Friday, October 29, 2010

Top Ten Characters, #5-Kyou

Kyou, the girl who sends books flying through the air like missiles flying from a cannon.  The one who hits first and asks questions later.  On the surface, this girl is everything she appears to be.  She's tough.  She's strong, and she's independent.  She's Kyou, and we know her within the first minute of meeting her – or so we think.  Or so I thought.  As I went through and watched Clannad, I started to get little glimpses, little hints of something more, of what was there beyond Kyou's surface.  Kyou, the girl who puts others above herself time and time again.  Kyou, fiercefully loyal.  Kyou, the girl who never shows what she is feeling or what's inside because what others need is more important.  Like she does when doing anything else, when she loves, she loves with everything in her, and her love is selfless.  This is why I like Kyou.  Regardless of whether or not her love and loyalty are perfect, it is still there and she fights for it.   
Heh...well, I must say that from the time this list developed to the time this post came up, my own view and attitude regarding Kyou has changed rather subtly. There's times I love her, times I can't stand her, and times I pity her, as well as times I can admire her in some regard. She's still not a massive top character for me, but I've been learning to like some things about her.

Kyou is an interesting character. The first thing you notice about her is her violent tendencies. Oddly enough, violence seems to be the initial impression that her "nemesis" Tomoyo gives as well. I find it appropriate, though, because there's a link of sorts between these two characters. I'll go into it more in detail, but suffice it to say that though they seem to be opposites, there's a good bit of common ground between them, which is why they come into conflict over the course of the series.

That violence is actually something I admire about her, or points to something I admire about her. Kyou is a hothead. She doesn't do it to cause trouble or for attention, though. Her first appearance sums it up pretty well, I think. Kyou is a protector. There are people, ideals, and things that she cares very strongly about, and she'll fight to the death to protect them.

Most of Kyou's conflict comes when the things to be protected are themselves in conflict, when she has to choose. She runs into this most resoundingly in the second half of the first season of Clannad, where matters just get...complicated. Kyou cares about Tomoya. She also cares about her sister Ryou. Knowing that Ryou cares about Tomoya, she doesn't want to hurt Ryou, because she cares about her. So, we see her struggling back and forth between the two strong things she cares about. Added into this is the weird, semi-manipulative way that Kyou goes about introducing Ryou to Tomoya. There's parts of me that are convinced that, based on how this happens, Kyou (possibly subconsciously) is projecting her own desire to be with Tomoya onto the potential (and, in the Another World arc, actual-ish) relationship of Ryou and Tomoya.

Therein lies the rub of why I hate her at the same time I love her. She's got that mean drama queen streak in her, manipulative and vindictive and more than a little selfish. She's quite jealous, and passionately so (due to her temperament), and most of the trouble she winds up in comes out because of her own actions. There's also hints that she expects other people to act the same way, as shown by her encounter with Tomoyo, where Sakagami-san flat-out calls her out on her unadmitted attraction to Tomoya. She wasn't expecting Tomoyo to so bluntly and carelessly stumble on her carefully guarded secret, and acted accordingly.

All told, though, I feel that it's the Another World: Kyou arc which gives her the most sympathetic portrayal, intentionally so. Sure, it's drama, because (like I said) Kyou is a drama queen. At the same time, we see that she's not really enjoying the drama. Yes, she's making things difficult and blowing them out of proportion, but it's only because she's trying desperately to manipulate the situation to a point where she can let go and be satisfied. I can understand her struggle, so I pity her. I may not agree with her methods, but I agree with her heart.

And that, in the end, is why I can see her as a worthy character.

"Erase it from your mind!"
The first thing that pops into my mind when I think of Kyou is pain and suffering, often on the part of Sunohara, although Tomoya takes some hits. Her humorous temper is what her character revolves around, at least in my mind. She's another one of the characters I would not put this far up on the list. Personally, I've never found her to that appealing of a character: she's great for jokes and random violence (plus the awkward gym locker room scene with Tomoya is one of the series' funniest, in my opinion), but I've never found her to get at my heart much. Maybe that's because she isn't really revealed to have any backstory, or maybe I am just overly prejudiced towards Nagisa: I'm not positive. Overall, I think Kyou does well as a humor character mainly; her part in the main story works to add some tension while Nagisa is recovering from illness, but I feel her extra episode isn't endearing whatsoever. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but my opinion is that Kyou does great in her role as an overly violent, manipulative girl, but she's sorely lacking when it comes to relationships; to me, she doesn't seem to have even a glimmer of a chance with Tomoya. Maybe others don't share my opinion (well, I'm positive Andy doesn't...), but that's why it's an opinion, not a statement of absolute fact. Anyway, here's to books smashing Sunohara in the face. No one can deny the awesomeness of that.

Kyou Fujibayashi: the aggressive character. The first thing I’m going to say is this: Kyou is my favorite character from Clannad. She is my anime crush. I admit it. Since her first appearance throwing the book at Tomoya, she’s just appealed to me. It was the somewhat innocent, yet still fatal misunderstandings she had and the hilarious laugh she had at random times. Really, it’s just her character in general that I like, and I like her even more at those times when I actually understand the situation she has in the story, especially in her alternate world arc.

