Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top Ten Characters, Real Number 1: Tomoya!

Tomoya Okazaki: the main character. Ah, so we’re finally at the end of all of this. I’ll admit, I was starting to go brain dead….. One more won’t kill me, right? Yes, it’s Tomoya, and I can’t think of anyone better to be placed at the top of the list. He’s the hero of our story. He’s the perfect hero, too. He’s a smart, solid guy, and he never slips up. No, that’s wrong; I’m thinking of somebody else. This guy, Tomoya, is probably one of the worst fits for the hero criteria I’ve ever seen. He’s a delinquent in school, he’s pretty much a lazy bum, and he’s got his fair share of mistakes to follow him around. This is what Tomoya is. He’s real. He’s a character that we can all relate to. I know we can, because we all make mistakes. Sometimes they’re huge. Sometimes they’re irreversible. Tomoya is forced to live his life with a past mistake constantly shadowing him. His right arm has only 50% of its use, because of something he had done some time ago, but his arm can’t be fixed, so he has to remember that mistake all the time. The only thing he could do was not make the same mistakes again. He builds himself up every day by changing the way he acts and the things he does. His progress is eventually what makes him our hero, a character that really stands out. Maybe he didn’t do anything big for the world, but he was certainly a sort of savior to those he was close to. In the end, Tomoya is just like any other person with his individual doubts, fears, and mistakes. It’s these aspects that make Tomoya human and make Clannad such a real story. It’s these things that make us human, that make us real. It’s Tomoya’s realism that makes him a bad hero, and that in turn makes him a perfect hero for Clannad… that makes sense, right?

Well, folks, here's the real deal. And Tomoya's place on this list is more than deserved. After all, this show is, in a very real way, about him. It's about his journey into adulthood, his journey to tragedy, and his redemption as a father. He walks a long and oft-troubled road, filled with pain and joy, failure and triumph. He's one of us.

He's also a jerk.

Well, he gets better. Tomoya's immaturity is strong, but at the same time he has strengths that await polishing. There is promise alongside his faults, and we get to watch that promise coming out and forming him as the series progresses. This is arguably the most powerful part of the series, as flaw after flaw is scoured away, until finally Tomoya can fulfill the single role entrusted to him.


You could say that the entire ending of Clannad hinges on fatherhood. Akio's dream was united with that of his wife, and passed down to Nagisa. Her dream met up with Tomoya's dream, and they passed it on to Ushio. Who knows how far back that deposit of dreams, of wishes, lay, and how big that wish was that Ushio received? Of course, Ushio needed something to spend the wish on.

The entire series shows us what that wish got spent on. It shows us the father that Tomoya became, and it shows us the father that he was to Ushio. It shows us the father that Ushio was willing to lay her life down for, and to spend her one wish for.

And he's not so much of a jerk, after all.

Though I can't concede that Tomoya is my favorite character (Akio still wins in my heart for that), I can't really argue that he's the most important character of the show. He is the main character after all. And what an interesting main character he makes as well!
If you couldn't tell, Clannad is all about Tomoya's transformation. Nagisa's transformation is important as well, but in the end, Tomoya's is the main concept (and this is a virulent Nagisa fan saying this!). 

Clannad, in the end, is all about how Tomoya becomes a husband and father. At the outset of the series, it's easy to see that he's basically incapable of being a good father. He's a lazy delinquent who doesn't care about school or much of anything else besides goofing off with Sunohara. Throughout the series, though, he evolves into a man who works hard for a living, yet still comes home to be a great father, raising a young daughter alone (though with Akio and Sanae's invaluable assistance). How does this change in Tomoya occur? I think it's from his relationships: predominantly Nagisa, of course, but Akio and Sanae are invaluable, and even Shino in her getting Tomoya to connect with Ushio; plus one can't forget Ushio herself. And those are just the most major ones: all his relationships help effect his transformation. Thus all the characters in Clannad, in the end, are important to the extent that they effect Tomoya's transformation.

Tomoya is the character of Clannad. Without other characters, Clannad wouldn't be the show it is, but it would still be there; without Tomoya, Clannad wouldn't exist at all. Tomoya's lack of husbandly and fatherly qualities is the conflict of the show, and it is resolved as he gains these qualities through his relationships.
In conclusion, Tomoya is Tomoya...just what constitutes the person of "Tomoya" evolves throughout the series. And the progress of that transformation is what makes Clannad the masterpiece it is.

There are many characters that I like in anime: Mustang and Ed from FMA, Simon from Gurrenn Lagann, Near from Deathnote, and many others. But the only character that I've truly connected with was Tomoya Okazaki. 

It's not that there aren't more amusing, wise, or mature characters. If that was what I was looking for I would have picked Akio. It's not even that I like him (I do), or that I think he's terribly amusing. If I was looking for that I'd have picked Fuko (who was number 3 on my private list, btw). It's not even that I find him powerful and wish to have a child half as cool as him (Ushio fits that to a T). It's that when I watch Tomoya I find my own logic at work in him. I don't even know how to sum it up into words, it's such a powerful case of commiseration. 

But I know I can communicate this: When I watch Tomoya I'm watching myself, in all the glory and flaws. I have never not struggled with the things that Tomoya does, and I find myself coming back to watch him overcome his problems and cheer him on. When Jamie broke up with me I found an ally in Tomoya, another person who'd lost something very important, who also had no idea how to communicate that to others, who didn't want to trouble other people with it, who wanted to give up but didn't have the cowardice to do it. With Tomoya I found the strength to move again and, regardless of how weak that may sound, it's helped make me the man I am today. And for that I can't be too grateful.

Ok, guys.  Here's the real deal.  I do find Botan rather amusing, but the truth is that first place, in my opinion, really should go to someone else a, less furry?  Seriously though, joking aside, it is true that the question of who my favorite character was wasn't a hard one for me to answer.  Last spring, a friend and I were talking about Clannad.  In the midst of the conversation, my friend asked me the very same question I'm answering now, who my favorite character in Clannad was.  The answer that I have now is the same as the answer I gave to my friend last spring.  First place in my mind has to go to Tomoya.  I'm not completely sure why.  It's true that there are many characters more exciting, engaging, and amusing in Clannad.  There are many characters that are more unique.  

Tomoya is, in essence, just a regular guy.  He's a regularly messed up, unhappy guy to whom something very regular and ordinary happens to, but somehow, out of this regularly ordinary situation, something truly amazing comes about.  In other words, amazingly, dreams do come true for ordinary people.  They come true for people who are unhappy.  They come true for people who have given up on the world.  They come true for people who are too pissed off at what they know is true to even begin to look or to hope.  So the question is, if the sometimes seemingly impossible can come true for an ordinary person like Tomoya, a person who doesn't even believe enough to look for it, can it come true for me too, a person who's not sure if she's got the guts to try?  Can it be true for my friend?  My sister?  The neighbor across the street?  As I watched Tomoya, the ordinary, quiet, angry guy live through the story of Clannad, the answer I got was, yes.  Yes, it can happen to my neighbor, my sister, and my friend.  No, it doesn't matter if they think it can or not.  Yeah, there's reason to hope because the most amazing things come from to ordinary people; they come to people like Tomoya, like you, and like me.  

We've all got a chance.... 

Thanks to everyone who helped write this up with me, you're all awesome! I couldn't have done it without you, and isn't that what Clannad is about?
-Liam Francis Traveler