Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Distant Starlight

"We are far, far, very, very far apart... but it might be that thoughts can overcome time and distance."

This post combines two things I have a great affinity for: the music of Muse and the films of Makoto Shinkai.

In 2002, Makoto Shinkai, a CG animator, created an OAV (or OVA, which stands for Original Video Animation) single-handedly on his Apple computer; his only help came from some friends who composed and recorded the music and from his fiancee, who recorded a voice part. It didn't take long for this independent work to become extremely popular, prompting a new dub by professional voice actors, as well as (later on) an English dub. This OAV won many awards and captured the hearts of countless fans around the world who were drawn to this touching story of love separated by distance and time. This OAV was 「ほしのこえ」 (Hoshi no Koe), or, in English, Voices of a Distant Star.  

In 2006, popular U.K. rock band Muse released their fourth studio album, entitled Black Holes and Revelations. Their second single from this album, released on September 4, 2006, was entitled "Starlight," and it also deals with the theme of love separated by distance.

I think these two works of media, Voices of a Distant Star and "Starlight," make a perfect pair in showcasing their shared theme, even if that pairing was not intended originally.

"Starlight" almost seems like the feelings of the characters of Voices of a Distant Star put into song form...well, one version of song form (since the film's ending song could be described the same way). The film begins with two friends: Terao Noboru and Nagamine Mikako. The two friends are basically inseparable...until Mikako informs Noboru that she is heading into space. She's joining the military on an expeditionary/defensive mission against the Tarsians, an alien race.

As her journey begins, Mikako and Noboru exchange text messages frequently, but the farther the fleet flies away from Earth, the longer each message takes. Soon it takes a year for a single message to travel one way (a year in Earth time, that is), and after a hasty jump through space due to an attack, the one-way time is over 8 years.

"Far away / This ship is taking me far away / Far away from the memories / Of the people who care if I live or die."

Noboru feels the temporal separation more than Mikako does. Due to the advanced technology, Mikako is making jumps through time while remaining the same age, but time on Earth stops for no one. Noboru is getting older; at one time, Mikako sends him a message saying hello from her 15-year-old self to his 23-year-old self (I may have the ages slightly off). This time difference does not make Noboru forget about her, though; early on he admits, "I will become someone who only waits for Mikako's mail."

"Starlight / I will be chasing your starlight / Until the end of my life."

As Mikako gets into space battles with the Tarsians and Noboru goes through his schooling and continues to age, their desire for each other continues. Noboru claims he will make himself cold and closed off so that the longing for her will not tear him apart, but his desires stay strong, as evidenced whenever he receives a message from her. Mikako, too, still longs for him.

"Hold you in my arms / I just wanted to hold you in my arms."

The film ends with Noboru in his mid-twenties on Earth and Mikako in a damaged space suit after a battle lightyears away. Though the chances of their ever seeing each other again seems slim (unless Noboru joins the space force, which he intends to do), their love for each other doesn't dim.

"My life / You electrify my life."

And even with all their separation, they remain committed to each other. No matter what happens, their love for each other is permanent and lasting.

"I'll never let you go / If you promise not to fade away, never fade away."

The film's final scene is a shared monologue between Noboru and Mikako that my words cannot do justice: it's portrayed beautifully.

I hope you've enjoyed this post; I certainly enjoyed writing it. I'd highly recommend watching Voices of a Distant Star and Makoto Shinkai's later work 5 Centimeters Per Second (which is probably my favorite anime film I've seen so far). I'd also recommend listening to Muse: they are an amazing band. Anyway, I hope these reflections have struck a chord for you; this movie and this song always do so for me.

And that's all I have to say about that.

Thanks for reading. God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: Thanks to Anime News Network, Wikipedia, and IMDb for background information for this post. Thanks also to the random YouTube accounts hosting these videos: I am most grateful for their availability. All images are screenshots taken by me from the DVD.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

古河早苗 (Furukawa Sanae)

“The happiness between you two is our dream. So please seize your happiness.”

