Do you like sob stories? How about a sub story, within a sob story, within a sob story? If your answer is ‘yes,’ then Clannad is for you. Sure, on the cover it looks like a routine “feel-good following of highschool friends” anime like Azumanga Daioh. It’s not.
Clannad is actually broken into two sections: the main 24 episodes and a 22-episode After Story. Really, they make up a 46-episode complete anime, as separate arcs.
The story follows Tomoya Okazaki, a senior and a “delinquent,” and the students he ends up surrounding himself with, starting with Nagisa Furukawa. In fact, the main plot of the first arc revolves around Nagisa coming out of her shell and starting up the drama club with Tomoya’s help. Nagisa missed her actual senior year, due to a recurring illness, so she’s actually repeating. Tomoya, with delinquent in quotes, cuts class a lot, but rarely does he actually make trouble for anyone, even himself. Honestly, his character is just like putting a rat poison label on a jar of artificial sweetener, it’s not exactly sugar, but it’s definitely not rat poison either.
Within the first arc are mini-arcs, in which Tomoya and Nagisa reach out to a couple of different students and help them to make friends and complete desired goals. Then tragic things happen or are revealed. Really, it’s like a buzz kill. It’s like rescuing a puppy from a fire in order for it to get hit by a car a few short days later. Seriously, watch this anime with a box of tissues.
Now, I’m not really going to get into the After Story. Frankly, I didn’t watch it, but you don’t really need to. See, here’s what happened:
Within the anime are a few clips about an alternate story that has (seemingly) nothing to do with the main story at all. There’s a robot and a girl, and they’re all alone in the world they’re in. The story is referenced by Nagisa way late in the first arc, and Tomoya claims that the story sounds vaguely familiar. When the main anime arc ends, the only question that doesn’t get answered is where that story came from and what it has to do with the main plot. So, I did what any curious person does: I googled it. I ended up reading an entire synopsis, with a box of tissues, only to discover at the end that it was the “After Story” arc. Now that I know what happens, it’s kind of pointless to watch it, especially with the circumstances that unfold. It follows Nagisa and Tomoya into the future and the events that surround Tomoya in dealing with yet more tragedy.
Don’t believe me? If you don’t mind the SPOILERS BELOW, then keep reading.
Tomoya past/present: His mother died when he was a child, sending his father into a permanent alcoholic and gambling binge. Tomoya attends the school that he does on a basketball scholarship. A fight with his father in which his father got physical, put Tomoya permanently on the bench. He can no longer lift his right arm above his shoulder. Tomoya cuts class frequently, labeling him as a delinquent, and subsequently, easily blamed for anything that goes amiss at the school.
Nagisa: This isn’t discovered until literally the last quarter of the first arc. Nagisa’s picturesque family as a dark secret, which is kept locked in the shed behind their house. As revealed to Tomoya by Nagisa’s father, both he and his wife had their dream jobs: he was an actor and she was a teacher. Nagisa is plagued by a recurring illness, which hit her pretty hard as a child one winter day. Nagisa’s parents left her home alone for 2 hours while they went to their jobs, and her father rushed home as soon as he could. He found her passed out in front of the house, in the snow, close to death. Her parents gave up their jobs to open a bakery and be home with Nagisa, keeping that secret from her. She suspects there’s something hidden in her childhood that she should apologize for, even though it wasn’t her fault.
Fuuko Ibiki: One of the first side characters that Tomoya and Nagisa help is Fuuko, rumored to be a ghost student. Her older sister, a former art teacher, is getting married at the school, and Fuuko creates star fish out of wood as wedding invitations for all the students. Tomoya and Nagisa discover Fuuko was in an accident on her way to school and currently resides in a hospital, in a coma. She is the spirit of her real self, trying to get things together for the wedding. But slowly, the students at the school don’t remember her, and can’t see her anymore. Come the day of the wedding, even Tomoya and Nagisa start forgetting she exists. But everyone suddenly remembers about the wedding and show up for a beautiful day. The following day, Tomoya and Nagisa, along with everyone else, have completely forgotten about Fuuko.
Kotomi Ichinose: She’s a brilliant student who isolates herself in the library everyday and devours book after book. Tomoya tries to get her out of her shell and be more sociable. Then, when she witnesses the wreckage of a bus accident (even though no one got hurt), she has a psychotic break and barricades herself in her house. Tomoya tries to help, only to discover that her parents both died in a plane accident over the ocean on their way to America to give a lecture. She received this news on her birthday.
Tomoya and Nagisa in After Story: They get married and have their first child, a daughter. Nagisa falls ill again and dies. Tomoya goes into a depression, forcing Nagisa’a parents to raise his daughter. After five years, a talk with his grandmother gives him enough strength to live again, and he gets his daughter back. He discovers that she has the same recurring illness as Nagisa, and she soon dies too. Tomoya has a psychotic break and ends up in the alternate reality as the robot from the story. Then he wakes up and Nagisa and his daughter are both alive again. But the damage it did to my psyche is done. Now it feels like a “oh yeah, we messed up. Just kidding.”
So that’s it the SPOILERS END HERE.
It was a good anime, but you’l find yourself going “NO WAY” in a stream of tears at the end of every mini arc, and definitely for sure several times during the After Story. Definitely keep those tissues handy.
And one last note, let the episode play into the closing credits. The Dango Family song is worth a listen as a running joke in the anime itself.