Monday, July 5, 2010

伊吹風子(Ibuki Fuko)

"Fuko has an average Earthling's thought process! Fuko's neighbors often say Fuko is a very normal Earthling!"

Ibuki Fuko (yes, I use the Japanese name order, just because I can) is the subject of the first minor arc (because I refer to all arcs besides Nagisa's and Tomoya's as minor, even if they are important)  in Clannad. Her arc runs between Episodes 2 and 9 (roughly); after that, she is only seen intermittently in occasional "Fuko Ninja" moments (like the one the picture is from), until the last quarter or so of After Story.

(Since Fuko is an important character, this post is long: be prepared!)


Fuko, personality-wise, is a quirky, hyper, stubborn, often childish high school sophomore (in Japan, high school is three years rather than four, as it is in America, so a high school sophomore is a first-year student). She believes starfish (hitode) are the cutest things on the face of the planet. This belief is so adamant she gets into a short fight with Nagisa over which is cuter: starfish or dango (watch it here). If she's around starfish or starfish-shaped objects, she can go into a trance because she cannot handle the cuteness (as in the beginning of this scene). Her childish stubbornness that her views are right, even when there is evidence to the contrary, can lead to physical pain (like when Tomoya keeps getting her to hit her cut hands because she won't admit that they hurt). When meeting someone for the first time, she will quickly make a judgement of them, a judgement that is often very persistent (as when she refers to Tomoya as "the person whose existence is weird" or immediately takes on Nagisa as a friend). That being said, she is also impulsive, such as her sprinting into the forest in the final scene of After Story. Her childishness can often lead to day dreaming; for instance, she imagines many strange ways to inform the school that the sculptures she passes out are starfish. Amidst all the quirkiness, hyperactivity, stubbornness, and childishness, she has some maturity, most evidently shown in her devoted love to her sister, represented in the starfish sculptures (to be explained below).

In summary, then, Fuko is an exemplar of childishness (which her character theme, "Hurry, Starfish," portrays well), yet with some mature family loyalty also.

To see Fuko's personality in action, here is her first appearance:


We first meet Fuko as a strange girl alone in an empty room after school, carving some sort of star-shaped object with a chipped knife (as we in the scene above). Tomoya finds her there and takes the knife to keep her safe. Later she finds him eating lunch outside with Nagisa and pesters him to get the knife back. Soon Tomoya runs across Fuko again: this time, she's handing out her star-shaped sculptures to people. According to her logic, if someone receives a gift without reason, they feel like they must do something in return: her suggestion is that they attend her sister Kouko's wedding. Tomoya and Nagisa agree to help her, yet soon they discover the truth about her, and why she never leaves the school: she is actually a sort of "ghost." The original Fuko was hit by a car on her first day of high school and has been in a coma ever since: she's really Tomoya's age. The Fuko Tomoya and Nagisa know is basically Fuko's consciousness taking a physical form, in a magical, unexplained way. Tomoya and Nagisa check with Kouko (who used to be an art teacher at the high school; Nagisa had her as a teacher her first year) to confirm this truth. Then Nagisa takes Fuko (with the fake family name of "Isogai," stolen from the Furukawas' neighbors) into her home. Everyone begins to help Fuko out: Tomoya, Nagisa, Akio, Sanae, Kyou, Ryou, Sunohara, etc. They even hold a mock class for her with Sanae as teacher, because she has never been in a class before.

Then her story begins a tragic turn. As starfish sculptures (for we have learned that they truly are starfish, not stars or shuriken) are passed out and word of Kouko's wedding is spread, the school's Founder's Festival approaches. Tomoya and Nagisa decide to invite Kouko to the Festival and have her meet up with Fuko. Unfortunately, Kouko cannot see her sister. After that, other students around the school slowly stop being able to see her, and they forget her existence, which coincides with Kouko's information that the original Fuko's condition has worsened, and she may never wake from her coma. As more and more people forget her (which also happens to some due to their visiting her in the hospital), Tomoya and Nagisa (the last to remember) buy her a birthday set and have a pre-celebration for Kouko's wedding the next day (which will be at the school). They fall asleep with Fuko sitting between them: when they wake up, she's gone, and they've forgotten. At Kouko's wedding, they suddenly remember Fuko, and she reappears; at the same time, they learn that everyone who received a starfish came to the wedding. Once Fuko thanks Tomoya and Nagisa for all they have done, and congratulates her sister, she disappears for good.

...Or so we think. Throughout the rest of the first season, Fuko (who no one recognizes) appears intermittently in random moments ("Fuko Ninja" moments) for comic relief. For instance, when Kyou is trying to win a claw game to get a gift for Kotomi's birthday, Fuko appears to help, only to grab a starfish instead of Kotomi's gift. Or when Tomoya uses a charm to have the first person who speaks to him be the one who likes him, Fuko is the first one he runs into, though he keeps her from talking.

In After Story, Fuko is non-existent until the last quarter of the series, when Tomoya and Ushio are introduced to her by Kouko. She has just recently woken up from her coma, and though physically she is as old as Tomoya, mentally she is still a childish high school sophomore. She becomes good friends with Ushio, playing with her often, and multiple times trying to steal her.

The final time we see Fuko is when she is walking with her sister to get a check up at the doctor (she did come out of a ten-year coma: she needs check ups!) and, after some pestering of Kouko, she runs into the forest and approaches a girl under a tree...hence the shot in the opening theme of the first season.