Furukawa Sanae is a pretty major member of Clannad’s cast, appearing frequently throughout the show; she is the wife of Furukawa Akio and the mother of Furukawa Nagisa. Her backstory is explained in Episode 21 of Clannad. Like her husband, she appears throughout the series, from the first episode to the last.


Sanae is a very caring, energetic, youthful, often overdramatic mother. Like her husband, she helps provide a good amount of the show’s comedy, with the absolute atrociousness of her pastries (which can at times be so bad as to fell an entire gang). Whenever someone insults her pastries (which is often), she runs out of the bakery crying, and her husband has to follow her, with her pastries stuffed in his mouth, yelling “I love them!” Besides the pastry-based comedy, there are other moments of her overdramatic nature as well; there’s also comedy in the fact that her looks are so youthful that many suspect her of being Nagisa’s sister. But when she’s not involved in comedy, she is incredibly caring, offering her home to whoever needs to stay there and providing support as best she can to anyone; she’s also very good with kids, sometimes running an after school program in her home. She’s also a very strong woman when it comes to true emotions, not overdramatic comedic ones; there’s only one instance (that I can recall) of her truly crying. Overall, then, Sanae is overdramatic and youthful, but caring as well; at least the first two aspects of this can be seen in her first scene:


Like her husband, we first see her in the first episode, when Tomoya visits Nagisa’s house (also a bakery named “Furukawa Pan”: in English, “Furukawa Bread”). Not knowing the “unwritten rule” of not insulting her pastries, Tomoya makes her run out of the store crying. The ensuing dinner scene shows her energetic youthfulness (which at times almost looks like naïveté) and the comedy it can create.

Throughout the first season, then, she is usually a comic character, although she also opens her homes to others. She is the teacher for Fuko’s fake class, and there’s a heart-breaking moment involving her during the time that everyone is forgetting Fuko; she’s been staying at the Furukawas, and one day Sanae is talking with Tomoya and Nagisa, also saying hello to Fuko, but she breaks down. She admits that she went to visit Fuko in the hospital, and now she can’t see her spirit anymore. (The scene is more heart-breaking than how I described it.) Like with Akio, she’s at most major events throughout the season, like the wedding and the festival.

Mei stays at her home, as does Tomoya near the end of the season. When Tomoya’s there, he returns from school one day to find his room covered in children (some of whom begin to attack him). Sanae explains that it’s an after school program she helps run in her home. When Akio is explaining Nagisa’s past to Tomoya, we learn why Sanae has been doing so many teacher-related activities: she used to be a school teacher until the day when Nagisa collapsed in the snow and almost died, due to her parents’ leaving her alone. After that day, she left her teaching job and became a baker (with no skills; she might even have anti-skills), but she still helps out with teaching sometimes, as if evidenced by the series. She provides support for Akio’s inspirational speech at the festival.

During the second season, she has more importance. For one, she plays a part in Sunohara’s arc. Sunohara decides to find a fake girlfriend to impress Mei, and eventually he ends up having a disguised Sanae be his fake girlfriend. Sanae rebukes him for not helping out some lost children being bullied on a playground, and this instigates the conflict between Mei and her brother in the arc. This only works because Sunohara thinks Sanae is Nagisa’s sister, so he asks for her hand in marriage from Akio, leading to an obvious conflict.

Besides this part, Sanae is a comedy character for a while, but after Nagisa and Tomoya’s marriage, she becomes key. She’s the one that actually breaks the news of Nagisa’s pregnancy, and she introduces the Okazakis to Yagi, a midwife. She suggests the idea that, with Nagisa’s rapidly progressing illness during her pregnancy, an abortion might be an option to consider. Nagisa whole-heartedly rejects this idea.

After Nagisa dies and Ushio is born, Sanae helps take care of the little girl, and she’s the one that gets in contact with Tomoya about going on a trip with them all. Through some craftiness, she gets Tomoya to go on a trip alone with Ushio, and she also gets Shino to meet them on the trip. After this, she is, like Akio, a common sight, though no one extra is living at her house anymore.

