Sunday, August 29, 2010

崖の上のポニョ (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea)

"I don't want you to turn into a fish again. I'd miss you."

Ponyo (the actual title is Gake no Ue no Ponyo, literally translated as Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) is a 2008 anime film by Hayao Miyazaki, the world-renowned anime director/animator (known for such films as Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, and Howl's Moving Castle, among others). Like many of the films by his studio, Studio Ghibli, it, dubbed with an all-star cast (ranging from the folk hero Liam Neeson to a sibling of annoying pop star Miley Cyrus), was distributed with the help of Walt Disney Pictures. Ponyo tells the story of a goldfish-like creature (Ponyo) who escapes her tyrannical father (Fujimoto (who, I might add, looks strangely like Beetlejuice)) to find the outside world, eventually striving to become human so she can spend her life with Sousuke, a 5-year-old boy she meets on a trek aboard dry land.

The film's animation is of great quality, as most of Studio Ghibli's work is (from what I've heard: the only other film I've seen by them is Princess Mononoke), and the music is pretty charming (even with the basis of one of the songs on Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" (at least, I've read there's a connection there)). The voice acting seemed great in the English dub (though I don't know how well it actually fits the feel of the original Japanese: I have yet to watch that).

The real thing, though, is the story. It was actually inspired by and loosely based on the Danish fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen entitled "Den lille havfrue," whose English title is "The Little Mermaid" (and yes, the 1989 Disney musical animated film was based on the same story). If you've seen the Disney film, then you already know how Ponyo will end, even if the path to the ending is very different. An interesting thing is that the film takes place in modern-day Japan, not 1800s Denmark, which lends it an intriguing feel.

All in all, I didn't think the story was bad, I just consider it more of a children's story. It may not be incredibly deep, but it has some layers, and it has enough witty lines and well-drawn animation to keep adults watching as well. The ending, like most children's stories and fairy tales, is predictable, but that shouldn't be counted against it: that's just the nature of the genre. The path to reach the ending includes some less predictable twists (though nothing too shocking), and this path is also populated by vibrant, laughter-inducing characters.

In conclusion, then, I'd consider Ponyo to be a fun film to watch, enjoyable for both children and adults. While I wouldn't count it as considerably deep or thought-provoking, it provides some wholesome family entertainment (at least, I'm pretty sure it did), so it's not something that will feel like a waste of your time. Overall, I'd give Ponyo an 8/10. Not a film I'll rant and rave about, but one I wouldn't mind recommending to someone in a mood for a witty children's fairy tale.

A Deeper Look

For me, Ponyo provided an experience I haven't had in a while: watching an English dub before the original Japanese. I much prefer to watch anime subtitled; I think the inflections and voices of the Japanese actors can often more accurately portray how the creators intended the characters to be (since, if I understand the dubbing process correctly, which I may not, the Japanese actors have more communication with the creators than the English ones do). That's not to say I condemn English dubs: I just want them to accurately portray the characters and to be done well.

With Ponyo, I can't analyze that first criteria, since I haven't watched the original Japanese yet (I saw this film in a group, if you were wondering why I watched it dubbed to begin with), but I can tell that the dub definitely fits the first criteria: it is done extremely well. While the fact that Ponyo's voice is Miley Cyrus' little sister (and Miley Cyrus definitely bugs me) and Sousuke's voice is the Jonas Brothers' little brother (and the Jonas Brothers definitely bug me), I couldn't even tell while watching the film. The voices seemed to go well with the characters, from what I can tell (although, like I said, I need to watch the original still), and I loved the fact that Liam Neeson was in there. He's just got a very cool voice (like James Earl Jones and Morgan Freeman, who would sound incredible in English dubs of anime), plus he makes the character witty, which is always good.

Overall, then, I actually liked the dub of Ponyo (so far), even if I'll always prefer subtitles.

As for the story aspect, like I said, it's a fairy tale meant for kids. I've heard some people say that it has some bad themes; for instance, the fact that Ponyo doesn't care about the balance of nature and that she risks all of nature just to get what she wants (to be with Sousuke). I heard one person say that this could instigate extreme, dangerous individualism in people watching the film. While I agree that extreme individualism is a terrible thing, hands down, I'm not sure if a children's fairy tale could instigate it. That might just be my view as an older person (a.k.a. not a child), though: I can see that this is just a fairy tale and that it's not realistic. Of course, then you have to think: why was the fairy tale written? Was it written to promote some moral? That's a possibility. So if the whole moral it's promoting is individualism, then there's a problem. The thing is, I didn't get that vibe from watching the film. I wouldn't have even thought of it if I hadn't heard someone mention it after the fact. In the end, then, do I agree that there's some morals in Ponyo that might not be correct? Yes, I think that individualism is incorrect. Do I think that Ponyo will corrupt children and other viewers? Not so much. True, I don't really know the effect it could have on a child, but I know on me it didn't really have any effect. I'm strong in my acknowledgment of individualism's faults, so maybe the effect is different on everyone.

