Saturday, November 27, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Characters, Number 1: BOTAN!!!!

Botan: the overlooked character. So Botan is that cute little pig of Kyou’s that appears in Clannad every once in a while. It’s cute and clever and sometimes spontaneous, making it a great little pet to have around. Botan’s a great minor character and all, but that’s it, right? It doesn’t really mean anything other than that…….right? Well, I hate to inform you, sir or madam, but you are completely WRONG. Botan is something much more than just a cuddly little boar running around in circles. However, most of you have failed to see what Botan really represents. You’ve gazed right past this character multiple times, telling yourself that you’re satisfied with a simple “Puhi!” here and there. But now you’ve forced our (typing) hands. Everybody posting here can agree that Botan is something more than what is on the surface. That’s exactly why Botan is the #1 character in all of Clannad.
I think Botan can be a representation of the human race as a whole, even though Botan isn’t even human. Botan’s just an animal. Maybe we’re all just animals, though. Botan can show us the faults and follies of people overall. Botan easily represents the simple-mindedness of a majority of the human race, how there are those who will take orders without a question, regardless of what values the orders may compromise. Botan can represent those who will not listen to reason, no matter how good the reason is. Botan can hold a grudge, like when he won’t go near Ryou because of a simple mistake on her part. It’s obvious that Botan’s doll trick is another crack at the human race. People are very fake. People try to act like things they aren’t, maybe to be accepted or to try and trick others. We all know what it feels like to have these attributes, so it’s not hard to see at least a little bit of ourselves in Botan. Of course, I’m not saying Botan is our bad human nature curled up in to a fuzzy ball. Botan definitely shows positives aspects of us also. Botan shows how some of us are able to think intelligently and become more than what most expect. I mean, really, Botan’s just a boar, but he still has more ability than most animals have. Again, Botan’s not just some random comic relief character. He’s much more than that. So I have to ask that the next time you watch Clannad, consider all of this, and try to find a bit of yourself in Botan.

There are many wonderful characters in Clannad.  Each one is unique and brings something more to the show; each one adds something and builds Clannad into what it is.  Putting together my top 10 favorite character list for Clannad was difficult.  By the end of my decision time, my paper was an almost illegible puzzle of cross-outs and arrows.  It was hard to choose and number off all the unique and special characters in Clannad.  I struggled.  There was only one spot that wasn't hard for me to fill; that was the spot of number one.  I didn't have to choose my favorite character, all I had to do was write him down. From the moment I met Botan, I connected with him.  Something about him touched me in a way that no one else in Clannad was able to.  Botan's loyalty is awe-inspiring.  The simplicity of his fidelity to those he cares about is stronger than anything else in Clannad.  The makers of the show demonstrate their true ability in their creation of Botan.  In this small and seemingly insignificant animal, the essence of Clannad is shown.  Like the simple and deceivingly unimportant storyline of Clannad, the story of a boy and a girl falling in love, the story of a small animal, of Botan, is one that captures you and opens your heart in ways that you didn't think were possible.  This is why Botan is my favorite character.  This small animal quietly and unobtrusively draws you to believe that there is something more magical, more true, and more real to life.  It is Botan's care, love, and loyalty that make this possible.     

Well, folks, here comes that time. The top, favorite, utterly best character in Clannad, at least according to our informal poll. Well, if you read the title of the post, I suppose you already know the decision that's been made, so it's not much use trying to surprise you. Honestly, though, you shouldn't be surprised anyway. I know that I wasn't. Botan is seriously one of the best things that ever happened to the show.

Before that little piggie came along, the show was missing huge things. It was missing the non-human element, the roly-poly element, the element of the poor, peaceful "puhi! puhi!". Not only that, but it was missing an edible element. Nobody in their right mind would think of making a Fuko roast, but a show without a socially edible character is only half a show.

Enter Botan: a character who is plump, cute, and would make a spectacular stew--

OW! Watch where you're throwing that book, woman!

I'm going to end this post with the simple and remarkable fact:   Botan is the best thing since bread (regardless of whether he's been cooked or not). Why? Well, for many of the same reasons that my fellow posters think he's awesome: his love, loyalty, and courage in the face of danger (Sunohara, anyone?) are worthy of our admiration. You try going a day in Botan's hooves before Ushio shows up and you'll agree. Botan is the most inspiring, loving, sweet, and human  character in this entire show. Especially when he's in stew.


