Saturday, September 25, 2010

The School's Trees: Top Ten Favorite Characters, #10-Fuko


Fuko Ibuki: the childish character. She is stubborn, energetic, and yet, still very innocent. All the characteristics of a child, right? Even though Fuko resembles a new middle school student, she was actually meant to be attending high school for her first year. However, on her very first day of high school, she got in to a terrible car accident. Due to this, Fuko entered a state of deep sleep, while her sister, Kouko, waited for her to wake up.

Even still, Fuko has willpower. In fact her willpower was so strong that when her physical body was useless, she found a way to project her spirit for others to see and interact with her. You better believe Fuko put her whole heart in doing that. But what was her reason? It was for the happiness of others, specifically her sister, who, up to that point, had spent the majority of her time sitting and waiting for the day Fuko would wake. Kouko had told her unconscious sister that she wanted to get married to Yusuko Yoshino, and Fuko wanted her to be happy. Fuko knew that she couldn’t interact with her sister in anyway, so in her unconscious state, she found a way to make her sister happy. Fuko’s spirit was discovered by a couple of students, Tomoya Okazaki and Nagisa Furukawa, who befriended Fuko and decided to help her. Together, the three distributed wooden starfish throughout the high school where Kouko had once been a teacher, inviting the students of the school to attend Kouko’s wedding, regardless of whether they had known Kouko or not. Fuko’s will had brought her to carrying out a difficult task such as confronting every individual of a school, even when knowing nobody at the school. Then came the point where Kouko was unsure that she would even get married. The stress of having her younger sister in the hospital was overwhelming, and she didn’t know if she should pursue her own happiness and marry Yusuke. In this urgent situation, Fuko knew she had to continue working hard, and eventually she had not only personally handed a wooden starfish to nearly everybody at the high school, but also touched them in a way that none of them could even comprehend. As the wedding approached, problems began to occur. Fuko was beginning to be forgotten. This issue grew until nobody in the school, with the exceptions of Tomoya and Nagisa, could remember or even see Fuko. Though she had doubted that she should before, Kouko still had her wedding, and miraculously, even though nobody knew who Fuko was, everybody Fuko had touched was compelled to show up to Kouko’s wedding. Fuko’s emotions and her willpower had been planted deep inside the hearts of every single person. Fuko saw that her mission had been accomplished and after leaving her final contribution of some encouraging words and a wooden starfish to her sister, her spirit faded back in to her sleeping body.

The whole complex situation shows that Fuko is stubborn. It’s not necessarily a bad kind of stubborn, even though it can be, like when Fuko can’t bring herself to accept sensible reasoning. It’s more of a determined sort of stubborn. Fuko shows that she is unwilling to yield; she will do anything and everything she can to make her sister happy, and she /does/ do everything she can. Could you confront an entire school of strangers one by one? Even when Tomoya introduced the point to Fuko that nobody would know Kouko, she still didn’t give up. She wouldn’t even let the physical forces of the universe tell her that she was bound to a bed in sleep. She broke free of her body and did what she felt she had to do.

Fuko is that person that everybody wants as their little sister. However, it’s not for the same types of reasons you would want a little sister like Mei Sunohara. Where Mei is mature and responsible, Fuko is more immature and child-like. In this way, though, Fuko has a character of dependence. She relies on others, people more responsible and open than herself. Fuko was shown to be a shy, lone character. She had no friends, and she was only open with her sister. When Fuko had people to depend on (Kouko, Tomoya, Nagisa), she could open up to these people and show her true colors. When Tomoya and Nagisa met Fuko, they connected with her in a way that they could not have connected with any other character. They had found someone else who depended on them as reliable, individual people. Tomoya was known to be a lazy person, and probably nobody really depended on his actions. Nagisa was still a fragile being, unable to effectively present herself to other people. That’s where Fuko was able to make things better. She was the dependent character who needed both Tomoya and Nagisa, and they were the ones who needed such a dependent character. Fuko was mistaken as Tomoya’s younger sibling at one point in her arc. In essence, Fuko /was/ Tomoya’s and Nagisa’s younger sister. She relied on them even when her childish nature may have limited her actions.

