Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Trust of a Child

As I said before, this is where things actually take off. This is After Story, one of the most moving masterpieces of all time, this is....

Baseball? What?

Yes, the writers put us into a BASEBALL game at the start, with Tomoya being relied upon to supply the players. By now I'd gotten used to the writers taking what would normally be filler and making it crucial to the plot, so I didn't mind. But baseball? What did these guys have in mind this time?


The last few minutes of this opening episode scream foreshadowing. Tomoya is put into a situation where only he can save the hopes and dreams of his friends, with Nagisa's success hanging on his willingness to try? Gosh, that sounds so familiar!  That sounds like Nagisa dying and Tomoya only having to make a wish... only here, he doesn't choke. What saves Tomoya here is that Nagisa is alive and waiting for him. And so he musters it up into one shot, and BAM! Out of the park the ball goes, and Nagisa comes back home. The family has won, because Tomoya believed.

The writers have been setting up this scenario over and over again, trying to tell you in all the ways they can without actually telling you what's going to happen. Remember the basketball scene? Where Tomoya shot and made the basket? That's another time the writers put the foreshadowing on heavy. The beginning is a mirror of the ending, making a beautiful symmetry. Seriously, everything lines up. Anyway, on to more serious issues.

Sunohara's Arc
This is the arc that deals with Tomoya's cruelty towards Sunohara. Tomoya has always been a bit of a prankster, but his shenanigans towards Sunohara have always been particularly hurtful, and it comes to a head here. What on earth prompted Tomoya to do this to Sunohara in the first place? I personally think this scene from the Afterstory Bonus Episode

Could it be that part of Tomoya's intentions in telling Sunohara that Sanae is Nagisa's sister is some form of revenge for having to watch Sunohara play a cruel prank on Kyou? I'd like to say that it's more than half of it. Tomoya really hated what happened there, and has probably held a grudge against Sunohara ever since then, and lost all pity for Sunohara. So, yeah, this really is Tomoya's revenge. And boy, is it a big one. Tomoya lies to Sunohara and tells him that he's dating Mei, and that starts a chain of events leading up to this:

What I love about this scene is that most of what Tomoya is saying is self-reflective. He's not just talking to Sunohara here, but himself. Tomoya is just as afraid of being what Sunohara is, but has become just like him: bitter and cruel. In fact, Tomoya has become worse than Sunohara in his attempts to get even. He really enjoys hurting Sunohara because he believes that Sunohara's too soft and needs to toughen up.

But the words I thought it was alright if it was with you! are enough to jolt Tomoya out of his cruelty. And wouldn't it jolt you? To be told that all the times that your friend has listened to all your dumb pranks was because he trusted you enough to suspend reason itself? I know that would change me, and it changes Tomoya. From here on out he'll never play pranks again, and becomes quite gentle.

OK, one more time just for the hell of it!
Why's this so important? Because if Tomoya hadn't changed here, he may have still had that mean streak with Ushio around. Imagine someone with Sunohara's level of trust in Tomoya, but they're much younger, and you have Ushio. Without this pivotal moment Tomoya may have permanently damaged Ushio. What, you don't think Tomoya is capable of that? After watching him cruelly torturing his friend Sunohara throughout the entirety of this show, even though Sunohara sees more good in Tomoya than Tomoya does in himself? Tomoya's capable, and at the point of his life where Ushio meets him he's even weaker than he is now, so he'd be willing. Without this arc Tomoya would have destroyed Ushio. 

Still not convinced? Fine. Sunohara relies upon Tomoya as a child does a father to keep him out of harm's way, to give him advice on how to deal with girls, and to be there when he needs him. He's also as annoying as a child, acts like a child, and overall needs as much guidance (and beatings) as a child without ritalin. When you think about it, all those humorous moments with Sunohara are actually very dark humor, because each and everyone of them attests to Tomoya's failure. The fact that Tomoya doesn't have a good example from his father is part of the point. Tomoya is only acting as he sees his father acting. But here he's shown that it's not enough to imitate your father, you have to be yourself. Well, he's shown that partially. The  rest of that character development comes along after Nagisa dies. But for now, this is enough for Tomoya and for us.

This arc is one of the reasons I love this show so much: it's willing to change the status quo. While Tomoya never stops playing around with Sunohara his level of cruelty drops, meaning that half of the plots that could have been started (Tomoya being a cruel bastard to person x) are no longer possible. It was a bold move, but a good one. Even today when I watch this arc I'm amazed that they took something as "subtle" and long standing as Tomoya's pranks and ended them, because without this change Tomoya and his world wouldn't have been nearly as believable, because people do change over time. Nagisa stops doubting herself. Akio opens up. Tomoyo stops being a gang leader. Kyou finally becomes gentle. Kotomi gains confidence. But all these changes happen because of experiences that teach them that what they're doing now isn't good enough. That change is needed. That they must break out of their ruts and become something new.

That they must become human. 

A special thanks to the Clannad Fanpage for graciously uploading all the videos that I've used in this post. Taylor went through a few hoops to get me this stuff, and I'm grateful for the time and effort he put into these videos. I'm also grateful to all the people out there with Clannad blogs whom I've "borrowed" pictures from. Your work makes this blog possible, even if you don't know it. 

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Music of Clannad

I'm a big fan of music overall, so when I watch an anime, I pay attention to the music.  And when I say music, I don't mean just the openings and endings.  I mean the background music: all those themes played in the background that add to the characters or the drama or just the feel of the show.  There are many anime soundtracks that I find to be stunning musically and that work perfectly with the anime itself.  For instance, Michiru Oshima's compositions (performed by the Russian Philharmonic Orchestra) for the original Fullmetal Alchemist portray excellently the tender brotherly love so important to the series and the harsh military reality that is ever present.  Tenmon's subtle piano work in Makoto Shinkai's films, especially Voices of a Distant Star (Hoshi no koe), are beautiful and add to the calm yet emotionally poignant aura of the films.  Then there's Susumu Hirasawa's intriguing electronic pieces, especially in the soundtrack to Satoshi Kon's film Paprika.  Finally, the soundtrack to Air, another anime based on a visual novel, from the same creators as those of Clannad, includes some gorgeous piano-based pieces, such as my favorite, "Natsukage."

But amid all of these wonderfully made soundtracks, Clannad stands out.  When you experience something emotional, your mind can connect different parts of the moment to that emotion, and I think Clannad's music does that.  On its own, it is beautiful, varied, and well-made.  After watching the show, listening to the music brings back all sorts of emotional memories, and then the power of the music transcends words.

