Monday, December 5, 2011

The School's Trees: Family First

So another set of friends finished Clannad, and they had some questions about the ending. Now how did that happen? It's not like the end is complicated or anything... One of the friends who finished told me the ending was a mistake. She says this because undoing your experiences invalidates the person. And to make matters even worse, the entire world had to reset itself five years to do it! It's a pretty big accusation against my favorite anime of all time, so I promised I would write up a School's Trees post.

One of the reasons why Clannad is my favorite anime is because of its complexity yet simplicity. While the actual events of the end are difficult to get your mind around sometimes, its wonderful how all that's needed to explain Clannad are a few awesome video clips.

Here's the four that need to be seen:

It's established in the first clip that it's possible for a miracle to happen by having people's feelings reach other people through physical objects. Tomoya needs a miracle. What's the object this time? Ushio. She's been hanging around the town and earning everyone's love for five years. Every single person who meets Ushio loves her immediately, and connect to her in a way that no other person in this anime does. Fuko pulled off a miracle in a matter of weeks with a bunch of wooden starfish and a contrary personality. What could the absolutely lovable and adorable Ushio accomplish with just herself and her father's pain? The answer is a miracle that would make the first part of the show look like small potatoes. And Ushio dying in the snow means that there are people watching, people who can feel Tomoya's heartbreak and the death of Ushio. Tomoya, if remembered, calls upon the world itself, asking that someone, anyone, save Ushio. It's heavily implied in the show that right after making this wish Tomoya dies of a broken heart. A great tragedy just happened, the world is going to notice. The city, the people within it, heck, even God had to take notice of that one. And don't forget that the same place that saved Nagisa attached itself to Ushio as well.

The second clip tells us what the city is willing to do to make one of its own happy. Families do not give up dreams for each other, they change their dreams so the other members of the family can be happy. Tomoya and Ushio are not happy in this world without Nagisa, it's just that simple. What the city wants to do isn't forsaking what it once was: it wishes to change itself so that Tomoya and Ushio can be happy. And when I say city I mean the people in it. This is a huge collective unconscious thing going on, folks. Everyone wants this for each other on some level, that's the point that the show is trying to make! That's an incredibly profound statement. 

The third clip shows that happiness without Nagisa at this stage in the game really is beyond Tomoya's reach. Seriously, look at his father. His father swore to raise Tomoya without help, and look what happened? Tomoya's dreams were ruined, and his father became a good-for-nothing-drunk. Tomoya's father refused help, and this is the fate that he found himself stuck with. The fact that the city eventually offers Tomoya a second chance is all the more proof that he needs this so desperately. And fortunately, Tomoya does cave in. He admits that he is nothing without others, without the family that is community. Tomoya's pride stops mattering to him; he wants to save Ushio, no matter the cost to his ego.

And the fourth clip ties all of this together. The city grants Tomoya the light orbs he needs to have a happy life, and changes its wishes to Tomoya's. This isn't because it would be nice for Tomoya and Ushio to have Nagisa back, it's absolutely essential. For these two there is no changing that. So the city makes the change. This is a collective effort on the part of all humanity, never mind Tomoya for a moment! Humanity wishes for Tomoya's happiness so much that its willing to rewrite itself to make that happen. The world gives up five years for  Tomoya's sake, and he finds himself with his wife and child. All is well. 

In the world of individualism this would be the wrong choice, to be sure. How dare we interfere with Tomoya's experiences that are so rightfully his? How dare we interfere with his misery, which must be left alone, but want to share in his happiness, which is all of a sudden for everyone? That's about as sensible as wishing a couple happiness in their marriage, but not trying to alleviate their suffering should they lose a child or divorce. 

But fortunately we're not individuals, we're persons, made for communion with others. And if anyone wants to if individualism is true, take a look around you. Something is horribly wrong with our world. Families are dissolving, people report having less friends than before, divorce, suicide, and depression rates are up, and people's general faith in humanity has sunk to a new low. We have had two World Wars since we rejected Christianity (which very much so stresses that we are part of a giant family), the likes of which no supposedly-religious war ever gave us. And during the time that all these horrific things were going on? Individualism and the power of the mind were blown out of proportion in art and elsewhere. You can choose to argue with me, and say that Individualism didn't cause this, at least not directly. Well, you're probably right. But that doesn't change the fact that Individualism's rise to being the "de facto religion" of the Western World was the bloodiest of any I know of. If the major thing that changed ideologically was the Enlightenment, what else is there to blame? If you can legitimately find something, please let me know. I'll be more than willing to discuss/argue.

Now I'm not saying collectivism is the right way to go, mind you. A single person can't be ignored for the sake of the whole. I'm saying that we collectively care for persons, instead. The middle path between those two has to be taken, and that's what the show sketches out. I mean, look at what the early Christian community, when they were one giant family! People were healed by having people's shadows pass over them, they spoke in languages that no one even knew existed, they resurrected people from the dead, and they saw visions that brought joy to everybody. That's the power of what happens when people are united in faith together: death itself has no influence over them. I like that way better, personally. If someone reading this blog thinks Christianity is evil, that's your business, but please don't attempt to argue with the results of those who actually practice it. 

Not a single person can make it without others, especially those right around us, and there is no shame in needing help. Because we are all in this together on this little speck of earth and water. One man's sorrows and joys are all of ours. That's common sense, compassion, hell, it's Christianity. I mean, who else do you think invented the hospital, the place where our "precious" pain and suffering is denied its meal for just a little bit longer, so we can go back out and live a happy life? If you believe hospitals are good, then Clannad's ending is better than happy, it's true. If not, then, well, I'm sorry.

A shout out to my old buddies at Clannad Central, the people who graciously provided these Youtube clips, but especially Taylor, their chief uploader. Thank you guys, my blogging experience wouldn't be what it is without you.