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?
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.