Really, I like Kyou because I can relate to her. A little while back I went through a phase where I had a personality somewhat similar to hers. I was pretty aggressive at some points, in a somewhat playful way, I was pretty random when it came to swinging moods, and the eavesdropping…..oh man, I was all in my friends’ businesses…. Of course, I regret being in that state in the past, but I actually think it fits Kyou better. I remember being more concerned with helping my friends instead of helping myself in certain situations, somewhat because I felt like I didn’t need any help. Kyou is more concerned with aiding her sister in reaching her goals instead of reaching her own goals which leads to quite a few issues in the alternate arc.

I like the irony of human emotions that Kyou represents. It’s when you get that feeling of wanting something, but you’re also somewhat afraid to pursue it because you don’t want to mess up or end up in a worse situation than the original one. Kyou boosts her own sister up to chase Tomoya while she herself has a desire to chase Tomoya. However, she doesn’t, and I’d like to assume it’s because she is afraid to. She is afraid to hurt her own sister, someone so kind and gentle, but she is also afraid to lose to her sister. I know the situation all too well, and I still remember the situation I was in like that. That’s my real reason for liking Kyou. I can connect with it, and I think it’s great that Clannad can emphasize how people make mistakes through character like Kyou rather than just having a bunch of unreal, perfect characters.

Kyou is one of the most layered characters in Clannad, right up there with Tomoya and Nagisa (yes, I even put her above Akio). Why? She only shows her true self once in the whole show, and it's not even in the main world!

She's right here:

Whenever I think of Kyou, this is the Kyou I think of. Not the overly violent, manipulative, and overly emotional bitch that we know in Clannad, but the sweet and somewhat overanxious Kyou that's in this video. It's because of that scene that I actually understood what Kyou was. She's someone who gave up what she loved for someone she loved, and buried herself to do it. Why else would anyone be that violent in such an angry manner? Burying yourself sucks, and will always produce anger issues. It just so happens that Kyou's in particular were... explosive. Can't blame her for that, I guess.

While she has the least actually said about her, Kyou's possibly the best developed minor character in the whole series. While she isn't overly wise her heart more than makes up for it. I'm proud to have her this far up on the list.

A miracle occurred, people! We all got our stuff in a half hour before the deadline! WOOT!

Thanks guys for writing up everything and busting your rear ends over my somewhat gentle (and not so gentle) reminders to write. We're in the top five now!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Top Ten Favorite Characters, #6-Sunohara!

Oddly enough, my school's anime club just finished Sunohara's arc this week: what a crazy random happenstance!
I think Sunohara's first appearance is what informs viewers that Clannad is not going to just be a complete melodrama: there's going to be tons of humor as well. Sunohara is basically the comic relief character in the first season, and he fulfills that role at the beginning of After Story as well. Of course, if he was only a comic relief character, he wouldn't really be important, and I don't think he'd be as popular as he is (though his comedy has to be a big reason).
Liam wrote lots of great stuff about how Sunohara relates to Tomoya's character development in his post on the After Story arc, so I'm not sure if I can really top that. I can just make a couple of observations of my own. First, Sunohara shows us that Tomoya is not a completely useless delinquent; his over-the-top immaturity provides somewhat of a contrast to Tomoya. True, Tomoya is still a delinquent, and he can be immature at times, but compared to Sunohara, he's got a great head on his shoulders. Second, Sunohara's presence means that Tomoya is not completely antisocial. At the beginning of the series, Sunohara is more or less Tomoya's entire friends circle; if Sunohara wasn't there, what would Tomoya be like? Would he have any social skills left at all? Clannad would be very different if that were the case.
That's my main observations. Personally, I have to say that I like Sunohara the most for his comedy and for the fact that his arc shows he's actually a good brother to Mei, though he's not perfect. It goes to show that even people who look like absolutely immature delinquents on the outside have a deeper, more mature layer underneath (and no third, even deeper, layer that's the same as the top surface layer, hopefully).

Y'know, Sunohara's that one friend. You know who I mean. The professional nutjob, who on most days you want to kill because he only complicates your life. He has all of these random schemes, none of which actually work, and has no social graces whatsoever. He acts like a moron more often than not and you wonder what the hell you're doing around him. But when you're in trouble he turns a completely different leaf. And you realize that he's actually really cool. Jaded? Oh yeah. But cool. 

And wise. Can't forget the wise part.


There's a certain ironic appropriateness to this week's follow-up to Tomoyo, though I can't for the life of me figure out how Sunohara wound up beating her out...enough on that, though. I think the above clip speaks for itself, in many ways. Sunohara is, well...that guy. At least on first glance. He's a tad perverted, he goofs off, acts like an idiot, chases after each one of the female leads for at least a short amount of time...yes, even Kotomi...

Yet as we see more of his character emerge, he's not actually that bad of a guy. Sure, he has negative character traits, but there's actually some quite positive ones, too. One moment which particularly comes to mind is his advice to Tomoya during the Alternate Worlds: Kyou episode. He notes that the longer Tomoya tries to avoid hurting both Kyou and Ryou, the more pain there will be when he finally has to resolve the drama-filled situation. Then he heads out, giving Tomoya a playful punch and a sort of "see ya". For a brief moment, we see Youhei demonstrate an insightful, deep side. Then, he slips back into playful, simple Sunohara-san.

It's in his arc at the beginning of After Story that we can see Youhei as a strong character. His sister Mei reveals a lot about what he can be: caring, protective, and incredibly loving. She sees that he's fallen into a slump, that he won't step forward to keep her safe, and she then tries to bring her brother back to his devoted, defending self. Eventually, it works; he faces up to his nemeses in the soccer club to protect her, in one of the most awesome scenes of the series. There's something in that guy I can really admire, even if he doesn't get there very often. He's got a ways to grow, but he's growing. It's that fighter's spirit, buried deep inside him, that I can really admire.

