“The happiness between you two is our dream. So please seize your happiness.”
Furukawa Sanae is a pretty major member of Clannad’s cast, appearing frequently throughout the show; she is the wife of Furukawa Akio and the mother of Furukawa Nagisa. Her backstory is explained in Episode 21 of Clannad. Like her husband, she appears throughout the series, from the first episode to the last.
Sanae is a very caring, energetic, youthful, often overdramatic mother. Like her husband, she helps provide a good amount of the show’s comedy, with the absolute atrociousness of her pastries (which can at times be so bad as to fell an entire gang). Whenever someone insults her pastries (which is often), she runs out of the bakery crying, and her husband has to follow her, with her pastries stuffed in his mouth, yelling “I love them!” Besides the pastry-based comedy, there are other moments of her overdramatic nature as well; there’s also comedy in the fact that her looks are so youthful that many suspect her of being Nagisa’s sister. But when she’s not involved in comedy, she is incredibly caring, offering her home to whoever needs to stay there and providing support as best she can to anyone; she’s also very good with kids, sometimes running an after school program in her home. She’s also a very strong woman when it comes to true emotions, not overdramatic comedic ones; there’s only one instance (that I can recall) of her truly crying. Overall, then, Sanae is overdramatic and youthful, but caring as well; at least the first two aspects of this can be seen in her first scene:
Like her husband, we first see her in the first episode, when Tomoya visits Nagisa’s house (also a bakery named “Furukawa Pan”: in English, “Furukawa Bread”). Not knowing the “unwritten rule” of not insulting her pastries, Tomoya makes her run out of the store crying. The ensuing dinner scene shows her energetic youthfulness (which at times almost looks like naïveté) and the comedy it can create.
Throughout the first season, then, she is usually a comic character, although she also opens her homes to others. She is the teacher for Fuko’s fake class, and there’s a heart-breaking moment involving her during the time that everyone is forgetting Fuko; she’s been staying at the Furukawas, and one day Sanae is talking with Tomoya and Nagisa, also saying hello to Fuko, but she breaks down. She admits that she went to visit Fuko in the hospital, and now she can’t see her spirit anymore. (The scene is more heart-breaking than how I described it.) Like with Akio, she’s at most major events throughout the season, like the wedding and the festival.
Mei stays at her home, as does Tomoya near the end of the season. When Tomoya’s there, he returns from school one day to find his room covered in children (some of whom begin to attack him). Sanae explains that it’s an after school program she helps run in her home. When Akio is explaining Nagisa’s past to Tomoya, we learn why Sanae has been doing so many teacher-related activities: she used to be a school teacher until the day when Nagisa collapsed in the snow and almost died, due to her parents’ leaving her alone. After that day, she left her teaching job and became a baker (with no skills; she might even have anti-skills), but she still helps out with teaching sometimes, as if evidenced by the series. She provides support for Akio’s inspirational speech at the festival.
During the second season, she has more importance. For one, she plays a part in Sunohara’s arc. Sunohara decides to find a fake girlfriend to impress Mei, and eventually he ends up having a disguised Sanae be his fake girlfriend. Sanae rebukes him for not helping out some lost children being bullied on a playground, and this instigates the conflict between Mei and her brother in the arc. This only works because Sunohara thinks Sanae is Nagisa’s sister, so he asks for her hand in marriage from Akio, leading to an obvious conflict.
Besides this part, Sanae is a comedy character for a while, but after Nagisa and Tomoya’s marriage, she becomes key. She’s the one that actually breaks the news of Nagisa’s pregnancy, and she introduces the Okazakis to Yagi, a midwife. She suggests the idea that, with Nagisa’s rapidly progressing illness during her pregnancy, an abortion might be an option to consider. Nagisa whole-heartedly rejects this idea.