In the end, Fuko was like a mark that stained everybody’s hearts. Don’t take that the wrong way, though. Fuko was definitely a sort of colorful, beautiful mark left behind. Perhaps a sort of rainbow tie dye pattern. Though Fuko was forgotten by everybody she had been close to, she had left behind traces of herself and the actions she carried out. Fuko would never be truly erased from their hearts. There would always be a connection between Fuko and those who had interacted with her. These connections Fuko made would prove to be strong when later Fuko would appear to those she had known in multiple instances of comical mischievousness, for lack of a better term. One of the connections would prove to be even stronger than any other. The connection Fuko had with Tomoya was so powerful that later when Fuko awoke from her years of slumbering, they met once again, even though neither remembered the journey they had once shared with each other.

Overall, Fuko is a stubborn, shy, somewhat overwhelming character, but she is also a very caring, determined one. In the end, we know Fuko to be just like any other character of 
Clannad. She is an individual with her own unique characteristics and contributions to the series. Like Tomoya stated at one point:
“She’s a little strange, but she’s a normal girl no matter how you look at her.”


Fuko is one of those characters that always makes me happy. I must admit, right off the bat, that I am a staunch member of the Starfish Legion. "Hurry Starfish" is one of my favorite songs in Clannad. At the same time, she plays a unique and important role in the series beyond providing comic relief. Like Nathan's mentioned, she serves as essentially a representation of Tomoya's future, which comes around in a very real way by the end of the series.

Why do I love Fuko? It's probably because of her combination of sweet, innocent determination and her particularly fussy insistence on her own maturity, and also her plans. It's her love for her sister, and her stubborn insistence on never backing down from her goal. It's her heart of a child, who doesn't care that bad things happen in the world; she just wants her sister to be happy.

I think Fuko, like most characters, shows the two important sides of Clannad: humor and drama. Fuko’s arc is definitely heavy on humor, with her frequent trances, her over-the-top fervor for starfish, and the “Fuko Master” moments. But it doesn’t skimp on the drama: I’ve heard of multiple people who cried at the end of her arc. The bittersweet ending is extremely powerful: she was able to accomplish her goal of creating a mob of people at her sister’s wedding, yet in the end she disappears. As I believe Sean mentioned in his post, Fuko’s story represents the fragility of human life (even though the definition of Fuko’s spirit as “alive” would involve interesting metaphysical inquisition); at the very least, it shows the transience of so many things in life, such as friendships (which is a sobering, but true, thought). Overall then, I find Fuko a very humorous character (in all her appearances, including the “Fuko Ninja” moments and her scenes in After Story), but also one with bittersweet drama as well.

Fuko was, always has been, and always will be my favorite female non-Ushio anime character. What's not to like, honestly? She's NUTS. She's sane. She's childish. She has the most mature point of view I've ever seen. She's the most determined person ever. And yet the most easily distracted. She's a paradox unto herself, something that demands that I figure her out, and yet I can't. Nor do I want to. Which is fortunate, otherwise I'd go as insane as Fuko.

However, there's another side to the madness that is my love for Fuko: she reminds me of my little sister. Yes, there is someone who acts even remotely like Fuko out there, waiting to inflict her insanity on you. No, she won't smother you with starfish, but she will destroy your puny mind with her anti-logic that's designed to kill all those braincells you hold dear. Maybe that's why I like Fuko so much: she reminds me a lot of my family life: quirky, insane, and yet deadly serious in a package that's too cute, adorable, and deadly to ignore. Or maybe not, I can never be too sure.

Fuko is like no other character I have known.  She is energetic, entertaining, focused, caring, blunt, and completely tactless.  I feel like she's my younger sister, my friend, and a stranger I only half know.  I like her because she is so completely and wholly herself.  When I first began watching Clannad, I was watching anime for the first time, and in all truth, I was completely unsure of what to make of Fuko.  She was just another one of those crazy, somewhat over-done anime characters that left me half entertained and half skeptical.  I couldn't decide if I liked her or if she drove me crazy.  As I kept watching, I realized that the truth was, I liked her because she did drive a part of me crazy.  I liked her stubbornness and her childishness, and I liked them because they strengthened the deeper part of her character, her love and loyalty for those who were dear to her.  She is Fuko.  What more can be said?

