All of that character contrast doesn't mean a whole lot, though, without something substantial behind Tomoyo. To tell the truth, I was still feeling that bit out. I couldn't quite find something that really, strongly made me attached to the character, as much as I really liked her. Fuko remained my top character for a while, simply because there was something I really admired about her insistent and totally devoted sacrifice for her sister. Tomoyo? Well, I just liked her general philosophy and approach to life.
That was before I saw Episode 18, which is also essentially the core of Tomoyo's arc all wrapped into one episode. This, by the way, is a vast compression from the Visual Novel, far moreso than any of the other girls' arcs. In part, this is because Fuko's arc and Kotomi's arc both touch on the supernatural aspect of the show. Kyou and Ryou's arc has more time simply because Kyou is loud, and makes her presence very known. This leaves Tomoyo to explain herself in a single episode.
Explain she does. It's all contained in this scene, which is one of the scenes that crystallizes Clannad for me. Though I'm moved by other scenes, there aren't a whole lot which speak so directly to me about the meaning of the show. Indeed, I would posit that the entire show can be summed up with the following clip.
She flat-out explains something important, something very important: that it's family which keeps a person together. Tomoya's never really thought of this question until now. The answers he gives (talent and relationships) are a tad shallow, and I think Tomoyo agrees, but is too nice to say so. Rather, she offers her own, stronger reason. Interestingly, this is of critical importance to After Story. Tomoya, though he doesn't know it, will face the threat of running wild in rebellion against the world, and he's going to need something to keep him stable. If he relied on talent, well...his talents aren't exactly apparent, and he sure hasn't found them. If he relied on relationships, well...he couldn't. Not after Nagisa's death.
All he has left is family.
In the end, that's really why I love Tomoyo. All that she had left, when Takafumi jumped, was family. It was from family that she pulled together meaning from life. The love in her family was what kept them afloat, and that speaks all manner of things to me. These four minutes practically encapsulate the entirety of After Story, in a sense, giving you a taste of what's to come. Tomoyo falls back on her family to protect her, and is all the more awesome for it. When I reached this point, I was sold.
I could tell that beneath that calm, cool, occasionally violent exterior was a heart that cared intensely for the ones whom Tomoyo loved. It was a passionate, strong heart, and also a heart torn and mended from the experience of life. Tomoyo is a soul who has weathered tragedy and devastation, and come out all the better for it. She knows where to go back to, back to her family, back to the ones who love her.
Because, really, that's the only answer that I've found to life that I can truly say that I agree with. It all comes back to family.