Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Rage and Peace: Tomoya and Kyou

Like I've mentioned before, Kyou is a character I've had to come to terms with after a while. I think it's just something about tsundere characters that causes me to inherently mistrust them. I think I tend to view those characters as manipulative to some degree, and I tend to have little pity when they make emotional problems for themselves. When I rewatched the series, though, I began to develop just that: sympathy for Kyou, and for everything she has to put up with.

Violent Tempests
Really, you can wrap it all up in this scene, right here. If you see this scene and think "Gee, I don't get Kyou at all. She just needs to get over it!" then you probably don't like the Kyou arc. That used to be me. When I gave it a second look, though, I really began to understand just what Kyou was all about. And it's really contained right here, in this video.

Kyou's heart is powerful, and there's a lot of things she wants. Kyou's greatest struggle is trying to understand how to reconcile those desires. She's literally torn between her and her sister, between wanting her sister to find happiness and her own attraction to Tomoya. This scene is where it all comes to a head. Kyou herself gives Tomoya the command to stay away from her, so that Ryou can be happy. She then leaves him to follow up on it.

It's a very different type of relationship from the Tomoyo or the Nagisa pairings. It's tumultuous and unsteady and very impassioned. It demands action from Tomoya. In the end, I can find that good and interesting as well. Every relationship, after all, reaches a sort of balance from one end of the spectrum to the other. The Tomoyo relationship began peacefully, and turned stormy, eventually stabilizing when Tomoya made his decision to grow up and take responsibility for his own life. The Kyou relationship begins violently, but everything clears up when Tomoya takes responsibility for his relationships, and chooses Kyou.

Stagnant Flames
This ending sees Tomoya in a really sticky situation. Youhei, in one of his rare moments of incredible intelligence and insight, rather sticks it to Tomoya for keeping it in this state. Kyou and Ryou both like Tomoya, and he's sort of trying to dance around the issue, pushing it off to avoid hurting them. He doesn't want to commit to something, and cause pain. Youhei points out that the longer he keeps it up, the more it'll hurt when he has to make a choice.

This is the significant point of the Kyou episode. With so many high-strung emotions going every which way on Kyou's part, there has to be a choice made. She's depending on Tomoya to choose, because it really is his call to make. And, compared to Tomoyo's chapter, what Tomoya winds up doing is rather pain-free. It's a neat resolution.

In fact, it's Kyou that goes through the most sacrifice here. She winds up disguising herself as her sister, on Ryou's suggestion, just to hear the truth from Tomoya. And it provides an avenue for Tomoya to make up for his mistakes. He makes his commitment, and this decision leads rather smoothly to the final resolution...

There's something interesting to be seen here, too, amidst the simple and happy ending. It's Kyou and what she says. She asks Tomoya if he really thinks she was the "right choice". She then tells him that she'll rest easy if he truly gets angry at that suggestion. It says a lot about Kyou. She's in reality a rather insecure person. With her passionate heart jerking her this way and that, she can't trust anyone else to stay with her. She needs reassurance. Since the language she speaks best is the passions of the heart, anger is simply another signal, for her. If Tomoya gets angry, that tells her that he really means what he says.

Oh, and there's one other video that I think would close this post nicely. It sums up Kyou pretty dang well.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Top Ten Characters, Real Number 1: Tomoya!

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

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

He's also a jerk.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We've all got a chance.... 

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

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.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Heya People

Liam Francis Traveler here, with a request. I'm currently heading up the Ushio Okazaki fanpage on Facebook, and I've just entered a competition with the other fansites to see who can get the most votes. Here's what we're at right now:
1. Kotomi: 67 Fans
2. Nagisa: 59 Fans
3. Fuko: 57 Fans
4. Ushio: 55 Fans (
5. Tomoyo: 55 Fans
6. Kyou: 50 Fans
7. Yukine: 34 Fans

Ushio is my favorite character. WHAT IS SHE DOING 3RD PLACE?? So do me a favor. Log into Facebook, and click on that link that's up there, and LIKE the page. Yes, I removed the option of clicking on the other links. That was on purpose. *evil smile*


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

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.