A special thanks to those who agreed to work on this ten week long project with me. I'm honored by your love for the show and your willingness to give your time. And many thanks to those of you who continue to read! I'm glad to have people who're willing to read, and I promise that we'll putting up content for as long as it's readable and meaningful.

Oh, and once again, REVEL in Taylor's awesomeness. That video was a complete surprise!

Be ready for next week, as we cover #9: Sanae Furukawa! 

Friday, September 17, 2010


Starting next week, we're going to have one heck of a convening on this blog. Brandon, Carpe, Taylor, Luthien (that's what we'll call her for now, although she may kill me for it), and myself will start posting The School's Trees Top Ten Favorite Clannad Characters! Every week on Friday we'll post a profile about one of our top ten favorite characters and why we like them.

The list, btw, was drawn up by everyone sending me their list, and then me running it through the Borda Count, a voting system that's meant for sorting lists. Based upon the incredibly objective (and sometimes brutal) approach we have a list that all of us can agree with without getting too defensive over our favorite characters not being number one (and sometimes not even making the list).

So, stay tuned next week, as we cover Number 10 on our list...

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The School's Trees: My Story (The End, Part 2)

Y'know... I've been dreading this ever since I woke up. I'm nervous because I'm about to reveal the core philosophy that makes me get up in the morning, that gives me comfort when things are going wrong, and makes me happy to just think about. What makes reality....real. What makes life worth it for me. It's something that I've been thinking about for awhile, and have always wanted to talk about, but now that I"m here, about to do this, I realize that it's possibly the most nerve-wracking thing someone can do. But I want to anyway.

So here we go, kiddies. I can't guarantee that my philosophy is complete, mature, or even right, but it is mine. It is my truth. And I think that's what you guys are here for, so you're gonna get it.

I've been Catholic for most of my life, some might say for all my life. Unlike a lot of people my age I never didn't believe in a personal God. It wasn't that I didn't think about it or question it. It's that, from the time I was little, I knew that God existed, and that He had a very direct hand in my life. I'm not going to say that I don't have my doubts about God being loving, because I do. Terrible things happen in this world every second to strangers and loved ones alike. But I push through it anyway, confident somewhere deep down that free will was given to us because God decided to err on the side of trusting us, so that way the beautiful things that make us live and grow can happen in a way we'd understand better. Good by an invisible being is no good at all, and I think God knows that. Which is why I think we have free will. So that way God can have good things happen that we can understand as being what they are: gifts.

Despite my faith, however, there is one thing that has always disturbed me to my core, which never seems to disturb anyone else in the same way. Sometimes it just irks me, but there are times when I really do get depressed about it.

We die. All things fade.

I guess why this disturbed me so much was the loss of a body. Everything that I loved to do (painting, writing, music, role-playing, etc.) had a physical element that was irreplaceable. That it seemed to not bug anyone else angered me. What's the point of life if we lose our bodies? I concluded that, even though God existed, He must not be very loving, because we were in a trap that gave us the joy of bodily things for only a short amount of time, only to snatch it away. Reading my Bible (at least at the time) didn't help me at all, especially in the Old Testament, where you find the author of Ecclesiastes wailing that all things are vanity because we die. This didn't help, and while I had been taught about a resurrection it had never gotten through the horror, anger, and despair that I felt about death. Just as I started to actively ask myself about these questions, I started going out with Jamie, and struggled with these questions throughout (and past) our relationship. So when she suddenly broke up with me all I had were my questions, and no answer that had actually satiated me. My icons (one of which you can see up above) grew darker and sadder, and I knew I needed to do something. While I had stopped believing in goodness I hadn't stopped believing in God, which was terrifying. I needed to feel something positive again, to see something that would let me know that everything was OK, that I was wrong. That life had purpose and meaning.

Enter Clannad.

It took me watching the show six times to realize it, but that really was the answer that I was looking for.


