Episode 11 is primarily exposition, with much of its focus dedicated to building relationships between Kotomi and the rest of the cast. We get some gestures toward future arcs and conflicts, as well as some hints about the coming drama in Kotomi’s arc, but mostly our time is spent growing more attached to Kotomi. Therefore, this feels like an appropriate time to discuss a smaller (but important) issue within Clannad: labels.
Tomoya is a “delinquent;” Kotomi is a “genius;” Kyou is a “class rep;” and so on. These labels function like they do in the real world, by tagging characters with certain prejudices and expectations in our minds. Once you’ve assigned someone their label, you expect their actions to follow a particular pattern in line with that label. For example, Tomoya the delinquent is supposed to skip class, pick fights, and pull pranks. Someone assigned his label should follow that pattern of behavior across any period of time.
Episode 10 marks a transition out of Fuko’s arc and into Kotomi’s, as well as the point where we need to begin to understand the anime a bit differently than the visual novel. Clannad develops essentially the same themes in each medium, but how each medium engages that process of development differs in interesting ways.
The visual novel employs a relatively “hard” reset after each arc. The player reaches an ending, returns to the main menu, and then plays from the start of the game (in practice: the start of a save file at a branching choice but same idea). By comparison, the anime employs a relatively “soft” reset after each arc. The ending of Fuko’s arc doesn’t gesture to a vague “happily ever after” for Tomoya; it doesn’t even really do so for Fuko herself. The resolution we do get is focused on Fuko’s disappearance. And as we see in Episode 10, the story doesn’t then restart from day one.
However, a soft reset still implies some kind of reset. Clannad gives the viewer a few different signals that it’s starting over–the most obvious of which is a return to the Illusory World. These scenes form an overarching narrative across the entire series and although we sometimes see them in the middle of an arc, they always serve to break up the narrative. As we begin to build connections between the lights the robot sees in the Illusory World and the ones Tomoya sees in the real world, this segmenting function of such scenes grows more apparent. We’ve collected a new orb of light, let’s return to the Illusory World before moving on.Read More »
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.Read More »
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.
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 »
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.
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 »
Welcome back to our long climb. I have no doubt in my mind that the hardest part of this project will be thinking up new introductions for each post. Well, at least I’ve gotten this one out of the way.
Last time, we opened up a lot of puzzle boxes about the relationships between time, change, life, and death. Our characters are going to be working through these puzzles all story long, trying to sort out their own feelings towards these topics as we make our own interpretations. Behind all of this is an emotional thesis: “I hate this town.” I had begun to clarify that “town” shouldn’t be taken entirely at face value. The “town” in question is more than just a location with geographical borders and city ordinances, etc. As we’ve already heard from Tomoya himself, part of what the “town” encompasses is the idea of his school days–their repetitive, boring nature that serves as nothing but a brief respite from his home life.
We’ll flesh out our idea of the “town” just as we build up our understanding of those puzzles I mentioned.Read More »
I’ve been trying to find a way to write about Clannad in a concise manner for a while. What I really want to look at is the visual novel as a whole, but that’s a project for the future (not to mention I still need to 100% it…). Luckily, I found something we can talk about quickly that still pokes at some larger, more interesting themes of the series as a whole. For our purposes, the Tomoyo OVA from After Story provides the series’ most concise glimpse into Clannad’s trademark storytelling.
Repetition, cycles, and time’s tug-of-war between change and constancy are all major themes in Clannad. These themes are even more prominent in the visual novel (and even more fascinating given the narrative structure of most visual novels), but they’re certainly present in the anime, too. Clannad makes brilliant use of foreshadowing through both its dialogue and symbols to portray life as a cycle of emotions and changes. These cycles build in meaning and intensity until we reach a dramatic climax. Let’s figure out how that happens in Tomoyo’s arc.Read More »