"We didn't give up on our dreams! We changed our dreams into your dream! That’s what parents do! That’s what family does!”
Furukawa Akio is a main feature of the cast of Clannad (though, by my previously-stated definition, he’d still be a minor character); he is the wife of Furukawa Sanae and the father of Furukawa Nagisa. His backstory is for the most explained in Episode 21 of Clannad and Episode 15 of After Story. He appears throughout the entire series, though, from the first episode to the last.
Akio is a boisterous, somewhat flamboyant, loud-mouthed, yet caring, father. Comedy is a key part of his makeup, and he enjoys everything from practical jokes to puns and witty comments. His jokes aren’t quiet affairs, either: his excessive volume is part of what makes his comedy so effective. His relationship with his wife is characterized by a recurring joke of her pastries being the most abominable creations on earth and his having to reassure her of their (and thus her) value. His relationship with his daughter is characterized by often strange comments (which have a habit of sometimes becoming a tad perverted…definitely a character flaw on Akio’s part). By the end of the first season, and developing even more so in the second season, his relationship with Tomoya is dynamic, characterized by a loud interplay of extreme reactions and witty statements. Amidst all this boisterous joviality (which also includes frequent baseball playing), though, Akio is also a caring father. He does his best to provide for both his daughter and his wife, working long hours in the bakery and making sure everyone knows not to mess with them. In the end, nothing is more important to him than his daughter: he gladly gives up his long-sought career in order to better be there for her, and he is incredibly tight-fisted about letting her be married (her potential husband definitely has to prove his worth first). All in all, Akio, even though he leans heavily to the comic side of things, has a mix of both humor and deep caring in his personality. His first scene shows the heavy emphasis on humor, with a bit of the caring hidden in there as well:
We first meet Akio when Tomoya decides to randomly stop by Nagisa’s house (which is also a bakery run by her parents) during the first episode. After insulting Sanae’s pastries, Tomoya is accosted by an angry Akio surrounded by flames, who is about to deal a painful blow to him before realizing he’s a friend of Nagisa’s. The first dinner Tomoya has with Nagisa and her parents shows well Akio’s personality: he makes countless jokes, and also throws in some statements about how Tomoya must be adamant in claiming the woman he loves (while Akio dismisses the possibility of Tomoya ever marrying Nagisa). Many of Akio’s scenes are similar to this.
Throughout Fuko’s arc, Akio is somewhat present, especially after Fuko begins to stay at the Furukawas’ house. He helps carve starfish (which leads to some physical injury on his part), and even after forgetting Fuko, he attends Kouko’s wedding. Throughout the series, Tomoya frequently visits the Furukawas’ house, leading to encounters with Akio. The dad is also present at Kotomi’s violin recital, where he mourns the “death” of Sanae due to the terrible sounds being passed off as music. Besides all the humor, though, Akio doesn’t really begin to play a major part until the latter part of the first season, when, after realizing yet again how much his father doesn’t seem to care about him, Tomoya takes up Nagisa’s offer to stay at his house. Living in the same house as Akio leads to more humorous scenes (of course), and it also leads to Akio’s truly dramatic moments in the first season.
Since Nagisa is devoted to making the drama club a success, her dad helps her out and supports her. One thing Nagisa wants for her play is an old story she remembers from when she was little; she and Tomoya start looking through a storage shack for the play, and Akio gets worried about it. He jokes that they’re looking for Nagisa’s potty chair, and when he decides to talk to Tomoya about what’s really bothering him, he uses “potty chair” as the code word.
The real thing that’s bothering Akio is his family’s backstory. When Nagisa was young, Akio was on his way to becoming a professional actor, and Sanae was a school teacher. With both of them working, Nagisa was often left at home alone. One day, in the winter, Nagisa was excited for her parents to return home, she decided to wait outside for them to arrive. Unfortunately, that was a day of heavy snow and very low temperatures. When Akio got home, Nagisa was collapsed in the snow. He and Sanae waited by her bedside, just praying she’d wake up from her unconsciousness. Thankfully, she did, and at the same time Akio and Sanae realized that she was so much more important than their careers, so they left their jobs and started a bakery so that they could be there for her.