The team of Shinji Orito, Magome Togoshi, and Jun Maeda created a stunning collection of pieces for the visual novel that were then worked into the anime (though some pieces might have been made only for the anime; I don't know for certain).  First of all, there are the character themes.  The heroines have their own pieces: Fuko has "Hurry, Starfish"; Kyou has "Like the Wind"; Tomoyo has "Her Determination"; Kotomi has "Etude pour les petites supercordes"; Yukine has "Tea in the Reference Room."  Shinji Orito (who wrote Fuko's,  Tomoyo's, and Kotomi's) and Magome Togoshi (who wrote Kyou's and Yukine's) did a great job capturing the spirit of each character in their individual themes.  But there's still one heroine's theme left, a theme which cannot be topped:

Nagisa's theme, simply titled "Nagisa," is possibly one of the most beautiful songs I've ever heard.  When just listening to the song, it may seem like a nice piano piece, but nothing too mind-blowing.  After watching the entire anime and truly connecting with the character, this song goes beyond powerful.  If you really felt emotion while watching this show, then I think this song will be connected to your emotion in an indescribable way.  That's just the power of it.  And you can thank Jun Maeda for this song; he created the scenario for the Clannad visual novel (along with Air and Kanon before it, among others), and he wrote some of the most beautiful songs from it; if you think about it, he's basically the creator of Clannad.

I think the majority of really powerful songs in Clannad where written by Jun Maeda.  He created such masterful pieces as "To the Same Heights" (which is the basis for a good part of the melody of the After Story opening song), "Distant Years," and the variations on Nagisa's theme, "Nagisa ~ Farewell at the Foot of the Hill" and the song from Episode 22 of After Story (which he also wrote lyrics to), "Chiisana Te No Hira."  He also wrote one of my other favorite songs from Clannad: "The Place Where Wishes Come True."  I especially like the second, longer version of it:

Now, I know I may be boring some of you with my ranting about music.  I'm sorry if I am.  But I love music, and I especially love the music of Clannad.  It is so powerful, beautiful, and emotional.  For me, Clannad is the most emotional series I've ever watched; it's the only thing I can ever remember watching that made me cry (and continues to make me cry); that means that the music is connected to that, for me, so the music is some of the most emotional music I've ever heard.  If you've watched all of Clannad, and you've felt genuine emotion during it, I'd encourage you to listen to the songs I've embedded in here, and maybe follow some of the links.  I think then you'd understand what I mean by the emotion connected to these songs.

And I can't end a post on an anime's music without discussing the openings and closings.  Here's the quick rundown: the opening of Clannad is "Mag Mell -cuckool mix-" by Eufonius; the ending is "Dango Daikazoku" by Chata.  The opening of After Story is "Toki o Kizamu Uta" by Lia, and the ending is "Torch" by Lia.  Personally, I like the openings of both (and I'll admit, the After Story opening is the better of the two), but I don't like the ending of After Story.  It's too happy and peppy for a show so heavy on drama.  After some of the truly emotional episodes (like Nagisa's death, Tomoya's reunion with Ushio, and the collapse of both of them in the snow), it feels terrible; I read one reviewer describe it as a "sin" to keep that song as the ending.  While that might be little extreme, I definitely dislike that song, and after those very powerful episodes, I even despise it.  But without a doubt, my favorite song from all of Clannad is the first closing: "Dango Daikazoku."  I think it sums up the show perfectly, and its melody is based on Nagisa's theme.  It's my official favorite song of all time.

Thanks for reading this informational rant.  God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: Image is from Google Image Search.  All videos were found on YouTube; I don't know the creators of these videos, and I did not ask their permission to link to them or embed them here.  If they run across this and wish me to remove their videos from this post, I will be sad, but I will comply with their wishes.

My Apologies

I must apologize here for not getting to my next post yet. Life seems to have caught up with me, and I will be so busy in the next couple of weeks that I probably won't be able to get to it then either (at least not for another week). I do hope to get back to posting on a regular basis soon, though.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Afterstory: The Beginning (Extra Post)

Clannad Afterstory is where Clannad truly begins. Period. Everything up to this point has been preparation for the story of Tomoya and Nagisa. Think of Clannad as a chapter in a Russian novel. It tells you who everyone is, what their occupations, their hangups, even a bunch of odd stories about them. The dead Russians did this for two reasons: 1) It's a long winter in Russia, and 2) So that when the **** hits the fan you know who you're dealing with, and you know why the problems are problems. After all this time it's my favored approach to story-telling, so I approve of the set up. I'll cover a few basic points:

Afterstory is Serious
Make no mistake.  Afterstory is about facing the self within. And this means that you're gonna face some really ugly stuff. Tomoya's flaws become the focus. We look at his cruelty. We look at his lack of forgiveness, his crappy relationship with his father, and all the things that get hurt with it. Gone are the days of highschool where everyone was happy and attempting to make a life together. Highschool is over and the characters go out to face the world, and in turn themselves. The Kingdom of God is within and without, and Tomoya has to accept that. 

Afterstory Is Sad

There are very few things that I cry at. Most people who know me will admit that while I'm sentimental I'm a man of few tears over things.

I bawled like a baby at Afterstory. It hit every single nerve that I had, and kept hitting them. The story takes a turn for the incredibly tragic, as Tomoya is forced to face similar events to the ones that had originally defined him. I cried for joy when Tomoya proposed, I cried in sheer despair when Nagisa died, and I cried in anger when Ushio died. Oh, that's right, did I mention SPOILERS?

From now on I won't pretend to cover up the spoilers. Nagisa and Ushio die, and somehow Ushio makes it possible for Tomoya to ask for Nagisa back. I'll start talking about things in relation to the end explicitly, and at the end I'll tie up the loose ends I made in the first half, and you'll be forced to look at things from my perspective. Not that it's a bad one, mind you. But it's still mine.

THERE. The others may post as they will now. SPOILER BAN LIFTED!

Clannad is Family

Well, no shit sherlock, you might say. But no, really. Tomoya's family has been chosen, for better or worse, and this anime follows the decisions that Tomoya and his familiy have chosen. The entirety of this anime is about two things: God and family.

Clannad is About God
Too many things add up at the right time. Tomoya meets Nagisa the day he wants to change. Nagisa is repeating a year and needs reassurance. Fuko just happens to meet Tomoya when she wants to get her goal accomplished, and so on. And eventually Tomoya is asked if he wants Nagisa. Oh yes, he's definitely asked. Maybe not asked in the way that you and I think of as asking, but there is a question that he answers.  The only one capable of answering these things adequately is God, a being who IS Being, who is Family. 

All this and more will be covered in the following weeks, as we delve into the story of Tomoya Okazaki. So grab on to your seats, a box of tissues, and an extra pair of eyes, and we'll dive in! Unlike Clannad, which I covered from memory, I'll be re-watching Afterstory, because there's just so much  there...that and I usually don't remember the first half of Afterstory. And once you get in that far....episode 12. That's all I'll say.

