but now, armed with five years of additional experience, I can say that the real key to handling life’s problems is to triage, divide and conquer even when said problems adamantly refuse to take a number and queue up.

  • Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage is not depicted, and is implied to be a very simple one. One thing that I greatly respect CLANNAD for is its portrayal of love in a very clean manner. When people think weddings, expensive gowns, exquisite dinners and an exotic honeymoon usually come to mind, but ultimately marriage is the affirment that two people are committed to one another, for better or worse. Whether one takes on a fancy wedding or a simple one, the end result is a declaration of this commitment and faithfulness to one another.

  • With Tomoya and Nagisa now husband and wife, Akio is Tomoya’s father-in-law and Tomoya becomes Akio’s son-in-law. When they address one another informally, the embarrassment mounts to the point where Tomoya is reduced to banging his cranium against the wall, while Akio writhes in agony on the table. CLANNAD excels in taking ordinary moments and driving humour from them, although I’m not too sure if the equivalent in Western culture would be as funny – some jokes only work becuase they are plays on aspects unique to Japanese culture. For instance, as Taki, Mitsuha refers to herself as atashi and boku erroneously, but in English, people only say “me” or “I”, so the joke has no such equivalent.

  • After an eventful day, the newly-weds return home as husband and wife for the first time. Tomoya looks as he always does, but with her hair in a bun, Nagisa looks a ways more mature. With Tomoya and Nagisa now married, I exit the part of CLANNAD that I can speak about from personal experience; beyond this point, my remarks are largely anecdotal rather than something I’d previously experienced.

  • One thing that characterises marriage is sharing a bed, although more couples sleep apart nowadays, too. There are benefits and drawbacks to both; proponents of sharing a bed say that it encourages communication and acts as a reminder of closeness, bolstering the release of oxytocin and reduces cortisol (reduces stress), while those favouring sleeping apart cite better sleep as reasons to do so.

  • Tomoya and Naigsa’s marriage is presented as being another stage in life, filled with the joyous, mundane and challenging: it is a broad spectrum of experiences that allows ~After Story~ to captivate audiences. Even if the series does come across as being more melodramatic in some moments, when everything is said and done, CLANNAD stands head and shoulders above most anime for its sincere portrayal of life, both in terms of the lowest of lows, highest of highs and the everyday moments folk tend to take for granted.

  • Tomoya recounts the legend of the light orbs, which are said to represent people’s wishes and manifest when people do something benevolent. Tomoya asks if Nagisa would wish for anything, and she replies that she’d like a child. Even from this perspective, both are blushing furiously, and no more is said of the matter for the time being. Having children is a major commitment and investment for any couple; it is unsurprising that whether or not to have a child can be a very difficult discussion to have for a couple. As I’ve noted earlier, this is something I’m completely out of my depth in; beyond stating that I would be quite happy to have a child, I will also say no more of the matter.

  • To step away from a difficult topic, ~After Story~ cleverly transitions to Tomoya and Akio dropping by the family restaurant that Nagisa works at. This particular unfolding of events represents a masterful use of flow to mimic what happens when uncomfortable topics are brought up; the anime does not yet wish to disclose what Tomoya’s response is, so it immediately pushes audiences to a scene of comedy with Akio at the helm with the intent on having them smile and laugh, while the question of whether or not Tomoya will agree with Nagisa’s wish being put on the back-burner for now.

  • After Tomoya orders a parfait worthy of Adam Richman, two guys enter the restaurant and accost Nagisa. Without use of force, Tomoya and Akio manage to drive off these two ruffians, but then the manager asks to speak with Tomoya and Akio. Akio bolts, but as it turns out, the manager is very understanding of the situation and remarks that Nagisa is a hard worker who does her job well. During this excursion, Akio’s brought a camera and manages to capture an inordinate number of shots, citing the uniforms as being a motivator. From my perspective, those uniforms seem quite impractical despite being stylish: at restaurants I frequent, staff wear something more practical to move around in.

  • Although the Okazaki family might live in an older apartment, their regarding it as a home becomes more apparent with the passage of time following their marriage – Tomoya and Nagisa keep their quarters clean, gradually acquire more furnishings that make the apartment really feel like home. From the notes on the refrigerator, to a kettle boiling on the stove and a water filter, the changes in their home are subtle but notable indicators that Nagisa and Tomoya are settling into their new lives.

  • Like real life, urgent and important matters are not so easily dismissed, and it turns out that Tomoya and Nagisa did end up making love: while Tomoya and Akio look through the pile of photographs, Nagisa tests positive on a pregnancy test. These work by picking agents that react to human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) to produce a pigment; while reliable, there are cases where interference from other chemicals or circumstances can create false positives. In ~After Story~, we accept that the test results are a true positive so the story can proceed.

  • Akio is simultaneously disgusted and impressed that Nagisa is pregnant (with the not-so-subtle implication that Tomoya needed to get down with Nagisa freshly baked into his mind) – he is torn between congratulating and throttling Tomoya, while Nagisa looks on in pure embarrassment. This marks the beginning of another stage in life for the Okazaki family: through everything thus far, Akio and Sanae have been present at each step for the young couple, offering support, guidance and humour.

  • It is not lost on me that it’s been six-and-a-half years since I last watched CLANNAD in full, and in that time, I’ve passed through several milestones in life, but meeting someone special has not been one of them. The reality is that I am becoming old: most folks at my age are married, and here I am, with only the faintest idea of how to begin meeting those people who might be willing to tolerate or accept my numerous limitations and eccentricities. While it’s fine to enjoy my current liberty, I would eventually like to meet someone, settle down and the other things that come with family.

