"This is the best gift I can give you right now. A formless gift called memory. I don't have money. I can't buy you anything with form. Even so, even without form, a memory will last forever! I believe that it will."
Yoshino Yuusuke is a recurring minor character in Clannad. Though he appears sparsely throughout the first series, he becomes much more important in After Story, with his backstory being explained in Episode 12. Once he achieves this level of importance, around Episode 10, he appears in almost every episode of After Story.
Yuusuke is a rock-star-turned-electrician who can act a bit odd and mysterious at times. He has a penchant for the dramatic (and somewhat cheesy): bold, idealistic statements are his trademark, such as the one above. His idealism can be a bit of a problem at times, diverting him from facing reality. When he is not living with his head in the sky, though, he is very professional and serious: he takes care to make sure jobs are done right and that lives are lived right. Though it can sometimes border on the unrealistically hopeful, his advice is in copious supply, especially for Tomoya. When it's more down to earth, this advice can be extraordinarily helpful. Overall, then, Yuusuke is known for mixing the serious with the over-dramatic, in the end to good effect. His first scene shows this intriguing personality balance well.
Yuusuke first appears somewhat randomly. Tomoya is walking down the street when an enraged man pulls him into an argument. The man claims that Yuusuke, an electrician, dropped a tool while working and dented his car. Yuusuke calmly responds that he did no such thing, eventually monologizing grandiloquently about love. As the angry man stands in shock, Tomoya inspects the car and deduces that a fat cat (a very fat cat) jumped on the hood and dented it. This is proven when the cat walks by. Yuusuke thanks Tomoya for helping to diffuse the situation, and he gives him his business card. Later on, speaking with Sunohara, Tomoya learns that Yuusuke used to be a famous rock star, who both Sunohara and Mei love.
This seems like just an interesting random occurrence until Tomoya is in a conversation with Fuko. When explaining her sister's marriage, she says that Kouko is engaged to Yuusuke. Later on, as they're visiting Kouko, Nagisa and Tomoya congratulate her on her engagement to Yuusuke, at which point Kouko is flabbergasted: she'd never told anyone except Fuko about her engagement, much less it being to Yuusuke. Tomoya quickly sidesteps the true cause by saying it must just have been rumors escalating.
The events of Fuko's arc play out without too much involvement from Yuusuke, except for the wedding, of course. Yuusuke is, obviously, at the wedding, energetically professing his vows to Kouko, and he stands on the sidelines as Fuko says her congratulations to her sister.
Following the wedding, Yuusuke, like Kouko, mostly reverts to the background. He doesn't really appear again until the After Story baseball game. After an amusing Yoshino Call instigated by Sunohara, he joins Akio's team. He's shown at bat twice; the first time, he tries to make an inspiring speech as he is tagged out. The second time, he calls a time out, and delivers the following inspiring speech (which I excerpted for the opening quote):
Following this fun (and inspiring!) instance, Yuusuke returns to the background for a few more episodes (including during Shima and Misae's backstory), until Tomoya graduates from high school. Tomoya starts off his adult life working at the Furukawas' bakery, but he realizes he needs a job of his own. As he walks past Yuusuke working on a lightpole, an idea clicks in his head, and he races to Yuusuke, begging for a job. Thankfully, Yuusuke agrees to help.
Yuusuke's experience (and possibly an inspiring speech or two) lands Tomoya the job at Hikarizaka Electric Company, and he becomes Tomoya's trainer. There's a bit of a learning curve for the young man (especially with his injured shoulder), but Yuusuke is persistent and also kind in his corrections and advice. Soon it looks like Tomoya is becoming a fine young electrician, and he's also beginning to look up to Yuusuke, which is when the former asks for the latter's life story. And the latter responds (albeit hypothetically).
A young man (read: Yuusuke) had a natural talent for playing guitar and being a singer-songwriter, so he decided to pursue that course of action after high school. During high school, he met a charming young teacher, and he grew enamored with her, and she became fond of him. As he was leaving to become a famous rock star, he promised her that he'd take her on a date when he returned as a pro. At first he seemed to be on the road to glory. His songs were well-received, his concerts were packed, and his albums sold like hotcakes.
His life started to change, though. A group of kids suffering from many hardships (and I think some terminal diseases as well) informed him that his music kept them going and gave them strength. This struck him with an overwhelming sense of responsibility, and he took a break from his idealistic songwriting. During this sabbatical, though, another man committed a crime he could never recover from, due to the lack of the rock star's music. This young rock star then turned to drugs.
