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 »

As Time Changes – Clannad #4

As Time Changes – Clannad #4

Posts may contain spoilers for the entire series.

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.

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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 »

As Time Changes – Clannad #3

As Time Changes – Clannad #3

Posts may contain spoilers for the entire series.

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.

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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 »

As Time Changes – Clannad #1

As Time Changes – Clannad #1

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.

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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 »