Plus, he makes a darn good punching bag.


I will never forget Sunohara.  No matter how long and hard I try, that crazy, loud, and obnoxious character will never leave my memory.  Over a year ago, I got back in touch with an old friend.  In the course of the first conversation we'd had in 8 years, this friend told me to watch a show called Clannad.  Last winter, I finally got around to following his advice.  Clannad was my first introduction to anime.  Up until that point, I'd never seen any of it.  My first few minutes of anime didn't leave too large of an impression.  Good music, great art, a girl, a guy – it was nice, it was sweet, ok. And then, I met Sunohara, and things suddenly looked a little different.  I had my second introduction to Clannad, compliments of Sunohara.  I will forever be indebted to him.  There's sweetness, beauty, and depth to Clannad, and just as important, there's humor, and there's Sunohara.  I want to smack him.  I want to hit him.  I cheer when he flies through the air, but that's why I like him.  He is Sunohara, and he fulfills his purpose in life...  

Youhei Sunohara: the idiotic character. Do you know that one guy who seems to be all about his own self and talks big, but when it comes down to it, he’s actually just an annoying punk? Yeah, that guy. Well, that’s about the character that sums up Youhei Sunohara. A lot of people know him. Almost nobody likes him. He skips classes regularly, and he’s probably the only person with a worse academic record than Tomoya. He picks fights, and he seems to be prone to battles he can’t win. He has a little bit too much persistence, especially when it comes to trying to best Tomoyo. His reasoning is generally poor and often useless. He often expects a lot more than he deserves. And of course, he leads us all to believe he’s a total idiot. However, as much of a cause Sunohara is when it comes to disturbing the peace, I simply cannot get over this character.

I’ll try and explain this to the best of my ability… Sunohara just has this certain effect to me when I’m watching Clannad. You know when you’re watching a movie or a TV show, reading a book, etc. and you get all this evidence on a character that leads you to believe you can completely sum them up, and then you think of that someone as completely useless or stupid or dirty or just straight having a negative effect on the other characters or the storyline, but then suddenly that one character, that character that seemed like nothing, does this one amazing, beneficial thing that seems completely out of character, one thing that completely shocks you to the point where you suddenly see that character as something totally different? That is one of my favorite things in the entire world. That’s the thing that could win me over better than anything else. I would admire that character more than ever on that occasion, and I would see them as something different anytime after that. To me, it’s a very powerful effect when that happens, and that’s the exact effect Sunohara had on me. I had watched the first few episodes, and Sunohara had been the obvious comic relief character, but then as I was watching Fuko's arc, Sunohara had had a few, more serious moments. Then, it got to that scene where Sunohara had just about forgotten Fuko completely, but he had that one moment where he said he didn’t hate her, and he was trying as hard as possible to remember what he could even though he couldn’t. This was the first scene of Clannad that made me want to cry, and it was mainly because of Sunohara. Wait………Sunohara?! I was amazed at what was going on. My mind was blown. This character had done something that I did not expect at all, and that’s what made me like him so much. And that’s not the only time it happened. There was that scene where Sugisaka tried to make Nagisa give up on the theater club by trying to get sympathy from Rie's handicap, but Sunohara suddenly busted out and told Nagisa that she didn’t have to listen to Sugisaka's pleas for pity. At the end of his arc in After Story, he ended up running in at the last minute to protect his sister, and he ended up fighting Tomoya, his best friend because of how much he loved his sister and how he felt the need to protect her, even though he had waited until his final chance to do it. The emotion he showed in all of these moments gave me chills, and it made me think that Sunohara was so much more than people viewed him to be.

I was doing the compilation video for the end of the post earlier, and I noticed that some of my favorite moments of Clannad, whether they were funny or serious, were based on interaction with Sunohara. In all, he makes an amazing friend to all of the characters of Clannad, especially Tomoya. He may seem like nothing but a ruffian at first, but he’s really kind and he’s willing to go out of his way for those he truly cares about. In all, Youhei Sunohara to me is a complete amazement................but he’s still an idiot……

A special thanks to everyone who wrote this post with me. Without writers like you guys this blog would not be what it is. The same goes for you readers: thank you for reading and enjoying. Once again, thank you Taylor for your hard work on all these videos that we use. Keep up the good work guys!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The School's Trees: Top Ten Favorite Characters, #7-Tomoyo

Well, I won't deny that this is the post I've been waiting for. Sakagami-san holds a special place in my Clannad-touched heart. Don't worry; I'll show restraint, especially considering that Tomoyo is going to get her own posts from me soon enough. Still, I'm going to put a lot of writing into this post. I won't delve into the details here, but suffice it to say that Tomoyo is one of the big reasons I can connect with Clannad.

Tomoyo's first appearance in the show is not the fun clip above, but it is similar. She's characterized as being very physically strong, despite her appearance. She's quiet, and views things simply. For a while, we don't see very much else from her. She's just in and out, though the major theme that comes across is her strength, and how she views it. Tomoyo wants to be seen like everyone else, but her natural gifts and her past won't have it otherwise.