Effect on the Main Plot

I think the most crucial thing Fuko does for the main plot is to draw Nagisa and Tomoya together.  Though they had already been working together on the drama club, she brings them together to work on a more immediate goal: her sister's upcoming wedding.  An experience of joint effort often brings people closer together: that's why retreats and other events often have teambuilding exercises involving joint effort, such as a relay race or constructing a sculpture.  These types of things join people.  And that's what carving and distributing the wooden starfish does for Nagisa and Tomoya.  Not only is the joint effort a cause of closeness, but Fuko herself works to bring them together.  The pre-celebration scene is where this is most shown, I believe.  In the scene, Fuko orders Nagisa and Tomoya to call each other by their first names, because they are close enough that they should be doing so already.  She succeeds with Tomoya and fails (at least for the time being) with Nagisa, but overall she still succeeds at bringing the two together.  And it's an effect they feel after she's gone: in a scene later in the show (I can't at present remember exactly where), Tomoya is calling Nagisa by her first name and then reflects, "When did I start doing this?"  It shows that one person's influence can persist, even when that person is lost in memory.

Fuko also leads Tomoya to connect with Yoshino, Kouko's fiancee.  Though Tomoya originally meets him in a random encounter, he continues to come into contact with him due to his being engaged and later married to Kouko, who he comes to know because of Fuko.  Yoshino is a key player in Tomoya's character development in After Story, so Fuko's influence here is definitely important.

You also first see a light orb (crucial for the ending) in Fuko's arc, when everyone holds the fake class for her, she becomes class leader, and Sanae tells her that all of them are her friends.

In After Story, she acts somewhat as an older sister to Ushio, and, in the process, I think she also helps Tomoya grow closer to his daughter.  After all, she sparks a bit of a defense reaction in Tomoya, who tries a few times to protect Ushio from Fuko's strangeness.  And there is the final scene, which I will analyze in a separate post (because overall I'm still not completely sure what to make of it).

Now for a couple theories I've heard in regards to Fuko's influence.

One theory is that Fuko is the sheep seen in the invisible world in the beginning of the second episode of After Story.  The weight of that theory depends on your interpretation of the invisible world, which I'll cover in a later post.

Another theory, which I think is true, was espoused by Nathan in his recent blog post, and that theory is that Fuko is a foreshadowing of Ushio.  He says Kouko and Yoshino are foreshadowings of Nagisa and Tomoya (their appearances seem to indicate this, as the former pair resemble older versions of the latter pair), which I had never thought of before, yet it makes total sense.  It's also a good explanation for Yoshino's key role in helping Tomoya take on his husbandly and fatherly duties.  In regards to Fuko, her being like a child to Nagisa and Tomoya is obvious.  At one point, Nagisa even tells Tomoya, "It almost feels like we're her mother and father."  And at the end of the pre-celebration party, Tomoya says that it feels like he, Nagisa, and Fuko really are a family.  You can't get more blatantly obvious than that.  Thus Fuko does even more for the main plot: she introduces Nagisa and Tomoya to role models that are like older versions of themselves, and she prepares them for the experience of having a child.  So all in all, Fuko really works in getting the two prepared to be a family.  (Again, I give all credit to Nathan for this insight).

In summary, then, Fuko's effort on the main plot is to bring Nagisa and Tomoya closer together, introduce them to role models, and prepare them for the idea of their being a family.


Fuko definitely showcases the importance of family.  By some mysterious circumstance, she got a chance to engage the world after being in a coma for two years, and she dedicated all her time to making her sister's wedding the best it could be, and to making her sister as happy as can be.  Of course, maybe her love for her sister is what gave her the chance to engage the world anyway.  Maybe her deep family love "incarnated" itself in a way so that she could affect things with her love.  No matter how you look at it, though, Fuko shows the deep, affective love that can be found in true family.

What I have just mentioned above also ties into the theme of self-sacrifice.  Instead of using her time engaging the world to her own benefit, she uses it to help her sister.  (Since true love is self-sacrificial, this theme is integrally tied into the theme of family and family love, I think.)

Another theme is perseverance.  No matter how many times Fuko's starfish are rejected, and even when people stop being able to see her, she still presses on in her quest to show her love for sister and to help her.

Fuko's story also shows the presence of the supernatural (like the idea I referred to in my introduction as "magical realism" or a "fairytale").  It's never explained how Fuko's consciousness becomes physical and able to affect the world, and the fact that everyone forgets her is not exactly explained either.  They're supernatural elements to her story, and supernatural elements are key to the entire show.

As I continue to evaluate, analyze, and reflect on the series, I'm sure I will recognize more themes, and I will explain them then.


I have many friends who are attached to Fuko as their favorite character and favorite arc.  While she's not my favorite character (I think Akio holds that place for me), I do think she has the best of the minor arcs (although there's a special place in my heart for Kotomi's as well).  Its length gives you a chance to really connect with Fuko before her bittersweet disappearance.  She worked so long and hard to make her sister's wedding a beautiful reality, and she succeeded, yet in the end, she disappeared into the mist.  It truly is heartbreaking, and a big part is how engaging her character is.  Her quirkiness catches your interest, and I think her childishness gives her a powerful potential for connection.  It's hard not to be entranced by the innocence of a child, and I think Fuko captures that essence of childish innocence.  I think that's part of what makes her so captivating a character and, in turn, so heartbreaking.  Her recurring comic relief moments are always refreshing; everyone (including I) loves to see a beloved character return, if only for a minute.  And her recovery from her coma in After Story is pretty high up on the list of joyful moments in Clannad.  I think Fuko is one of the greatest chracters, due to her lovable quirkiness and childishness, her ability to engage the viewer, and also her example of familial love and self-sacrifice. 

And the fact that the last lines of the series (not counting the extra episodes) are from her just proves her worth all the more.

Thank you 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.

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