  • With Nagisa expecting a child, a midwife is hired help out with the process. Yagi fulfils this role: her appearance conveys experience and professionalism, providing the young couple with reassurance that stands in contrasts with the risks of birth. CLANNAD has placed numerous obstacles down in front of Tomoya and Nagisa: even after all of their efforts, delivering their child is not expected to be an easy task. The profession is a regulated one: in Japan, midwives must pass a certification exam, and Canadian midwives hold a medical license.

  • Some series portray marriage as the end-goal, a destination to be reached, rather than a milestone. Love Hina is one such example, with Keitaro’s efforts to gain admission to The University of Tokyo and marry the girl he’d made the promise to years previously as the core narrative. Being a romance comedy, Love Hina is a world apart from the likes of CLANNAD and admittedly, represents a genre that I’ve not viewed too many series from. Here, we have another beautiful screenshot capturing the details present in ~After Story~; elements in the environment give a sense of hope, with the choice of colours creating an optimistic feeling even as news becomes increasingly difficult.

  • Because of Nagisa’s health, Sanae expresses to Tomoya her concerns about Nagisa’s decision. In spite of this, she leaves the decision to Nagisa and Tomoya, respecting their choices. Nagisa decides to proceed, a flash of her old resilience and stubbornness coming through. Assessing risk in the situation and then making a decision with the knowledge available brings to mind the sequence in Apollo 13, where Flight Director Gene Kranz ordered a circumlunar option over the direct abort because of uncertainties surrounding whether the command module’s main engines could still be safely used. While a free-return trajectory would take longer, it gave ground crews more time to assess the situation and not subject the command module’s crew to risk of explosion from a faulty engine.

  • Akio expresses frustration at the destruction of a wooded area at will be developed into subdivisions and retail. Change is one of the themes that are a part of CLANNAD – the series suggests that change is inevitable save for family, the one absolute pillar of support and love that individuals need to get through challenges. It is hinted that changes to the landscape are correlated with Nagisa’s illness, and Akio explains to Tomoya what happened that fateful day – it appears that in exchange for Nagisa’s life, her very life-force is bound to the world such that changes will disrupt her health.

  • By binding Nagisa’s health to the presence of natural spaces, ~After Story~ subtly mirrors J.R.R. Tolkien’s lament for the loss of natural areas as people continued to industrialise: as the town in CLANNAD grows, forests and meadows are covered over to make way for developments, and the land that once held a magic suddenly becomes mundane, unremarkable. Tolkien viewed the desecration of nature as an evil, and this theme is prevalent in his works: Mordor and Isengard, as well as the Scouring of The Shire represent this. In ~After Story~, the loss of nature has a more subtle but present impact on Nagisa, foreshadowing her fate.

  • In a tender moment, Tomoya and Nagisa decide that their child’s name is to be Ushio. Ushio (汐, jyutping zik6, “tide”) was chosen to share the same radical氵(representing 水, derived from the Oracle bone script for the shape of a river) as Nagisa’s (渚, jyutping zyu2, “beach”). The choice of naming is deliberate: Ushio is meant to represent the waves on a beach, connecting her to her mother. I share a personal story here: per my parents’ recollection, when I was born, I was premature and therefore, my parents did not yet have a name for me in either English or Chinese.

  • As another Christmas nears, the Okazaki family prepare for Ushio’s arrival. The passage of time is relentless, and as ~After Story~ wears on, time intervals widen. While time may have seemed constant during Nagisa and Tomoya’s time as high school students, things suddenly pick up after both graduate, begin working, get married and gear up to welcome Ushio into the world. This is precisely the feeling I’ve been getting since I’ve graduated: days blaze by in the blink of an eye, and time seems to be accelerating as I grow older.

  • After Christmas, old friends show up in town to visit the Okazakis for the New Year. Time has evidently been kind to everyone: Kyou, Ryou, Kotomi and Youhei have not aged a day since we last saw them, and everyone’s doing well. With everyone together, it’s like old times again as conversation begins. Of note is Youhei, who is sporting his natural hair colour: he’d dyed it blonde as a student, and returning to his original hair colour seems to signify that he’s gotten his game together. Tomoyo is noticeably absent from the events, but she’s sent a card and appears to be doing well.

  • After the small talk, Youhei wonders what Tomoya must be feeling to be a father, and Tomoya’s response, that he’s really still not thinking about it, seems to be the norm. I’ve long felt that my parents simply had their game together and knew precisely how to be parents, but it sounds like for most families, parenthood is a learning experience, as well. In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin’s parents remark that they’re essentially ad libbing parenthood: Kyou and the others feel that Nagisa and Tomoya are pulling ahead in life, as they have a home and family now, but everyone is also focused on their own futures, too. While their gathering is a warm one, the anime uses the incidental piece “Snow field” as background music, foreshadowing what’s to come.

  • Kotomi suggests the existence of parallel universes and alternate dimensions, supporting Ryou’s remark that life is mysterious. In Steven Hawking’s The Universe in a Nutshell, the notion of branes are used to describe the existence of other dimensions, and that the reality we are familiar with is merely one of these branes (with higher dimensions being such that we cannot perceive them). This foreshadowing also seems to indicate ~After Story~‘s eventual outcome, but back in the present, the presence of low saturation and washed-out lighting, plus overcast skies, indicate that things are about to become more difficult.

  • In February, Tokyo averages around 5 centimetres of snow. A snowfall of this level is quite rare, and in ~After Story~, shuts down enough of the roads so Nagisa cannot be taken to a hospital, right as she goes into labour. I’ve long hated snow, and I still do: despite blanketing the landscape in a gentle white blanket and covering familiar features to create a wonderland of sorts, but it also disrupts transportation. In literature, snow represents mortality, indiscriminately covering everything as mortality affects all life, and visually, snow is used to visually denote hardship, suffering and desolation.