That's only a very superficial view of Tomoyo, though, and it's not why she's quite possibly my favorite character. No, it's the second half of Clannad (first season) where Tomoyo starts to become the character I love. Or, rather, when we find out who she really is. It starts roughly at the end of Kotomi's arc, in that mishmash of character arcs that sets Tomoyo opposite Kyou, with Nagisa in the background. Tomoyo takes an interest in Tomoya, and we see her character coming out, little by little.

She has a straightforward, insistent approach to things. Tomoyo's strength is a caring heart. She's very quiet about it, but when she cares about someone, she doesn't plan on letting go, regardless of anything that gets in the way. At the same time, she's patient, and doesn't hurry things. When it comes down to it, though, she'll stand her ground. She makes a fantastic foil to Kyou, who is similar in a number of ways, but who is almost diametrically opposed in her manifestation of these qualities. (Like being loud, for instance)

Tomoyo's character is most fully revealed in two episodes: Episode 18 of the first season and Alternate Worlds: Tomoyo. I'll talk about these in depth more in the future, but the most important parts of her character are shown clearly in those episodes, which are really the "Tomoyo Episodes". In both of them, we get to see how Tomoyo views Tomoya, how she cares about him, and what she wants to do for him. They also provide (in my opinion) some of the most powerful scenes in the show, barring certain key moments in After Story.

In short: Tomoyo is awesome. She reminds me of myself sometimes, and there's this beautiful "feel" I get from her, even in her absence from After Story. (Also gonna talk about that, by the way, in my post)

Tomoyo Sakagami: the determined character. Tomoyo is a very well-rounded person with great ambitions and a whole lot of potential. She is a composite of intelligence, instinct, a good sense of right and wrong, and one hell of a flashy kick. COMBO: 1013 HITS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Excuse me. She does her best to act professionally, and this combined with her many other strong aspects makes her the character with the most potential (except for maybe Tomoya who has the ability to make 6+ girls fall for him all at one time). Her potential is realized when, in her alternate world arc, she is shown to reach her goal of saving the sakura trees.

Tomoyo's longing to infinitely reach a higher place in the world is what guides her actions. She is fixed on her goal, and she won’t give it up. That’s why she goes farther than most people. She does her best not to falter, although her emotions can sometimes get the best of her, like when she gives up her chance to keep going farther in the world in order to spend her life happily with Tomoya in her extra arc. Although, I don’t view this as a bad thing, because I believe following her love for Tomoya led her to a better ending than she could have had with any other choice. Tomoyo also seems to have a special instinct that will fire off at random times. It causes her to often move quickly without thinking, but it also may cause her to make involuntary unnecessary actions like kicking somebody with full force or shoving a sausage up somebody’s nose (both in reference to situations with Sunohara, even though, I’ll admit, he deserved them).

Tomoyo is a strong kinetic force that will keep moving forward and blast through all obstacles. Of course, her course may sometimes change, but she is never hindered by this. Tomoyo’s determination certainly resonates, so much that everyone knows of the strong aura about her, and this makes “Her Determination” (which you should be hearing right now)(editor's note:That is, until I (Liam) found the above song and found out it was on Tomoyo After's soundtrack) the perfect theme for Tomoyo. I certainly believe that with a strong mindset and many talents like Tomoyo, anybody can reach their goals. ULTIMATE TOMOYO CHAIN COMBO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There are so many things I wanted to say about Tomoyo:  that I love every single scene that she's in, that she reminds me of my girlfriend, that her fighting skills are awesome and that Sunohara deserved every kick that she ever gave him, that her strength and love have me in awe of her, and that her total obliviousness to the world's standards is beautiful. I could go and attempt to sum it up.

But that doesn't sum it up. This does: I love Sakagami Tomoyo.

A special thanks to all those who helped out with this blog post. Although we were down two people due to various reasons I'm glad we got this one out. Also thank you Clannad Central for getting out this video of Tomoyo!

Apologies are due to you guys for being half a week late. I was at my girlfriend's and her computer doesn't like Blogger. At all. So I had to wait until I got home, which was last night, and even then I had a test to study for (which I don't think I did too well at, but such is life).

Either way, we're back on schedule, and will post the number 7 spot this Friday! Till then!

Monday, October 18, 2010

The School's Trees with Andy: Anime: Where I Came From

I figured that it might actually be a good idea to talk about the anime that I'd seen before Clannad, because it somewhat formed my expectations, and also gives a good picture of what I look for in stories.

Scrapped Princess
This was what kicked off my anime-viewing. Well, technically speaking, I'd seen a few episodes of Cowboy Bebop, as well as Howl's Moving Castle, but that was it. This was the first series which I finished. Scrapped Princess was a fantasy about a princess who had been prophesied to destroy the world on her sixteenth birthday. It followed her older brother (a skilled swordsman) and sister (a powerful mage) as they strove to protect her from the rest of the world. It's a fun series with action, a nicely-built mythology/world, and some cool fantasy mecha action.

The second full series that I watched, Noir is a dark modern drama about two female assassins who both seek answers to their pasts. It has two very well-rounded protagonists, and some very intriguing characters. The whole series is a character study which delves into human nature and the question of sin. Though the pacing throws some people off, I've found it to be one of the best shows of, well, my anime history. The music is spectacular, and the story is powerful.

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood
I started this series well before seeing Clannad, though it continued to run and release after I finished Clannad. It's a very tightly plotted dark fantasy with lots and lots of action and snappy character work. I have yet to see the original Fullmetal, but the flow of storytelling had me hooked after the first few episodes. It was also full of dashes of epicness in a can.