Here's the general rundown of what I'll be covering in the next few weeks:

Opening/Sunohara Arc
Gang Arc
Cat Boy Arc
The Week of Tears (The Proposal, The Death, and The Meeting)
The End (With the "One Year Before" Episode)

Keep reading, guys! You're now into the real story. Afterstory. 

A thanks to the people who have images up on the web that I randomly steal from . I hope you can forgive my "borrowing", and I hope that people do the same from me. 

坂上智代 (Sakagami Tomoyo)


"The answer I've found is family...I don't expect others to accept it, but it's the answer I've found for myself."

Sakagami Tomoyo is a often-seen minor character who has some extra prominence in Episodes 17 and 18 of Clannad.  She has a somewhat background story arc, involving her backstory and her running for student council president.

(Like with Kyou, I know Tomoyo has an Alternate World episode, but I will not be mentioning that in this post; it may be discussed in a separate post later).


Tomoyo is high school junior with a knack for physical strength and athletic prowess; she's somewhat of a strong, silent type.  While she is not as reserved and untalkative as, say, Kotomi, she doesn't seem to be a fan of unnecessary conversation: her speech is usually direct and to the point.  Her most well-known characteristic is her extraordinary strength and athletic ability: she doesn't even break a sweat when disposing of some aggressive bikers (or an annoying Sunohara) with a flurry of quick kicks, and almost every sports team or club wants her as a member.  While she has an aggressive side, her violent acts are normally out of self-defense, against gang members, bikers, or crude high school boys.  She's also a very determined young woman (hence her theme song's title: "Her Determination"), in terms of her student council aspirations and in terms of protecting her friends. 

Overall, her speech-conservative, physically powerful, and protectively determined self can be seen in her first appearance:


As shown in the video above, Tomoyo first appears to defend the school from some aggressive bikers.  After seeing this display of fighting prowess, Sunohara decides that Tomoyo is too strong to be a girl, and thus, she must be a guy.  This nonsensical idea leads to many awkward scenes between the two of them (with Tomoya in the background), usually ending in Sunohara's destruction under a volley of kicks.  Throughout all these scenes, Tomoyo is despaired by the fact that no one treats her like a girl; she doesn't want to be treated like a guy, but Sunohara keeps doing that, so she is noticeably annoyed (his manner of going about it isn't too suave either).  All this culminates in the following hilarious scene of Sunohara's complete destruction at Tomoyo's feet:

Following this series of humorous incidents (which can be seen here, here, here, here, here, and above), Tomoyo takes more of a backstage until after Kotomi's arc.  Then we learn that she is working to be elected as president of the student council.  To get either respectability or practice for being president, she decides to start by correcting the school's delinquency problem.  Her way to do that?  Go visit the two worst delinquents (Tomoya and Sunohara) and wake them up every morning so that they won't be late to class. 

Her focus turns more towards Tomoya rather than Sunohara (though she still wakes him up as well).  At one point, she even say she is possibly "interested" in Tomoya.  That feeling never becomes too strong, though; their most serious moment is when Tomoyo explains her reasons for wanting to become student council president: to save the cherry trees.

Her backstory (seen above) is summarized thus: when she was younger, she became involved in gang violence, to the point of being a gang leader; her fighting prowess let her easily dominate any competitors.  She had a younger brother, though, who saw this violent persona, and it was not a good model for him.  As she admits, she was not a good older sister to him.  Due to a variety of circumstances (including her fighting, I'm guessing), Tomoyo's parents become cold and even disdainful towards each other, and they declare that they are going to get a divorce.  Tomoyo's younger brother can't handle that, so he tells them he will jump off a bridge if they go through with it...and he makes good on his word.  Thankfully, he survives the jump, and his radical action knocks a message into the heads of the Sakagami household: family is the most important thing.  The parents realize this and reject their plans for a divorce, and Tomoyo rejects her gang ways.  As her brother is recovering, the entire family would walk down a path lined with cherry trees, and her brother would comment on how he wished they'd always have family moments like this.

Cut to the present, where some people want to cut down these cherry trees.  Tomoyo won't have that, so she strives to be student council president in order to save the trees (the school's trees, since they are located on a hill leading to the school), those trees that, for her, represent the sort of re-creation of her family.  As she's explaining all this, Tomoyo offers Tomoya wise words about family (seen in the above video and described in the subsequent sections of this post).

Because of Tomoyo's athletic ability, all the sports teams and clubs have been wanting her to join, and she's been rejecting them.  Tomoya thinks, though, that agreeing to play matches against these clubs (and thoroughly defeating them) could boost her reputation and help her election campaign (since her background as a gang leader has been hurting her reputation).  During one of these matches, a tennis match, Nagisa is hit by a stray ball, and Tomoya becomes strongly protective of her, and he helps her to medical help.

Following this, Tomoyo fades more into the background.  She wins the election and becomes student council president.  She works to save the cherry trees, and she helps with the drama club.  Misae, Sunohara'sYukine, Sunohara, and others from a rival gang.  When Nagisa has to repeat her senior year yet again, she ends up being in the same class as Tomoyo for a year.  At the New Year's Party get-together, Tomoyo is only present via postcard.  Her final shot shows her standing on a beach, her hair blowing in the oceanic breeze.

 Effect on Main Plot

Like Kyou and Ryou, Tomoyo is another girl whose feelings Tomoya rejects in favor of Nagisa, although Tomoyo's interest seems weaker than theirs.  She provides some support for Nagisa's drama club, especially with her involvement in the student council.  She's there as a friend when Nagisa has to repeat her senior year the second time.  Overall, her most direct connection to Nagisa and Tomoya's relationship would be the tennis match mentioned above, where Tomoya, in actions rather than words, declares his commitment to Nagisa.  Without the setting of the tennis match to build Tomoyo's reputation, that important moment might not have occurred.

One thing she does that could affect Tomoya and Nagisa's relationship is saving the cherry trees.  Those trees play a key part in their relationship, I think: they first met on the hill lined with those trees, so I think their relationship is somehow connected to them.  The first shot of them after their marriage shows them under those cherry trees (if I recall correctly).  And when Tomoya is going through his emotional crisis during the last two episodes, he always brings himself back to that meeting under the trees.  I feel like saving those trees is a bit like saving a symbol of their relationship: of course, that's just my personal opinion.

The only other thing with Tomoyo that relates to the main plot is her explanation of her backstory, especially her comments on the importance of family.  I think these are helpful (maybe only implicitly) to Tomoya in his realization of the true worth of family.  These comments will be discussed in the Themes section below.