During this time period is a very impacting scene. Tomoya is sleeping (I believe at the Furukawas’ house), and Akio and Sanae are talking outside on the porch. Tomoya wakes up and listens in on a little of their conversation. After a little talk, Sanae begins to cry. The talk reveals that, due to taking care of Ushio, Sanae has never really gotten a chance to grieve over her daughter’s death. Since Tomoya is taking Ushio back to his home, now, Sanae finally has that chance to mourn and heal. So she sits out on the porch crying, with Akio supporting her.

Following all this, she does her best to help Ushio during her illness, but it’s ineffective (since it’s most likely the same incurable, mysterious disease Nagisa had). Once the mysterious events of the final episode are over, she’s seen during the montage as she often is: running out of the bakery crying, with Akio sprinting after her to support her.

Effects on Main Plot

One of Sanae’s biggest effects on the plot is just being at her house; her house is a common scene of action in the series, being the home of not only Nagisa, Akio, and herself, but at times the temporary home of Fuko, Mei, and Tomoya. Her caring nature helps her provide for many characters, not just her daughter. She acts as Sunohara’s fake girlfriend and prompts the conflict in his arc. Besides her constant care in many smaller acts, she is included in some very big acts in After Story. She introduces Tomoya and Nagisa to Yagi, the midwife, and she advocates them discussing with their doctor whether to have an abortion or not, due to Nagisa’s condition. After Nagisa’s death, she helps take care of Ushio, and she sets up what may be the most emotionally powerful episodes in the series: Ushio and Tomoya’s reunion trip. Not only does she somewhat trick them into going on the trip, but she gets in contact with Shino and has her there waiting for them. Without her, then, Tomoya and Ushio may have never reunited; thus she is essential to the plot, truly essential. Without her, the show may have just ended hopelessly, with Tomoya and Ushio having a separated relationship for the rest of their lives. I think Sanae is what lets Clannad have a happy ending.


Like every single other character, there’s family. Sanae deeply cares for her daughter and does her best to help her, and she does the same for her granddaughter. She understands the importance of family, which is why she sets up the trip for Tomoya and Ushio, and she gets Tomoya reunited with Shino as well. Without her doing, Tomoya would have been separated from his family, possibly for the rest of his life. Without her, much of the show’s emphasis may have become useless in the light of the ending (that is, if Tomoya never reunited with Ushio, Shino, and Naoyuki).

With Sanae, we see some of the other themes of the show, but not as much I think. She has much more of a minor role, compared to her husband, in terms of the themes.


Sanae’s an interesting character. Of course, she’s humorous, and she has some dramatic moments, but overall I find her much more minor than her husband. That’s not to say she’s not important; as I mentioned before, I don’t know what the last few episodes of the series would be like without her. For most of the series, though, she feels like much more of a background character, at least to me. I do recognize that she’s necessary, though.

The real thing that bothers me a bit about her is her suggestion of Nagisa’s having an abortion. I understand where she’s trying coming from, with the fact that Nagisa is ill, and she wants her daughter to live. The thing is, you have to put yourself into Nagisa’s shoes as well: wouldn’t she give up anything for her child, even her own life? Sanae shows that she sacrifices for her family, so why wouldn’t Nagisa sacrifice for hers as well? I understand that Sanae is trying to be caring and protect her daughter, but killing her granddaughter is not the way to do that. Thankfully, though, Sanae accepts the fact that Nagisa won’t have an abortion, and she supports her in her pregnancy. That’s definitely a redeeming factor of that part of the story.

I don’t really have to much more to say about Sanae. She’s a humorous character with some dramatic moments, and she orchestrates one of the greatest moments in the series, so I have to give her kudos for that. Besides that, I think I’m out of things to say about her. Thus ends my post.

Thanks for reading. God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All clips are from the Clannad Central YouTube channel run by the Clannad (クラナド/Kuranado) fan page on Facebook. All character themes and other music from the show can also be found on said fan page, in the music player. My gratitude to them and all the work they do.

古河秋生 (Furukawa Akio)

"We didn't give up on our dreams! We changed our dreams into your dream! That’s what parents do! That’s what family does!”

