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 »
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.
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 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.
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 »
True to my word, there will not be any consistency in the format of these posts whatsoever. We’re just following my whim here, and my whim for this week is to not use those helpful section breaks again. But don’t worry! I’m sure I’ll switch back soon enough. My inconsistency is my consistency.
We could debate whether this episode or the next is the real start of Fuko’s arc, considering this one is divided roughly in half between general exposition and actual Fuko content. Even so, we’re presented with the main conflicts of the arc (Kouko’s wedding and Fuko’s hospitalization) in this episode, which inevitably focuses our attention entirely in Fuko’s arc. Since things are about to get more serious over the next few episodes, I figured we’d take a moment to talk about Clannad’s (perhaps I should say Jun Maeda’s) humor.
Obviously the straight man is an essential comedic archetype across cultures, but (at least in my experience) its incarnation in Japanese comedy seems especially common and pronounced. From traditional manzai to its representation in variety shows to “tsukkomi” and “boke” becoming archetypes we apply to anime characters almost in the same way we would a term like “tsundere,” comedic styles involving straight man types are extremely prominent in these media. I also believe the writing of straight man/tsukkomi characteristics into stories like anime is more intentionally designed by creators and more evidently picked up by consumers. Like I said, we point to characters in anime and call them tsukkomi, but we never really do that for characters in Hollywood comedies. That is judgment we reserve for something like Abbott and Costello, though even then we don’t think so concretely about the roles. Of course, this is just anecdotal analysis, but I think the jist of it holds true.Read More »
Our third week of Clannad brings with it a third post and a new format. The past two posts have been arranged as a chronological flow of analysis that I tried to demonstrate some kind of logical progression within. That structure worked well enough, but I also feel it has its shortcomings. Partly as a matter of remedying those shortcomings and partly because the main ideas of this post will be more difficult to link together into a coherent storyline, I’m experimenting a bit with structure this time. I want to divide my thoughts into clear sections.
Clannad is a story made up of a lot of key recurring elements, and one of the best ways to engage with it is to trace those elements throughout the series. For that reason, organizing posts into distinct sections that clearly mark which specific element they deal with might make that job of “tracing” easier for both you and me. All that being said, I’m not committing to this structure by any means. I’m leaving myself open to continue experimenting or to return to old structures–whatever seems to fit the episode and topic at hand.
The above text has been my own repeating element: some unnecessary ramblings about my writing process for these posts. I’ll apologize for wasting time, but I can’t promise I’ll stop. Anyway, on to the show.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 »
What Matters in Storytelling: Plot Holes and Other Nonsense
I thought this issue would be something I could make fun of on Twitter and then forget about, but it continues to show up online and offline. At this point, I just want some selfish catharsis. More than ever, I see people focus their criticism on parts of stories (read: anime and movies) that simply do not matter or, at least, matter so little as to be inconsequential. This has always been an issue and probably always will, but I say “more than ever” because I think the kinds of anime and movies that are getting the most attention lately have set themselves up for these kinds of vapid criticisms.
I divided these criticisms that “don’t matter” into two types for the sake of organizational ease. They could (and should) be broken down even further, but since I’m not trying to wage intellectual war or anything, I left them as broad categories. I will be mentioning certain creators by name in this post, but that’s mostly for the sake of example. I’m more concerned with the arguments than the people making them.
I’m presenting the following list of “what doesn’t matter” as factual because I believe it is factual. That doesn’t mean that people are “wrong” for pointing out things that fall under these categories, but that–however true what they’re saying is–it ultimately doesn’t matter for the function of a story. If you want to deny what I’m presenting as fact, that’s fine too. I’m just expressing the rules I follow, not decreeing law. Although it would be cool if I could make it law…