Like I said, family is a big theme with Tomoyo, as in Clannad as a whole.  Before I discuss that, though, I want to mention one other theme Tomoyo's story has helped me notice: breaking out of conventions.  I don't mean rejecting social conventions and becoming "alternative" or reverting to the 1960s.  I mean more of breaking out of stereotypes or other peoples' false views of you.  Tomoyo's example is her desire for people to see her as a girl.  Due to her exceptional physical ability and speech-sparse, somewhat emotionally detached demeanor, some people view her as extremely masculine.  The extreme example of this is Sunohara, who is determined to prove that Tomoyo is truly a guy, as seen in the clip below:

While Tomoyo doesn't mention this too often, it's a part of her character.  She wants people to recognize her femininity and not treat her as a man just because she is strong and detached.  Sometimes she even apologizes for utilizing her strength because she feels it makes her less feminine, as she mentions once when she is batting.  Though it's a bit of a minor theme for Tomoyo, it's present in other parts of Clannad as well: people can't fit into simple labels.  For instance, Fuko is a childish, hyperactive girl, but she also cares deeply for her sister; Kotomi can often be a social recluse who seems to only care about studying, but she still wants friends, and she loves to play the violin (however badly); Tomoya is a delinquent, but he is truly courageous and compassionate, not selfish and harsh, as the stereotypical delinquent is.  Thus Tomoyo has helped me recognize this theme in Clannad.

Now, back to her main theme: family.  As you can see in her backstory above, her family is what led her away from her life as a gang leader.  Her brother's desperate action showed her and her parents how important family is.  Like I mentioned with Kotomi, people's personal growth can be stunted or stopped altogether without familial love.  I think Tomoyo's brother realized that, and so he risked his life to keep his family together, because he knows how important it truly is. 

In explaining her backstory to Tomoya, I think Tomoyo helped him learn how important family is.  At the very least, her story is one of the many examples Tomoya runs into of how essential family is to a true, full life.  Tomoyo discusses how rebellion is a constant temptation, and it can be ruinous if lived out; thankfully, many people are able to control that disastrous impulse.  But why?  “The answer I’ve found is family. If you have family, you’ll be able to restrain yourself….The thing is to have something like a family. I don’t expect others to accept it, but it’s the answer I’ve found for myself.”  I think that's the answer not only for Tomoyo, but also for Tomoya, and for everyone.  She admits that sometimes your family can actually be your friends, not your biological or legal family (which is how Tomoya manages to survive and grow, at least for the first season of Clannad)), but she won't give up the fact that you need some sort of support system, some type of family, to truly live.  And family is not always perfect; a family is made of imperfect humans, and thus they can fail us; they can turn cold and sometimes cruel.  But, as Tomoyo says, “No matter how cold they seem, what’s precious hasn’t changed. I believe family is something like that.”  And that's a message that resonates through the show; it's especially important in the second half of After Story.  In the end, then, Tomoyo helps to teach Tomoya and us some important lessons about the essentiality of family.


Tomoyo's not among my top favorite characters of Clannad, but she's still a good one.  Her backstory is great, and her beatings of Sunohara add good comic relief during the first season.  I just didn't connect with her character as much as some of my friends did (again, I have friends who's favorite character is Tomoyo, just like with all the other girls; they say part of it is due to her Alternate World episode).  One interesting opinion I heard about her though is that she's sort of the runner-up to Nagisa: a.k.a., if Nagisa wasn't in the show, Tomoya would end up with Tomoyo.  The proponents of this opinion point to Tomoyo's strong, caring nature, which is similar to Nagisa's.  While I can't imagine Tomoyo ending up with anyone other than Nagisa, I guess the creators of Clannad could, because the original visual novel had a sequel called Tomoyo After, which is (as you can probably guess) basically After Story with Tomoyo (although the events are very different). 

All in all, Tomoyo's a good character, but her personality isn't delved into too much, besides her backstory (and her Alternate World stuff).  So, while she's a good character, she's not my favorite.  I do appreciate her saving the cherry trees, though: cherry blossoms are beautiful.

Thanks for reading.  God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All clips are from the Clannad Central YouTube channel run by the Clannad (クラナド/Kuranado) fan page on Facebook. All character themes and other music from the show can also be found on said fan page, in the music player. My gratitude to them and all the work they do.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

藤林椋 (Fujibayashi Ryou)


"It's in the genes that girls will like fortune-telling."

Fujibayashi Ryou is a somewhat-often-present minor character who has some extra prominence during roughly Episodes 15-18 of Clannad. She doesn't have a full arc for herself: most of her significance derives from her attachment to her sister.


Ryou is a fairly reserved high school senior with a strong bond to her sister and a passion for fortune-telling; she's also a class representative, like her sister. She tries to assert her authority as a class representative, but she's too timid to be effective at it. In particular, she tries to get Tomoya to come to school on time, which never succeeds. She knows the ins and outs of the school, but she doesn't seem to have many good friends (probably due to her timidity). Her best friend is her older twin sister, Kyou, who is excessively and violently protective of her. This makes some sense, since it seems Ryou is easily made uncomfortable and possibly scandalized by things (like the "bi" incident with her sister). Her biggest quirk is her passion for fortune-telling: she loves it in all forms, but it seems she prefers to use cards herself. The fortune-telling isn't meant to be totally serious, though: she knows there isn't just one predetermined future, there are many possibilities. Due to this, her fortune-telling is more for fun and games than anything else. Her first appearance showcases her quiet, unassertive personality and her fortune-telling passion well:


Ryou's story is largely tied into her sister's story, because they are usually together, and her sister is a much stronger personality than she is. As a class representative (and one who takes her job more seriously than her sister, it seems), she helps to get the drama club reinstated, even with all the student council's directives and requirements. She's first introduced into this by some tricky on Sunohara and Tomoya's part, resulting in a very humorous scene early in the show. They tell her someone is going to confess his love to her, and it turns out to be Nagisa asking for help with the drama club. She agrees to help as best she can. This involves explaining how many members to acquire and how to get members, along with the requirement to have an advisor. Basically, she is like the liaison between the drama club and the student council.

Besides this background role of helping the drama club (and being, at least nominally, a member as well), she comes into more prominence after Nagisa falls sick and must stay at home for a few days. Ryou has always had some feelings for Tomoya, and her sister decides now is the perfect time to act on these. Kyou sets up many lunch dates for Ryou and Tomoya, and she even takes them to use a love fortune-telling machine (which backfires). This last incident does result in a conversation between Tomoya and Ryou alone (although it doesn't amount to anything romantically).

With all the prodding her sister does to get her and Tomoya together, Ryou's attempts in the end fail. After the tennis injury where Tomoya vigorously defends Nagisa, Ryou is in tears like her sister (although this may be more out of apology to her sister than for losing Tomoya: see Themes section below).