  • With no other options available, Yagi prepares to help deliver Ushio at home. It is an agonising day for Tomoya, who never leaves Nagisa’s side: time seems to slow to a crawl for him as Nagisa writhes in pain. Finally, at one in the morning, Ushio is born, and Tomoya is elated: the worst seems over for Nagisa, and she is able to gaze upon Ushio with her own eyes for the first time. The page quote is chosen from a promise Nagisa makes to Tomoya, but shortly after giving birth to Ushio, Nagisa perishes from the toll on her body. Audiences are left to pick up the pieces with Tomoya, whose dreams for starting a family are decimated: in this moment, the world around Tomoya vanishes.

  • With this post in the books, I will be returning next month to write about a world five years later, and how Ushio returns to Tomoya’s life in a big way that helps him finally come to terms with everything he’s experienced. Ushio’s arc in ~After Story~ is what made CLANNAD a masterpiece in my books, and upon watching it for the first time, I had no words to describe how moving and meaningful it was.  In my next post, I will be articulating why Ushio’s arc was so powerful; covering so much ground in such a short time, Ushio’s arc is directly responsible for giving ~After Story~ the impact that it did, and I wish to do it justice.

As ~After Story~ steps away from clearly-defined arcs and delves into Tomoya and Nagisa’s marriage, the series enters a realm that is exceedingly difficult to write for. Marriage is a completely different world for people, and there are so many aspects to consider that CLANNAD would doubtlessly have needed another twenty episodes to adequately portray it faithfully. Instead, ~After Story~ masterfully utilises imagery and the symbolism inherent to the seasons themselves to concisely and succinctly convey to audiences the emotions and feelings, the unspoken things that can happen in marriage. CLANNAD has long made use of weather and lighting to convey emotions in a moment; the seasons themselves take on a much more substantial role in ~After Story~ to further communicate the atmosphere of a given moment to viewers. Spring is about new beginnings, summer is a time to explore what a new family entails, and winter is viewed as a season to be hated, bringing death and suffering to those caught in its frigid confines. Viewers can tangibly feel the cold as Nagisa succumbs, and are made to understand just how devastating this is for Tomoya, having seen every step in the journey he has taken, and the efforts he has made towards building a future for Nagisa and Ushio. While it seems unnecessarily cruel to put Tomoya in such a situation, Nagisa’s death has a critical role to play for Tomoya; he’s spent much of ~After Story~ forging ahead into the future. It is therefore clear that his intentions is to forget his past, but this loss now forces Tomoya to look inwards: winter is also a time of self-reflection, and light eventually returns to the world ~After Story~ takes this route to remind audiences that, unless one is able to make peace with their past, there is no future to pursue. Thus, Nagisa’s death is necessary to pull Tomoya back and force him to understand his past. There is no other easy way of putting this, even if it is callous to suggest such a thing – beyond this suffering, there is more that ~After Story~ strives to convey to readers.

Beginnings and Promises on that Sloped Road: Revisiting The Road to Graduation in CLANNAD ~After Story~ At The Ten Year Anniversary

“Life can bring lots of hardships, but it’s always important to keep in mind that there are people around you who care for you, and are willing to help you through whatever you’re dealing with.” –Nagisa Furukawa

After helping Yukine resolve a long-standing feud with gangs in town, graduation for Tomoya and the others near. Kyou aspires to be a kindergarten teacher, while Ryou decides to become a nurse. Kotomi plans on studying abroad, and Youhei aims to be a model. However, Tomoya is uncertain about his future. When Nagisa falls ill during Christmas Eve, he spends time with her. After graduation, Tomoya takes a job with the Furukawa bakery, and Nagisa returns to school. He moves out into an apartment with Nagisa, and accepts a new job as an electrician. Determined to prove his worth, Tomoya works diligently with Yusuke, who promises to withhold that Tomoya has a shoulder injury. While Tomoya earns the respect of his coworkers with his effort, he also begins to spend less time with Nagisa, missing most of the day at the school’s Founder’s Festival. One day, while working with Yusuke, Tomoya learns from him that he was once a songwriter who descended into depression. He returned home and encountered Kouko again, regretting giving up his dreams of singing for her. Back in the present, Tomoya has been presented with a new job offer, but this is rescinded when Tomoya’s father is arrested. Tomoya is consumed with frustration that his past is inescapable, but Nagisa intervenes and calms him down. In the aftermath, Tomoya proposes to Nagisa under a hot summer’s day, who accepts. From his final days in high school to the transition point where he becomes a full-fledged member of society, Tomoya’s journey has been a tumultuous one. His kind heart dominates his apathy, and spurred on by friends, Tomoya’s closes off one chapter of his life, moving onwards in the world ahead. However, as he learns, the real world is not forgiving; lacking any direction, Tomoya initially decides to regroup and occupy his time by working at the Furukawa bakery, keeping himself from idling. Despite not having a clear plan for the future, Tomoya has always been skillful at making the most of things. Keeping busy while he works out a plan, Tomoya eventually becomes an electrician and finds it a job he enjoys.

