“Please tell Naoyuki to come home. I will be waiting here for him.”
Okazaki Shino, at least in terms of screen time, is a very minor character in Clannad. She only speaks during her first appearance, in Episode 18 of After Story; she is also seen during the montage of Episode 22. Besides that, she is never seen, and she isn’t mentioned too much more either.
Shino is an old woman, and she seems to embody the personality of a kindly old woman. She is humble and soft-spoken, yet she is devoted to letting the truth be known. Optimism could be seen as one of her traits; she sees the good in everyone, and she tries to help other people see that goodness as well. Even though she is elderly, she is still devoted to caring for her son, because she understands the importance of family. Overall, then, Shino is an optimistic, kind, caring old woman.
As I mentioned above, Shino is completely absent for the majority of the series. Even her existence is hidden from the characters. She appears during Tomoya’s trip with Ushio. After Ushio loses her robot in the sunflower field, Tomoya walks about a nearby set of stairs, feeling that they are somehow familiar to him. When he reaches the top, there is a sight-seeing spot with an old woman. This woman introduces herself as Okazaki Shino, Naoyuki’s father. This is Tomoya’s grandmother, whose existence he had never known of until this moment.
She engages in a little casual conversation with Tomoya, revealing that Sanae got in contact with her to have her meet Tomoya on the trip. Then she goes into the real reason why she came: to reveal Naoyuki’s true self. As she says, “I wanted you to know what kind of father Naoyuki was.” The story she tells is explained more explicitly in my post on Naoyuki, but here is a rough outline: after his wife died, Naoyuki had it rough, but he kept going because he knew he had to care for Tomoya. Even though he eventually fell into alcoholism, and he was definitely not perfect, he really tried the best he could to be a good father to Tomoya.
Tomoya slowly remembers Naoyuki’s actions from his childhood, including a trip the two took to the same place Tomoya took Ushio. Shino is glad that Tomoya has remembered Naoyuki’s goodness, and she tells him, “Tomoya, he has worked too hard. It’s time he took it easy.” She asks a request of Tomoya: that he ask Naoyuki to come stay with her. It is obvious that he’s not really able to take care of himself anymore: he’s just worn out. She is still full of life, so she invites Naoyuki to stay at her home instead. Tomoya agrees to asking him.
Subsequent to his walking with Shino down the stairs (allowing her to see her great-granddaughter), he has an emotional encounter with Ushio, in which he remembers many parts of his past with his father.
After returning home, Tomoya goes to see his father, introduces him to Ushio, tells him he met Shino, and reconciles with him. Following this reconciliation, Tomoya helps Naoyuki make himself presentable, he helps him pack, and then he sends him off to Shino’s house in a touching scene of familial love.
Besides these two episodes, Shino is only seen once more, in the final montage. The Okazakis are going to visit her, and Ushio is seen running into her kind embrace.
Effect on Main Plot
Though she doesn’t appear until the fifth-to-last episode of Clannad, Shino still plays a major part in the plot, that is, Tomoya’s development. To put it simply, Tomoya would never have reconciled with his father if it hadn’t been for Shino’s talk with him (which was somewhat engineered by Sanae). Without reconciling with his father, Tomoya would never have received his light orb (which I think is absolutely crucial for the ending). Besides the fact of obtaining the light orb, the reconciliation with his father is what really changes Tomoya. It’s one of the biggest obstacles he’s had to face in his life (possibly the biggest), and without Shino he would have never overcome it. I think overcoming this obstacle is also what helps Tomoya become a true father to Ushio, so without Shino, he also would have never truly accepted his role as Ushio’s father. Basically, without Shino, Tomoya may have never finished his character growth, and thus his life may have stayed stalled as a depressed workaholic forever.
And, yet again, family is the absolute biggest theme for Shino. There’s not really any other theme for her, since she has very few actions in the series. She reveals Naoyuki’s true fathership to Tomoya, and she herself is a relative of Tomoya (his grandmother), and meeting relatives for the first time is always (usually) a joyous occasion. A family is not just father, mother, and child, like is seen in the most of the show: other generations are important as well. Thus Shino appears as a grandmother and great-grandmother, and also Naoyuki, Akio, and Sanae become grandparents. So, besides her aspect of family, all her themes are tied in with her explanation of Naoyuki’s story, so see his post for more details.
Even though Shino only has a total of maybe 10 minutes of screen time over the entire series, she’s still a powerful character. The experience of meeting a relative you never knew existed is a rare one, and having this newly-met relative basically single-handedly effect the healing of your relationships with your daughter and with your father must be a one-of-a-kind event. I wouldn’t be surprised if Botan has more screen time than Shino (and I’m positive Misae and Shima do), yet hers is the role that truly changes the main plot. Without her, the show would probably just drift into nothingness, with Tomoya being separated from all of his family, including his daughter, staying a workaholic with a penchant for alcohol and gambling for the rest of his life. Instead, her actions (just telling a story!) create the possibility of the last few episodes of the series. I can’t stress how important Shino is. Basically, her appearance is one of the events that make the show into a hopeful one when it could so easily stay pessimistic and depressing and hopeless. It just goes to show that every person can make a difference; even just telling a story can dramatically change many lives. A great moral to learn from Shino? Every person and every action can be important, no matter how small it may seem.
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.