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).
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.
Fuko cannot affect direct change on the story’s reality. This is ultimately evidenced by her inability to interact with her sister. Fuko attempts to use emotional energy to change reality. This is the sentiment she attaches to her starfish and that Nagisa recognizes in the starfish. If the sentiment recognized by the characters in reality is strong enough, that may cause change in their actions or perceptions in that reality. Finally, those real changes can cause a parallel change in the emotions of characters. Here’s a more visual representation of this sequence:
Emotion → Reality → Change in Real → Change in Emotion
But what exactly is this final change in emotion? In the larger context of Clannad, it’s a fundamental change in character that has a lasting impact on their identity or relationships to others and the world. If you remove any magical elements from the equation, you can see that this sequence is similar to how we usually think of character development. Something outside a character causes a change in their environment or relationships that then causes a change within them. It just happens that in Clannad, the “something outside” of a character often exists in a parallel world or a complex state of ghostliness.
With that in mind, the final change in emotion manifests during Fuko’s arc as an awareness of Fuko and a desire to celebrate Kouko’s wedding. We’ve discussed at length Fuko’s initial emotions and how she conveys them into reality (starfish, and so on), and we see the causal sequence completed at the end of Kouko’s wedding ceremony. Fuko’s emotions do cause a change in reality. Her efforts pay off when a crowd of students come to the school that day to celebrate. Importantly, it’s the memento of the starfish that reminds everyone of the wedding–they all forget until they see the embodiment (the “real”) of Fuko’s emotions. At this moment, the starfish truly become invitations to Kouko’s wedding.
With this change in reality, the final change in emotion is initiated, particularly in Kouko. In some sense, this is just a logical development: Kouko has to accept that Fuko played some role in the planning of this wedding, even if she doesn’t know how. She accepts that Nagisa and Tomoya were “always with” Fuko. By changing the reality of Kouko’s wedding, Fuko also changes Kouko herself. Kouko can then finally see Fuko’s spirit and receive a starfish from her. We can map the arc’s events onto the causal sequence in this way:
Fuko’s desire to celebrate Kouko’s wedding → Fuko distributes her desire as starfish sculptures → Characters accept the invitation to the wedding because of Fuko’s emotions → Kouko recognizes Fuko’s love for her, thus recognizing Fuko
In the end, Fuko’s thoughts “reach” Kouko in spite of the gap between her and Kouko’s reality. Fuko’s arc thus serves as an introduction to a lot of the emotional logic of Clannad, as well as the story’s more magical elements. In many ways, this arc is the most magical of the first season–perhaps to prime us for how the Illusory World will impact the story later. Fuko plays the role of liaison between the worldly and the otherworldly. It’s no coincidence that she will be quick to befriend a certain character during After Story.
As for this series of mine, I think we’ve covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Or maybe I should say a low number of posts… Anyway, we’ve got a strong foundation to work from and I’m excited to build these arguments more and more intricate. We’ll be getting to know Kotomi better in the next post, and she’ll have a bit to say on the topics of emotion and reality herself. I hope (but don’t promise) to continue this series with shorter breaks from now on.