I figure that the Tomoyo vs. Kyou clip has been linked enough times by me, so I won't embed it in this post. It really is the one clip which does the difference between the two female leads of the series' end the best justice. At the same time, it's interesting to note their similarity...this is something I alluded to in my Kyou post for Top Ten.
Fire and Water
Yeah, the elemental symbolism is a tad overdone...but if two characters ever deserved these elements, it's Kyou and Tomoyo. I'd say, however, that Tomoyo is the fire, while Kyou is the water. It's definitely not the typical definition; with her high-strung temperament, you'd expect Kyou to be the fire, right? Well, here's where I'm going with it.
Kyou is a tempest. She washes one way, but then momentum takes her and drags her right back. Just as water is moved by many currents and ripples beneath its surface, so Kyou is pulled every which way by the emotional forces in her life. By contrast, Tomoyo is a slowly burning blaze, a focused fire. She has a goal to her blaze, and so she doesn't let it burn out of control. She only allows it to show under the most important circumstances.
Persons of Special Violence
Tomoyo and Kyou beat people up. They beat people up who really deserve it. Kyou sometimes beats people up who don't deserve it, because she's into pre-emptive strikes and all that. What immediately comes to mind is how she brains (or attempts to brain) anyone who steps within five feet of Botan, preferring to ask questions later. Tomoyo takes a cautious approach, even going so far as to tell Sunohara to attack her, to make her violence self-defense.
Tomoyo is this way because of her past. She's been through her violent phase, a phase that Kyou is currently going through. The major difference is that Tomoyo's phase was far worse. Whereas Kyou only beats up those around her, Tomoyo was going and picking fights with gang members. She is far better at fighting, and she's been through more of it. She has a far more experienced view of violence, because she's been there and disliked what she saw. She doesn't want to be violent, and takes every caution against it.
Them and Tomoya
I got to watch this difference play out in the second-to-last arc of Clannad, and I loved Tomoyo all the more for it. See, I rather disliked Kyou's approach to Tomoya. She was throwing herself after him, as it were, pushing people around, and trying to force matters. I had a gut reaction to all of this. I didn't like it. By contrast, there was Tomoyo. Every pass that Kyou made brought me closer to liking Tomoyo more.
I think that the clip linked above, again, has a great example of this (I automatically skipped it to the very end, where the important bit is). Tomoyo is very careful about where she throws her emotion. She lets her feelings for Tomoya grow and develop, instead of rushing them. Of course, this winds up costing her in the long run, but oh well. Nagisa is somewhat fated to win out in the "main ending", anyhow. ;)
When All's Said and Done...
Contrast with Kyou isn't enough for me to like Tomoyo, of course. She hit on some things that spoke to me, though. What exactly were they? Well, you'll have to wait a little bit to find those out...next week.