Friday, February 25, 2011

Reflections From the top of the Hill (Fin)

Well folks, this is it. After all the time we've spent together this blog needs to come to an end.Clannad is done. It's been done for a few years now, and we covered what we wanted to on this blog. It's not just that I want to move on to other things. It's that everything that I could possibly cover on this show that means something to me has been covered, and I no longer have anything in my head that's not on here. This is an archive of my thoughts about this show, and fortunately I only have a finite brain to divulge. We're at the top of the hill, and we're looking down at everything that's happened. I have a lot of memories.

I remember starting this blog as if it was yesterday. I'd been coming out of another rough patch not covered in this blog, and needed to tell my story. So much had happened in two years, and I needed to process (much as I do now, as I start the next chapter in my rather insane life). I didn't really know why I wanted to cover the show, other than that it was extremely important to me, and I can't even say that I had an overarching theme in mind. I just wanted to say that I'd found beauty and truth, enough for me to hang onto until I could find it on my own. Beyond covering those basic things I had nothing in mind. I didn't expect (or want) to be be made one of the admins of the Clannad Fan Club. I didn't expect Brandon to start up his blog, or for Sean to want to jump on board, or any of the other things that have happened. I just wanted to get in, post my thoughts, and get out. Like Tomoya, I'd know idea what was going to happen.

This was one of the best projects I have ever worked on. It was personal, collaborative, filled with the things that I cared about, and fun. Every week I'd sit down and watch another few episodes of my favorite show and write about them. I'd never written a blog like this before, and I was a bit worried that I'd peter out. I'd never completed a writing project before, and I'm not exactly the most inspiring of writers, so I grew afraid. But, as I learned from the next few months of writing this show, starting a new relationship, and trying to get my iconography off the ground, it doesn't matter who you are, or what you think you're capable of. You have a choice to make, and regardless of how capable you may or may not be, you will always have that. Did the fact that I didn't think I was a good writer stop me from making this blog? Hell no. Did the fact that Tomoya wasn't exactly father material at the start of the show stop him? Hell no. 

As Clannad taught me we have choices to make about who we are going to be. If you want to be a certain way, then do it! God will provide the way for you to fulfill your dreams, if only you ask Him. And by ask Him I mean go out and keep trying to do it, and never give up. Regardless of cost, reason, sanity, sleep, sorrow, or joy, if it's what you truly desire then you will never give up until your goal is accomplished. Don't say that you're not worthy of it, or not smart enough, or (heavens forbid) strong enough. Did Tomoya look like ANY of those? Does he now? All that separates him from Sunohara are his choices.

And that's really what I think I have to say about this show since the beginning: you will never know what good will come of you following your dreams until you try it. Who knows, you might do the impossible and succeed. I mean, look at this blog. It's here because all the people who wrote in it truly wanted to. Week in and week out we made a deliberate choice to write about this show, regardless of what we thought of our own material (which is not to say we're awful writers. The people who wrote on this blog are awesome. But I'd lie if I said that we didn't have our own doubts). And it's paid off, folks. Like Clannad, this blog has served it's purpose, and so now it'll end. Do I want to say good-bye to my pet project? Actually, I do. I've done everything I want to, and so I'll move on to other things. Am I sad? Of course.  This blog was the first attempt I'd made to talk about something on the internet that succeeded (i.e. people actually read it)! But who knows, maybe by letting go of this project I'll go and find what I've always been looking for. Maybe I'll finally start that Firefly blog that I keep yammering about. Or become a world famous musician. Or, hell, become a homeless bum on the street who amuses people with silly faces. You never know what will happen.

And that's the wonderful thing about life. You don't know. All you can do is try, and hope for the best. Like Tomoya, the only thing that will keep you moving forward is the faith that if you make choices good will come of them somehow. And look at what it got him: a family. What'll it get you?

It's been an honor and a joy writing for all of you,
Liam Francis Traveller

A special shout out to the following people who made this blog what it is are in order.

Brandon: Dude, you do realize that the majority of your posts are the most looked at on this site, right? Don't tell me I'm the better writer ;) Seriously, though, thanks for doing your part here, and for playing the counterbalance to me for awhile. I loved reading your stuff, and felt honored that you would share it here. You have a good analytical style, and I'm glad that you shared it with us. Take care of yourself in Austria, my friend. You rock. 