A special thanks to all of those who helped me write out this incredible series of articles. Your hardwork and dedication to the greatness of Botan cannot be understated. Thank you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Characters, Number 2: Akio Furukawa

I think my first thoughts of meeting Akio were "Holy crap where did he come from??" This impression never entirely went away for me, because Akio will always surprise me in the same way that many of my incredibly stupid friends like to. They plan or say things that make me question my (not even necessarily their) sanity, and then do something that confirms what I'd thought: they're nuts. Akio is nuts. Akio is insane. Akio (like my dumb friends) is a deeply caring man, someone who always has been and always will be a model of fatherhood. 

Akio Furukawa: the family man character. Ah, Akio. My brain was broken this week every time I thought about what I wanted to write. I couldn’t think of anything really specific to say, but really this character is one of the best. I can picture any character, even Tomoya, being disliked by SOMEbody, but I can’t picture ANYbody disliking Akio. And if somehow those people do exist, then I’ve never heard of them before. In other words, Akio is an all-around loveable character.
I see him as the character that best represents Clannad’s major theme, family. He makes his place known in his family, and he protects his so-called “harem” with pride. He’s the man, and he’s not willing to give up his family easily, as we can see from the many baseball challenges he gives Tomoya when Tomoya wanted to ask for Nagisa to come live with him. His head-of-the-family pride is what keeps him on top of everything. Of course, if we go by Tomoyo’s definition, family isn’t just those you are related to by blood. It’s all of your friends and those you are close to who make up your family. We see Akio do anything he can for other people, who are usually friends of his daughter. His love for his daughter extends further, because Nagisa’s dream is Akio’s dreams, as he stated in Nagisa’s stage fright scene (which had to have been the greatest, most heart-warming speech in all of Clannad), so it’s not surprising that he is willing to reach out to those Nagisa is close to. Nagisa’s dream is Akio’s dream, so Nagisa’s friends are Akio’s friends, and since family consists of your friends also, Akio has a big family to keep watch over and support. He’s definitely up to it, though. He gives everybody what they need when they need it. He’ll be the funny one when things need to stay upbeat, he’ll be the honest one when things need to be said, and he’ll definitely be the encouraging one when inspiration is required. He represents all the aspects of what Clannad is.

There are certain characters in Clannad that refuse to be forgotten and refuse to be ignored.  They don't ask permission to stay in your memory, they simply do.  They're loud enough, assertive enough, strong enough, and different enough to just stick. For me, these delightful characters include Kyou, Sunohara, Fuko, and of course, Akio.  I will never forget meeting Akio.  I knew it was coming.  Everything was there, the buildup, Tomya's thought process, and the calm before the storm.  So I waited.  I was not disappointed.  Yes, a somewhat crazy-looking, dark and frightening man with a cigarette glowing like an evil eye out of legends just filled the screen.  My first thought was, they've gone overboard with this one -- overboard to the point of ridiculousness.  And at first, everything I saw confirmed my original opinion.  Akio was the stereotypical father who was loud, pushy, and a completely full of himself.  I raised my eyebrows and watched him go through his antics rather unimpressed.  Yet, (yes, there is that yet) yet, just as with so many other characters in Clannad, as the show went on, Akio became more.  I watched his character deepen. I will always remember the scene at the end of the first season of Clannad.  I'll always remembered Nagisa standing on a lightened stage with the auditorium is dark around her, standing still and frightened with tears running down her face.  I will always remember Akio shouting across that the rows upon rows of people, "Make you dreams come true Nagisa!"  I will always remember Akio as the father who did everything in power to be the best father it was possible for him to be.  He is not stereotypical.  He is a man who who loves, teaches, and protect those who are dear to him -- and at the same time is as uniquely himself as he can be.

You mean the clown with the baseball bat? I thought he was a weirdo the first time I saw him. I still think he's a weirdo. But it's an awesome kind of weirdo. Akio is quite the unusual character, and I can't imagine the crazy shenanigans that went on which led to him and Sanae getting married. They're a very odd couple, yet a couple which works incredibly well. Back to Akio, though, since this is kinda his post. He's crazy.

