Monday, July 12, 2010

一ノ瀬ことみ (Ichinose Kotomi)

"The day before yesterday, I saw a rabbit. Yesterday, a deer. Today, you."

Ichinose Kotomi is the subject of the second minor arc of Clannad: her arc runs between Episodes 10 and 14, roughly.  After that, she exists mostly in the background, as a part of Tomoya and Nagisa's group of friends, and she never really becomes prominent again, except for one scene in the middle of After Story.

(Be prepared: this post is long!)


Kotomi is a high school senior (as are most of the school characters in Clannad), and she is basically a perfect example of a quiet genius girl.  Her impressive intelligence is made apparent immediately, and it shows itself forth in numerous instances (such as when she bats).  Her shyness is also very obvious.  She spends most of her time in the library, before Tomoya drags her out into the sunlight, and she suspects everyone she meets of being a bully.  Social skills are not her strong suit: she often uses strict, memorized phrases when first talking with a new person (like Nagisa, Kyou, Ryou, etc.), and even after that, her capacity for banter and casual conversation are somewhat limited.  It's not hard for her to talk over people's heads, though.  Kotomi has two passions: studying and playing violin.  The former she is a master at; the latter is more to be classified as aural torture than music, usually (although good violin playing is present in her chamber orchestra theme, "Étude Pour les Petites Supercordes"). 

That's Kotomi in a nutshell: a quiet genius with a distinct lack of casual social skills and a passion for studying and playing violin.

Her social skills and violin playing are readily apparent in this scene:


We first meet Kotomi when Tomoya walks into the library and finds her sitting on the floor, surrounding by very academic books, about to take a pair of scissors to one of them.  After an awkward conversation, Kotomi bids farewell to Tomoya, at least for the time being.  Besides receiving a starfish from Fuko (and demonstrating impressive scientific knowledge about it), she does not really appear again until Episode 10, the episode following Fuko's arc.  After a humorous incident in which Sunohara tries to ask Kotomi on a date and fails, Tomoya begins to talk with her, and he learns how she is basically friendless.  Thus starts the quest of "Tomoya-kun" to gain friends for Kotomi.  (She adds the -kun honorific to Tomoya's name.  This honorific is used to show either closeness (such as between very good friends, childhood friends, or those dating/married) or an attitude of an elder speaking to a younger person (such as a teacher to a student, or a boss to an employee).  Neither meaning is fit for someone your own age you've just recently met!) 

Tomoya introduces Kotomi to all his friends, and, as she is somewhat forced into Nagisa's drama club, she begins to gain at least some social ability.  That is, until she decides she can play the violin.  Her skills cause aural pain to those around her, but her new friends are still kind enough to put on a recital for her.

The fun and games don't last long, though.  Kotomi has a couple encounters with a mysterious man that she calls "the bad man."  And following a scare in which the group of friends think Ryou has been seriously injured in a bus accident, Kotomi goes into a nervous breakdown and locks herself in her home.  Meanwhile, "the bad man" continues to appear.

Tomoya and the gang learn that Kotomi's birthday is fast approaching, so they decide to help her celebrate.  Nagisa, Kyou, and Ryou try to obtain a violin for Kotomi, but it is broken by a runaway driver and must be repaired.  Meanwhile, Tomoya (with later help from the other three) works on renovating Kotomi's yard: pulling weeds, planting grass, rebuilding the flower bed, rearranging furniture.  As he is working, Tomoya keeps getting a nagging feeling that the yard is familiar...and finally he has a revelation.  Tomoya was Kotomi's childhood friend.  He accidentally ran into her yard one day chasing butterflies, and they became friends.  Everything was happy for a while, until Kotomi's birthday rolled around.  Her parents had to leave on an urgent business trip, and Tomoya was supposed to bring friends to a party.  Unfortunately, his friends didn't want to come to a girl's party, so he was too ashamed to go, and Kotomi was left alone...until the "bad man" showed up, that is.  He was a work associate of Kotomi's parents, and he came to tell her that her parents had died in a plane crash, losing a valuable manuscript in the process.  He wanted to look for an extra copy of that manuscript in the house.  Kotomi panicked and found what she thought was the copy he wanted in her dad's study, and she quickly burned it.  This started a large fire, though, that Tomoya (who eventually got up the courage to visit her alone) and the bad man came and put out for her.  Kotomi then learns that what she burned was not the manuscript, but a catalog her parents were looking through to find a teddy bear for her birthday.  After that, she truly became a social recluse.

(See Kotomi's side of the story here, and Tomoya's side here.)

