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 »
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 »
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 »
Note: I am working with two copies of Clannad: one with lackluster image quality and one with a lackluster translation. The images in this series will be from the copy with less terrible image quality, and as such there may be discrepancies between quotations and subtitles shown.
The first time I wrote about Clannad for this blog, I mentioned how I wanted to give the story the attention it deserved in a series of posts. I wasn’t ready for such a project at the time and–in fact–I’m probably not ready for it now either. Yet, I want to get to work on it. However long it takes me. To be fair, I am compromising a bit. My original plan was to focus on the visual novel–a form that would take me much longer to parse and would make cataloging/accessing relevant quotes and screenshots much more cumbersome. Time just doesn’t allow for that right now.
You’ll have to settle for ~50 individual episodes instead.
In many ways, Clannad is a story that I have grown up with, and that I’m sure I have yet to finish growing up with. Being able to rediscover the story across multiple media has certainly encouraged that relationship, as has the range of the plot’s timeline itself. I’ve been able to rediscover Clannad as I “rediscover” myself (but more on that eventually). I’ve also found myself discovering Clannad elsewhere–across visual novels and anime. The anime adaptation is perhaps the flagship of the Key and KyoAni collaborations, growing out of and pushing forward the KyoAni style and structure that has proved too influential to ignore.Read More »