Yeah, he's like that.

Of course, like any character, there's a lot more to him than that. Akio has deep passions and cares, and gives them everything that he's got. Think back to his crazy devotion to drama (this "crazy" word...I think it's becoming a trend here), but at the same time his huge devotion to his wife. He'd do pretty much anything for her, or for anyone he loved, and that's something which rocks, epically.

This love comes out in far more delicate and refined ways, too. It's Akio who acts as a stable cornerstone for the entire Furukawa family, whether it be shielding Nagisa from emotional harm or being a place for his wife to rest and grieve after their daughter's death. He knows how to take life seriously, and I think that's the reason he can goof off so much. After all, it's the most serious things which make for the funniest things, and what's more serious than life?

So, now it’s time for my favorite character: Akio!

Ever since I saw the first episode, I’ve had a preference for Akio. Something about his over-the-top and illogical nature endeared him to me, and I’ve laughed at him since his first appearance amidst a field of flames. Throughout the series, he’s always been my favorite source of humor and comic relief. For some reason, his brand of humor just strikes me very effectively. But if he were just humorous, he wouldn’t be my favorite character. It’s because of his kind nature underneath it all that makes him amazing.

For the majority of the first season, he’s just a humorous guy. Really, he is. But in the last few episodes, we see a new side of his personality: he’s truly a father. He cares deeply for his daughter, and he lets it show, albeit in strange ways at times. He wants her to be happy, as happy as possible, and he does whatever he can to protect her so that she can be happy. That’s what he’s like in After Story as well, leading to the scenes of his baseball challenges to Tomoya. I feel those scenes portray his deeper side the most poignantly: he’s not going to let his daughter marry a terrible man. He’s going to test anyone she’s with, because he’s her father: he needs to decide if there really is a man worthy of marrying his only daughter. So he decides to use the best test he can think of: baseball.

Something about that idea just struck a chord with me. If I end up marrying, I hope my wife’s father would be like that. He doesn’t need to fit the other aspects of Akio: he doesn’t have to be a baker, he doesn’t have to be over-the-top, he doesn’t have to make somewhat sketchy comments and actions. What I want is for him to be protective of his daughter. I want to have to fight for her. I think it shows how much Tomoya loves Nagisa in that he perseveres: he keeps going out to swing that bat, even after he’s failed time and time again. He practices like a madman, and he goes out, even in the pouring rain, to try to win her hand. It’s part of what makes Tomoya’s character so great, and it’s enabled by Akio. Akio is the one who protects his daughter from harm to the best of his ability, and that includes protecting her from terrible men. I just hope my wife’s father is as caring and protective as that.

In the end, I also hope I can become a father like Akio. That doesn’t mean I want to be absolutely over-the-top, sneaking into my daughter’s work to take pictures of her in a waitress outfit. I don’t need that side of Akio. The side of Akio that I want to emulate is his truly caring, protecting, chivalrous side: I want to protect and care for my children like Akio protects and cares for Nagisa, and I want to protect and care for my grandchildren as Akio protects and cares for Ushio. I want to be there as a support for my wife, like Akio supports Sanae as she grieves over Nagisa’s death. I want to be the kind of amazing man and father that Akio can be in his best moments.

And that’s why Akio is my favorite character: in his best moments, he shows me a model of how to be a father, and I hope I can emulate that.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The School's Trees with Andy: Winter is Coming: Tomoya and Tomoyo

A number of people I know were befuddled by the "Another World: Tomoyo" episode. To them I say: hold off a bit, I'll touch on the topic of "another world" in another post. Today, though, it's time for a look at one of my favorite episodes in the entire series, and that's Tomoyo's "another world" arc. It's brief, for sure, but in a single episode the creators of Clannad manage to pack in an entirely unseen aspect of this character, and to tell a plausible and at times painful love story.

Quiet Starts the Winter
The alternate story of Tomoya and Tomoyo begins slowly and softly. It's not filled with the awkward stumblings of Tomoya and Nagisa. Rather, this couple sort of...happened. Tomoya explains it best here. We also get to see something which comes back again and again in this episode: Tomoyo wants Tomoya to stay by her side, to stay with her. She's found something precious in this relationship, and she wants it to stay.

