So the first season of Clannad delivered more bad than good, and as much as I would like to turn that around entering After Story, that’s still some stuff we have to get through. I will say, overall I do think After Story is significantly better than its predecessor, but when I think about it, there are parts that I just don’t associate with what I feel After Story is.
When I think of After Story, I think of the things that most anime in the same vein as Clannad never deliver on; the things that happen after. I’m talking about shows set in high school, where a guy and a girl get together. They typically end right after the two confess their feelings and begin a relationship, while still in high school. So the “after” I’m referring to is after they get together, after high school; that’s when I start to register that I’m watching the “after story”. And in the case of Clannad After Story, that doesn’t happen until about the halfway point.
The very first episode is pretty pointless. Not to say it’s completely empty or bad, just not very significant. Tomoya has to assemble a baseball team for Akio, and they play a game against some unimportant characters. It does get into Akio’s character a bit, but for the most part it’s just a refresher episode to showcase the important characters again.
Following this, another arc from the visual novel gets its moment of fame. I’ve made a point of not going much into these before, because they are poorly integrated tangents, but this one has actually earned some mention. I mentioned Sunohara in part 1, and he comes up again here. As far as I can tell, this arc is less about redemption, and more about the future, which does kinda set the mood for an after story. In order to be ready to become an adult, Sunohara has to stop being bogged down by losing what he thought was the only thing worthwhile, soccer, and find other things to work for. It’s a nice end point for his character, but the plot surrounding it is so ridiculous and logically flawed that it’s hard to take any of it seriously. It relies on the 18 year old Tomoya convincing his best friend that he broke up with Nagisa in order to date Sunohara’s 13 year old sister. And Sunohara believes this. And that’s not even the only fake relationship of the arc!
Another two tangents go by, this time revolving around minor characters, and suddenly we’re eight episode into After Story. I said a lot of content, particularly Fuko and Kotomi, could have been cut from Clannad, and I want to add to that. Whatever could have been cut from Clannad, could have been replaced with the first nine episodes of After Story. They’re still a lot of filler, but they’re marginally better than the goddamn Kotomi arc.
And episode nine is actually a great jumping point for an after story. It’s when Tomoya et al actually graduate, it has the main characters talking about what they’ll do after high school, and it brings the focus of the show back to Nagisa and Tomoya’s relationship, which has remained stagnant until now.
Okay, I’m done one-sidedly ragging on the show now.
From this point on, After Story is divided into two parts, Tomoya becoming an adult, and Tomoya becoming a father. I think these two stories are what make After Story so much more powerful than Clannad to a lot of people, and they are why I can’t just forget this anime.
After graduating, Tomoya begins working at the Furukawa bakery, and after saving some money he moves out on his own into a gloomy little apartment, and gets a lasting job as an electrician. I’ve also heard people comment on a drop in animation quality in After Story, but I don’t consider it a drop. The animation does look a little cheaper, but I prefer it over the bubbly, oversaturated Clannad style, and the timing fits.
After Story takes things in a completely different direction, from the cuetsy, naturally sentimental, rose-tinted tone of high school life that Clannad had, to a dingy, tough, realistic one. Tomoya comes home from work exhausted, barely able to stay awake through dinner with Nagisa. Life is no longer effortlessly fun, life is tough. But rather than make this a slap in the face for Tomoya and fans of Clannad, the show makes it feel anticipated.
Tomoya wasn’t getting anywhere before, and now it seems like he was just waiting for this, the chance to do something else. It’s hard, and sad, and lonely, but the way Tomoya approaches this step in life is desirable; he chose to move out of the Furukawa’s, and he wants to be good at his job. There’s this very sudden drive to his character.
Unfortunately, the slap in the face does come, as Tomoya loses a new job opportunity when his father gets arrested. It’s at this point that Tomoya starts thinking more like Akio.
In the high school days of Clannad, all things meaningful came naturally; friends, struggles, and the drama club all just sorta happened. Sure there was effort put into them, but not much thought or commitment. But that all stops with the after story; meaningful things don’t just happen. After this point, Tomoya starts making them happen. He shapes the sympathetic moments of his life. And this is what Akio and Sanae do all the time when they’re being goofballs.
This comes together when Tomoya has to earn Akio’s blessing to marry Nagisa in baseball. By all means, it’s a silly way to settle things, but Akio and Tomoya both make it meaningful by the devotion they put into it. Contrast this to Nagisa’s Big Dango Family; she just likes them because she likes them. I think this is Clannad’s idea of growing up, being an adult. Kids find things meaningful naturally, but adults have to make things meaningful. Again looking at Nagisa, when she’s older she finally gives a reason for liking the Big Dangos (wow, I just realized how much “Dango” sounds like a euphemism for a penis), they make her think of having her own big family.
And right as the family begins and she gives birth to her and Tomoya’s daughter, she dies. Sorry for spoiling the best part.
Tomoya is left in a similar situation as his father was. I wish there was more to say here, but this part of his character arc is honestly very boring and there’s not much to analyze. He comes to understand his own father better, but that’s not actually due to his own parenting, it’s due to a plot-convenient encounter. He realizes he should be involved in his daughter’s life, and that’s kind of it. It’s certainly more engaging than the first season, and isn’t bad overall, but the latter end of After Story is a steady decline from the high point of Tomoya and Akio’s baseball game. And with only the infamous reset ending left at that point, it’s an all-around disappointment.
I’ve heard others talk about “the void” after watching Clannad, the feeling that something that fulfills you over, and you can’t find anything to fill its place. That’s not the sign of a good anime. A good show should fulfill you, and leave you content at the end, knowing it is over, but also that it is complete. There’s nothing missing, there’s nothing to be filled in. There is no void.
But I do understand the void; I had it too after watching Clannad and After Story. It wasn’t because they were so good. It was because they were so disappointing. I expected better from the ending of After Story. I expected it to leave me fulfilled, and it didn’t. The void comes from disappointment; it is the difference between hope or expectation, and reality.
Clannad is not a great anime, and if it weren’t for the few highpoints of After Story, it wouldn’t even be a decent anime. The first season is dominated by filler, and the second season is mostly disappointment. It is too long and the good, some even great, moments come in far too late for me to recommend it.
Don’t Lose Your Way