What's the final message, then? Just keep a bit of a look out when having children (and people with child-like minds) watch Ponyo, and make sure they understand that this individualism is not ideal morality. Does that I mean that I think Ponyo is an evil, corruptive film, then? Of course not, as long as you use some common sense and make sure people are aware of the faults.

Even with that individualism debacle, I'd still probably recommend Ponyo, though; it hasn't colored my thoughts of the film that much.

Nota Bene: All images courtesy of Google Image Search. Thanks to Wikipedia for lots of useful background information. And thanks to that random person analyzing Ponyo after watching the film for inspiring the last part of my post.

岡崎史乃 (Okazaki Shino)

“Please tell Naoyuki to come home. I will be waiting here for him.”

Okazaki Shino, at least in terms of screen time, is a very minor character in Clannad. She only speaks during her first appearance, in Episode 18 of After Story; she is also seen during the montage of Episode 22. Besides that, she is never seen, and she isn’t mentioned too much more either.


Shino is an old woman, and she seems to embody the personality of a kindly old woman. She is humble and soft-spoken, yet she is devoted to letting the truth be known. Optimism could be seen as one of her traits; she sees the good in everyone, and she tries to help other people see that goodness as well. Even though she is elderly, she is still devoted to caring for her son, because she understands the importance of family. Overall, then, Shino is an optimistic, kind, caring old woman.


As I mentioned above, Shino is completely absent for the majority of the series. Even her existence is hidden from the characters. She appears during Tomoya’s trip with Ushio. After Ushio loses her robot in the sunflower field, Tomoya walks about a nearby set of stairs, feeling that they are somehow familiar to him. When he reaches the top, there is a sight-seeing spot with an old woman. This woman introduces herself as Okazaki Shino, Naoyuki’s father. This is Tomoya’s grandmother, whose existence he had never known of until this moment.

She engages in a little casual conversation with Tomoya, revealing that Sanae got in contact with her to have her meet Tomoya on the trip. Then she goes into the real reason why she came: to reveal Naoyuki’s true self. As she says, “I wanted you to know what kind of father Naoyuki was.” The story she tells is explained more explicitly in my post on Naoyuki, but here is a rough outline: after his wife died, Naoyuki had it rough, but he kept going because he knew he had to care for Tomoya. Even though he eventually fell into alcoholism, and he was definitely not perfect, he really tried the best he could to be a good father to Tomoya.

Tomoya slowly remembers Naoyuki’s actions from his childhood, including a trip the two took to the same place Tomoya took Ushio. Shino is glad that Tomoya has remembered Naoyuki’s goodness, and she tells him, “Tomoya, he has worked too hard. It’s time he took it easy.” She asks a request of Tomoya: that he ask Naoyuki to come stay with her. It is obvious that he’s not really able to take care of himself anymore: he’s just worn out. She is still full of life, so she invites Naoyuki to stay at her home instead. Tomoya agrees to asking him.

Subsequent to his walking with Shino down the stairs (allowing her to see her great-granddaughter), he has an emotional encounter with Ushio, in which he remembers many parts of his past with his father.

After returning home, Tomoya goes to see his father, introduces him to Ushio, tells him he met Shino, and reconciles with him. Following this reconciliation, Tomoya helps Naoyuki make himself presentable, he helps him pack, and then he sends him off to Shino’s house in a touching scene of familial love.

Besides these two episodes, Shino is only seen once more, in the final montage. The Okazakis are going to visit her, and Ushio is seen running into her kind embrace.

Effect on Main Plot

Though she doesn’t appear until the fifth-to-last episode of Clannad, Shino still plays a major part in the plot, that is, Tomoya’s development. To put it simply, Tomoya would never have reconciled with his father if it hadn’t been for Shino’s talk with him (which was somewhat engineered by Sanae). Without reconciling with his father, Tomoya would never have received his light orb (which I think is absolutely crucial for the ending). Besides the fact of obtaining the light orb, the reconciliation with his father is what really changes Tomoya. It’s one of the biggest obstacles he’s had to face in his life (possibly the biggest), and without Shino he would have never overcome it. I think overcoming this obstacle is also what helps Tomoya become a true father to Ushio, so without Shino, he also would have never truly accepted his role as Ushio’s father. Basically, without Shino, Tomoya may have never finished his character growth, and thus his life may have stayed stalled as a depressed workaholic forever.