This quietness is one of my favorite things about the Tomoyo/Tomoya pairing, though at the same time it turns out to be one of its challenges. Being a reflective person myself, and one who naturally prefers being with someone and knowing that they care about you to talking with them...I can appreciate this. I can understand what it's like to be this way. Tomoya and Tomoyo have an understanding that they belong.

Of course, such peace and quiet can't last. Complications quickly arise, and that's the focus of this episode. It highlights a very real component of love, too: it's not enough for two lovers to care only about themselves. They live in a big world, and there's all sorts of people depending on them, all sorts of circumstances that affect them, all sorts of consequences they have to deal with. This story is about two lovers coming to terms with the outside world.

Tension and Sacrifice
The guy in this clip is a grade-A jerk.

Sure, maybe he has a bit of a point, but he's not incredibly concerned for Tomoyo's wellbeing so much as he's jealous. In this little meeting here, we see a conflict. The abstract struggle between Tomoyo's heart and Tomoyo's duty is made very, very real. Her heart wants to be with Tomoya, the match that she's found, the one whom she can care about, the one whom she is at peace with. Her duty, though, tells her that she can't be.

It's a grim twist of irony. Why? Because she took on this duty because of her heart; she seeks a high position so that she can preserve the sakura trees for her brother. Her heart's gotten her into a place where she's bound up into something she doesn't want.

And she tries to make it work even so. Tomoyo is ridiculously stubborn. Even though she doesn't show it, she refuses to let the danger to her position shake her. (There's a reason Tomoyo's theme song is called "Her Determination")

Drastic Action
Tomoya knows that it can't last. He can tell that even she's just dodging an inevitable fate. So he does something incredibly painful to fix the situation.

He lies to Tomoyo, telling her that he never loved her, and breaks off their relationship. Thus begins a remarkably painful portion of the episode. Tomoya goes through a drudge of life. He passes Tomoyo without pausing for a glance of recognition, tries applying to jobs, and everything is bleak and gray, just like at the start of Clannad.

There's an interesting difference, though. It all gets summed up in the very end of the episode, which I think is one of the more poignant and beautiful moments of the series. Tomoyo explains that Tomoya's been doing just fine. When they were together, he was learning something. Being with someone who cared so much for something, he understood what it meant to take responsibility. It may have not taken on a dramatic form as with Nagisa, but the relationship of Tomoya and Tomoyo taught him how to stand up and be a man.

There's something about this scene that just moves me. It's not that the ending is happy. It's not even the idea that Tomoyo is willing to sacrifice everything to be with Tomoya. No, it's something even more powerful. It's the fact that she believes in Tomoya. She believes in his goodness, and she believes in his loving heart. Why else would she have watched as he grew, and fallen even more in love with him, even though he had told her that he didn't love her? She believed in his love, so much so that she couldn't truly accept what he'd told her.

And she believes in his ability to rise. When Tomoya tells her that he'll drag her down, that she has higher places to go than next to him...and she tells him that he's not as low as he thinks he is. She's telling him that he, too, can rise. And shortly after, he says as much. "It's a little late, but I'll go to where you are, too." Tomoya has come a long way.

Ironically, the color scheme used for this end sequence is practically identical to the beginning of Clannad. It wouldn't appear like anything has changed...but everything has changed, on the inside. The circle is finished.

There was something, though, that I really, truly liked about this episode. It's something that caught me by surprise, and something that deepened characters like nobody's business.

A Different Tomoyo
When I saw that clip up there, I was pretty close to floored. It took my expectations of Tomoyo, and did a perfectly rational and surprising thing with them. It's also something which made me even more of a Tomoyo fan. Put quite simply: Tomoyo gets hurt.

Reread those three little words for a second. Tomoyo gets hurt.

Yeah. You heard that right. Tomoyo is one of the strongest characters in the show, taking a seat just behind the Furukawa parents, Ushio, and even Nagisa herself. She's physically strong, but also ridiculously stable. Her past is filled with tragedy, and she and her family have pulled together and grown stronger because of it. Even emotionally, she's incredibly strong. And then we get hit with this lovely little tidbit.

You can hurt Tomoyo. Really easily, actually. All you have to do is gun for that which she cares about the most. She's found a heart to be with, and she's made that her aim and desire.