Following this incident, she becomes a quiet background character again, being involved in the group of friends, but never really having any defining moments. She's present most times the group is together (and most times her sister is anywhere). After high school, she heads off to nursing school. At the New Year's Party, she comments on how life is mysterious, and she reiterates her belief that there is no one predetermined future: there are many possibilities. During the final episode montage, we see her, now a nurse, working in the hospital, smiling to brighten her patients' day.

Effect on Main Plot

Like her sister, there's not really anything supernatural in Ryou's story. Her fortune-telling, though, could be considered in that realm: if it worked, it would definitely be supernatural. Her acknowledgement of life's mysteriousness could be seen as an implicit recognition of the supernatural, and her statement about the fact that there is no predetermined future is definitely an important idea for understanding the ending.

Besides that, her main help to the plot is her working for the drama club. Without her knowledge of the student council and her helpful spirit, the drama club may have never made it to the point of performing Nagisa's play. Considering that this drama club is a big factor in bringing Tomoya and Nagisa together, she could be seen as playing a role in that, by extension. She's also another girl Tomoya passes by as he realizes his devotion to Nagisa.


Like her sister, the big theme for Ryou is family, specifically sisterly love. She is rarely seen without her sister at her side, protecting her from Sunohara's antics (and, at times, from Tomoya's). A great example of this is when Sunohara asks her to act as his fake girlfriend, and Kyou intervenes to protect her (somewhat scandalized) sister. Kyou does a lot for Ryou, and Ryou wants to pay her back. I think this is one reason why she goes on the lunch dates and everything with Tomoya: to appease her sister. One idea I've heard is that Kyou is projecting her desires for Tomoya onto her sister, and then attempting to get them together to appease herself. While this may be a bit of an overly cruel interpretation, I think there might be some truth to it. While I can tell Ryou has some desire for Tomoya, it seems like a lot of the concrete acts that are done are the result of Kyou's prodding and planning. Without Kyou's constant support (and, I'd say, peer pressure), I feel like Ryou wouldn't be trying to get together with Tomoya. See her dejected expression after her sister once again pressures her to show desire for Tomoya:

I think Ryou knows, at some level, that her desire for Tomoya really isn't that strong, but that her sister's is, and because her sister wants her to get together with Tomoya, I think Ryou is going along with it more for her sister's sake than for her own. As we see in the gym closet scene, Kyou's desire for Tomoya trumps thoughts of her sister. In the end, when both Ryou and Kyou are rejected by Tomoya as he helps Nagisa away from the tennis match, Ryou tells her sister, "I'm sorry." I think this line shows that Ryou recognizes just how strong Kyou's desire for Tomoya was, and she is sorry for failing her sister in regards to Tomoya. That's just my opinion, though; others may see it differently.
That sisterly love is, I think, the only main theme in Ryou's story. The only other thing would be the element of choice in the world that I mentioned earlier, the fact that there is no one predetermined future. Again, that will be mentioned again when discussing the ending.


I feel like there's not too much for reflection with Ryou. She's a quiet girl who likes fortune-telling and order (her class representative side showing through). She tries to help her friends, and above all she tries to help her sister and show love for her. The only thing I can really get from this is one lesson: don't be like Ryou in regards to Tomoya. Don't let other people pressure you into doing things that just really don't fit you. Ryou's desire for Tomoya was not very strong, in my opinion; it was more of a vague "interest" than a true desire, I think. If left to her own devices, it wouldn't have been strong enough to act on. But with her sister forcing her and pressuring her, she had to act. Also, don't let other people act out their feelings through you: let them do it themselves.

That's enough preaching to draw from Ryou's story. I do like the fact that she and her sister both go into professions that help people at the expense of their comfort: little kids can be hassle at times, yet Kyou becomes a kindergarten teacher, and being a nurse seems like a very tough and tiring job, but Ryou becomes one anyway. I appreciate their willingness and desire to help others; that's definitely one Christian aspect hidden in the show.

Thank you for reading. God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All clips are from the Clannad Central YouTube channel run by the Clannad (クラナド/Kuranado) fan page on Facebook. All character themes and other music from the show can also be found on said fan page, in the music player. My gratitude to them and all the work they do.

藤林杏 (Fujibayashi Kyou)


"You wanna repeat that? If you do it, I'll reward you by sticking my hand down your throat and ripping out your vocal cords."

Fujibayashi Kyou is an often-present minor character who has extra prominence in roughly Episodes 15-18 in Clannad.  She never has a fully-developed plot arc for herself: the closest would be her relationship with her sister, Ryou.

(I am aware that Kyou has her own Alternate World episode in After Story; however, since I am focused on how these characters relate to the main plot, I will not be incorporating that episode, nor Tomoyo's for her post.  These may be discussed in a separate post later on.)


Kyou is a high school senior and a punitive class representative with a quick temper (possible anger issues?), a knack for manipulation, some jealousy, and a feeling of protectiveness over her younger sister.  Her temper is often linked with her protectiveness to her sister: whenever anything seems threatening to Ryou, Kyou steps in with a flying side kick or an aerodynamic throw of a textbook.  For instance, when Sunohara tries to get Ryou to be his fake girlfriend, she becomes distressed, at which point Kyou appears to deal out some punishment on Sunohara.  Her manipulation is usually used on either Tomoya or Ryou, for the purpose of getting them together (at least, that's the overt purpose).  Though she usually takes out her anger on Tomoya and Sunohara, she has a little friendly loyalty to them as well: when some basketball players criticize her for being the team leader of "bottom-of-the-barrel guys" like them, she gets loyally angry (although part of it might also be defending her own reputation).  Besides protecting friends, her sister, and her reputation, she also gets angry out of jealousy over Tomoya (to be explained more below).  Overall, her angry, somewhat manipulative, yet still fraternally protective personality (which all seems a bit of a strange fit with her light, dance-ish theme song, "Like the Wind") is shown well in her first appearance:

On a side note: she's also protective of her and Ryou's pet, a baby boar named Botan (who is tied for the cutest pet in the least while she's young).


In the back story extra episode of After Story, we see that Kyou has always had a pretty violent relationship with Tomoya and Sunohara.  Her first onscreen appearance is no different in her throwing a book at Tomoya.  As seen in the clip above, we first see Kyou stepping in to defend her sister (although I'm not exactly sure what she's defending her from...).  Throughout the first 14 episodes or so of Clannad, she is mostly a humorous background character: she especially likes to beat on Tomoya and Sunohara when they do anything stupid or (intentionally or not) pick on her sister.  She's one of the people who receives a starfish from Fuko, she helps out with planning Kotomi's violin recital (using her imposing reputation among students to force them to show up...and buy earplugs from her), she works hard on obtaining the violin and getting it repaired for Kotomi's birthday, she helps in cleaning up Kotomi's yard, and she (at least nominally) joins the drama club.  One of her most notable moments during these episodes occurs after running over Tomoya with her bike.  There's a humorous exchange about the words "bike" and "bi" (it's easier to watch than explain).