After Nagisa dies and Ushio is born, Sanae helps take care of the little girl, and she’s the one that gets in contact with Tomoya about going on a trip with them all. Through some craftiness, she gets Tomoya to go on a trip alone with Ushio, and she also gets Shino to meet them on the trip. After this, she is, like Akio, a common sight, though no one extra is living at her house anymore.
During this time period is a very impacting scene. Tomoya is sleeping (I believe at the Furukawas’ house), and Akio and Sanae are talking outside on the porch. Tomoya wakes up and listens in on a little of their conversation. After a little talk, Sanae begins to cry. The talk reveals that, due to taking care of Ushio, Sanae has never really gotten a chance to grieve over her daughter’s death. Since Tomoya is taking Ushio back to his home, now, Sanae finally has that chance to mourn and heal. So she sits out on the porch crying, with Akio supporting her.
Following all this, she does her best to help Ushio during her illness, but it’s ineffective (since it’s most likely the same incurable, mysterious disease Nagisa had). Once the mysterious events of the final episode are over, she’s seen during the montage as she often is: running out of the bakery crying, with Akio sprinting after her to support her.
Effects on Main Plot
One of Sanae’s biggest effects on the plot is just being at her house; her house is a common scene of action in the series, being the home of not only Nagisa, Akio, and herself, but at times the temporary home of Fuko, Mei, and Tomoya. Her caring nature helps her provide for many characters, not just her daughter. She acts as Sunohara’s fake girlfriend and prompts the conflict in his arc. Besides her constant care in many smaller acts, she is included in some very big acts in After Story. She introduces Tomoya and Nagisa to Yagi, the midwife, and she advocates them discussing with their doctor whether to have an abortion or not, due to Nagisa’s condition. After Nagisa’s death, she helps take care of Ushio, and she sets up what may be the most emotionally powerful episodes in the series: Ushio and Tomoya’s reunion trip. Not only does she somewhat trick them into going on the trip, but she gets in contact with Shino and has her there waiting for them. Without her, then, Tomoya and Ushio may have never reunited; thus she is essential to the plot, truly essential. Without her, the show may have just ended hopelessly, with Tomoya and Ushio having a separated relationship for the rest of their lives. I think Sanae is what lets Clannad have a happy ending.
Like every single other character, there’s family. Sanae deeply cares for her daughter and does her best to help her, and she does the same for her granddaughter. She understands the importance of family, which is why she sets up the trip for Tomoya and Ushio, and she gets Tomoya reunited with Shino as well. Without her doing, Tomoya would have been separated from his family, possibly for the rest of his life. Without her, much of the show’s emphasis may have become useless in the light of the ending (that is, if Tomoya never reunited with Ushio, Shino, and Naoyuki).
With Sanae, we see some of the other themes of the show, but not as much I think. She has much more of a minor role, compared to her husband, in terms of the themes.
Sanae’s an interesting character. Of course, she’s humorous, and she has some dramatic moments, but overall I find her much more minor than her husband. That’s not to say she’s not important; as I mentioned before, I don’t know what the last few episodes of the series would be like without her. For most of the series, though, she feels like much more of a background character, at least to me. I do recognize that she’s necessary, though.
The real thing that bothers me a bit about her is her suggestion of Nagisa’s having an abortion. I understand where she’s trying coming from, with the fact that Nagisa is ill, and she wants her daughter to live. The thing is, you have to put yourself into Nagisa’s shoes as well: wouldn’t she give up anything for her child, even her own life? Sanae shows that she sacrifices for her family, so why wouldn’t Nagisa sacrifice for hers as well? I understand that Sanae is trying to be caring and protect her daughter, but killing her granddaughter is not the way to do that. Thankfully, though, Sanae accepts the fact that Nagisa won’t have an abortion, and she supports her in her pregnancy. That’s definitely a redeeming factor of that part of the story.
I don’t really have to much more to say about Sanae. She’s a humorous character with some dramatic moments, and she orchestrates one of the greatest moments in the series, so I have to give her kudos for that. Besides that, I think I’m out of things to say about her. Thus ends my post.
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.