Doing something like that automatically makes you vulnerable. What impresses me the most about Tomoyo's strength is this vulnerability. Her's not something we'd think of at first. But it's something powerful, something incredible.

To love, you must be capable of being hurt. You have to take that leap. You have to make that risk. Without this jump, you can only go so far. Tomoyo's thrown herself into this with her very being, and it's that dedication that I can admire.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Characters, #3: Ushio

Each character in Clannad adds something to the show.  Each one fills it out in another element of the story.  Each one is there for a purpose.  When I first met Ushio, I swore I wouldn’t get attached to her.  I knew, I knew they were going to take her away.  It was all to perfect.  She was too perfect.  And so I promised myself that I wouldn’t let them get the best of me, that I wouldn’t get attached.  Ha!  It was a very nice thought.  And the truth was that I tried my very hardest to make sure that the inevitable didn’t happen, but somewhere I messed up – either that, or they, the makers of Clannad, did their job too well.  I have a hinting suspicion it was the later.  Regardless, despite my best efforts, I fell for Ushio – I fell hard.  And I watched it happen.  I shook my head at myself, but I couldn’t help it.  She was just this quiet kid. She wasn’t annoying or loud.  She didn’t push or whine.  She just very calmly went about being herself.  And as I got to know her, I saw that she was the best of both Nagisa and Tomoya.  She possessed her father’s control but also her mother’s innocence.  Most of all she was strong.  I’ll never be able to forget the scene with Ushio and Tomoya in the field.  “Papa?”  “Yeah?”  “Well see… I don’t have to hold it in anymore, right?  Sanae-san told me where it was ok to cry…was the bathroom…and in Daddy’s arms.”  Yes, most of all, Ushio is strong.  Ushio and her strength is the reason Tomoya can begin to move; she’s the reason he begins to live again.  It’s because of Ushio that Tomoya was able to see good again in a world he’d given up on, and it’s because he was able to do that that the ending of Clannad was possible.  How can you not love Ushio?  

Ushio Okazaki: the bonding character. You know her. You can’t help but love her. She’s as cute as can be. It’s Ushio, and she helps to make Clannad what it is, both by influencing the final ending and by changing how we view what the show is really about. She does both of these things by becoming important when we may have felt the show was just about over and also by being revealed as someone we’ve been somewhat familiar with since the very beginning.

That’s where Ushio's strength lies, outside of where everything may be falling apart. She does what she can to pick up the pieces and put them back together. Whether it was in the real world or in the Illusionary World, Ushio was always there, especially when Tomoya needed her. When Ushio was still inside of Nagisa, the anticipation of her arrival bonded Tomoya and Nagisa closer than they already were. Then later, after Nagisa was gone and Tomoya had already fallen into despair, Ushio showed up and her honest love for her father pulled him out. And then, pertaining to the real final climax, Ushio did more than most can even comprehend… No, I mean, really, how many people actually understood the ending completely? But maybe fully understanding it isn’t so important as long as we understand that Ushio and Tomoya played important roles in bringing it about. We definitely owe that final happy ending where everything is right and all is in order to Ushio. That’s how I see it.

Ushio... my favorite Clannad character. She's cute, adorable, and stronger than everyone else on this show combined. There's so much that I wish I could imitate, so much that I wish I could find...  Ushio is amazing. Things are as simple as they can get with her, as she cuts through all the bullcrap that everyone else has developed through this show like a cute knife through butter.  She's everything that Clannad is made of, everything that Tomoya ever wanted to be incarnated in the body of a five year old girl. She is the realization that tomorrow will be better, if only because we believe it will be.


Well, I don't have much time now to do this little tyke justice, as events have conspired to eat away at my schedule. But I'll say this much: Clannad ~After Story~ is a show about dreams. It's a show about what they mean to us, and what happens to dreams when we give them up...or when they're lost. Do they vanish? Are they torn to pieces by the chaos of reality?

Ushio stares these claims hard in the face, and defies them by her very existence. Ushio is goodness, purity, strength, and she's the dream of After Story. And remember when Tomoya proposed to Nagisa? She told him, "We can both be pathetic together, and we'll become stronger!" Ushio is that strength.

                                                               Ushio is their wish.