Gankutsuou: The Count of Monte Cristo
This was the final anime that I saw before seeing Clannad. Visually and narratively lavish, it's an adaptation which truly does the book justice, especially in spirit. It's a dark gothic take on the story, with a science fiction twist thrown alongside 19th Century aesthetics. The characters were very carefully made, and the plot was delightfully twisted.

Code Geass
A beautifully elaborate mashup of several different anime tropes (a student at a Japanese high school uses his magical power of mind control to overthrow a tyrannical regime with the help of an army of mecha), Code Geass stars an ensemble cast of characters on both sides of a massive rebellion. There's questions of morality, idealism, and whether power is always a corrupting force.

Those were the anime which formed my expectations of the medium. Incidentally, both Gankutsuou and Noir have made it onto my Top 5 Anime list, alongside Clannad. I'm also gonna throw in the anime which followed, to give you all an idea of how my taste has developed, to give you a picture of where I'm at now.

Cowboy Bebop
I wanted to finish this up, because I'd heard a lot about it, so I did. And, well...I thought it was a masterpiece. It's a beauty to watch the character work, the drifting ambiance, and to hear the fantastic music of the show. It's a space western film noir, and it works fantastically. Not to mention, it's an anime classic. (It was the first anime to appear on network television, I think...or at least the first one geared towards non-kids)

Trigun is amazingly fun, and at the same time heartbreaking. (It and Bebop take up the last two slots on my Top 5 list) It's a show which begins as a fun shounen romp, and then slides into a very serious drama about death, innocence, and peace! (The genre gets very, very close to straight seinen anime near the end) Vash the Stampede also happens to be one of the few completely upright, noble, morally pure protagonists who I actually find to be likable.

This was an interesting fantasy anime that the college anime club exposed me to. A mysterious amnesiac wearing an oni mask (which also looks like Batman's mask...) wakes up in a tribal hut, tended to by a pretty girl ears. It does sorta make sense in the end, though the end itself is somewhat confusing.

At the moment, those are the only anime which I can recall viewing. You may be noticing trends, namely that I like anime which take on a lot of meaning. I prefer anime with strong thematic bents to them, where the point is woven into the story. I like plots which move along and bring us with them. I like characters who you can at least empathize with, people who wrestle with the world.

And that's my anime biography. The story continues, then, with just how I got to know Tomoyo...

Friday, October 15, 2010

The School's Trees with Andy: Meeting Sakagami-san

Like I've mentioned before, Sakagami Tomoyo just sorta snuck up on me, but in the end wound up making Clannad something I could truly relate to. That's a bit of a strong statement, but it's true. Actually getting to that point took a while, though. So, without further ado...

The Beginning: A Very Strong, Beautiful Girl

And thus was one of the first solid introductions I received, regarding Tomoyo. It wasn't much, relatively speaking, but it was something. I wasn't incredibly hooked, to tell the truth. Tomoyo: girl who could literally kick Sunohara's butt. Action girl. Yeah, like I hadn't seen that before. I honestly really didn't pay much attention at that point. There were far more interesting situations to look at.

In other words, I was a Fuko fanboy. Remember that horde of guys who would trample over anyone who posed a threat to the little girl? That...yeah. Could I help it? She was cute, she was persistent, she was kid-like, she was devoted...I liked her. So, my attentions were diverted for that bit. Kotomi's arc, that was when Tomoya's character got fleshed out. Then, something quite unexpected changed my tack on Tomoyo's character.

A Most Unanticipated Event

You know personality quizzes? Those ones like "Which character are you?" and "Which CLANNAD girl are you destined to be with?" Those silly little things. Well, I took one of them. It turns out that this was to totally change my approach to the show.

My quiz result was Kyou.

Those of you who know me in person can bring your eyes back to normal size now. I'm joking. You probably already knew, though, that I got Tomoyo. Well, it made me bug out a little, because I was totally, utterly confused. So...the character who was my closest match was the girl who beat people up? I mean, sure, I had this image of myself as the silent guardian type, really didn't seem like a fit.

Liam told me that, actually, considering the development of her character, it wasn't necessarily all that far off. I kept that in mind, and it sort of colored my viewing for the rest of the series. I decided to start keeping an eye on this Tomoyo character. Well, that just happened to be perfect timing, because right after Kotomi's arc is when she starts to come into prevalence.

First Impressions

I soon discovered that there was a lot more to Tomoyo than I'd previously observed. There was something strong, truly strong, behind that coolness. I began to sense that there was a deeply caring heart in her, and that there was a lot going on. As she slowly began to take interest in Tomoya, I could understand her. I really started to admire her. She had her ambitions, but she was reserved as well. Prudent. Of course, she quickly demonstrated that she wasn't above taking action, either.

Then came the real meat of Tomoyo's arc: the opposing female lead, Kyou.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The School's Trees with Andy: A Roving Artist Has Joined Your Party!

Well hullo folks. I figure that y'all deserve a bit of a proper introduction to the folk known as me. CarpeGuitarrem, CG, Carpe, or you could just call me Andy. ;) Who am I? Well, where to begin? Writer, musician, geek, somewhat intellectual, aiming to be deeply spiritual, and I'm no stranger to kazoku. (You know the rules, and so do I...) I'm such a weird random conbogglement of stuff, I hardly know where to introduce myself. Generally, it's by finding common ground with my audience, we can start with that, and then move on from there.

