As Time Changes – Clannad #9

As Time Changes – Clannad #9

Posts may contain spoilers for the entire series.

After a long hiatus, it’s finally time to finish Fuko’s arc. Given the gap in posts, we could probably all use a quick refresher of main ideas. Of primary concern in Fuko’s arc is her existence in time and her ability to affect change across time. She’s a girl split between two times and two existences, and most of her efforts in this arc are to bridge those two times/existences together in some way. The sculptures are the most concrete example of this: a physical symbol in the present of the emotions of a girl stuck in the past. Of course, for characters who aren’t split in this way, Fuko’s two realities are incongruous and need to be resolved somehow.

What we want to discover at the arc’s conclusion is whether Fuko truly causes change in the present and how the characters of the present manage to remember her (if they do).

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To reach any kind of answer to these questions, we need to look at the interplay of emotion and reality, particularly near the arc’s conclusion. After forgetting Fuko partway through the episode, Nagisa cannot remember why she has one of Fuko’s starfish, but she knows she “feel[s] calmed” whenever she looks at it. As I mentioned, this is our core symbol for the bridge between Fuko’s emotional efforts and the reality the other characters live in. At this point, we can put Fuko’s goal (what she wants to accomplish with these sculptures) into more logical terms. I’ll be direct.Read More »

2019 Retrospective

2019 Retrospective

There are spoilers ahead. If you see a show title you haven’t watched yet, you might want to skip that section until you have.

Another year of anime lived. I was going to begin this post by apologizing for how late it is, but then I realized I’m actually a couple days ahead of last year! So instead, I’m going to act undeservedly proud. I expected nothing less of myself.

This was an incredible year for anime–I think somewhat indisputably. We had potentially the most impressive depth of good shows all decade, as well as quite a few great shows, all spread across various genres. Obviously what specifically falls into those categories of “good” and “great” will differ from person to person, but the sheer quantity and variety of enjoyable shows really stands out to me. In particular, I imagine this will go down as a legendary year for fans with a taste for shounen or action: Mob Psycho II, Dororo, Attack on Titan S3P2, Demon Slayer, Dr. Stone, Vinland Saga, Fire Force, My Hero Academia S4…these aren’t even my kind of anime and yet that list excites me.Read More »

Observations #1: Yasuko from Toradora!

Observations #1: Yasuko from Toradora!

These Observations posts will be short and informal. The idea is to have a way to express details or connections I notice in shows that I think are interesting, unexplored, and worth bringing to people’s attention or archiving in some way. However, the details in these posts either can’t constitute a full essay or simply don’t fit into my schedule as far as researching and writing a full post about them. Basically, these will be like a deciphered form of my notes (my observations, get it?). There probably won’t be real arguments within them most of the time, just the details and thought processes I would’ve used to make my arguments in a real essay. Hopefully they’re fun to read or direct you to make some arguments of your own.

Like the title says, these are some thoughts on Toradora!’s Yasuko, a character who occupies a complicated position in relation to the rest of the cast. I feel a lot of discussion about Yasuko glides over what are actually intricate and deliberate ways of portraying her character, particularly in regards to how she relates to the show’s overall themes of maturity, responsibility, and family. The content of these notes are essentially why I feel that way (so if this post has any argument, it’s probably that). I also think there’s something to be said about the fact that Yasuko is a mother character in a Mari Okada script–there’s always something to say about Okada moms–but that’s certainly outside the range of these notes.Read More »

As Time Changes – Clannad #8

As Time Changes – Clannad #8

Posts may contain spoilers for the entire series.

My labors of sustenance kept me from my labor of love for a while, but hopefully now we can continue these posts at a regular rate. Even as characters begin to forget Fuko, I haven’t forgotten this series. And, in the interest of preserving time and reducing my embarrassment, let’s move past this corny introduction and into today’s true topic.

Episode 8 is all about forgetting Fuko or, from a more optimistic perspective, trying to remember her. The question of who forgets Fuko (and when and why) may seem straightforward enough at first glance, and Clannad even offers some simple explanations of its own, but I’m hoping to complicate those answers today. That being said, it’s not as though this is a riddle to be solved. The story only gives a brief explanation of why certain characters forget Fuko faster than others, and for good reason. It’s only of minor importance to the plot and themes, and to some extent is self-explanatory. Most viewers’ first assumption would be that characters that spend more time around Fuko remember her for longer. That makes sense, and what matters first and foremost is that characters forget Fuko, not every detail of why they forget.

