READING PART 1 IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. THIS IS AN ARC BY ARC REVIEW OF CLANNAD: AFTER STORY WHICH WILL DETAIL AND SPOIL THOSE ARCS SO DON’T READ THAT IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED. READ THE FIRST COUPLE PARAGRAPHS OF PART 1. IF I STRETCH THE INTRO ANY LONGER THIS BECOMES UN-READ-ABLY LONG SO LET’S JUST GO! THANK YOU, ENJOY.
Youhei and Mei Sunohara Arc (1-4)
Let’s have some fun while we can. The baseball game is honestly one of my favorite episodes and I wish we got more like this. It’s a clever way to reintroduce all the characters and get them to show off their personalities without feeling too forced or contrived. We see who’s more comfortable cheering from the crowd, who cheers on their teammates, who makes the athletic plays and who screws up. It was a fun way to get everyone involved and see everyone in action; I wish we got more going to settings and situations that allowed the characters to define themselves.
Since I’m making a big deal of utilizing characters… it seemed like the show was reading my mind and decided to do this goofy Youhei getting a fake girlfriend plot-line. I was like this could be a moment to maybe bring Ryou or Yukine ( Library girl) into the mix and the show was like that’s a great… but no Sanae. At first it was a little disappointing because I felt that Sanae has her role throughout and didn’t need this, but it was comedic and made their antics seem even more absurd, so it eventually brings you on board with it.
What I can’t get on board with is with how jerky those soccer players end up being. I think they might have overdone it a smidge, both in design and execution. Why do all the athletes in this show look like they’re in their mid-thirties and I get it that they’re supposed to be a bunch of shitheads but the way the treated Mei seemed a little excessively cruel. While the means of getting there are silly the entire arc has a pretty satisfying resolve. Okazaki begins to recognize how much he’s different from the beginning of the series through Youhei’s higher opinion of him then he gives himself. Both the Sunohara’s learn that a relationship isn’t a solution to replace independent responsibilities and that while not always on display the siblings are always caring for one another’s well-being.
The Sunohara siblings remind me that the characters in this show aren’t as one dimensional as you can perceive them as. Mei is really sweet and childish yet also has a conniving side as well as a mature sense of responsibility. Youhei who is 90% of the time the butt of the joke but they do give him a passionate and caring personality that might not be on full display but I’m glad we get occasional dimensions to their personality.
Misae and Katsuki Arc (5-6)
What the heck am I watching? I wasn’t expected the cat to share his tragic backstory but also as completely bonkers as it is, why is it so good? I dare anyone to write a romance between a lady and her cat and make it as heartfelt as this. I wasn’t expecting the double twist at the end, I got from the very beginning that Kat-suki with the same eye color as the cat who narrated us into the flashback was the cat but I didn’t expect that the cat was Katsuki the whole time… wait. Okay so the cat that we see with Misae was obviously the boy from the flashback, but I didn’t expect the boy from the flashback to be the boy from the hospital’s cat the whole time.
It’s hard to care too much about what’s going on as it is honestly a great departure from what’s going on and it really is playful exposition about happiness wishes but I kind of like it. I feel that this was also a nice departure from the doom and gloom of the show, something super sad tear-jerky moment but was actually something whimsically romantic. It’s a nice little story about love after death and loving a person for not superficial reasons but someone who genuinely shows affection towards you.
I hate that my mind goes to the implications… am I supposedly supposed to understand that Misae will never love an actual human being because of this guy she met for about a week in high school and is okay being reminded of him through a stray cat. Is the cat still going to have the life span of an average cat, will it A Dog’s Purpose reincarnate? Why is his wish treated like it was granted by a genie when we see Okazaki and Yusuke with no catch? Is it the original cat’s consciousness and was only human to fulfill the original Katsuki’s death wish and has been reverted back to a cat and gets his wish to be with her together? Did Katsuki actually get revived via plot magic but had an unfortunate run-in with the Hocus Pocus witches before he could meet Misae again? I think it was a cute little side adventure, pros and cons being that it’s the one most separated from the ongoing narrative.
Yukine and the gangs Arc (7-8)
I appreciate that Clannad feels that no character is too small to deserve a story worth telling. It was interesting to get a glimpse into a minor character such as the polite library (actually it’s like a supply/reference room but I’m going to keep referencing to it as library) and understand what she has going on outside of how she usually serves the narrative. Too bad it ended up being bat shit crazy nonsense. It’s an interesting concept that someone who we know for being in a quaint isolated calm area is caught up in this mad world of ruffians and hooligans.
The gangs just end up being way too silly and for a show with genuine feelings it seems odd that both gangs really don’t have a philosophy as to why they’re rivals with one another besides some generic turf war and apparently just a love of fighting to a numbskull degree.