A thanks to all the people who helped me write this, as well as the people who unknowingly contributed images via Image Search. If, for some reason, you want the image removed email me at and I'll take it down immediately. But, for the record, it's just a blog. Lighten up.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Characters, #4-Nagisa

Once upon a time, there was a girl, a girl named Nagisa. She was a sweet girl, a timid girl. This girl was caring, and she was gentle. She was quiet, and she was loyal. This girl, Nagisa, feared many things. She feared making friends. She feared speaking in front of people, and she feared trying new things. But this girl Nagisa had secrets hidden within her. Sometimes, the most ordinary things unlock what is hidden. Once upon a time, there was a girl, a girl named Nagisa. Once upon a time, this girl met a boy, and once upon a time, a very ordinary thing happened – a girl and a boy fell in love. There are times when very unordinary things spring from ordinary ones. Nagisa's story is an ordinary one. A timid girl meets a boy. They fall in love. The story of Clannad is an unordinary one. The reason it can be unordinary, the reason it can be almost impossible, is because of Nagisa. It's because the secrets hidden within the timid girl, it's because of her courage and ability to love as she does, that the impossible storyof Clannad can be excepeted. I love Nagisa for this reason, because she made the story Clannad possible for me.

Nagisa Furukawa: the lead heroine character. Well, look at that one. Number 4, you say? Only number 4? Yes, yes, it’s shocking, but that’s just how it is. Now settle down and read.

I was trying to figure out how to describe Nagisa this week, and while I was thinking, I found it real easy to list off words that described her quite well. However, I couldn’t really remember how I thought of her at the beginning of the series, my impression of her when I had only watched those first few episodes. My mind was just blank. I couldn’t really recall my opinions at all. To get that description, though, I called upon one of my friends. This buddy of mine has only seen the first six episodes of Clannad, so I asked him what he thought of Nagisa, what his first impression of her was and what he could conclude about her. I bet you could probably guess what he said because I think it’s what we all thought of her at the beginning of Clannad. She was timid, shy, and lacking some self-confidence, but he also knew that she was kind and always trying to make an effort. Then I knew how much Nagisa had improved. From those first thoughts we had about Nagisa to those new, revised ones we concluded with, Nagisa had changed a lot.

It was all due to the effort. It’s true that Tomoya gave her the push she needed. He started her on the right path and aided her when she needed it, but it was always Nagisa's will to keep going. She created an image in her head of what she wanted to do, re-establish the theater club and perform a specific play. That’s what put her in the right path, her goal. Along with Tomoya's help, she was able to grow and, eventually, her effort became more than just an effort. She actually made her goal reality by doing what she wanted to do. This is why Nagisa is strong. She may be reserved at first, but she gives her true opinion to those she becomes friends with, and she is willing to strive for a good outcome.

Nagisa isn’t really one of my favorite characters, even though she is very important. However, I do realize the strength that she has, and when combined with Tomoya’s support in everything she does, she is that much stronger. You’ve come a long way, Nagisa!

Oh, Nagisa, how I hated you when we first met. How could I not? You were shy, frail, weak. You were everything that was wrong with me that I didn't want to admit, my shadow, that I had to deny to preserve my identity. But you grew beyond yourself, beyond me. You showed me that that part of me could change, that it was stronger than the rest of me combined. That there was hope.

Thank you, Nagisa. For everything.