However, in taking up a new job, Tomoya is faced with the task of proving his worth, and so, struggles to find his work-life balance. This becomes evident when he begins dozing off during dinner, and later, misses his promise to be with Nagisa at the Founder’s Festival. Spending time with loved ones is a vital part of life, and of late, work-life balance has been discussed more widely, since working too diligently has been attributed with a decrease in performance at one’s job. There is another cost in one’s personal relationships; working more means spending less time with the important people in one’s life, and this is evidently has taken a toll on Tomoya, whose time with Nagisa has been decreasing. In the real world, this can be a point of contention amongst couples, and the couples that are similar to Tomoya and Nagisa, who are willing to accept one another and work things out, are usually those that end up sharing their futures together; Nagisa is very understanding of Tomoya and does her best to accommodate him. By presenting Nagisa as patient and accepting, ~After Story~ makes it clear that Nagisa is the person for Tomoya, being a gentle and compassionate foil to his energy and determination, constantly looking out for him even when things become difficult. After learning his offer to work at a larger company was rescinded because his father was arrested, Tomoya’s reaction is a forceful one, and Nagisa’s actions here, to physically stop Tomoya from injuring himself, show that she’s willing to do what it takes for Tomoya’s interest. Realising that Nagisa has gone to these lengths for him, Tomoya decides here to propose to her. While the moment is not likely to be counted as the most romantic proposal of all time, it’s certainly moving and fitting for the challenges the two have survived thus far.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Originally, I was thinking to write about ~After Story~ earlier this month, following Tomoya’s graduation, but it felt more appropriate to showcase his graduation, the transition into society from high school and then his decision to propose to Nagisa in a single post. Before we can get there, however, there’s also Yukine’s arc. The caretaker for the reference room, Tomoya and Youhei visited here after Tomoya dropped by to find resources for Nagisa. Yukine was originally intended to be a primary character, but difficulties in writing her story led her to be reassigned.

  • It turns out that Yukine is well-acquainted with delinquents in opposing gangs because her brother, Kazuto, had been a part of one of the gangs. Yukine later finds a young boy who worries about his older sister’s association with such individuals and decides to help him out. Tomoya and Nagisa join in, learning that the delinquents that Yukine knew were kindly individuals even if they were rough around the edges.

  • Eventually, the violence between the gangs escalated, and with the threat of law enforcement intervening, the gangs agree to settle things in a mano a mano with Kazuto squaring off against the opposing gang’s leaders. Not knowing that Kazuto’s been dead for some time, and worrying about the consequences associated with this, Tomoya agrees to step in. He shows incredible resilience in the fight, enduring for hours until Yukine appears and attempts to stop the fight.

  • Because Kazuto’s death is known, the gangs agree to set aside their animosity and pay their respects to Kazuto. A globe of light appears and floats into the sky afterwards. Having long established that Tomoya is willing to go to great lengths to see things through, his role in helping Yukine is not particularly useful in providing more insights into Tomoya’s character. However, the arc does establish that the town Tomoya lives in has its share of problems as well, and that the right person, in the right place, can help set things right without escalating the conflicts.

  • For me, Yukine’s arc was a side story that I would consider to be the weakest in ~After Story~, and after revisiting things, my thoughts have not changed dramatically. This is why discussions on the arc is so short: we move swiftly into Tomoya’s final days as a high school student, where he struggles to determine what to do with his future upon graduation. The remainder of his friends have concrete aspirations, and even the unreliable Youhei has decided that he wishes to be a model. Back in high school, picking a future and sticking with it was always a challenge for me: this has come back to haunt me occasionally, but I’ve found that with my experiences in university, I’ve finally found something I enjoy doing.

  • Nagisa’s birthday is on Christmas Eve, and her friends swing by to visit, lightening the mood up. Tomoya gifts to her Dango plushies that she takes an immediate liking to; the Dango Daikazoku have a much smaller presence in ~After Story~ owing to the fact that there is no drama club to re-establish, but their reappearance here shows that Tomoya’s not forgotten what Nagisa is fond of. Subtle but meaningful, these elements contribute much to the human aspects of ~After Story~.

  • The Dango Daikazoku song is one of the most famous songs from CLANNAD, being immediately recognisable to those who hear it, and is also the subject of numerous remixes and covers. Its magic comes from a combination of its lullaby-like composition and association with CLANNAD. The forward lyrics indicates Nagisa’s innocence and belief in good; while a naïveté, Nagisa’s persistence in finding the positives in everything ultimately describes CLANNAD‘s message.

  • Through the events of CLANNAD, Nagisa and Tomoya have gained lifelong friends: the strength of their friendship is so that even after Nagisa and Tomoya become a couple, Kotomi, Ryou and Kyou do not seem bothered and openly support them as friends would. It’s a different reaction than what I’ve known: in every case after someone rejected me, they also chose to burn bridges, as well. I move on fairly quickly and aren’t really bothered, but being less versed in these sorts of things, I turn to the reader to see if there’s an explanation for why this occurs.

  • Nagisa has an illness of an indeterminate nature, and while some folks at Tango-Victor-Tango were quick to diagnose her with a viral autoimmune disorder, then proceeded to argue that since CLANNAD is set in the nineties, such a disease would not be well-characterised, hence why it cannot be identified. The reality is that the virus responsible for this disorder was identified in 1983 (whereas CLANNAD is set in the early 2000s) and there are antibody tests that can be done; further to this, other observations in CLANNAD quickly dispel that it’s an autoimmune disorder. I won’t bother directing more time towards this discussion, since the precise nature of Nagisa’s illness is irrelevant to the story.

  • Graduation ceremonies from high school in Japan are not so different than the ones here in Canada, although we tend to have a celebration in addition to the ceremony. It’s a major turning point in people’s lives as they transition into adulthood, a time to be excited about seizing the future. That Tomoya and Youhei have reached this point despite their prior challenges speaks volumes about the impact that friendship has had on them: to support others and be supported have allowed the two former delinquents to get their game together and embrace the future.

  • After graduation, Tomoya spends time with Nagisa on a walk, hand-in-hand. My previous experiences with graduation was a nice dinner after the ceremony, as well as farewells with peers and instructors alike. Representing the true turning point in life, graduation in ~After Story~ is where the story truly turns from a great one to one that is unparalleled. Most stories end with high school, leaving characters’ fates open as they step into the future, but ~After Story~ presents what futures may hold with honesty – it is not “happily ever after”, but a world filled with both new promise and difficulties.

  • Nagisa’s illness eventually causes her to miss enough classes to be held back another year. Tomoya pushes ahead in his life, while Nagisa is left to continue high school on her own now that everyone’s graduated. The very prospect of this is immediately melancholy to viewers, but at the same time, Nagisa’s also become far more motivated than before. Even if Tomoya and the others are not in her corner physically, their time together gives Nagisa the resolve to continue with the drama club.