I think the idea of Yukine being chummy with essentially a bunch of broken home thugs is a really interesting concept that maybe should have been handled in a different manner. It goes with the theme of family and the idea that family is not just limited to biological and they’re not always what we expect them to be. As much fun as it was to see Yukine dress up like Naruto and take a punch to the face, this arc really felt that it lacked the nuance and subtlety of the other arcs. Fighting is bad, and death can bring people together. I want to say that the choices are thought out, it’s essentially a war caused by parties with a rich history that those fighting it now have lost the purpose of why they’re warring with one another and that no hero can swoop in and resolve conflict but if I had to say, while I enjoy Yukine and her odd family it is probably the worst stretch of the show.
Becoming an Adult Tomoya (9-12)
Maybe not the most eventful arc but is one that emphasizes the bread and butter of Clannad: After Story. It’s a rare look at what happens after “Happily Ever After” and is such a brutally honest depiction of mundane suffering. Living in a small apartment, finding an honest living, watching as all your old acquaintances and friends from high school slowly disappear out of your life as they all go on diverging paths, and having to come to terms with managing responsibilities and seeking pleasure with the person you’re spending your life with are all the growing pains of becoming an adult.
It’s interesting that with graduation that is often the finale moment of a series breezes by as a flash in the pan event showing how almost meaningless of a milestone it is to Okazaki. I was not expected Yusuke to have such a big role here but he’s honestly forms an admirable friendship with Okazaki and his story of failure and experience being an adult makes him a respectable mentor. This stretch is boring but intentionally so, and the way the shows work as a mundane and demanding effort is what I think has made it genuinely connect with people. Okazaki is almost stripped away of his status as a fictional character. No longer is he this guy having a fun experience of a harem romance fantasy and solving the hyperbolic sorrows of his friends… he’s working and trying to overcome his weaknesses like the rest of us.
It’s not the most thrilling or exciting but it’s when I started to feel Okazaki was maturing beyond the simple protagonist. Taking the cherry-flavored optimism of the shows usual antics away, it starts to set in who this character is in his private and most ordinary moments. Okazaki begins to transition from the character relatable by his position in the narrative, to the character we empathize with because of his relatable daily struggles. Going back to Clannad, literally every character is shown besides Okazaki in the opening. The only time he appears in the intro is sure enough in the electric company van. I believe that tying in with the visual novel it’s because Okazaki is an audience stand-in encountering the various characters and learning of their problems, but the mirror is turning onto him now. He’s still how we’re supposed to see ourselves in this world, but he’s now fleshed out to show a credible ounce of struggle, shortcomings, motivation, and ethics that evolves him from character to human.
Becoming an Adult Nagisa (13-16)
Gosh darn whoever is cutting them onions needs to understand that I’m greatly allergic… and my eyes are really sensitive because I got pool chlorine and I don’t know maybe an eyelash in them. I’m certainly not crying *Sniff* who would cry over a spilled vanilla ice cream cone?
It’s just dawned on me how appropriate my “shoot the puppy” joke is to the show. Nagisa wasn’t the most well defined or disguised character in all of fiction and I always found her weird hair antennas odd but like a puppy she really just brought joy and cuteness to this world. Of course, this is a sad show so… yeah, she dies.
First this show really does have enchanting music, it alone can elicit a pretty strong emotional response. Prior to this the show equally tries to humanize Nagisa maybe not to the same effect as Okazaki but it was nice to see her blossom into an adult as well. It slowly but surely takes her away from the dream girl or Okazaki’s girlfriend but into Nagisa a compassionate hard-worker who is willing to do anything to help her friends, find happiness and form a happy little family of her own.
There are so many red flags to indicate that both Nagisa and Okazaki are way too naïve and way over their heads. The fact that Nagisa is insane enough to say she wants to give a home birth (girl you have mystery anime disease if anyone should have medical staff monitoring the birth it’s you!) and the fact that Okazaki isn’t really too sure if he’s ready to be a father. It’s funny because After Story is sort of criticizing the genre it’s supposed to be. Oh, you love these childish-idyllic fantasies of love and youth… well welcome to the real world. Everyone you know is going to die and our pain, struggles, and lives don’t matter. The world keeps spinning regardless of whether you’re happy or not, alive or dead.
I think above all else you do got to respect the novelty that is Clannad: After Story. Very rare will you see a show willing to: have a main character die, show a main character intentionally turn reprehensible in an ugly fashion, and as we finish with the final arc do we get to finally see what the first season lacked: consequence. The actions of Okazaki finally have effect on the narrative his actions have consequences on others, on himself, and how the plot progresses. That of course is until they don’t.
I am a heartless, emotionless critic so of course I wasn’t so swayed by such emotional appeals, now you go on ahead to the next section I need a moment to prepare my thoughts.
You look so tired, unhappy. Bring down the government
A Daughter and her Father, the great tragedy (17-22)
And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon. Little boy blue and the man on the moon *sniff*
“When you coming home, dad?” “I don’t know when” But we’ll get together then *sob* You know we’ll have a good time then.