As the musician's addiction grew worse, so did his music; eventually, his concerts were barren and his music was removed from the shelves to be replaced with better selling music. Everything he had was gone. So he returned home, an empty, broken man. And as he stood at the bus stop in his hometown, he saw the woman he had loved, and he collapsed. He realized she was the one he should have been writing songs for the whole time, not anyone else. She was the one who was supposed to be his goal. It was all about her.
And there Yuusuke's story abruptly stops. He tells Tomoya that's it, and they move on with their job.
Yuusuke continues to be a wise mentor for Tomoya in the coming months, encouraging him when he is offered the new position outside of town, supporting him as he gets married, offering him sage advice (and a new rock album!) during Nagisa's pregnancy. He's there as Tomoya enters his years of depression following Ushio's birth and Nagisa's death, although he can't help the new father out, no matter how hard he tries. He's even there after Tomoya and Ushio are reunited. And when Tomoya quits his job to care for Ushio, Yuusuke doesn't let him go that easily: he has the two friends and coworkers exchange screwdrivers, so that Tomoya will have to return to work eventually.
This exchange is Yuusuke's last major role before the final events of the series occur. We last see this rock-star-turned-electrician playing his guitar for his coworkers as he sits in the back of his work truck: a fitting final image of a man such as this.
Effect on the Main Plot
Yuusuke's biggest role is his mentorship of Tomoya. If it weren't for that, he would just be a minor character, just the husband of a minor character. He really supports Tomoya in his adult life, which is a big help: being an adult can be a scary thing, especially when getting married and having a child so soon into it. Having a knowledgeable and wise (and idealistic) mentor is a big plus for new adults. So that support is crucial for Tomoya: without it, who knows how he would have developed?
As mentioned in previous posts, he can be seen as a foreshadowing of Tomoya in a way, like Kouko is to Nagisa. They look similar (come on, they share a hair color!) and both have the same job (through the influence of one of them, though...). They both have to learn to overcome hardship and the collapse of their life plans in order to realize what's really important (for Yuusuke, that's Kouko; for Tomoya, that ends up being Ushio). Could Tomoya have ever ended up coming to his senses without this example? I don't know, but I'm guessing Yuusuke's story was definitely helpful, at least. In the end, I don't know if Tomoya could have survived the adult world without Yuusuke's help (although other people's help was crucial as well).
Of course, family's a theme. But from what we see in the show, Kouko is the only family Yuusuke has. His backstory never mentions his family, and he never mentions it; his only family is his wife and his sister-in-law (Fuko). But there is more to it than that: he's sort of like an older brother for Tomoya. You could almost compare it (maturity-wise) as if Sunohara is Tomoya's younger brother and Yuusuke is Tomoya's older brother. Yuusuke corrects him, advises him, and supports him: all things a good older brother should do.
There's also perseverance, or, you could say, the effect of a lack of perseverance. Many of Yuusuke's speeches mention perseverance or family, but in his actual story, it's more a lack of perseverance. When he finds out that all these people depend on his music, he doesn't keep writing; instead, he takes a break. When a man commits a crime due to a lack of his music, Yuusuke doesn't keep making his music to stop such things from happening again; instead, he starts taking drugs, and his music goes down the drain. In the end, he realizes his real problem was that he didn't focus on Kouko, that girl of his dreams he'd known since high school. If he had persevered in writing music for her sake, maybe it all could have turned out differently. I think the example of what happens without perseverance helped form him into the wise man he is at the present day.
Yuusuke also shows a bit of breaking out of conventions: who would think the strange, idealistic electrician is actually a formerly famous rock star? And who'd imagine an electrician that releases an rock album? It just proves the famous adage: you can't judge a book (or a man) by its (his) cover.
First off, does anyone else think that Yuusuke sort of looks like Roy Mustang in this picture?
Anyway, Yuusuke is just a great guy. I'm a bit of a sucker for these inspirational speeches, as long as they aren't too sappy. Yuusuke's speeches hit the perfect balance between sappy and true, I think, which is completely amazing. All his speeches hold gems of wisdom in my eyes, so I'd recommend watching all of them (for instance, this one).
He's more than just a guy with pithy and sappy speeches, though: he's also a hard worker who knows what's important in life, and he supports his friends and family. By the end of the show, I think Yuusuke grew to be one of my favorite characters (although Akio still tops him for me; more on that later). There's just something about a guy who's idealistic (like me) and makes mistakes, but knows how to learn from them and live through them (something I need to always keep in mind). Plus he knows how important friends and family are, and he supports them whenever he can. In some ways I think Yuusuke could be the epitome of a great friend; so when you're wondering how to be a friend, take some tips from him: offer advice and support whenever possible. It can only help.
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.