  • Tomoya’s past with the Furukawas allow him to earn a position here to help out. While not exactly a career with a bright path ahead, working somewhere allows Tomoya to have focus. Idling in high school was what led to his days of unprofitable boredom, so his seizing the opportunity to do something while working out his future shows that with the right people in his corner, Tomoya is motivated and determined.

  • Nagisa’s time in high school is marked with her making few friends and being unsuccessful in continuing the drama club. Her difficulties are mirrored in the composition of this still: Nagisa is not the central subject and is alone in the drama room under lengthen shadows of a sunset. Being alone on school grounds after hours creates a sense of melancholy. I recall those days on campus during the summers after research, when I would walk around the grounds to relax: empty halls and classrooms elicit a sense of loneliness.

  • Tomoya rushes out to meet Yusuke and entreats him for a job as an electrician. While ~After Story~ deals with the world outside of school in a highly detailed manner, its focus means that some aspects are passed over: I’m certain that getting a job is not as simple as asking a friend as a referral, since there are still formalities that must be dealt with, for instance. With this being said, ~After Story~ is about family, not the job search; since Tomoya finding a job is integral to the story, audiences accept that he is able to find work and have an income, allowing the story to focus on other things.

  • Tomoya decides to move out, and with a suggestion from Ryou, finds a place nearby with low rent. Tomoya’s apartment was based off an apartment in Suita, Osaka, which was demolished the same year that CLANNAD was aired. CLANNAD itself is set in a location inspired by Mizuho, Tokyo, and while the anime is not a hundred percent faithful to the real world locations, the similarities are quite visible. I imagine that this location is near the Tama River.

  • Tomoya is offered a job with the company that Yusuke works for, and immediately sets about learning the ropes of being an electrician. I’m not sure how it works in Japan, but back home, there’s a four-year apprenticeship program that one must take, then complete the Journeyman Certificate programme and work under an employee. Some institutes offer programs, but high school students in my province can be hired into a company as an apprentice after graduation, as well, taking the same route that Tomoya takes.

  • Early in his career, Tomoya would make just enough to support moving out and living independently, and after his first day of work, he comes home to a home-cooked dinner Nagisa’s made.

  • When I think about it, I see in an ideal partner someone whose priorities are trust, commitment and honesty, someone who accepts handling tough times together and accepts that not every step of our journey together is going to be sunshine and rainbows. In the knowledge of this, they’d be willing to stick it out. I grew up with old-fashioned values, and it seems that this is largely incompatible with what most people expect.

  • Nagisa embodies the sort of mindset that I’ve come to value and respect – no matter how tough things get for Tomoya, she continues to see the good and support him. For these two, an evening stroll together is as enjoyable and meaningful as a couple’s vacation overseas; the former might not be an Instagram-worthy moment, but that doesn’t stop it from being a good way to relax.

  • While Tomoya might be working hard to support his new family, things with the Furukawas are still as much as they once were: one particularly memorable prank involves a lizard that Akio’s acquired from a shop owner after a fierce toy lightsabre duel. Unlike Tomoya, who’s working his rear off, the Furukawas have managed to find that work-life balance in their lives, and here, the cost of their prank is a heavy one: Sanae tackles both Tomoya and Akio on her way out of the shop in a panic.

  • Getting used to a new job is a challenge; when I first watched CLANNAD ~After Story~, I did not have the experiences to really appreciate what Tomoya was experiencing. With this being said, I knew that there would come a day when I would finish the MCAT and graduate, so I wondered what working would feel like. I can now honestly say that it is a world apart from being a student, and that Tomoya’s effort to excel at his work is very real as he strives to prove his worth to his new employer.

  • For me, an honest effort to do the best job possible, and the humility to ask for help are two of the most vital traits in someone worth working with. On the topic of transitions in life, it takes about a two weeks to adjust to a new environment, and then a month to settle down and make the most of the routine. This first while is always the trickiest, and the closest analogy I have is trades in sports teams like in the NHL: although one might be wearing a different jersey, they are still playing the same sport, and so, once one adjusts to their new team, things become more routine and familiar with time.

  • Tomoya’s initial efforts come at the expense of his relationship with Nagisa; he ends up missing most of the Founder’s Festival and arrives late, but Nagisa does not mind, understanding Tomoya’s effort to earn his keep. It’s one of the surest signs that make Tomoya and Nagisa such a good couple: every couple I know that is in a strong, healthy relationship understands that relationships are give and take, about weathering tough times together as much as enjoying good times together.

  • By talking it out, Nagisa and Tomoya reach a proper understanding with one another: although Nagisa has always tacitly supported Tomoya with his career, their communicating with one another means that nothing is left unspoken. Even though they are still a couple at this point, ~After Story~ uses the subtle to convey how close the two are. It is not often that things like trust, commitment and compromise are used in fiction to portray a strong, healthy relationship – more often than not, romantic gestures and dates are used. While more visceral for fiction, the reality is that in a good relationship, there is more communication than there is kissing, despite what social media might otherwise suggest.

  • When Tomoya is offered a new position at a larger company, he is conflicted as to whether or not he should take the offer. Yusuke recounts his past as a musician to Tomoya, explaining that he was once a musician who was unable to keep up with his work, and fell into despair after one of his fans committed a crime. Losing sight of why he wanted to perform, Yusuke turned to substance abuse and hit rock bottom. He returned home and met Kyouko, realising that she was his reason for performing. Although no longer a musician, Yusuke learned that as long as one has a focus in life, they will make things work out.