Nagisa has low self-confidence, and she can often blame things on herself when they aren’t her fault. Akio’s afraid she’ll do that if she finds out that her parents changed careers for her sake; even more, Akio left his theater career, and theater is what Nagisa is focused on. After explaining all this, Akio asks Tomoya to stop looking through the shack (where there are journals and pictures and things from that time of their lives) and to watch out for Nagisa. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night, the night before the drama performance, Nagisa stumbles across the pictures and such, and she goes into a self-blaming mood. She becomes obsessed with her parents’ former careers, even going to the point of watching old videos of Akio’s acting that are in the school library.
All this means Nagisa is a mental wreck at the festival, and she just starts crying onstage. When it looks like all her dreams are shattered, Akio bursts in and shouts amazing words of inspiration, pushing Nagisa to seize this opportunity and act.
Following Akio’s dramatic moment, he’s still around, what with Tomoya living at his house. He helps put together a neighborhood baseball team with almost all the characters in the show. He gives Tomoya a job at the bakery after graduation. He supports Tomoya when he goes out to live on his own (even though he uses caustic language, like normal). There’s one instance when he’s not as supportive: when Tomoya asks for Nagisa’s hand in marriage.
Tomoya first asks Akio if he can ask him an important question. Akio says he can…if he can hit one of Akio’s pitches. Tomoya trains an ungodly amount of time and fails time and time and time again, until the pitch Akio says will be the last, when he hits it out of the park, falls on his knees, and asks for Nagisa’s hand in marriage. Earlier, he got Akio to promise to say yes to whatever the question was, so of course Akio says yes, as long as Tomoya takes care of Nagisa. Following the marriage, then, Akio becomes Tomoya’s father-in-law, and they still have a dynamic relationship, which now includes frequent advice-giving on the part of the father-in-law.
Akio is constantly seen, since he’s now an official part of Tomoya’s family. That means there’s plenty more humor, but there’s also more drama. Akio reveals more of his backstory: when Nagisa seemed dead, in his desperation, he took her out to a field and wished (maybe more accurately, prayed) that she’d survive, and thankfully, she did. She woke up right there. Now that field is being developed and turned into a hospital, just another one of the changes in the town; at the same time, Nagisa is now pregnant, and she’s getting sick. These two things may be connected; at the least, Akio seems to imply it, saying how Nagisa has a connection with the town.
Soon, though, Nagisa’s condition takes a turn for the worse: she’s dying as she’s giving birth. There’s a heavy snow, and Akio tries to get a doctor, but it’s too late: Nagisa gives birth and then dies. Tomoya becomes a wreck, and Akio and Sanae take care of his new-born daughter, Ushio, for the first five years of her life. Thanks to Sanae’s working, though, Tomoya and Ushio are reunited and become a family. Akio (affectionately dubbed “Akki” by Ushio) sticks around, helping out as much as possible. There’s also a painfully touching scene involving him and Sanae, when she finally cries for the first time after Nagisa’s death.
His last real appearance is when a field day competition is approaching at Ushio’s school. Akio ends up being on a different team from Tomoya, and they start training up to play each other. Suddenly, though, Ushio becomes ill, most likely with the same mysterious disease Nagisa had, and the disease progresses rapidly, until she and Tomoya both collapse in the snow.
After the mysterious events that unfold thereafter, Akio is seen in the final montage in a common scene: chasing after a crying Sanae with her bread in his mouth yelling “I love them!”
Effects on Main Plot
Being Nagisa’s father, Akio is very influential to the plot. Obviously, he provides a place for Nagisa to stay, and at other times Fuko, Mei, and Tomoya as well. I don’t have a clue what Nagisa’s personality would be like without him as a father, so he’s key to her character. He provides the inspiration that allows Nagisa to finally fulfill her dream of performing a play with the drama club. He gives Tomoya his first job (along with letting him live at his house for a while), and he (eventually) gives Tomoya Nagisa’s hand in marriage. He also takes care of Ushio until Tomoya becomes a true father again.