Sean: I know you didn't get a lot of time to post here, but your post on Fuko was amazing. You brought a completely different side to this blog, even if only for a moment, and I'm glad that you did. You take care of the Warriors for me, OK? I know they're troublesome, but they're good guys. Thanks for contributing, I wouldn't be the same without you.

Maria: What can't I thank you for? You encouraged me at the beginning to write the blog, you read it, you told me that it was good, and you told me that I had something important to say. While you didn't write much here, you certainly did your part of being essential to this blog, even if it was behind the scenes. I hope the readers understand how essential you are, because this all your fault. I mean, how could it not be?

Andy: First of all, TOLDJA this show was good, Mr.-I'll-learn-Meg Mell-on-my-guitar! :P I've never not worked with you on a writing project, and I'm happy that this wasn't an exception. Your different point of view was a wonderful second half for the blog and kept it alive while I went and fretted about how I was going to end it. Thank you for your insights, I always value them.

Taylor: I'm not gonna lie, folks. Without Taylor this wouldn't have happened. I remember sitting on Facebook, chatting with him about the idea for this blog, and about how it could have been a video blog. He told me that he could splice some of the episode clips for me, and that's when the format of this being a text-video blog popped into my head and stuck there. Every single week I would give him my "selections" to cut, and he did almost always on time. When I say almost always, I mean when he didn't get it on time he would get pissed about failing and try doubly as hard the next time. Taylor, your dedication to this blog is impossible to overstate. Thank you for putting everything into it that you did, because you made it doable. 

and last but not least...

To our readers: I don't know how many of you there are, but thanks for sticking around and reading. This project was a deeply personal thing for everyone involved here, and it's very humbling to have people read and enjoy something that you put so much of your heart and soul into. I hope you find the blog as enlightening as we, the writers, have. Tis been an honor.

And one more video, just for the hell of it. Well, it might have thematic importance to this post. Just a bit. Three last cheers for Taylor, folks! He did this in a few hours (and if you're wondering, yes that can be a pain with Youtube. Trust me, I know)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Make a Choice

Well, it finally comes around to the interesting portion of my posts. I've already gone through Tomoyo, and touched on the alternate arc for Kyou. And now? I'm going to be explaining why I think the idea of having "another world" arcs is not only valid, but important to the series. Well, at the very least, I think that they provide an insight into something which becomes very important to Tomoya.

One Set Path?
The idea that there's only one "proper continuity" gets really toyed-with by Clannad, because it's based off of a "visual novel". For those who don't know...the most simple explanation of a VN I can scrounge up is that it's like those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, but with a much more upper-scale story, better-developed characters, far-better writing, and more interesting choices. In a visual novel, there's multiple routes that you can take in the story. When there's a romance involved (as is typical of VNs), different routes tend to involve the main character ending in a relationship with different characters. WARNING: This next paragraph contains some spoilers for the visual novel, including a key bit about After Story

In Clannad, there's romantic endings for Tomoya with Nagisa, Fuko (yes, there is an ending where Tomoya goes out with Fuko), Tomoyo, Ryou, Kyou, and Yukine. That's a lot. And completing some of them unlocks bits of others' stories. In addition to that, these endings contain an important feature for After Story: the "light orbs". You have to complete these (and other) endings in order to fulfill people's wishes, to collect enough lights in order to unlock the "real" ending to After Story. See, in the usual ending to After Story, you get the path followed in the anime, where Nagisa dies during childbirth, Tomoya reconciles with Ushio, and then they tragically die in the snow. If you're missing light orbs, the game points you to that, and tells you to go back and collect the missing ones. I could write an entire post alone on that interpretation of the ending, the fact that you have to complete multiple timelines in order to unlock the "good" final ending. Or how that big bundle of lights includes lights from those "another world" storylines.

But I digress.

The idea that there's more than one set path gets talked-about by Ryou, mostly, although there's a scene in After Story where Kotomi waxes scientific about it, too. I find this scene to be the most informative, however, because of Ryou's monologue.

"If the results come true, it's as if there's only one set future. But if it fails, we can think that other futures exist. We never know how the future shifts because of the slightest change. I want to believe that in our future, there are many possibilities waiting."

On one level, it's a rather amusing statement by a character in a visual novel, poking the "fourth wall" a little. (Indeed, the "future" can shift because of the direction in which Tomoya attempts to avoid Kyou, early on in the game) And it's funny. It also makes one think about this "multiple paths" thing from another perspective. When you're playing the game, you think about it from an observer's perspective.