I suppose that common ground is Clannad, isn't it? After all, it's somewhat the show that we've all gathered here to discuss and commemorate. (Gee, that sounds like the start of a eulogy...that's just not right...) Bear with me. I get random sometimes SQUIRREL! (Okay, I'm not that bad. Joking aside, I'll have to restrain my impulses to go on unrelated tangents, just a tad.) To the Clannad part, Robin!

My Introduction to Clannad

Was, admittedly, something which took a while. Once upon a time, Liam brought me over to his friend Marty's house, for something. Probably an RPG night. Or maybe we were playing Super Smash Brothers Brawl. Or both. At any rate, he wound up showing me the first episode. This was during his Clannad obsession phase, so I naturally was a bit skeptical. I will say that the first episode didn't do much to alleviate my skepticism. I was pretty weirded-out by the genre-bending comedy, and the fact that I couldn't tell if the show was serious or silly. I just couldn't relate.

I didn't pick the show back up, until some time later, when Liam was showing other friends. This was well after he had finished the series, and continued to rant on about its awesomeness. I picked up part of the way through the Fuko arc, and I decided that I liked the show well enough. Eventually I watched through the Kotomi arc. I think that was courtesy of Brandon, actually. I never got around to continuing the series, though. Other things to do, and other shows that gripped me more strongly. (I really hope I haven't engendered everlasting hatred with any of you by this point, but oh well. Too late for that.)

It took Brandon and another Clannad-obsessed friend to get me to finish the series, when they came to visit my house and introduced my siblings to the series. Well, they liked it, and we watched the entire thing over the course of the summer. And I decided that I really did like the show, in fact, that it ranked among my top anime. There were some things in the first season that really hit home for me, and sealed the deal. Then I started rewatching it with my university's anime club, and found out that it's a very elaborately written show. So, I've a lot of respect for it, even when it doesn't connect as much with me as with other people.

My Take on Clannad

Like I said, I know a lot of people who connect far more strongly with Clannad than I do. I think it's just a personality thing. Don't get me wrong--After Story twisted my gut like none other, it hurt. I didn't find myself moved to tears by the normal parts, though. While I like Nagisa's story, and find her to be a nice character, that's not (in a sense) where my Clannad heart lies. In fact, that'll be the subject of my posts to come.

I think that one of the appeals of the show is that it approaches its subject from many different angles. That's one of the benefits of the first season being a "harem anime", and of the source material being a visual novel. Some will connect better with different angles. Obviously, since Nagisa is the clear favored female character in the show (the others' material being greatly cut out, compared to the visual novel), most people relate to her best. That, and she's likeable to just about anyone.

Me, I'm a bit different. No, I didn't hate Nagisa. I liked Nagisa. It's just that...she never really jumped out and struck me as someone whom I could understand and connect with. It's possible that this is why I took so long to connect with Clannad. For me, it took a good amount of time into the series to find someone I really could connect with, and that's what my series of posts is going to be about.

You can guess, or you can just watch the following clip. As one of the first things I saw of Clannad, it kinda weirded me out. Now, I just think it's awesome.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The School's Trees: Top Ten Favorite Characters, #8-Yoshino Yusuke

"This is the best gift I can give you right now. A formless gift called memory."
Who doesn't have a soft spot for Yuusuke's idealistic speeches? They're one of the majorly unique aspects of his character (besides his whole dual career of rock star and electrician). There's not really too much for me to say about him that isn't very obvious just by seeing him on the show: he's a really cool guy with heavily idealistic speeches, and being a good amount idealistic myself, I'm a big fan. Yuusuke also proves to be a great mentor to Tomoya throughout his adult life, and he's got a scene that might make my top 10 for touching scenes in Clannad (at the very least, it's in the top 20, I'd guess). The scene late in the series (I think Episode 21 of After Story, actually) where Yuusuke makes Tomoya exchange screwdrivers so that he will have to come back always gets me, and I'm not too sure why. Maybe it's just the whole idea of commitment: one of the biggest things I like about Clannad is the promotion of making commitments and sticking to them. Yuusuke has Tomoya make a commitment, and the screwdriver is the reminder that will make him stick to it. That importance of commitment is just another aspect of Yuusuke's idealism, I think, which is probably my favorite thing about him.

In a lot of ways Yoshino's relationship with Tomoya reminds me of my friendship with Andy: a strong brotherly influence that never gives up, regardless of how much I anger him. I remember once a few years ago I had done something to really anger Andy, like for him to come and beat the shit out of me if he so chose. Considering that we were roommates at the time it would be a pretty easy thing to do, and I knew it. And it wasn't that I wanted to stop him, far from it. I knew I would deserve it, and even wanted him to do it. So I just waited in our room, thinking about the fact that he was gonna be gone soon, studying abroad, and what I wanted to do with him. And about what he would do to me for what I'd done. He walked into the room, and I asked if he wanted to play some DnD for the last time in goodness knows how long. Andy kinda stared at me, and said OK. We sat down, rolled out our geekiness, and played our hearts out. I don't think I'll ever forget the look that he got on his face before he told me he'd play. It was thoroughly indescribable, so I'm sorry that I can't be more specific here. All I can say is that, looking back, I knew that I was his brother, that even though he was pissed off at me he wanted to have fun with me more (for whatever reason), and so he put aside whatever he had, and sat down to have fun.