The return of the soul to the body that it couldn't go without.


That God was so merciful as to give back that which we can't go without, by virtue of being human. That God was so good and loving as to realize that there were some things we couldn't negotiate on, so He made the single most important concession in the history of humanity, and gave us the thing that would make us happy forever: our own bodies. And all we have to do is ask and believe that it'll happen, and it will. How can that not be the most kind and merciful thing you've ever heard of? We get them back! We don't have to try to "get along" without what was once the most familiar part of our existence. We don't have to move past it, or find a new meaning that we can't find because our bodily memories will always be a part of us. We get them back. And all we have to do is ask.

In this way Clannad is the most realistic show I've ever seen, because it captures the simple reality of it all. There is no great price we have to pay, we just have to believe that God will do it for us and be ready for something completely unexpected. Clannad is truly art, because it actually represents life in a way that we can understand and grow from.

Now what shocked me was that what I'd realized by watching this show had been with me all along, in the form of Christianity. Say what you will about the abuses of Christianity in its 2,000 year long existence. Say what you will about the incredibly dense teachers, lecherous priests, and scandalous nuns of the Church. They're called "failures" for a reason, because they failed the great reality: that we're saved from death and meaninglessness. Everything that we are can go on, because we'll never actually fade. Granted, it'll take some time, but isn't that the case with anything that's truly worth it?

After a year of thinking, questioning, and screaming at the heavens I have my answer from God. It took 22 years to get here, but I have it now. There is a happy ending that we can know and understand. The God that I always knew was there but doubted has been shown to be both existent and loving. And because of this, I can move on to live and give everything that is inside of me. Life, while not perfect, is wonderful. And whether I see it or not, there is a happy end.

For everyone who wants it.

This is the story that I'd wanted to share with you from the beginning of the blog. I hope you enjoyed it, because it was one of the most rewarding things that I've done. I greatly enjoyed writing out my thoughts and watching this amazing show again, for the sixth time. 

I would like to thank all the people who have made this blog what it is. To Brandon and Sean, my co-posters, who have each added their own to something that belongs to all of us. Especially to Taylor, who made this blog what it is with his constant work splicing and uploading videos for all of the posters on this blog. All without a complaint, and overwhelmingly on time. But I'd especially like to thank God, who put this show in my life and used it to get me into a place I can live happily. This is all thanks to Him, and for that my gratitude cannot be adequately expressed.

And so silence is the proper response.

I do have one request for the ending of this blog post

If you disagree please state it rationally and clearly. I understand that I probably hit quite a few buttons, but if you must disagree with me do so in a way that won't force me to delete your comment because of it's...unsavoriness. I welcome a good discussion, and always have. But a quarrel is nothing I'm interested in, and those wishing to pick a fight will find themselves ignored and deleted.

I would like to thank all of you who have read this blog, be it from the beginning or just this, my last post as main writer of The School's Trees. 

Yes, that's right, I'm stepping down. My reasons are simple: I'm done. 

While I will still be on The School's Trees, it will be more of an administrative role, finding other people who want to tell their story about Clannad. These people will fill in the holes of the narrative that I intentionally never filled in, will bring their philosophies to the tapestry that is this blog. While this is the end of one era, try to think of it as the beginning of a new time for this blog. And every once in a while I'll put up a post about a topic Clannad-related that's on my mind, as the muses take me. In the next few weeks expect the next main writer, CarpeGuittarem, to start up his blog posts on the alternate world arcs. I'm really excited to see what Carpe has in store for us, so please!  

Stick around.

It's been an honor and a joy writing for you.

-Liam Francis Traveller

Friday, September 3, 2010

The School's Trees: Explanations (The End Part 1)

Honestly, by this point I had given up. Even the knowledge that Tomoya might be able to bring Nagisa back really didn't move me at this point. Really, why would he? She was dead...

He did it? Wait, what? Tomoya had let it go? Ushio was the kid that the robot was with? What's up with the strange conversation? And the lights? And the...and the....

What the hell was going on?

