Monday, August 16, 2010

The School's Trees: Always and Forever (Week of Tears Part 1)

There are times in your life when something happens upon you and grabs you, makes you think, makes you feel, makes you realize things that you thought were impossible aren't.  These moments are filled with more happiness and sorrow than you thought could coexist, but somehow mix into a completely new emotion. I think it's not an emotion anymore, but being that gets introduced, the ability to be perfectly happy and perfectly sad at the time time. The few times I've had an emotion like this have been some of the best moments of my life as I realized that everything, even the evil, could work out for God's plan and goodness. Art can do that for people, and these Clannad posts that I'll cover this week did do that for me. These are game changers. Even though time has worn away at all the novelty of these episodes they still continue to make me realize what I truly want and need: to be joyful/happy. To be with God.

More sappy to come later. For now, on to the actual blog post. This arc is focused on the surprised joy of Tomoya, as he moves on with life. He graduates highschool. He starts looking for a job outside of Akio and Sanae's bread shop, and finds one with Yoshino Yusuke and the power plant. He even gets a new place!

Y'see that? Tomoya blushed. Holy crap. Think about that for a second, people. Tomoya Okazaki, bitter delinquent, blushing at the thought of living with Nagisa? Be still my beating heart, the boy's growing up! Granted, he's still seeing the negative things first, but the fact that Tomoya can see anything good at all, even on a second try, is something. Y'know what else is weird? Tomoya's the emotional one of this little couple. Look at him, and at all the following clips and such. Every time it's Nagisa being the voice of reason, being the strong one. Tomoya was the emotional one to begin with, he just hadn't given himself permission to be that way. Nagisa had always been the strong one, but didn't think she was truly capable of being that way. The two of them confirm to the other that it's OK to be themselves. They bring out the best in each other, because they see the good in the other person and honor it, which gets the other person to respect themselves more.

But it doesn't just stop with these two, however. It extends to everyone else outside of themselves. I mean, look at him!

Did Okazaki just giggle? Anyway....

He shows up to work, and is exactly what he is: a kind and anxious person. Okazaki has changed. Notice how it took a few years of build up, however. This change didn't happen overnight. It took Okazaki a little while to do this, even with Nagisa. That's a very important (and true) thing about relationships: the changes don't happen overnight, but they will happen as long as you honor what's good in the other person. Nagisa's refusal to give up on Okazaki has led to this, and boy did it pay off.

And then there's Yusuke's speech. Oh my gosh, this speech is awesome. I could go on and on about this speech, but that would not only betray the point of this particular blog post but it really is best summed up by just watching it:

This speech is just...true. I don't know how else to say it. It's true.

The story continues with Nagisa bringing up the fact that Tomoya's father has no idea where he is, and weirdly enough, Tomoya seems a bit more receptive to talking to him... that is...until his father screws things up for him at his job, and kills a well-earned promotion. Tomoya, furious and a bit jaded, goes outside and...

... the single most beautiful thing I've ever seen happens...

I cry. Every. Single. Time. I can't help it. But I guess before I get into what this particular video clip means to me, I should probably take apart what's going on, right?



Tomoya's more than disillusioned. He feels that he's been cheated by the town, by God Himself (the two are often used interchangeably in Clannad). Hitting a wall has been described as a type of self-harm to me, and it seems to fit here. Tomoya's furious at God's apparent lack of love for him, and so he decides on some level that means he's not good enough. So he starts to destroy himself. But why not forget about God, or attempt to destroy Him? You only destroy things that you hate. Tomoya believes that God is good. Tomoya just happens to believe that he is evil himself. You only destroy things you hate.  But Nagisa stops him, not by grabbing his hand, but by showing that his self-destruction saddens her. Why? It's not like Tomoya sees any worth in himself (as he professes). It's that he sees worth in her. As much as Tomoya hates himself he wants to be around to love Nagisa. And that's what stops him. That's what gives him pause. He wants Nagisa to be happy.

And that's what gets him to propose.

Is it a perfect intention? Hell no. But are anyone's intentions for anything entirely pure? Hell no. What's important is that Tomoya wants to love her forever, which is more than good enough. I don't mean love in the sappy Hallmark-ised sense of the word. I mean actual love. Tomoya wants to live with Nagisa and give her all the love he can give. That's why it's good enough. Tomoya doesn't want anything for himself, he only wants to give to her. What follows is Nagisa's affirmation of Tomoya's proposal, which makes one of the most powerful, complex, true, and (ironically enough) thoroughly unromantic scenes ever. It's a scene that shows that love can and will happen through all the brokeness of our lives, that nothing can stop it as long as we ask for it.

As far as my own personal story with this story goes...

I'll confess that I hadn't shed one tear for this show until this point. Sure, I'd grown a little misty at Fuko, and Shima's arc had moved me deeply. But I hadn't thought of this show as anything truly worthy of my emotions until Episode 12 of After Story. That's when I broke down. All the things with Jamie came back to me all at once. All the lust, all the hatred, all the anger, all the betrayal, all of it. It all hit me as I watched the proposal. The utter stupidity of what I had done hit me like a ton of bricks, and so I cried. I finally admitted to myself that what I had done was wrong. I felt guilty. And so I cried.

But as I watched I realized that I hadn't destroyed myself. I was still alive, and that what I was watching was still possible. I could still do it. 

And that only made me cry harder.

In the strangest mix of happiness, sorrow, contentment, and yearning that I'd ever experienced I bawled, and hugged my legs to my chest. Despite everything going on I knew that I was OK, that I was going to make it. That I could change. That things would get better. That I was alive, and that that was a good thing. That I was alive, and that meant I didn't have to feel alone. That I was alive, and that I could defeat my own perceptions. That I was alive.

I am alive.

My sincerest thanks to Clannad Central for the videos, as well as my especial appreciation for their support of this week. Taylor's an awesome guy, and I hope that you guys give him the credit he deserves for slaving over all these video uploads for me.