Furukawa Akio is a main feature of the cast of Clannad (though, by my previously-stated definition, he’d still be a minor character); he is the wife of Furukawa Sanae and the father of Furukawa Nagisa. His backstory is for the most explained in Episode 21 of Clannad and Episode 15 of After Story. He appears throughout the entire series, though, from the first episode to the last.


Akio is a boisterous, somewhat flamboyant, loud-mouthed, yet caring, father. Comedy is a key part of his makeup, and he enjoys everything from practical jokes to puns and witty comments. His jokes aren’t quiet affairs, either: his excessive volume is part of what makes his comedy so effective. His relationship with his wife is characterized by a recurring joke of her pastries being the most abominable creations on earth and his having to reassure her of their (and thus her) value. His relationship with his daughter is characterized by often strange comments (which have a habit of sometimes becoming a tad perverted…definitely a character flaw on Akio’s part). By the end of the first season, and developing even more so in the second season, his relationship with Tomoya is dynamic, characterized by a loud interplay of extreme reactions and witty statements. Amidst all this boisterous joviality (which also includes frequent baseball playing), though, Akio is also a caring father. He does his best to provide for both his daughter and his wife, working long hours in the bakery and making sure everyone knows not to mess with them. In the end, nothing is more important to him than his daughter: he gladly gives up his long-sought career in order to better be there for her, and he is incredibly tight-fisted about letting her be married (her potential husband definitely has to prove his worth first). All in all, Akio, even though he leans heavily to the comic side of things, has a mix of both humor and deep caring in his personality. His first scene shows the heavy emphasis on humor, with a bit of the caring hidden in there as well:


We first meet Akio when Tomoya decides to randomly stop by Nagisa’s house (which is also a bakery run by her parents) during the first episode. After insulting Sanae’s pastries, Tomoya is accosted by an angry Akio surrounded by flames, who is about to deal a painful blow to him before realizing he’s a friend of Nagisa’s. The first dinner Tomoya has with Nagisa and her parents shows well Akio’s personality: he makes countless jokes, and also throws in some statements about how Tomoya must be adamant in claiming the woman he loves (while Akio dismisses the possibility of Tomoya ever marrying Nagisa). Many of Akio’s scenes are similar to this.

Throughout Fuko’s arc, Akio is somewhat present, especially after Fuko begins to stay at the Furukawas’ house. He helps carve starfish (which leads to some physical injury on his part), and even after forgetting Fuko, he attends Kouko’s wedding. Throughout the series, Tomoya frequently visits the Furukawas’ house, leading to encounters with Akio. The dad is also present at Kotomi’s violin recital, where he mourns the “death” of Sanae due to the terrible sounds being passed off as music. Besides all the humor, though, Akio doesn’t really begin to play a major part until the latter part of the first season, when, after realizing yet again how much his father doesn’t seem to care about him, Tomoya takes up Nagisa’s offer to stay at his house. Living in the same house as Akio leads to more humorous scenes (of course), and it also leads to Akio’s truly dramatic moments in the first season.

Since Nagisa is devoted to making the drama club a success, her dad helps her out and supports her. One thing Nagisa wants for her play is an old story she remembers from when she was little; she and Tomoya start looking through a storage shack for the play, and Akio gets worried about it. He jokes that they’re looking for Nagisa’s potty chair, and when he decides to talk to Tomoya about what’s really bothering him, he uses “potty chair” as the code word.

The real thing that’s bothering Akio is his family’s backstory. When Nagisa was young, Akio was on his way to becoming a professional actor, and Sanae was a school teacher. With both of them working, Nagisa was often left at home alone. One day, in the winter, Nagisa was excited for her parents to return home, she decided to wait outside for them to arrive. Unfortunately, that was a day of heavy snow and very low temperatures. When Akio got home, Nagisa was collapsed in the snow. He and Sanae waited by her bedside, just praying she’d wake up from her unconsciousness. Thankfully, she did, and at the same time Akio and Sanae realized that she was so much more important than their careers, so they left their jobs and started a bakery so that they could be there for her.