I'm a diehard fan of Lost, but screw that show, it didn't do this. At least there's a basic system that I'd noticed that made that show make sense. But this? What the hell is this? I thought.  Where's the explanation? Where's the closure? Where's......


How did this answer my question? How did this answer the question of death?

To be honest, I didn't get it the first time. It actually pissed me off. The writers had cheated me. All that build up, all that catharsis, all the heartbreak, and HE JUST GOT HER BACK?

I walked away in anger.

But it stuck with me.

That damn happy face. Tomoya was happy.

And I was angry.

I almost didn't want to watch Clannad again. But I couldn't help thinking about it. The show was a masterpiece, almost perfect (gang arc being the only speck in my humble opinion). They couldn't have just screwed it up. They couldn't. They couldn't be wrong. It had to be me that was wrong.

So I watched it again. Just to see. And to facilitate that I've made a new page on this website. You can find it here. It has all the videos that I think are essential to understanding Clannad's plot. I'll update it as I feel the need. I suggest going to that page and watching all of them, in order. But there one's set of videos that you need to watch.

That's right. Taylor spliced together all the robot clips. ALL. OF. THEM. Marvel at Taylor's awesomeness!

I watched all of these things. Over. And over. And over. All to see what I'd missed. Each time I watched Clannad I felt that I'd gotten another piece of the puzzle. I wanted to know what these guys were thinking when they made the most realistic anime I'd ever seen tell us all we had to do was wish and we could come back to life. Even starting this blog I had no idea what the answer was, still. I didn't know why the ending jived at all with me when I started. I didn't know where I got this feeling of familiarity from, or why I liked the ending more every time I watched it. But I started the blog anyway, reasoning that writing out my obsessive thoughts on Clannad would help me process what was going on.

But I figured out something that I think is true. So here goes.

Each alternate world is someone's mind, which interfaces through our body. Tomoya, for whatever reason, wasn't firmly "interfaced" into his own body, and so therefore could wander around his own mindscape during dreams. Ushio was the same, being related to Tomoya, and so the two of them could share their mind and dreamscapes. Their worlds could mesh. Tomoya isn't really a robot, but that is how he sees himself, which is why he appears as such. The same goes for Ushio, who just sees herself as a girl.

The two of them share dreams for years, because minds are not restricted by time. Only the body is restricted by time, so Tomoya and Ushio could have been talking since the start of the show without any trouble.

During Tomoya's time on earth he had unleashed certain lights, which were stored inside of him. These lights ARE Ushio. Ushio is the combined total of the happiness of Tomoya and Nagisa. She is Tomoya and Nagisa's wish. 

Well, eventually Ushio and Tomoya actually meet and things start to change. The two of them don't want to just share dreams (remembered or not) anymore, they want Nagisa. They want family, like all of us do. But the two of them alone are not enough. So Ushio decides to make her wish, using herself as the "barter", so things can be made right. She gives up the limited time she had with her father so that way all of them can be together. She's the only one who can do it because if the others did something like this they'd have to give up themselves to do it, which is something that they can't do and be with Nagisa. Like it or not, but God has rules to this thing, as evidenced by Shima. It only makes sense then to assume that Ushio really is the only one who can make this wish. What's her wish?

Give Mamma back to Papa and me. 

But the trouble is not with Ushio. It's with Tomoya. Will Tomoya be able to let go of his bitterness over meeting Nagisa to be with her again? Thankfully, Tomoya finally comes through! In total faith (and blindness to Ushio's plan) he lets go of his bitterness, which allows God to finally give him the happy ending that he'd wanted all this time. Things resume as they should have, and the Okazaki family finally defeats the tragedy that had plagued it for so long.

This, in my opinion, is what happened. Keep in mind that I haven't beaten the Visual Novel, so I don't have a complete view of what's going on. But this is the closest that I can get.

HUGE kudos to Taylor. He made those videos in two weeks, flat. I can't believe the amount of work and energy that he puts in to making this little blog so awesome. 

Taylor, you are the reason why this blog works. Thank you so much.

Part 1 is over, but Part 2 (My Personal Ending) will be covered tomorrow. Check back tomorrow!