And that is what I think Yoshino and Tomoya's friendship is about. To say anymore would be folly.

Yusuke-san is one of the Clannad characters who doesn't truly come into his own until After Story. His first appearance, at Ibuki Kouko's wedding, yields very little information about his character. We see more sides of Yoshino emerge, though, as the story continues. We find out that he was once a famous musician, and that he has become a philosophizing electrician. His dramatic seriousness gives a certain levity to the series.

Once After Story begins, Yoshino's true character enters the show. His role in the series is easily on par with other major characters such as Akio and Sanae. After Story is in part about Tomoya finding a family: he finds new family, and connects with old family. Of his new family, Akio provides the role of a father, and Sanae the role of a mother. What about Yoshino? He mentors Tomoya, not only in his job but in his life. I don't know if Tomoya had any siblings, but Yoshino becomes what seems to be the big brother that Tomoya never had.

Yoshino has also hit rock bottom in his past, which helps him to connect with Tomoya through the tragedy in After Story. The likeness between the two is striking at times; Yoshino often seems like a more matured version of Tomoya. I don't personally think it's any sort of accident that they look remarkably similar to one another. This is the main reason why I like Yoshino: he is the stability that Tomoya needs, and he's been down Tomoya's road before. Now, he passes along the formless gift of memory, which in the end (though it's all he has to give) is the greatest gift of all.

Take silent and reserved, mix it with a hidden philosopher, and you have the character in Clannad known as Yoshino.  When I think of Yoshino, one scene stands out clearly in my mind.  Imagine a bright summer day.  Add the smell of freshly torn grass and a hint of dust, a baseball field, and fans cheering enthusiastically on the sidelines.  The sound of a ball clanging echoes across the park, and suddenly, everything goes still.  Light surrounds the batter and he slowly begins to walk forward.  “Children,” he intones.  “This is the best I can give you right now, a gift without form called memory.  I don’t have money.  I can’t buy you anything with form.  Even so….”  
“Out!”  The voice of the umpire rings across the field, cutting off the stream of words.  
This scene stands out in my mind when I think of Yoshino, but in truth, Yoshino gives much more to Clannad then a random speech in the middle of a baseball game.  Yoshino is the quiet voice of reason.  He is the voice that speaks up and gives answers when none are expected.  When I watched Clannad, Yoshino was a character who faded into the backround as I concentrated on the other twisting elements of the story.  As I went through and wrote up this piece, I realized that I liked Yoshino because he was able to do that.  He could arise quietly, speak his piece, make me nod my head in agreement, and then fade back away until he was needed once more. For me, Yoshino is the steady, solid presence of Clannad.   

Yusuke Yoshino: the memorable character. I have trouble trying to find words to describe how much this character means to me personally. He is the character from Clannad that I aspire to be most like. I think he makes a perfect role model for the other characters, especially Tomoya (seeing as they are quite alike), because he encourages everybody in their goals, but he also doesn’t falsely get their hopes up when he sees complications. He is willing to speak his mind, often doing it in a poetic manner. He never seems to get real angry or point fingers when somebody makes a mistake but instead he gives constructive criticism in hopes that they will work to fix their issues next time around.

As is the case with many of the other adult figures of Clannad, Yusuke’s words are often humor-coated wisdom. He may sometimes turn one subject in to a speech that seems completely unnecessary or even draw a little too much attention to his self in public places, but the awkwardness that comes with his words helps express his point better and show who Yusuke really is. He has a strong sense of moral, and his actions show that he believes in being with loved ones and creating memorable moments, as he will never pass up a chance to make new memories.

Perhaps Yusuke's morals are so strong because he knows what it is like to give them up. In Yusuke’s back story, which I believe to be one of the most elaborate and also meaningful in Clannad, it is shown that Yusuke was once a popular rock star who made music because it was his passion. There was a point in time where his reason for making music changed because he saw that others were somewhat dependent on him, but when his reason changed, his music did also. Yusuke’s popularity plummeted, and he was soon left alone with music that didn’t even seem like his. After almost giving up completely, Yusuke received encouragement from Kouko Ibuki, who would later become his wife, and realized that he should continue playing music, if not only for himself, for her also. After giving up and reclaiming his passion, moral, and being, he found himself standing that much stronger in them. He stands by what he says because he knows you can’t live a certain way because others wish for you to live that way. One of the most admirable aspects of Yusuke is that he does what he does because it is what he wishes to do.

As I said before, I feel a personal connection with Yusuke Yoshino because he is strong in his own way, colorful, and his morals are sound. He reflects the ups and downs that life has and also the expectations that people should have for their selves.

A thanks to all the good people who helped me compile this stuff. Although we were a little late this time I think we all wrote quite well, and only hope that we can do the next week this much credit.