Nagisa has low self-confidence, and she can often blame things on herself when they aren’t her fault. Akio’s afraid she’ll do that if she finds out that her parents changed careers for her sake; even more, Akio left his theater career, and theater is what Nagisa is focused on. After explaining all this, Akio asks Tomoya to stop looking through the shack (where there are journals and pictures and things from that time of their lives) and to watch out for Nagisa. Unfortunately, in the middle of the night, the night before the drama performance, Nagisa stumbles across the pictures and such, and she goes into a self-blaming mood. She becomes obsessed with her parents’ former careers, even going to the point of watching old videos of Akio’s acting that are in the school library.

All this means Nagisa is a mental wreck at the festival, and she just starts crying onstage. When it looks like all her dreams are shattered, Akio bursts in and shouts amazing words of inspiration, pushing Nagisa to seize this opportunity and act.

Following Akio’s dramatic moment, he’s still around, what with Tomoya living at his house. He helps put together a neighborhood baseball team with almost all the characters in the show. He gives Tomoya a job at the bakery after graduation. He supports Tomoya when he goes out to live on his own (even though he uses caustic language, like normal). There’s one instance when he’s not as supportive: when Tomoya asks for Nagisa’s hand in marriage.

Tomoya first asks Akio if he can ask him an important question. Akio says he can…if he can hit one of Akio’s pitches. Tomoya trains an ungodly amount of time and fails time and time and time again, until the pitch Akio says will be the last, when he hits it out of the park, falls on his knees, and asks for Nagisa’s hand in marriage. Earlier, he got Akio to promise to say yes to whatever the question was, so of course Akio says yes, as long as Tomoya takes care of Nagisa. Following the marriage, then, Akio becomes Tomoya’s father-in-law, and they still have a dynamic relationship, which now includes frequent advice-giving on the part of the father-in-law.

Akio is constantly seen, since he’s now an official part of Tomoya’s family. That means there’s plenty more humor, but there’s also more drama. Akio reveals more of his backstory: when Nagisa seemed dead, in his desperation, he took her out to a field and wished (maybe more accurately, prayed) that she’d survive, and thankfully, she did. She woke up right there. Now that field is being developed and turned into a hospital, just another one of the changes in the town; at the same time, Nagisa is now pregnant, and she’s getting sick. These two things may be connected; at the least, Akio seems to imply it, saying how Nagisa has a connection with the town.

Soon, though, Nagisa’s condition takes a turn for the worse: she’s dying as she’s giving birth. There’s a heavy snow, and Akio tries to get a doctor, but it’s too late: Nagisa gives birth and then dies. Tomoya becomes a wreck, and Akio and Sanae take care of his new-born daughter, Ushio, for the first five years of her life. Thanks to Sanae’s working, though, Tomoya and Ushio are reunited and become a family. Akio (affectionately dubbed “Akki” by Ushio) sticks around, helping out as much as possible. There’s also a painfully touching scene involving him and Sanae, when she finally cries for the first time after Nagisa’s death.

His last real appearance is when a field day competition is approaching at Ushio’s school. Akio ends up being on a different team from Tomoya, and they start training up to play each other. Suddenly, though, Ushio becomes ill, most likely with the same mysterious disease Nagisa had, and the disease progresses rapidly, until she and Tomoya both collapse in the snow.

After the mysterious events that unfold thereafter, Akio is seen in the final montage in a common scene: chasing after a crying Sanae with her bread in his mouth yelling “I love them!”

Effects on Main Plot

Being Nagisa’s father, Akio is very influential to the plot. Obviously, he provides a place for Nagisa to stay, and at other times Fuko, Mei, and Tomoya as well. I don’t have a clue what Nagisa’s personality would be like without him as a father, so he’s key to her character. He provides the inspiration that allows Nagisa to finally fulfill her dream of performing a play with the drama club. He gives Tomoya his first job (along with letting him live at his house for a while), and he (eventually) gives Tomoya Nagisa’s hand in marriage. He also takes care of Ushio until Tomoya becomes a true father again.