Jump back to the present.  Tomoya and the others finally convince Kotomi to leave her house, and they force her to listen to what the bad man has to say.  He's brought a briefcase that was her parents'.  It turns out this briefcase survived the crash and travelled around the world to her (in either a miraculous or cynically impossible way).  Inside is a teddy bear she requested for her birthday and a letter from her parents.  Kotomi's joy is incandescent as she receives that final message from her parents.

Thus, after her birthday party, ends Kotomi's arc.  After that, she is mainly a background character.  She has her humorous moments, like all background characters, but she doesn't really have any major moments, except for during the New Year's party in After Story.  When all the friends visit Tomoya and Nagisa for New Year's, Kotomi explains her continuation of her parent's work (detailed below in the "Effect on the Main Plot" section) while she has been in America (where she went to study after high school).  The final shot of Kotomi is her wearing sunglasses driving a fast convertible down a winding highway, her hair blowing in the wind.

Effect on the Main Plot

While Fuko helped bring Nagisa and Tomoya closer together, Kotomi didn't really do that.  Sure, the two helped out with planning for Kotomi's birthday, but that didn't bring them too much closer together.  Instead, Kotomi helped build, or, rather, reveal, Tomoya's character.

Along with the building of Nagisa and Tomoya's relationship, the main plot of Clannad also involves the exploration and development of both of their characters.  Kotomi's arc is an example of the exploration of Tomoya's character.  The arc starts to show us Tomoya's childhood: he was a kid who ran around chasing butterflies, and he ran across this strange violin-playing girl one day.  We see how easy it is for Tomoya to make friends (which is a trait he carries, at least to an extent, in the present day as well).  We see how he at first gives up on things when facing challenges (like being ridiculed for wanting to go to Kotomi's party), but in the end he gets past them (not only going to her house, but helping save her from a fire as well).

These aspects are shown in the present day too: he perseveres in landscaping her yard, even when it seems the task will be impossible.  This is also tied into Tomoya's loyalty and devotion to his friends, shown in both his childhood and the present day.  In the end, then,Kotomi's arc helps reveal Tomoya's character: the childhood flashbacks show us that many of his character traits have been with him his whole life.  (By the way, the fact that they were childhood friends is why Kotomi was justified in calling him "Tomoya-kun"...even if he didn't remember this fact.)

The second area where Kotomi impacts the plot is in the realm of the ending and the invisible world.  Though we first saw one of the lights during Fuko's arc, they become much more obvious during Kotomi's.  When she opens the briefcase from her parents and realizes just how much they loved her, the air is filled with lights (again, the lights will be explained in detail in a later post).

Besides the lights, we also gets hints into the invisible world through Kotomi's story.  In her childhood, it is shown that her parents were researching a supposed "hidden world" that was different from our world yet somehow integrally connected.  Her father thinks of the world as consisting of countless invisible harps that when sounded in their individual sounds create a single melody, which explains the beauty of the world (hence Kotomi's name, according to her father: "koto" is the Japanese word for harp).  Her father's words (as relayed by Kotomi) also help explain the "magical" nature of the show: "Those who seek out the truth must not be arrogant.  You must not laugh at miracles just because they cannot be explained scientifically.  You must not turn away from the beauty of this world."  Her mother's words, on the other hand, express the theme of family better: they will be explained below.

At the New Year's party in After Story (a very thematically interesting scene), Kotomi tries to explain the "hidden world" theory using quantum mechanics and theoretical physics.  When that fails, she resorts to the simple explanation that it is somehow connected to our world, even though her parents thought it was a world we could neither see nor feel.  "Time, space, and people's consciousness interact in mysterious ways to change both worlds or create new worlds," she says.  The invisible world could interact with our world: it's truly unknown, because the world has many mysterious aspects.  The "many worlds" theory also comes up in this discussion.

Though all the theoretical discussion is interesting, I think the most important aspect of this is that when Kotomi is talking about the hidden world in After Story, Tomoya has flashes of memory involving Nagisa's play (whose plot is based on the invisible world) and the invisible world itself.  That solidifies it: the Ichinoses' research does investigate the invisible world we've been seeing.

To summarize, then, Kotomi affects the main plot by revealing more of Tomoya's character and by offering insights into the show's magical nature and the nature of the invisible world.