  • Tomoya decides to take on this new position, feeling it to be a path to the future. Life is ever-changing, and to pass on opportunity may come with a cost. Youth is a time for exploring new avenues, and Tomoya is excited about the change of scenery. However, at the worst possible time, Tomoya learns that his father’s been incarcerated for possession of controlled substances, and this causes his offer to become rescinded. Feeling his home town is nothing but a place of suffering, Tomoya asks Nagisa if she’d leave with him and make a fresh start elsewhere. Nagisa feels that this town remains special because they’d met here, and it’s how they handle the future that matters, more so than the past.

  • Visiting the correctional facility where his father is, Tomoya has no words and mirroring his sense of loss, the scenes are a faded out grey: even with Nagisa by his side, it seems as though there is no colour and hope in the world, where the past continues to haunt him despite his best efforts to break free.

  • It might’ve been a beautiful summer day, but Tomoya sees none of this. He finally lashes out and strikes a wall in frustration, but before he seriously injures himself, Nagisa stops him. Another couple passes by, wondering what on earth happened. Besides the sound of cicadas, the scene is quiet until The Place Where Wishes Come True begins playing. A sense of calm is injected into the moment, and here, after seeing Nagisa exert herself to protect him, he comes to realise that his feelings for Nagisa warrant an 愛してる, the strongest expression of love in Japan.

  • Again, ~After Story~ defies convention: Tomoya’s proposal to Nagisa is done without a ring, in one of the most unromantic locations possible, but nonetheless creates one of the strongest impacts in an anime. It continues to underline that the ordinary can be extraordinary, and that there is a magic in the everyday. For me, it makes sense to put a way-point here; it marks the beginning of another journey for Tomoya and Nagisa, and a glance at the calendar shows that I will be returning at the end of January for the next post on ~After Story~. I steel myself for this particular post, knowing it will be a difficult one to write for.

It is here in ~After Story~ that the narrative takes a shift from high school to that of adulthood, of a world marked with responsibility and challenges. Immediately relatable is Tomoya’s resolve to keep active even while working out what he wishes to do with his future, and then the struggle Tomoya encounters in finding work-life balance during the early days of his work. By stepping out of school and into the real world, ~After Story~ ventures into a new direction that shows just how uncertain and uncomfortable being an adult is. However, for these difficulties, adulthood also comes with its own joys, as well. Effort in one’s career is rewarded, and people come to appreciate one another’s company even more strongly. In its portrayal of Tomoya and Nagisa, ~After Story~ means to suggest that, far more than romantic gestures and activities associated with relationships, the endgame of the most meaningful relationships is that one finds a partner to stay by their side, acting as a source of support and confidant, while simultaneously, also be someone that one can support and confide in. No matter how difficult things get, knowing that there will be someone reliably in one’s corner is a major boost to one’s morale, and ~After Story~ shows that with the right partner, almost any seemingly-insurmountable problem can be addressed. Seeing all of these things progress, from that day where Nagisa and Tomoya first met, to the present, creates incredibly human characters that audiences empathise and connect with. As they mature, Tomoya and Nagisa seem more life-like, prompting viewers begin to invest more into their story and hope for their happiness as they face the future together. This is what compelled players to continue with CLANNAD‘s visual novel, and why so many became engrossed with CLANNAD‘s animated adaptation.

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

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

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

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

Screenshots and Commentary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Being unable to trust anything is the same as being unable to sense other people’s love.” —Yoshino Yuusuke

Summer draws swiftly to an end, and on a weekend prior to the continuing of term, Tomoya dreams about his past while watching a baseball game with Nagisa, Sanae and Akio. Akio later asks Tomoya to help him assemble a baseball team ahead of a match with a neighbouring shopping district, and while Tomoya does his best, speaking with a variety of people (including Yuusuke and Misae) with the aims of getting them to join, his mind also drifts towards the future and what it might entail. On the day of the game, Mei shows up as well to meet Yuusuke and watch the baseball game. The game is characterised by the unique brand of encouragement and antics unique to Tomoya and his friends. Despite this, Tomoya’s team takes the lead early into the game. After Nagisa is asked to step up to bat when Akio is injured by a stray bat, this lead is closed. Tomoya manages to score a game-winning run batted in (a play where a batter for making the play that allows a losing team to win) and in the aftermath, celebrates with the Furukawas. While perhaps not starting quite as profoundly as CLANNAD did in its opening, CLANNAD ~After Story~ (~After Story~ from here on out for brevity) opens to a strong start that gives viewers a chance to see the new status quo that has developed since Tomoya asked Nagisa to be his girlfriend. However, despite this change, things in ~After Story~ remain much as they have previously. Tomoya shares a warm friendship with those around him, and where the moment calls for it, can step up to the occasion for those around him. Through moments of hilarity, excitement and energy, ~After Story~ swiftly reintroduces viewers to CLANNAD and the world following the first season: characters are established, and baseball is again used as a metaphor for life events, foreshadowing that nothing is ever certain or final. Although Tomoya and his team may have given up a lead, things are never truly over until they are over. This message, so subtly touched on in the first episode, will return later, and for the present, ~After Story~ brings audiences back to those relaxing days Tomoya enjoys as a new term begins.