Her first real major moment occurs when the drama club is trying to get an advisor.  They cannot become an official club without a faculty advisor, so they try to get Koumura-sensei (who helped a bit with Kouko and Yoshino's wedding) to be their advisor.  Unfortunately, the reforming choir club wants him as an advisor as well, and traditionally he's always been the choir club's advisor.  So the drama club (mainly Sunohara, through Yukine's suggestion) decides to hold a basketball game against the school's basketball teams to get the choir club to give up Koumura.  Kyou, with her assertive personality, becomes the team leader and leads her, Sunohara, and Tomoya to victory. 

Even though the choir club agrees to share Koumura, the student council won't allow it, thus stalling the formation of the drama club.  At the same time, Nagisa falls sick at school and most rest at home for a few days.  Kyou sees this as her chance.  Both she and Ryou are attracted to Tomoya, and, being the loving sister she is, she sets up many opportunities for Tomoya to see how great Ryou is while Nagisa is away.  This involves many lunch dates and such things.  But even though she is working to get Ryou and Tomoya together, she still feels a longing for him.

This is made apparent after Tomoya uses one of Yukine's charms.  The charm's effect is to get a someone locked in a gym equipment storage room with the person of his or her choice.  He does not realize this until he is in the middle of the charm, and he picks Kyou, thinking she'll be a safe choice.  The charm ends up working, leading to a very awkward scene:

Even though Kyou is thinking about Ryou, it is obvious she also has powerful feelings for Tomoya: even more powerful than Ryou!

Following this scene, where Tomoya (implicitly) rejects her feelings for him, Kyou keeps trying to get Ryou and Tomoya together, by taking them out to an arcade with a love fortune-telling machine and by bringing food to his house when he's suspended.  All her ploys to try to get Tomoya to focus on her or Ryou fail, though, as is obvious as a tennis match where Nagisa is injured by a stray ball.  When someone else tries to help Nagisa up, Tomoya reacts rather violently, and he walks her to help himself.  At that point, Kyou and Ryou realize whom he has chosen, and they break into tears.

Following this, Kyou once again becomes a strong background character.  She is present as the drama club manages to get everything together and put on their show.  She's around during Sunohara's arc in After Story, and she shows up at Nagisa's graduation, and again at the New Year's Party, mentioning how far ahead in life it feels like Nagisa and Tomoya are.  After high school, she becomes a kindergarten teacher (which seems at odds with her personality), and she ends up, by a twist of fate, becoming Ushio's teacher (and a kind one at that!).  We last see her during the final episode montage, congratulating one of her student's on the paper hat he created...a far cry from her early, angry, book-throwing days.

And a side note on Botan: she's around as comic relief throughout the series, and she's even present when Kyou is a teacher...although she looks a lot scarier!

Effect on Main Plot

Her effect is less blatant than the characters I've previously covered.  There is nothing supernatural in Kyou's story: no lights or having a body in a coma.  The only slight connection would be her helping out with Nagisa's play (which seems to be a story about the invisible world).

She builds up Tomoya and Nagisa's relationship accidentally.  I don't think she ever intentionally tries to get them together (at least, not before her collapse into tears at the tennis match).  Instead, she's more of a test for Tomoya.  When Nagisa is away, will Tomoya stay loyal to her?  Is their relationship even strong enough yet for loyalty, or is it just a friendship?  While Tomoya is often asked if he is dating someone and always responds in the negative, in truth he is already committed to Nagisa, covertly.  He never made a promise to Nagisa or asked her out, but he still feels a connection to her: when she's resting at home, he can't get her out of his head.  Even when Kyou tries to get him together with Ryou, he doesn't even seem to notice her intentions.  And even when locked in a gym closet with her, when she is hinting about him having sex with her, he doesn't even fathom it.  It seems like a sign of an implicit loyalty to Nagisa to me, and in the end it helps him realize that she, not Kyou or Ryou, is the girl for him.  So Kyou helps us realize Tomoya's fidelity.  Not only that, but it also shows us his chastity: he doesn't have sex with her, even when she uses her "feminine wiles," to some extent.


The main theme I see with Kyou is family.  It's obvious she loves her sister, to the point of being (very) over-protective of her.  That can be seen, not only in her frequent physical rebuffs to Sunohara's actions (and less frequent rebuffs to Tomoya's), but also in the fact that she works to get her sister together with Tomoya.  Her sisterly love isn't perfect, though: when she's locked in the closet with Tomoya, she thinks about Ryou, but she doesn't reject the possibility of sex with him for her sake.  I've heard some say that this shows Kyou's attempts to get Ryou and Tomoya together were really just a way to let out her personal desires for Tomoya.  While there might be some truth to that, I still feel that there's some sisterly love in Kyou, however imperfect.

Besides that, I don't see many themes involved with her.  There's not really too much self-sacrifice, besides helping out with Kotomi's party and the drama club.  There's some perseverance involved with the Ryou and Tomoya ordeal, though, and some signs of mature perseverance as well: even though it is obvious that Tomoya has rejected Kyou's feelings for him (though not in a very harsh way), she doesn't avoid him, but is still able to be his friend. 


Though Kyou is the favorite character of some of my friends, I've never felt too connected to her.  She just seemed like a loud, angry, and manipulative girl that I'd be a little wary to be friends with.  I've heard she's more likable in her alternate world episode, which, I must admit, I've never gotten the motivation to watch.  She's been described as a tsundere character: someone who starts off hot-headed and angry but turns out to be (at least to an extent) gentle and caring underneath.  I can see that a bit in her main plot (after all, her kindergarten teacher self doesn't resemble her high school self too much), but overall I just never really connected with her.  Although I still think the awkwardness of the locker room scene is hilarious, I saw her more as a comic relief character that tried to get in the way of Nagisa and Tomoya's relationship.  Some people see her as more than that, but to each his or her own; at least she turned out alright as a kindergarten teacher.

Thank you for reading. God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All clips are from the Clannad Central YouTube channel run by the Clannad (クラナド/Kuranado) fan page on Facebook. All character themes and other music from the show can also be found on said fan page, in the music player. My gratitude to them and all the work they do.


Apparently I made quite a following back at university, because a lot of my friends from there have watched Clannad. Most of them really love it, but they always remark upon one thing: the end is deus ex machina. As I'd explained earlier, that's not how I see it. The ending is so incredibly planned and told to you over and over again that if you don't notice it it's your own fault. The writers frequently tell you that the ending is not only possible, but it's the only ending that can be. Repeat after me, kiddies: THE ENDING IS NOT DEUS EX MACHINA. A deus ex machina is where the gods come out of nowhere and rescue the protagonist, and everything ends well. Clannad defies this definition to a T. Everything is planned, and the ending is well within "the rules". Nothing sums this up like the ending the first half of Clannad, where Nagisa finally finds out about her parent's pasts. Tomoya is the first to find out so that way he can help steer Nagisa away from her search.