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But if we refuse to settle for a simple explanation like that, we can potentially develop more interesting arguments and learn more about other characters as well. In other words, the point of this post isn’t to try and prove the story’s explanation wrong or anything silly like that, but rather to see if we can dig up any other connections between the characters and their memories of Fuko. We want a richer understanding of these connections, not necessarily a conflicting understanding. For that, we have to go deeper than the surface of the story.Read More »

As Time Changes – Clannad #7

As Time Changes – Clannad #7

Posts may contain spoilers for the entire series.

Episode 7 presents us with lots of little advancements in plot, some hints of the narrative to come, and a few reinforcements of thematic issues we’ve already begun to discuss. Rather than deal with a dozen tiny details in this post, I think this is the perfect time to dive deeper into the “emotional thesis” I brought up at the start of the series. While we’re at it, we can talk about the town itself (the two go hand-in-hand, of course). We’re not exactly short on time this arc. Fuko’s arc is the longest on its own and could even be argued to bleed into the early exposition episodes. So we might as well take a short detour.

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Tomoya gives us the emotional thesis at the very start of the anime: “I hate this town.” In calling that line a thesis, I don’t mean that the literal sentence is exactly the argument behind the emotional energy of specific events. For example, I wouldn’t say “Tomoya hating the town” explains the emotions behind Kotomi’s arc. I don’t think Tomoya’s hatred of anything would explain how he feels during that arc, how we feel about that arc, or what emotional growth results from that arc. Clannad isn’t a scientific experiment or academic essay; we shouldn’t chain ourselves to a strict definition of words when interpreting our thesis. In other words, we care less about what “I hate this town” means according to the dictionary, and more about what kind of emotional structure causes Tomoya to say such a thing.Read More »

As Time Changes – Clannad #6

As Time Changes – Clannad #6

Posts may contain spoilers for the entire series.

And we’re back to section-by-section structure! In this post, we’ll be revisiting some subjects previously discussed in order to continue their threads and “trace” them further into the show. We’ll also establish some new subjects to keep an eye on.

We’re in the heart of Fuko’s arc now, so let’s not waste any time!

Making A Family

The first section to make its reappearance is that of Family. In past episodes, I’ve spoken about Nagisa gathering club members in order to build a sort of family (a “unit of togetherness”) that she can experience her final year of high school with. This desire is of course analogous to a desire of Tomoya’s–not one that is stated outright but one that we can certainly infer. Though we haven’t seen much of it yet, Tomoya’s own family is torn apart and not operating with “togetherness” for various reasons. I made allusions to Tomoya acquiring something of a familial unit via the club and Nagisa’s own family, and this episode begins to shape those relationships in a more concrete way.

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The Fuko Fan Club identifies Tomoya as Fuko’s older brother without any objective indication on Tomoya or Fuko’s part. Fuko simply uses him as a shield against the Fan Club, but the Club’s identification proves they recognize something familial between the two. There is something abstract in the way Fuko and Tomoya interact that suggests to outsiders that they’re related. What seems to trigger this identification isn’t necessarily the actions of Fuko or Tomoya, but their apparent emotional affinity. That is, they feel connected in some emotional way. As for what the implications of that–their relationship being based on affinity rather than action–might mean, it’s hard to say at this point. It’s worth keeping in mind the importance placed on Fuko’s actions so far, though–particularly her handing out of the starfish.Read More »

As Time Changes – Clannad #5

As Time Changes – Clannad #5

Posts may contain spoilers for the entire series.

As we begin to make serious progress in Fuko’s arc, it’s necessary to take a closer look at Kouko Ibuki. Though the arc is obviously about Fuko first and foremost, Fuko’s efforts themselves are almost entirely about Kouko. We’ll complicate that seemingly simple claim shortly. “Kouko” as an idea is much more than her singular character. Out of her relationships and representation, we’ll try to figure out what this arc is really about.

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I could have began this post from several other points or subjects, but as I wrote I found it made the most sense to focus specifically on Kouko and her personal dilemmas. She will become, in that way, a locus from which other pertinent topics can diverge. She is also important enough to warrant attention that establishes her as a significant topic of interest. We need to distinguish Kouko as a character just as much as we distinguish the arc-having heroines like Kotomi or Tomoyo. I suppose this is another way of saying Kouko has enough depth and deals with major thematic concerns directly/intensely enough to warrant singling her out and defining what she “represents.”Read More »