Alright well I have to finish this review in the bathroom if you know what I mean. I praise this show’s patience in other aspects, but nothing proves this more than the “other world” and Okazaki’s relationship with his father. The relationship of fatherhood and how it portrayed in Clannad reminds me of this quote:
“Every woman becomes their mother. That’s their tragedy. And no man becomes his. That’s his tragedy.”– Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
This seems prevalent in multiple aspects of the show from the daughters becoming their mother’s from Sanae to Nagisa to Ushio but also in Okazaki who if he’s not becoming his mother, he is doomed to become his father. Whether it be more out of human nature or nurture it appears that everyone becomes their parent to a degree, and it is the job of this next generation to understand to become a better version of what proceeded us. Okazaki learns from his father’s failure to not let his personal depression stop him from having the fulfilling relationship with his own child he always sort of wish he had with his dad.
The relationship is a little bothersome because I certainly hope the message doesn’t get misconstrued for: if a parent is physically abusive and has caused you permanent physical and emotional damage it’s your fault for not appreciating those candies he gave you when you where five years old. Yikes. Also the father literally makes zero efforts to reconcile… I think maybe if it was the one instant and to hold a grudge over one horrible mistake a parent made and forget a bunch of sacrifice and how miserable he must have been losing his wife… still doesn’t feel the best but okay… I can let it slide. I’m no one worth listening to in a matter like this (I’m the funny movie guy) but no relationship should make you feel incomplete; you ultimately have the power to choose who’s worth being in your life but forgiveness is a powerful gesture that can heal personal feelings of inadequacies or regret so do what feels right by your terms.
Ushio in the field, episode “The Ends of the Earth/ Daichi no Hate” is sentimental perfection. It’s framed in these tight over the shoulder shots that really demonstrates the intimacy of the conversation in full effect. It’s lit in the sunset with a soft orange glow yet descending shadows. What makes this moment “THE MOMENT” of the show is that it doesn’t feel as persuasive as others, you don’t know how to feel. It’s a moment that encompasses so many feelings and transitions through them gracefully: losing something of sentimental value, the weight of losing a loved one, a child finally being able to let out her confused pent up emotional distress, and just the complexities of grief and abandonment. With all this it’s still a happy moment, it’s Okazaki finally accepting the role of a father figure and they write it so well. The score how it goes from silence, to gentle almost lullaby and concluding with a somber symphony is phenomenal and they edit so well with incorporating what Okazaki learned from his relationship with his father, the bathroom he was unable to be outside cementing the “I’m here now” message, and a montage of Nagisa to embody the memory of her. If watching Ushio mimic Nagisa’s cute giggle head tilt doesn’t make you go “MI CORAZON!!” I don’t know what to tell you.
Now that I’ve fully accepted this is Okazaki’s story and they don’t need to incorporate the side characters I’m glad the show now things it’s a great time to remind me that Kyou is still as awesome as ever and that it’s Fuko time. Fuko actually isn’t shoehorned in this time as she gets out of her coma and has a bittersweet scene of some weird Fuko antics mixed with remembering what could have been with Nagisa. It’s a sweet moment that goes appreciated before everything goes to shit.
Has Okazaki truly lost everything? Well, not his daughter good… well she’s dead now. Oh my god at this point all you could really do is take his life away too… oh and that’s apparently what happens. That was surprisingly a really dark ending. Thank God for the Quantum Realm!! Give me that Deus Ex Machina Reset Button magic wish nonsense and I’ll take my happy ending thank you very much.
I sort of have a problem with the solution to dealing with great tragedy and depression being….. to wish it away. To a degree I accept this because I felt the point of the show was to always show life’s greatest hardship and find the spirit to persevere and live. The main message is that fearing the worst is no excuse to not live or experience the greatest things in life finding love and starting a family. No matter what tragic events they had to go through every character gets a happy ending. It’s an ending that is eerily similar to Avengers: Endgame in that it feels kind of robbing to set up all this conflict and challenges and then move the goal posts in a sense. They do set up the happiness wish so I’m okay with it and it wraps the narrative nicely and it feels appropriately optimistic but also it has some unfortunate implications.
While a likable cast, I feel that only three female characters shine outside their specified arcs and the other choices is either likable protagonist or a child. Besides having the most expressive eyebrows Kyou as I discussed earlier seems to have some nice duality to her character which would have been more interesting if others would have followed suite.
- A Daughter and her Father
- Becoming an Adult Nagisa
- Choir Club/Tomoyo/Sisters
- Miraculous Misae and Cat-Noir
- Becoming an Adult Tomoya
- Nagisa’s Play
- Youhei and Mei Sunohara
- Yukine and the gangs
That’s it… I’m really pushing my luck with this word count and I’m all out of images to make it seem more bearable. I’m sure if this gets into the wrong hands I’ll get comments that make this posts length look like a tweet. I love this show and the passionate effect it’s had on people. I love it despite disagreeing with certain aspects of it. I’d love to hear what others have to say… let me have it. I’ll be waiting right here… AT THE MOVIES!