While relationships are commonly seen as major life events, ~After Story~ shows that for everything that’s happened, things largely remain as they did before. Tomoya might be a little closer to Nagisa than before, but the excitement and energy he feels from spending time with his friends endures, as do the moments of hilarity. Things feel very much as they did before Tomoya began realising his feelings for Nagisa, and whether it be through his exchanges with Kyou, or wisecracks whenever Tomoyo tramples Youhei, ~After Story~ makes it clear that Tomoya is still the same kind-hearted individual with a penchant for pranks as he was previously. The point that ~After Story~ makes with this portrayal is that on most days, being in a relationship is not so different than being single. There are some days where being in a relationship is count oneself as among the happiest in the world, and yet other days where a relationship feels like a shackle one is doomed to bear. This incredible range of contrast is something that ~After Story~ will explore, and consequently, it makes sense to begin in the realm of the ordinary, giving audiences a chance to gain a sense of what life is typically like for Tomoya. In contrast with the first season, however, this ordinary life is a world apart from the existence that Tomoya knew at the beginning of CLANNAD; living in the moment and looking out for those around him is the new norm, and reflecting this new Tomoya, ~After Story~‘s first episode is a vividly colourful one, filled with warm hues and inviting light. However, such things are also transient: a cooler colour fills the classroom when Tomoya wonders about his future, signalling to viewers that such moments do not last forever. The ending of youth, the ending of those summer days, comes to a close, setting the stage for what is to come in ~After Story~.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The last time a CLANNAD post graced this blog, it was late March, a day before the Vernal Equinox. The Nagisa arc was my favourite act of CLANNAD, and Nagisa is my favourite character of the series, as well. I’m invariably drawn to the main characters of a given series, an indicator of my own personality in that when I set out to do something, I will focus on that something with my all. The end result of this is that I tend to present satisfactory results on the central task at the expense of missing anything that was not explicitly defined in my assignment.

  • The consequence of this in something like an anime review is that I will tend to connect with and, correspondingly, write more about the central characters than I will anyone else. It leaves my particular brand of reviewing inadequate in some areas. However, in series that are sufficiently well-explored, the opportunity to look at what each character brings to the table is present, and for this, it is fun to go back through an older series and see what things can be picked up by rewatching things. In this re-entry into CLANNAD ~After Story~, I will be keeping to my usual patterns: arc discussions will have thirty, single-episode reviews like today’s will have twenty, and if the need arises, I will have larger posts for particularly special episodes.

  • Time genuinely does make fools of us all: ten years previously, I was in my final year of secondary school. My decision to take an honours program in what was essentially a double major in biological and computer sciences stemmed from the fact that I was indecisive at the time, and today, I find that my technical knowledge is nowhere as strong as it can be had I focused on a single field. On the other hand, I am afforded with a unique perspective towards problem solving – a degree leading to a side-grade isn’t so bad, and in a world where being multi-disciplinary is of increasing value, I do not feel that my undergraduate degree was a waste of time.

  • After classes, Tomoya decides to speak with electrician Yuusuke Yoshino with the aim of trying to get him on board for baseball, a man whose background remains quite unexplored at this point in CLANNAD: the only hint of his past is that he knows Kouko and has a tendency to be dramatic, making various quotes and poses. Initially reluctant to join Tomoya and his crew, Yuusuke relents after Tomoya explains that Youhei looks up to him.

  • Tomoya is a skillful liar who can turn any situation in his favour with a few tall tales; this part of his personality adds to his ability to create humour even during high-tension moments. Further accentuating the humour are the others’ reactions to his lies: Youhei evidently regards Tomoya highly, and, befitting of his slower wit, buys Tomoya’s lies easily. On the other hand, Nagisa’s naïveté and innocence she genuinely believes Tomoya.

  • Misae Sagara runs the dormitory that Youhei stays at, and insofar, she is presented as the sometimes-kindly-sometimes-violent dormitory manager. While support characters normally serve secondary roles, helping protagonists along, CLANNAD‘s length allows all characters to be explored. Besides giving their experiences more weight, this exposition also provides further insight into the world that is CLANNAD – this series’ detractors assert an undue amount of deus ex machina in its progression, but I counter that the detractors have not been paying attention. Small, subtle details (and other, not-so-subtle elements) indicate that as normal as the world of CLANNAD is, there is a substantial supernatural component, as well.

  • If I had to guess, the reason that Jun Maeda utilises the supernatural in his visual novels and stories would be because the journey that is life is a winding one with no clear future, and that the way things sometimes play out can seemingly have little explanation beyond what might be considered magic. The supernatural also allows Maeda’s characters to explore themes and experience situations that are more melancholy than what is possible in the real world, although with the success of his works, Maeda’s stories, referred to as nakige (泣きゲー, literally “crying game”), also tend to follow a very formulaic approach, opening with comedy, building up the rising action through romance, reaching a climax with tragedy and then closing with a reunion.

  • It’s been a year and a half since I purchased CLANNAD‘s visual novel on Steam, and I’ve yet to actually even open the game. My challenge with visual novels are that because they are a cross between a picture book and a novel, I cannot read as quickly as I’d like or completely utilise my mind’s eye to imagine a scene. Further to this, I’m used to reading for long periods with physical books, and staring at a screen for the equivalent amount of time is very exhausting, so as far as going through a visual novel goes, I’m going to likely need a different approach.

  • Kyoto Animation’s craft in CLANNAD yields a world that is simultaneously detailed and clean. This art style is refined by the time of Sound Euphonium and Violet Evergarden, both of which have an incredibly detailed art style rivalling those of Makoto Shinkai’s. While Kyoto Animation is known for their animation quality and artwork, not every series in their repertoire has this level of detail: shows like Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, Lucky Star and Nichijou utilise a much simpler art style.

  • On the day of the baseball game, the skies are of a deep blue, giving the sense of a hot summer’s day. With Mizuho having an average high of 31ºC in August and 28ºC in September, the vivid colours of CLANNAD do much to capture the temperatures within the series. Anime typically use colour and sound to indicate heat: deep colours and the sound of cicadas indicate hot days almost universally. In western animation, heat is indicated through use of distortion effects, a faint “sizzling” sound and emphasis on the sun. Depending on the series, visual humour is also employed.

  • As it turns out, Mei is indeed a big fan of Yuusuke’s and is amazed that she is able to meet him in person; as Youhei says, such is her excitement that she immediately sets off for Mizhuho to see him in person for the baseball game. While the youth are engrossed in their own conversation, the adults share a moment together, as well: Yuusuke, Kyouko and Misae all know one another from an older age.