But what about the characters?

Many Possibilities
Ryou wrestles with that idea of fate. It's a rather subtle theme that comes through her entire character. She's a bit scared and timid, afraid to make splashes in the world. Perhaps she's scared to do something wrong, that one of those changes which she causes will bring about a terrible future. Perhaps she's frightened that she'll lose everything that she's been hoping for.

Tomoya ought to wrestle with the same fear. He's seen so much go bad from decisions that people have made, he has ample reason to believe that his own choices will wreak havoc on life. There's enough stuff that went bad in his life, after all. And maybe Tomoya does...up until that one pivotal moment which, ironically, begins the series. He reaches out to Nagisa.

In that single moment, all of the possibilities crystallize: the ones that are, the ones that are not. Everything boils down and is guided by that one pivotal choice. Is it fate? Not really. It's the movement of a heart, taking action and shaping reality...through the sheer force of will.

It just takes that one simple action. It takes the courage to make that choice. And, really, that's how we all shape our lives. If we don't step out, we can't choose a path. Fate won't pick our life for us. We have to do something about it.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I leave you with.

It's been fabulous writing around here, and it's kinda sad to know that School's Trees is coming to an end soon, but it's been a good run. The season has come round, and The School's Trees will still stand to move and inspire future generations.

Monday, January 31, 2011

The Hero

Hey guys, long time no post! I know it's been a while, but I've got a minute from moving into my new school to come back to my favorite blog. What have I been up to? Why, watching Clannad of course! What else would I be doing, besides iconography, moving into school and getting to know a whole bunch of new and cool people, and a good long distance relationship? That doesn't include 16 credit hours or three RP campaigns, of course. Not busy at all. But back to Clannad.

I just got done watching Clannad for the seventh time, this time with my father. For many reasons it was a beautiful thing to do, because I'd had a similar epiphany about my father that Tomoya had, although it wasn't for anything halfway as serious. Either way,it was wonderful to watch the show with one of the major people in my life. As I watched this time, however, something stuck out at me. It's been percolating for a while now, so I thought I'd write on it, and see how people reacted. This time I want to write specifically on Tomoya.

In The School's Trees post on Tomoya we'd stated that Tomoya is the common man, that he's the least likely person to be a hero, because he's...normal. And I agree with that (I mean, hell, I helped write it), but I found that I missed something in this wonderful show after the seventh time. Part of this has to do with the fact that I finally played a portion of the Visual Novel, and walked in Tomoya's shoes for a bit. That changed my view of the anime completely, because I bombed out within the first twenty minutes.
Yes, I flunked the Visual Novel.
I did it one more time before noticing the trend. The good things wouldn't pursue you, the plot wouldn't come and find you. Oh sure, the plot invited, but the plot never pursued. Ever. There were just hints of the good things to come that I knew from the anime so well, but nothing ever came of it. Why? Because I never went after it. Tomoya must grab life in the Visual Novel, and never let it go. Ever. Watching the anime after that gave me a new appreciation for the character of Tomoya, because, once he made this decision:

He never, ever, but never backs down from it until the death of Nagisa. He goes at his  goal with an iron will, with the impossible determination of a man who believes that there is meaning out there, and that even if he can't see it, even if he can't feel it, he knows it must exist. What led him to that conclusion? The answer is a bit silly, but it's true: sheer boredom. Tomoya was bored. He wanted a full life, and wasn't getting it, so he went out and lived one. He faced the darkness and walked right into it, daring something that most of us will never do.  The fact that he ran into such sadness with little to nothing to guide him and went through it anyway, only to quit when Nagisa died, says a lot about Tomoya's strength. His fortitude, which is enormous, couldn't make it through that alone, and would have to wait five more years for Ushio. But remember that when Ushio was ready, Tomoya found the strength again. Like his inability to cope with Nagisa's death or not, I doubt most of us would do half as well with the circumstances Tomoya had bulldozed his way out of. Tomoya never gives up.

After that I found myself a bit of a wimp after watching him for this seventh time. Tomoya's will is iron, quiet, and purposeful. Mine is not. But I know I can be like him, because, as we'd stated, Tomoya is the everyman. He is us. He is us because he tries, and when he doesn't get it the first time he tries until he gets it right. The fact that the everyman can only get what he wants by trying every possible situation as much as he can is something I know I don't think about often.  But it certainly is helpful to think about, isn't it?