Again, family is the main theme of Clannad, and it is very present in Kotomi's arc.  Her arc truly revolves around the effect that the loss of her parents (and, in a different way, her childhood friend) had on her.  It is very apparent that she loved her parents deeply, and they loved her.  Her mother's words to her as a child resound as a statement of the importance of family: “Remember, what’s important is always very simple…You are Mother and Father’s most cherished treasure.”  That familial love is important in everyone's life; without that love, it can be hard to truly become a mature person.  Maybe that's one why Kotomi is such a reserved person: the loss of her parents.  In her childhood, she has a good friend that she plays with, and her violin skills are actually pleasing to the ear.  After the death of her parents, though, her entire life becomes devoted to studying so she can follow her parents' footsteps and collecting every reference to them ever written.  She loves her parents to the point of obsession, and their loss truly devastated her.  In the end, familial love is important.  Without it, our development into mature persons is slowed, if not stopped altogether.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Kotomi loves her parents to the point of obsession.  This brings up the theme of perseverance.  Kotomi's obsession with her parents is partly due to true familial love and partly due to an inability to get over the tragedy of their death.  That is why she has her father's study plastered with clippings of newspapers and books that mention them (hence her cutting of books in the library and bookstore).  This started with just clippings related to their deaths.  The closed off room full of clippings and the spot where she burned the catalog represent her mental state in a way: just as she locks herself into that room, she has also locked herself into the tragedy of her past.  Thanks to the efforts of her new friends and the reception of her parents' briefcase, though, Kotomi is able to leave that room, both physically and mentally.  I've always loved the words of her parents' letter to her: "The world is beautiful. Even if you're full of tears and sadness, open your eyes. Do what you want to do. Be what you want to be. Find friends. Don't be in a hurry to grow up. Take your time."  These words are a stellar example of perseverance: even when tragedy is all you know, open your eyes and move ahead.  The world is beautiful.

There's some self-sacrifice present too, in that Kotomi's friends gave up lots of their time in helping make her party the best it could be, and her parents gave up the sum of their entire careers (the manuscript) in order to send one last message to their daughter.

The supernatural is present here in terms of the lights that appear when Kotomi receives her briefcase and the investigations into the invisible world.

Another theme in Clannad is the influence of the past on the present.  To be more specific, you could say the influence of childhood.  The tragedy in Kotomi's childhood kept her imprisoned for many years, yet there were still joyous aspects of her childhood that continued into her adult life: for instance, her love of the violin and her dedication to her parent's work.  We also see that aspects of Tomoya's childhood personality are still present in his older self (see the "Effect on the Main Plot" section for details).  I think this idea can be summed up in the sentence from Robert F. Young's story "The Dandelion Girl" that Kotomi quotes: "The day before yesterday, I saw a rabbit.  Yesterday, a deer.  Today, you."  This sentence is what clicks Tomoya's mind into remembering his childhood friendship with Kotomi. 


Kotomi's arc always struck a chord with me.  Besides the main storyline of Nagisa and Tomoya, her arc is my favorite.  I've always felt like I connected with Kotomi.  Maybe it's because I used to be an overly quiet, studious person, maybe it's because I understand what it's like to lose a parent at a young age.  Either way, I've always felt her story was powerful.  I've especially always loved her parents' words: they've inspired me since I first heard them (which is why I quoted them in full above).  The comparison of the world to a flowing melody, the beauty of the world, the necessity of family, friends, and's all extremely beautiful to me.

I also think there's an implicit theme in here as well: the transience of friendship.  While friendships can last for a lifetime, most of them pass away; at the very least, they grow colder in intensity.  Sometimes this happens because of tension or conflict, and sometimes it's just a gradual passing away.  I think both of these can be seen in Kotomi.  First of all, her friendship with Tomoya came to an abrupt halt after her parents' death psychologically wrecked her.  That's an end due to tension (though not tension between the two of them).  Second of all, after their friendship is restarted in high school, during the arc, it slowly drifts apart.  Kotomi very much becomes a background character at the conclusion of her arc.  Though she retains her individuality, the intensity of her friendship with Tomoya dissipates.  Some of my friends have complained about the fact that Kotomi disappears into the background after her arc, but I think it's a sadly realistic thing: I've had that happen to me many times.  I went through 5 or so groups of good friends in my first year of college.  I'd have a great, pretty intense friendship with a group for a while, and then we'd slowly drift apart, and I'd eventually merge into another group, and the process would repeat.  So I think Kotomi's arc is realistic in that way.

Overall, I do believe that I love Kotomi's arc, and I think it's a powerful tale that adds to Clannad's themes and helps reveal Tomoya's character.  So now we end with a look at the final glimpse of Kotomi in the After Story montage during "Chiisana Te No Hira," as she drives off into the (most likely American) sunset...

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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