Unfortunately, however, Nagisa finds out the night before the play, and that goes as well as you can imagine. Nagisa has trouble accepting the idea that her own dreams are worthwhile, and this is the nail in the coffin for her. She gives up. So she stands, on the stage, unable to do anything, until Akio comes in:

Quick story time: When I first watched this speech, my jaw dropped. It wasn't that I didn't know what Akio was saying, I had just never thought of it that way before! To me this was a completely new way of thinking about parenthood, the best way that I'd ever heard. We didn't give up our dreams. We changed ours to yours. That is a parent. Something about that has dramatically impacted me ever since, because I have a dream. I want to be an iconographer. I want to be someone who makes images of God for other people to pray with so that they can go to Heaven. I also want to be a priest, someone who helps guide people to Heaven through my example and prayers. This is the first time that I asked "Is that enough? Is it enough to only want things to that make me happy? Even if they're done for the sake of everyone?" To this day I can't answer that question. I hope to be able to someday, but for now all I can do is follow my dreams and hope that, in fulfilling my dream, I can make my children's dreams possible as well. The fact that Akio was not given that chance is something that I haven't missed. Nagisa was too sick for Akio to do what he wished, but it didn't matter, because Nagisa came first. She was Akio's dream, even moreso than theatre. And that's the way it should be. I'm sure that if Akio had the chance to keep doing theatre he would, if it meant that Nagisa could be taken care of. But those two dreams couldn't be compatible for him, so he threw away the theatre.

Oh well, I'll know if/when I get there.

A brief explanation of Nagisa is in order. I'm sure quite a few of you are wondering "Why the hell is Nagisa like this? She's got such awesome parents! How could she be this weak?" Fortunately I can shed light on this in a way that many people can't. My last year in highschool I relapsed with Lyme's Disease. That basically means that if I don't take care of myself I have three ending options: A) Go blind   B) Go crazy  C) Have all those things happen AND I die in slowly, with all my nerves on fire. For the next four years I grappled with this disease. During that time I lost (for limited times, thank God) the ability to trust my senses, my ability to walk, my ability to think clearly (if at all), and the ability control my emotions. The disease is in control now (thanks to the smart managing of what I eat, turns out the disease damaged my body so I can't have dairy or eggs without getting depressed and tired), but one thing sticks with me: fear. Nothing will take away your courage faster than finding out that your very body isn't reliable. It doesn't matter how strong the people around you are, or how much they believe in you. Your body failed you, and that changes everything. For if your own body won't work with you, then what will? Certainly not the world, because it made the rules that your body can't live up to. Certainly not your friends. They can't understand because their bodies don't fail them in that dramatic of a fashion. And sure as hell not God, who gave you the body that fails you so often. If your body can't help, what can?

That's Nagisa's problem. Nagisa's body has done nothing but fail her for a long time now, and so she won't trust in her dreams. Why would she WANT to? Her body can't carry them out, so why bother wishing? And if others have dreams why be so presumptuous as to cancel them out with your own, since the possibility for failure is so high? Better to fail at your own dreams and let others carry on. This is what keeps Nagisa back. This is her fear. Her body has failed her before, and so she doesn't want to get in the way. She almost wants to  die, so that others can carry on with their dreams. She has gotten so used to the idea that her body makes it impossible that she's willing to just lay down arms at the first sight of trouble! The fact that Nagisa even voiced her wishes at the beginning of the show at all shows tremendous strength and willpower. Contrary to what you may think, Nagisa is not weak. Her ability to carry on in the face of her failing body is a sign of grace and power. This is evidenced by Nagisa completing her dream after the pep talk/bashing of Akio and Tomoya. She didn't realize that everyone else had bet the farm on her, and that she needed to succeed. For the first time in her life, it didn't matter how bad Nagisa's body was. Others depended on her, and she couldn't let her own weakness get in the way.  For once Nagisa had a true reason to reach beyond herself, and she did so.

As important as it is for the characters, Akio's speech is possibly the most important speech of all of Clannad. In it he details the importance of children in a family, and that a parent's dreams (and happiness) depends on the child doing whatever he wants. In essence, a parent surrenders himself completely to his child for the child's sake. KEEP THIS IN MIND, BECAUSE THAT MEANS A LOT OF OTHER THINGS AS WELL. Like a bunch of little light orbs that you've been seeing  for awhile....but more on that later. The stage is set, and the ending's key component has been revealed. You may not see it yet, but that's perfectly fine. For those of you who've watched this show please go and check up what I've just said. You'll find that not only does it work but it's the only way. The ending is not deus ex machina, because Akio's speech exists. 

A note of appreciation to Clannad Central and to all the people that I randomly steal stuff from to get this blog to work. Thank you for your had effort, it won't be wasted!

Another note: You may have noticed that the author's name for this post has changed from Nathan Augustine to Liam Francis Traveller. Don't worry guys, the blog did not switch authors. Truth be told, The School's Trees is not my primary project. It's Pilgrim Iconography, a website that I designed to show off my work as an iconographer. 

One of the things that I've become painfully aware of in the last few years is how easily confused people can get.  They seem to think that everything posted on the internet is the whole story, and that's just not the case. Iconographers have a specific connotation in the Church, a connotation that, for better or for worse, I just don't fill. I'm not older, and I'm not a monk. Nor am I a priest. I'm a young man who is still trying to figure things out, like all young men are. I am still looking for my own place in life, and so I want to ask the questions that all young men do. However, this is not how people see it.  They have a hard time seeing the human in the collar, or the artist behind the paintbrush. And so I have "separated" the identities so that, for better or worse, scandal is not invited in any way, shape, or form. I'm not saying that I have evil in mind. Far from it. I want to do all the good I can on this earth until I'm called Home. But, so that there isn't a chance of evil that I'm responsible for happening, I've changed the account name and split Pilgrim Iconography to another account. I hope I've been clear in my intentions, and it's my honest hope that I didn't confuse the hell out of everyone.

A third note: I know I'd said before that you guys wouldn't hear anything out of me, because of my schoolwork. Well surprise, I'm sick! There's a bug going around in the house, and I'm the last one to get it. So, I decided that since I couldn't iconography done that I'd lie in my bed and type. I hope you guys are happy ;)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


My apologies, but due to the load of schoolwork that I have this week I will have to delay my blog post until next week. I might be able to catch up with two blog posts next week, but we'll see. I'd certainly like it to be so.