  • The precise stakes of this match are about the same as those of Futurama when the Globe Trotters challenge Earth to a basketball game: their leader, Bubblegum Tate, states that with no stakes or threat, the only thing on the table really is the shame of defeat. Akio believes the same: while ostensibly a friendly match between two teams, he threatens that if they should lose, Sanae’s bread will await them. While both CLANNAD and the MCU make reference to earlier instalments in their respective universes, ~After Story~ requires complete knowledge of the first season in order to be at its most effective.

  • I am not familiar with baseball in any capacity, save the fact that it is an American institution that was introduced to Japan in 1872 by professor Horace Wilson, and after a thrilling match, Japanese interest in baseball soared. Today, it is the most widely played sport in Japan, to the extent that Japanese people are surprised that baseball is just as big in the United States. While I can’t really watch baseball (the sport itself is unexciting for me), I am much more familiar with the realm of ice hockey. The 2018-2019 season starts today, and after an amusing pre-season that saw the Calgary Flames square off against the Boston Bruins in Shenzhen and Beijing, we’re going up against the Vancouver Canucks.

  • I understand that I’ve got a number of Canadian readers, and a larger number from the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, at that, but unfortunately, being a Calgary native means I’m a Flames fan through and through: I look forwards to seeing if the Flames can trample the Canucks in the season opener tonight. Back in ~After Story~, Youhei butchers a play and when Kyou calls him a blight, he retorts that he’s up against a pro: Youhei is referring to Koshien Stadium, where high school players compete at the national level. When Youhei challenges Kyou to do better, she does.

  • That this game is meant to be friendly is reinforced by the fact that after Akio is injured, the other team offers to provide a replacement. Akio refuses and sends Nagisa onto the field. Her low athleticism is offset by the fact that she’s playing alongside skilled teammates, who help her out. However, their lead begins shrinking as the match progresses: Tomoya’s shoulder prevents him from hitting effectively, and when it’s Kotomi’s turn, she spends more time trying to figure out what the best play is rather than reacting on instinct and skill. She marginally hits the ball and reaches first base.

  • Several more interesting plays occur after Nagisa strikes out: Tomoyo declares she wants to hit like a girl, and Tomoya decides to try something new, keeping in mind his shoulder. However, while Nagisa might not be an athlete, she does have her moments, and later in the game, will manage to hit the ball. The baseball game retains its momentum pushing ahead, and while a real baseball game would never see the antics of ~After Story~, their presence here does much to liven a sport up that I normally would not otherwise watch.

  • The most over-the-top events belong to Yuusuke: one of his monologues befuddles the other team and also costs him a run, when he is tapped out after walking dramatically between the bases.

  • Despite his limitations, Tomoya’s strength is his resolve. The game’s become such that Tomoya must score a run batted in to win, and despite his shoulder, he is spurred on by the others. The lengthening shadows signify the day’s end, and simultaneously mirror the closing of a window. The opposing players become faceless, little more than obstructions, and driven by those he cares about, Tomoya puts his all into his final play.

  • In the aftermath, everyone celebrates. This scene stood out to me for its use of incidental music: the track “Town, Flow of Time, People” plays. Normally used during more melancholy moments, it imparts a heavier atmosphere that does not line up with the jovial, energetic mood at the Furukawa residence following the game. While subtle, it again foreshadows what is upcoming in ~After Story~, suggesting that the proverb “Sing before breakfast, cry before night” very much holds true here. It ultimately boils down to not celebrating before something is over, and while things look normal, happy now, ~After Story~ does have one helluva ride for its audience.

  • There is an equivalent phrase in Chinese, 高興太早 (jyutping gou1 hing1 taai3 zou2), which literally translates to “happy too early”. As the first episode to ~After Story~ ends, a cut of the robot in the Imaginary World and the light orbs are seen. Little more than a curiosity in the first season that formed the basis for Nagisa’s play, the Imaginary World and its inhabitants play a much more substantial role in this second season, and I will spend a bit more time detailing their relevance to the main story as ~After Story~ continues. In addition, I will need to figure out what the best way to break up the ~After Story~ posts is, and with our entry into the fall season, two shows have appeared on my radar as being worth writing about: P.A. Works’ Iroduku Sekai no Ashita kara, which is of a genre and setup that catches my interest, and the slice-of-life Anima Yell!.

As I have done for the first season’s tenth anniversary, I will be revisiting CLANNAD ~After Story~ in a similar manner as I did for CLANNAD. There are a total of twenty-two episodes in ~After Story~, and as readers have doubtlessly discovered, having me come by, week after week, to do episodic reviews is a bit of a pain in the rear – things get stale quickly, and I find it difficult to write about things on a weekly basis. So, I will be writing about ~After Story~ in arcs. However, ~After Story~ is not quite as well delineated as its predecessor; some stories are shorter than others, others are longer, and others yet serve to set the stage for ~After Story~‘s final act. I am still determining what the best way to break down ~After Story~ is for the present, but I will note that writing for this will be an interesting exercise in introspection: even more so than CLANNAD, ~After Story~ led me to re-evaluate who I was and what I was doing with my life, as well as help me understand what it was I wanted from life. It’s been over six years since I went through CLANNAD and CLANNAD ~After Story~, but the messages and ideas this particular story imparted on me have endured, attesting to the timeless character of the writing in this series. Six years is a considerable amount of time, and so, while I’ve largely forgotten what specifics about ~After Story~ that made it such a life changing experience, the opportunity to write about this series in full at the ten year anniversary means that I’ll certainly rediscover the magic that is CLANNAD ~After Story~ anew, and this time, armed with six more years of life experience, I think I can offer thoughts on things that were not possible the first time I watched CLANNAD.