I finished Clannad After Story last night, plunging through the six episodes on the last disk in one sitting (which I suspect is an easier, though perhaps not better, way to see it than in a series of week-long cliffhangers).
Oh, hey, sad girl buried in snow.
Like the Kyoto Animation Kanon, I really enjoyed it, up to episode nineteen. So many of these harem series end with the confession, or the first kiss. Clannad After Story actually deals with the couple’s struggles to be a couple, and with all that implies. It’s nice to see that — I wish more series followed that path.
But then the bathos overwhelms and it turns into a ghost-story.
What follows is all pretty spoilerific. If you haven’t watched the series, you may want to not go beyond this paragraph. TLDR: in the words of Angel Beats‘ Otonashi: “You can’t just give them a fake happy ending! Their lives were real!” (Well, you’re trying to convince the audience that these lives and loves and losses are real, and serious — that fake happy ending just undermines what has gone before.)
Look, we know Nagisa is going to die in childbirth — it’s obvious from the moment she says she wants to have a baby. That’s a given. No problem. Having Tomoya plunge into despair afterwards was nicely done. The outcome of Sanae’s plot to reunite him with Ushio was sweetly weepy. Tomoya’s reconciliation with his father was also a nice element, underscoring the series’ themes of family and community.
But then to have Ushio reprise Nagisa’s illness, well, that’s undisciplined and self-indulgent on the writers’ part: they are just jerking chains because the chains are there to be jerked. Overdone. By this time, trite. But then to wind up the robot story with a reset! That’s precisely the sort of thing that Otonashi was complaining about — despite the fact that the show has been interweaving the robot story from the very beginning.
Gag. Ack. Ptui.
I don’t really care about Clannad * as an adaptation of a game (I gather it’s good at that). I care about it as a story.
There were a lot of directions they could have gone in to make a strong story — for example, Kyou-sensei and Tomoya could reignite their old flame, and build a compelling and touching story about family and friends helping Tomoya emerge from his grief for Nagisa (it’s been six years, a decent mourning period), and being a better lover and father for the experience.
But no: “it was all a dream”. Cheap. Trite. A waste of talent. If I weren’t donating the disks to my local club, I’d have hurled them across the room.
End of kvetching. Now it’s just idle remarks.
I rather liked the whole “spirit of the town” element of the overall plot. Now I wonder if the new hospital was present in the second telling of the story, or had its destruction of the woodland been averted or altered sufficiently, with the subsequent changes spinning out from there? Kanon had a similar situation of construction destroying a treasured place as part of Mai’s story — a similar field of flowers as well. Do you suppose teenage Ushio will wield a sword and do battle with demons?
As with Clannad, where I thought the Tomoyo arc trumped all that had preceded it, I found myself enjoying some of the post-season material of After Story a good deal more than the series itself. The Kyou-arc episode, like the Tomoyo-arc episode, was extremely well done with a wonderful mix of sweet and sour (poor Ryou). Both the Kyou- and Tomoyo- arcs did not suffer from the drama-destroying sweetening resets, indeed, they make it look like Maeda really does know how to write a love-story that includes tragedy and pain, he just felt he had to be excessive before pulling his punches in After Story.
Also, I thought the Kyou-arc episode did more for Sunohara than his own arc in Clannad — he proved himself to be a good friend.
Revived Fuuko didn’t charm me as much as her spirit and magical-girl forms, but it’s Nanoka Ai, and that’s enough. Fuuko running into the woods following shade-Ushio’s scent was touching.
I was really hoping that reset-Ushio would trip over a rusty toy robot in the field of flowers when Tomoya reprised her trip, this time accompanied by Nagisa.
As the meeting-amid-the-cherry-blossoms was repeated for the third or fourth time in After Story, I found myself wondering if Kumeta Kouji or SHAFT were deliberately mirroring the beginning of Clannad with the encounter between Kafka and Pink Supervisor under the cherry trees at the beginning of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei. Probably not, it’s a natural setting for a beginning-of-the-school-year encounter.