I don’t think it’s possible to imagine the plot of Clannad playing out in anywhere close to the same way without Akio. Not only that, but he’s integral for forming Nagisa’s character, and I think Tomoya’s as well; at the very least, he helps with Tomoya’s character development as the show progresses.

Really, I could probably go into infinite ways Akio affects the show, but I think it’s just sufficient to say that Clannad could not exist in the same form without Akio present. He’s essential to the show (as are all the characters, of course).


Again, there’s family. Akio’s speech at Nagisa’s play reveals this blatantly: family is important. Also, family’s about sacrifice: Akio and Sanae give up their careers in order to support their daughter better. Family’s also not always a fun and happy thing. In allowing yourself to become so close to certain people, it hurts that much more when bad things happen to them. So in a way, family can amplify suffering, such as Akio experiences when Nagisa almost dies in the snow, and when she later does die during a snowstorm. But family can provide a way to get through suffering as well. Akio and Sanae take care of Nagisa’s daughter, and I think that helps them deal with Nagisa’s death; they found a goal, something worth living for, in their granddaughter. Overall, Akio is just an extremely family-centric character, whose words and deeds show forth the importance of family.

Besides that, he’s also involved in sacrifice, as mentioned above. Not only does he sacrifice his career to help Nagisa, but he sacrifices his taste buds to make his wife feel better. He also pounds this lesson into Tomoya, telling him again and again how difficult it is to be a father and how he’ll have to give up to make it happen.

He’s also got a bit of breaking out of conventions: at first, he seems like a purely comic relief character, but he ends up being involved in some of the most emotionally powerful scenes in the series (and his speech at Nagisa’s play is still one of my favorite speeches ever).


I have to admit before I start reflecting: Akio is my absolute favorite character in Clannad. The fact that he can both be hilarious and touching is amazing. That’s actually one of the things I love about Clannad in general: it combines both comedy and drama into one astounding series, and I think Akio is a good one-character representation of that.

How do I reflect on my favorite character? First off, he’s just absolutely, 100% hilarious. Who doesn’t laugh when he first appears onscreen holding a baseball bat and surrounded by flames? His over-expressiveness and exaggerated actions add to his comedy (which has a bit of a slapstick feel at times), and one of the biggest aspects is his overly-violent reaction to many events. Who else would get mad at his son-in-law when he learns his daughter is pregnant? It’s Akio’s at times unrealistic (or maybe just impractical) reactions that make him endearing, I think. There’s so much more about his humor that I could mention, but I don’t feel like portraying myself as a fanboy too much.

Besides his hilarity, there’s his emotional side. Like I said before, his speech at Nagisa’s play is just astounding (I’d encourage you to scroll back up and watch it, if you didn’t before; or maybe re-watch it: it’s just that great!). It really showcases his character: even though he has all this comedy on the outside, on the inside he truly, deeply cares for his family, and he’ll do anything to help them, even give up his dream of being an actor. Even though it’s difficult, he even suppresses the memory of himself even being an actor, because he knows it’s better for Nagisa’s emotional well-being. Then he’s forceful and assertive when Tomoya wants to marry Nagisa: she’s his daughter, and he won’t let just anyone take her from him. Her husband has to prove his worth. I just love the thought of a father having that much pride in his daughter, that he’d go that far to protect her, and I love the thought of a man having to show the father that he is trust-worthy enough to be with the daughter. It’s just an amazingly romantic idea (and yes, I am a bit of a romantic). Then there’s the fact that after his daughter dies, he stays strong in order to care for his granddaughter. Really, Akio is an example of true strength and caring, in my eyes.

I don’t think Clannad would be what it is without Akio. He’s really a big part of what makes the show balance both comedy and heart-touching drama. There’s just no way Clannad would exist in the same form without Akio; I believe he really is that important.

Thanks for reading. God Bless, and peace.

Nota Bene: All clips are from the Clannad Central YouTube channel run by the Clannad (クラナド/Kuranado) fan page on Facebook. All character themes and other music from the show can also be found on said fan page, in the music player. My gratitude to them and all the work they do.