Who has the words to describe Nagisa?
Without her, Clannad would not exist. Sure, Tomoya is the main character, but his meeting Nagisa is the first scene of the entire series. She is inextricably bound up into the series' plot and character development. Without Nagisa, there would be no Clannad as we know it.
Who is Nagisa, though? She's a young woman, a sickly young woman. Sure, she may not look it all the time, but when her illness strikes, it strikes. That illness has made her repeat her senior year of high school (in the end, it makes her repeat twice!). Self-confidence is not one of her strong suits, as is evident from the first episode. There's always a part of her that wants to hide in a corner and apologize for everything: she just wants to avoid being a burden on anyone. The thing is, in trying to avoid being a burden, Nagisa ends up becoming a loner with, sadly (and quite literally, at first) no friends. She sits by herself alone under a tree, eating an-pan and dreaming of the Drama Club. Her heart is sweet and innocent, if insecure. How does a girl like her end up with an aloof, sarcastic, at times brash delinquent like Tomoya? I don't think anyone could explain that rationally.
Her development and path through life showcases the hidden strength within her. At first, she still needs encouragement in the toughest moments of life, like the Drama Club performance. But once she really connects with Tomoya, she gains strength; when push comes to shove in After Story, she holds her own; she becomes a bold, stout-hearted woman. She doesn't back down, even to the point of death.
What draws me to Nagisa is the fact that I feel so similar to her at times (and not just because a Facebook quiz told me so). Insecurity is something I've always had trouble with for as long as I can remember. Even now, I still struggle with it, even if I can't come up with a rational reason why. Part of me as always been a loner. Part of it is introversion, and part of it is a bit of a lack of social skills on my part, I think. Sitting alone under a tree in the middle of an open space is not a novel experience; sitting alone anywhere is an oft-occurring event. I just love to apologize. If I feel like I've made the tiniest mistake, I'll blather on and on for ages and ages about how sorry I am. Part of it is true contrition, and part of it is real fear of losing the somewhat sparse personal connections I have. Even if I haven't done anything wrong, I'll apologize profusely. And self-confidence...though I've gotten better, it can still be a struggle.
Overall, then, the reason why Nagisa is one of my favorite characters is that in some ways I feel like I am Nagisa (though I'm not a woman). That could be seen as a somewhat depressing thing, since I connect with her original personality, the loner one, the most. But there is something uplifting: she was able to change. Throughout the series, especially in After Story, Nagisa is able to gain confidence and boldness, and she's able to feel secure. Even though she's a fictional character, I feel like if she can do it, so can I. And that gives me hope.


And thence commences Clannad as we know it. This is one of those dramatic turning points, though it's quiet in its own way. It marks the point at which Tomoya first reaches out to something good in the world, and sees it as such. It's the first time that he's seen something beautiful, in a good long while. It's most definitely Nagisa who sets everything in motion, and brings Tomoya into a nicer world, one with at least a glimmer of hope.

We just watched the scene where Tomoya proposes to Nagisa, at our school's anime club. There's many ways in which it epitomizes the relationship of Tomoya and Nagisa. Tomoya calls himself "pathetic", because he doesn't believe that there's goodness behind his strength. He only believes he has the power to wreck and destroy. Nagisa calls herself "pathetic", because she doesn't believe that there's strength in her to carry out the goodness in her heart. She believes that she'll always fall short of her hopes and desires.

It's these two misfits who pledge themselves to one another, resolving to walk a long and rough road together. Through this dedication, they bring their strengths and weaknesses to bear, working together to forge something stronger, something greater than themselves. They're a bit of an odd pair, but at the same time they make a good couple. Nagisa sets an example for Tomoya, giving her all and then some, for his sake. That's really one of the things which brings him out of his personal rut.

Nagisa is sweet, caring, and devoted, yes. Most important, though, is the fact of who she is to Tomoya. Nagisa is the one who comes into his life at just the right time. She's the one who he found when he was searching for something to bring him meaning. She's the one who became his dream, his wish, the one who led him to a life that had something for him to live. In the end, that's what really matters.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The School's Trees with Andy: The Answer I've Found

All of that character contrast doesn't mean a whole lot, though, without something substantial behind Tomoyo. To tell the truth, I was still feeling that bit out. I couldn't quite find something that really, strongly made me attached to the character, as much as I really liked her. Fuko remained my top character for a while, simply because there was something I really admired about her insistent and totally devoted sacrifice for her sister. Tomoyo? Well, I just liked her general philosophy and approach to life.

That was before I saw Episode 18, which is also essentially the core of Tomoyo's arc all wrapped into one episode. This, by the way, is a vast compression from the Visual Novel, far moreso than any of the other girls' arcs. In part, this is because Fuko's arc and Kotomi's arc both touch on the supernatural aspect of the show. Kyou and Ryou's arc has more time simply because Kyou is loud, and makes her presence very known. This leaves Tomoyo to explain herself in a single episode.

Explain she does. It's all contained in this scene, which is one of the scenes that crystallizes Clannad for me. Though I'm moved by other scenes, there aren't a whole lot which speak so directly to me about the meaning of the show. Indeed, I would posit that the entire show can be summed up with the following clip.

