“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 CLANNAD, the 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.