Till next week!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kotomi: Atonement and Divine Mercy

“Those who seek out truth must not be arrogant. You must not laugh at miracles, just because they cannot be explained scientifically. You must not turn away from the beauty of this world.”
-Kotomi’s Father (Episode 13: A Garden of Memories)

Kotomi’s arc contains some of the rare instances where God and miracles are explicitly mentioned in Clannad. While their use may seem minor or unimportant, these instances actually serve as red flags for deeper meaning in our excavation of the series for an understanding of God. Digging a little bit deeper, we can see a struggle to find the goodness of God. We can find a story of failure, atonement, and mercy.

A Beautiful World

Kotomi’s parents were scientists famous for the beautiful way they were able to explain the world. Her father gives an elegant explanation of the universe as an orchestra of harps, while her mother insists on the beauty of simplicity in the universe. They seemed to find a beauty and an order at the very root of existence.

In Metaphysics, one way of understanding God is as being in the most proper sense. That is, what is the greatest form of being imaginable. Whatever that being would be, we call God. Kotomi’s parents’ view of the universe as beautiful and ordered could represent a view of God that is beautiful. However, as Kotomi states in the show, she was never able to express things as beautifully as her parents did, and, likewise, her view of God is not as pristine either.

A Scary Place

While Kotomi’s parents see the universe as beautiful, Kotomi herself is quite afraid of the outside world. As a child, she mostly kept to herself, never leaving her yard, and only managed to make one friend. Instead of exploring the world, she kept to herself and to her books. The outside world was something other, something different, something to which she could learn about, but not relate.

And then there was Tomoya. Tomoya was different, she said. He came into her world from the outside, and brought joy. He showed her, inadvertently, that the outside world was not all bad, scary, and unreachable. However, when tragedy struck, when Kotomi needed him most, Tomoya was absent. Could the outside world really be trusted, be understood, be loved?

Fall From Grace

One event that probably keeps Kotomi from seeing God’s goodness is the death of her parents. Her parents died suddenly in a plane crash, their important thesis was lost, and Kotomi was left utterly alone on her birthday. When her parents left for their business trip and missed her birthday, Kotomi felt abandoned by her father and her mother. She became upset, even telling them that she hated them before they left. When her parents died, Kotomi felt utterly abandoned, by her Father, by her Mother, by God.

As Kotomi parents’ life work dealt with the beauty of the universe, the loss of that thesis could represent in a sense a loss of the vision of God’s goodness. Even when she is told that a copy of that thesis may exist, she burns what she believes to be that thesis. She is not ready to except the goodness and beauty of God and the world, not when she has just been so horribly hurt, so utterly abandoned, and left so desperately alone.

During this crucial moment in Kotomi’s life, her one friend, Tomoya, is, at least for her, inexplicably absent. Tomoya told Kotomi that he would come to her birthday party, and would bring his friends to the party as well. Unfortunately, none of Tomoya’s friends want to go to a girl’s birthday party, so, ashamed of his failure, Tomoya does not come. However, Tomoya does not abandon her entirely, and, coming to visit her late at night, saves her from a fire she created in her distress. Sadly though, the damage of the event is done, and afterwards Kotomi withdraws to herself, fading even from Tomoya’s memory.


“From now on, I’ll be a really good girl. I’ll never say anything selfish. I’ll study hard. I’ll read a lot of books too, and become a worthy person. So please, God. Please bring Mother and Father back to me. Please bring them back to me.”

God is mentioned for the first time in the anime in Kotomi’s desperate prayer following her parents’ death. She somehow blames herself for the death of her parents, almost viewing the tragedy as a punishment for her selfishness. She sees God, not as good and beautiful as her parents saw Him, but as vengeful and terrible.

Sorrowful for having destroyed in a fit of rage what she thought to be her parent’s thesis, the culmination of their lives’ work, Kotomi tries to make amends. She begins collecting scraps of newspapers discussing her parents’ death. However, she feels like this is not enough, so she moves on to cutting out anything in any book that refers to her parents and collecting these scraps as well.

However, Kotomi is human, and all of her feeble attempts to make things right are not enough. They cannot bring back her parents or their thesis. The world remains a scary place. She sees others as bullies and bad people instead of as friends. She remains alone, unable to heal her self, unable to atone for her sins.

Divine Mercy

However, just like the Fuko arc, Kotomi's story does not end in despair, but hope. Tomoya, years later, finds Kotomi again. Kotomi is a little more open to Tomoya than to the rest of the world, because he was her one friend. Though he has forgotten her, Tomoya amazes Kotomi by befriending her anew. He tries to introduce her once again to the goodness of people, to the goodness of the world, by helping her make friends and showing her that not everyone is a bully.

Though Tomoya failed to support Kotomi years before, he is almost miraculously given the opportunity to make it up to her, by helping her sort through her troubled past and by helping throw her a birthday party with all of his friends, just as he promised long ago.

Kotomi, too, is given the forgiveness and love she needs when Tomoya helps her face a “bad man” who holds the truth of her past. Kotomi did not burn her parents thesis after all. What she had burned was a catalogue of stuffed bears that her parents were using to pick out the perfect birthday present for her. And when her parents briefcase was miraculously retrieved from the plane wreck, the case contained not the sought-after thesis, but rather a large stuffed bear and a letter to Kotomi from her parents written right before they died. By preserving the bear and the letter, rather than their research thesis, Kotomi’s parents revealed that their life’s work was not a matter of science, but rather Kotomi herself. Their daughter was to be their legacy, the greatest work of their life.

This miraculous revelation undid the spiritual harm of that tragic event. While her parents remained dead, Kotomi no longer felt abandoned by them. Their dying act was to show her their love and to work to give her hope. Kotomi was also relieved of the guilt of having destroyed the thesis. Ominously, she almost did destroy their true thesis, though, had she died in the fire. However, due to Tomoya’s miraculous timing, she was spared.

The miraculous suitcase was passed from person to person over the years, traveling the world until it finally reached Kotomi. Kotomi needed this to happen to show her that human beings, that the outside world, is not evil and frightful but good and beautiful. Human beings are no longer bad men and bullies to Kotomi, but have proven themselves to be inherently good.

Finally, her parents’ letter gives Kotomi encouragement to live her life. “Do what you want to do. Be who you want to be.” No longer is Kotomi chained to the “sins” and the memories of the past, but she is set free to live her life, to enjoy the present and dream of the future.

These healing came about, not through the works of those injured, but rather, through miraculous happenings, achieved through the goodness and good will of others. And, in these miracles, we can see the hand of God. Not the vengeful and terrible God seen earlier by Kotomi, but rather a loving and merciful God, who teaches us through our struggles, who shows us that the world is indeed a beautiful place, and that we are not alone.

Special thanks to Clannad Central for the pictures and videos.