I don’t think it’s possible to imagine the plot of Clannad playing out in anywhere close to the same way without Akio. Not only that, but he’s integral for forming Nagisa’s character, and I think Tomoya’s as well; at the very least, he helps with Tomoya’s character development as the show progresses.
Really, I could probably go into infinite ways Akio affects the show, but I think it’s just sufficient to say that Clannad could not exist in the same form without Akio present. He’s essential to the show (as are all the characters, of course).
Again, there’s family. Akio’s speech at Nagisa’s play reveals this blatantly: family is important. Also, family’s about sacrifice: Akio and Sanae give up their careers in order to support their daughter better. Family’s also not always a fun and happy thing. In allowing yourself to become so close to certain people, it hurts that much more when bad things happen to them. So in a way, family can amplify suffering, such as Akio experiences when Nagisa almost dies in the snow, and when she later does die during a snowstorm. But family can provide a way to get through suffering as well. Akio and Sanae take care of Nagisa’s daughter, and I think that helps them deal with Nagisa’s death; they found a goal, something worth living for, in their granddaughter. Overall, Akio is just an extremely family-centric character, whose words and deeds show forth the importance of family.
Besides that, he’s also involved in sacrifice, as mentioned above. Not only does he sacrifice his career to help Nagisa, but he sacrifices his taste buds to make his wife feel better. He also pounds this lesson into Tomoya, telling him again and again how difficult it is to be a father and how he’ll have to give up to make it happen.
He’s also got a bit of breaking out of conventions: at first, he seems like a purely comic relief character, but he ends up being involved in some of the most emotionally powerful scenes in the series (and his speech at Nagisa’s play is still one of my favorite speeches ever).
I have to admit before I start reflecting: Akio is my absolute favorite character in Clannad. The fact that he can both be hilarious and touching is amazing. That’s actually one of the things I love about Clannad in general: it combines both comedy and drama into one astounding series, and I think Akio is a good one-character representation of that.
How do I reflect on my favorite character? First off, he’s just absolutely, 100% hilarious. Who doesn’t laugh when he first appears onscreen holding a baseball bat and surrounded by flames? His over-expressiveness and exaggerated actions add to his comedy (which has a bit of a slapstick feel at times), and one of the biggest aspects is his overly-violent reaction to many events. Who else would get mad at his son-in-law when he learns his daughter is pregnant? It’s Akio’s at times unrealistic (or maybe just impractical) reactions that make him endearing, I think. There’s so much more about his humor that I could mention, but I don’t feel like portraying myself as a fanboy too much.
Besides his hilarity, there’s his emotional side. Like I said before, his speech at Nagisa’s play is just astounding (I’d encourage you to scroll back up and watch it, if you didn’t before; or maybe re-watch it: it’s just that great!). It really showcases his character: even though he has all this comedy on the outside, on the inside he truly, deeply cares for his family, and he’ll do anything to help them, even give up his dream of being an actor. Even though it’s difficult, he even suppresses the memory of himself even being an actor, because he knows it’s better for Nagisa’s emotional well-being. Then he’s forceful and assertive when Tomoya wants to marry Nagisa: she’s his daughter, and he won’t let just anyone take her from him. Her husband has to prove his worth. I just love the thought of a father having that much pride in his daughter, that he’d go that far to protect her, and I love the thought of a man having to show the father that he is trust-worthy enough to be with the daughter. It’s just an amazingly romantic idea (and yes, I am a bit of a romantic). Then there’s the fact that after his daughter dies, he stays strong in order to care for his granddaughter. Really, Akio is an example of true strength and caring, in my eyes.
I don’t think Clannad would be what it is without Akio. He’s really a big part of what makes the show balance both comedy and heart-touching drama. There’s just no way Clannad would exist in the same form without Akio; I believe he really is that important.
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.