Apologies for the late post, we all had quite a few things to do, and then I got sick, and yeah...this week hasn't been too nice as far as academics are concerned. For anyone, apparently. Oh well.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

The School's Trees: Top Ten Favorite Characters, Number 9: Sanae Furukawa

The door slides. We step in.  The shop before us is deserted.  We walk forward with Tomoya and gaze down at the trays of bread laid out next to the register.  We follow his gaze.  “That's this week's new release.”  A voice breaks the quiet cheerfully, and we turn with Tomoya and gaze up.  A girl, hair hanging down on either side of her face, stands there smiling.  “Please try one if you like,” she goes on.  “You don't have to pay, since they're left over.”  And that is how we meet Sanae, the happy, beautiful mother of Nagisa who offers never-before-heard-of bread concoctions to strangers one minute, and then flees in tears the next.  Somehow, this sweet, girlish character with her open smile and caring heart captured me.  I never decided to like her.  I simply watched, a little disbelieving, as she ran from the Furukawa Bakery crying in the first scene, and then appeared in the next one, cheerful and ready to dole out ridiculous names to Tomoya.  Sanae adds something important to Clannad.  Her mischievousness, her sweet nature, her unguarded love, and most of all her acceptance of the people around her, touches those she meets and binds together those she loves.  Sanae cares for people because of both who they are, and who she believes they will become.  By accepting others and not judging them harshly, Sanae gives those around her an  invaluable freedom.  She offers them the opportunity to be themselves.  This is her gift to Clannad.  

Sanae Furukawa: the caring character. Sanae is the perfect mix of youth, beauty, womanly instinct, and care. The reason I love Sanae so much is because her care and consideration for others, both in and outside of her family, is amazing. Whether someone needs a place to stay, a fake girlfriend, or just a little bit of inspiration, Sanae is always there to help. Sanae has a voice that stands out even though it is physically soft. She may not always have a whole lot to say on a subject, but when she does say something her wisdom and care are perfectly united. She never seems to have a bad response, and a lot of the time it seems like she has the best response. I can’t think of any situation where her opinions or decisions have caused somebody else trouble... except for maybe her choice to continue making bread. Her bread seems to be her biggest fault as people often insult it (including her husband) and are often felled by it. Her bread is probably better being used as decorative ornaments as it’s generally okay for as long as you’re only looking at it.

Sanae is a very strong character, and she’s willing to stay strong for those around her. She knows when she is being depended on, and she won’t break down or give up. When Nagisa died giving birth to Ushio, Sanae and Akio started taking care of Ushio. For the next five years, Sanae held back sorrowful tears because she knew that Ushio needed her.

All the characteristics of Sanae make her the perfect motherly character of Clannad.

"Watashi no pan...watashi no pan..."
When you hear those words, you know there's over-exaggerated drama on the way.
That's, of course, the feature of Sanae that comes to mind first. But that's not all, not by a long shot. How could one forget the mix-ups of her being Nagisa's older sister, or the awkward incident when she plays Sunohara's girlfriend?
For the majority of the series, Sanae is basically a humorous character, and her bread-based shouts are one of the show's iconic gags. But she's not all fun and games. Her emotional parts can be some of the most heartbreaking in the series. Personally, what really strikes me is the scene late in After Story, following Tomoya's reunion with Ushio. Tomoya wakes up in the middle of the night and overhears a conversation between Akio and Sanae, where Sanae cries for the first time after Nagisa's death. I think her entire power in the show is summarized in that one scene. And that's why Sanae is a pretty great character (though there are greater ones, as you'll see in the upcoming weeks).

I love Furukawa Sanae. I really, really do. (And her pastries, of course, but that's another matter altogether.) We can easily see some of Nagisa's traits in her, particularly her deeply caring nature, and her fragile self-confidence (though she is very self-assured when she has someone backing her confidence up. She's overdramatic in the most lovable way possible, and she cares deeply about her husband Akio. She's perky, sweet, and she makes fantastic pastries. She also happens to be quite cute and youthful.

Beyond the fantastically awkward situations which the last point in particular leads to, Sanae serves as a stable and solid character. She's always a support for the rest of the characters, a strong mother. Her personality, though it doesn't directly reflect this strength at first seeming, is one of the most powerful. And, really, I can't say much more than this scene right here...

Okay, I know Wolfsbane already linked it. But I feel that it epitomizes the true character of Furukawa Sanae. She takes her joy from giving love to others, and from this constant gift, she draws her strength. She's constantly thinking of everyone she loves, and fears that she can't give them enough. She gives the best that she can, but is always nervous that it will be insufficient. She strives to be strong, so that others can live on. And, in the end, it's Akio who knows what she has to deal with, that she still has to fall back on someone for support. Her kazoku. That's why I like Sanae, and it took me some writing to realize that I truly did like her this much. She's not an obviously powerful character, but she's one of the most powerful characters in the show.

There's a lot I can say about Sanae. Tons. I can go and talk about the girlfriend situation with Sunohara, her crying on Akio's shoulder, or those abominable things she thinks are pastries. But none of those define Sanae in my mind.

But this does:

At this point I couldn't help but understand Sanae, if only because I"m paranoid. Aren't her "bumps" just a little too carefully planned? The whole thing seems so canned, so unnatural, but yet so bloody hilarious that I can only conclude one thing: Sanae knew what was going on and went along with it. The joke's on us. From this incident I can only conclude that Sanae and Akio are perfectly suited for each other, because they really are both practical jokers, it's just that Akio's far more obvious. But Sanae wins out in the end, because she gets to laugh at us with her joke while we roll our eyes and think she's being over-emotional once again. Whatta dirty rotten trick!

I approve. Intensely. Go Sanae!

I'd like to thank all the people who helped me come up with this post for all the people who read. I'm grateful to work with such talented people that God provides me, and I hope that that continues. 

Once again, thank you Clannad Central and Taylor for giving us our videos as we need them. Your awesomeness is uncontested.