She flat-out explains something important, something very important: that it's family which keeps a person together. Tomoya's never really thought of this question until now. The answers he gives (talent and relationships) are a tad shallow, and I think Tomoyo agrees, but is too nice to say so. Rather, she offers her own, stronger reason. Interestingly, this is of critical importance to After Story. Tomoya, though he doesn't know it, will face the threat of running wild in rebellion against the world, and he's going to need something to keep him stable. If he relied on talent, well...his talents aren't exactly apparent, and he sure hasn't found them. If he relied on relationships, well...he couldn't. Not after Nagisa's death.

All he has left is family.

In the end, that's really why I love Tomoyo. All that she had left, when Takafumi jumped, was family. It was from family that she pulled together meaning from life. The love in her family was what kept them afloat, and that speaks all manner of things to me. These four minutes practically encapsulate the entirety of After Story, in a sense, giving you a taste of what's to come. Tomoyo falls back on her family to protect her, and is all the more awesome for it. When I reached this point, I was sold.

I could tell that beneath that calm, cool, occasionally violent exterior was a heart that cared intensely for the ones whom Tomoyo loved. It was a passionate, strong heart, and also a heart torn and mended from the experience of life. Tomoyo is a soul who has weathered tragedy and devastation, and come out all the better for it. She knows where to go back to, back to her family, back to the ones who love her.

Because, really, that's the only answer that I've found to life that I can truly say that I agree with. It all comes back to family.

The School's Trees with Andy: Two Girls (And a Boy in the Middle)

I figure that the Tomoyo vs. Kyou clip has been linked enough times by me, so I won't embed it in this post. It really is the one clip which does the difference between the two female leads of the series' end the best justice. At the same time, it's interesting to note their similarity...this is something I alluded to in my Kyou post for Top Ten.

Fire and Water
Yeah, the elemental symbolism is a tad overdone...but if two characters ever deserved these elements, it's Kyou and Tomoyo. I'd say, however, that Tomoyo is the fire, while Kyou is the water. It's definitely not the typical definition; with her high-strung temperament, you'd expect Kyou to be the fire, right? Well, here's where I'm going with it.

Kyou is a tempest. She washes one way, but then momentum takes her and drags her right back. Just as water is moved by many currents and ripples beneath its surface, so Kyou is pulled every which way by the emotional forces in her life. By contrast, Tomoyo is a slowly burning blaze, a focused fire. She has a goal to her blaze, and so she doesn't let it burn out of control. She only allows it to show under the most important circumstances.

Persons of Special Violence
Tomoyo and Kyou beat people up. They beat people up who really deserve it. Kyou sometimes beats people up who don't deserve it, because she's into pre-emptive strikes and all that. What immediately comes to mind is how she brains (or attempts to brain) anyone who steps within five feet of Botan, preferring to ask questions later. Tomoyo takes a cautious approach, even going so far as to tell Sunohara to attack her, to make her violence self-defense.

Tomoyo is this way because of her past. She's been through her violent phase, a phase that Kyou is currently going through. The major difference is that Tomoyo's phase was far worse. Whereas Kyou only beats up those around her, Tomoyo was going and picking fights with gang members. She is far better at fighting, and she's been through more of it. She has a far more experienced view of violence, because she's been there and disliked what she saw. She doesn't want to be violent, and takes every caution against it.

Them and Tomoya
I got to watch this difference play out in the second-to-last arc of Clannad, and I loved Tomoyo all the more for it. See, I rather disliked Kyou's approach to Tomoya. She was throwing herself after him, as it were, pushing people around, and trying to force matters. I had a gut reaction to all of this. I didn't like it. By contrast, there was Tomoyo. Every pass that Kyou made brought me closer to liking Tomoyo more.

I think that the clip linked above, again, has a great example of this (I automatically skipped it to the very end, where the important bit is). Tomoyo is very careful about where she throws her emotion. She lets her feelings for Tomoya grow and develop, instead of rushing them. Of course, this winds up costing her in the long run, but oh well. Nagisa is somewhat fated to win out in the "main ending", anyhow. ;)

When All's Said and Done...
Contrast with Kyou isn't enough for me to like Tomoyo, of course. She hit on some things that spoke to me, though. What exactly were they? Well, you'll have to wait a little bit to find those week.