And, yet again, family is the absolute biggest theme for Shino. There’s not really any other theme for her, since she has very few actions in the series. She reveals Naoyuki’s true fathership to Tomoya, and she herself is a relative of Tomoya (his grandmother), and meeting relatives for the first time is always (usually) a joyous occasion. A family is not just father, mother, and child, like is seen in the most of the show: other generations are important as well. Thus Shino appears as a grandmother and great-grandmother, and also Naoyuki, Akio, and Sanae become grandparents. So, besides her aspect of family, all her themes are tied in with her explanation of Naoyuki’s story, so see his post for more details.


Even though Shino only has a total of maybe 10 minutes of screen time over the entire series, she’s still a powerful character. The experience of meeting a relative you never knew existed is a rare one, and having this newly-met relative basically single-handedly effect the healing of your relationships with your daughter and with your father must be a one-of-a-kind event. I wouldn’t be surprised if Botan has more screen time than Shino (and I’m positive Misae and Shima do), yet hers is the role that truly changes the main plot. Without her, the show would probably just drift into nothingness, with Tomoya being separated from all of his family, including his daughter, staying a workaholic with a penchant for alcohol and gambling for the rest of his life. Instead, her actions (just telling a story!) create the possibility of the last few episodes of the series. I can’t stress how important Shino is. Basically, her appearance is one of the events that make the show into a hopeful one when it could so easily stay pessimistic and depressing and hopeless. It just goes to show that every person can make a difference; even just telling a story can dramatically change many lives. A great moral to learn from Shino? Every person and every action can be important, no matter how small it may seem.

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.

岡崎直幸 (Okazaki Naoyuki)

"It looks like I’ve done everything I needed to do without even realizing it….That’s wonderful….Wonderful.”

Okazaki Naoyuki is an often-appearing character in Clannad. He’s first seen at the end of the first episode, and then he’s seen many times throughout both seasons. His backstory is explained in Episode 18 of After Story, and Episode 19 contains a conclusion to his story.

(Be prepared: this is most definitely a long post.)


Naoyuki is (at least from what is seen in most of the series) a lazy, disheveled drunkard. He is often seen passed out surrounded by piles of trash and a glowing TV screen (sometimes a radio is on as well). Though he sometimes tries to talk to his son, it usually does more harm than good. When asked to help make decisions in his son’s life, he often passes the buck on to his son, saying (basically), “Tomoya can do it on his own.” Most of the time, he just passes through life without making much of a ripple, except for his negative effect on his son’s home life. During his backstory, we learn some new facts about his personality, but those will be described in the section below. Overall, then, for most of the story, Naoyuki is an unenergetic man who merely sits at home watching TV and listening to the radio, drinking and surrounding himself with trash, destroying his son’s home life. His first appearance at the end of the first episode portrays this well.


Naoyuki is first seen passed out in his house as Tomoya comes home from school one day. This is the most common image of this drunken father. Whenever he wakes up, he often tries to start a conversation with his son, but it’s not very effective. Tomoya despises him and his inability to be a good father. As we learn when he goes to play basketball with Nagisa after school one day in the rain, Tomoya’s relationship with his father has even caused him physical damage. Okazaki Atsuko, Tomoya’s mother and Naoyuki’s wife, died in a car accident when Tomoya was three. Following this tragedy, Naoyuki fell apart and dived into drunkenness. One day in middle school, Tomoya got in a fight with his drunk father, and this fight caused a lasting injury: Tomoya can no longer raise his right arm above his shoulder. This explains one of the big reasons Tomoya hates his father: not only does he not provide emotional support, he’s caused lasting physical infirmity for his son.

Following this revelatory tale, Naoyuki passes into the background. Tomoya is rarely seen at home, due to his wish to avoid his father, and because Naoyuki seems to rarely (if ever) leave the house, we don’t see much of him either. His next major event is after Tomoya is suspended from school after a fight. Tomoyo and Tomoya were both attacked by a gang, due to Tomoyo’s past, and Tomoya took the blame for the fight so that Tomoyo’s reputation would stay strong for student council elections. Due to that blame, Tomoya got suspended from school, and so a school official went to his house to discuss this with his father. Naoyuki is very lax when he learns about this, mostly saying, “Tomoya is Tomoya.” He doesn’t even care about his son being suspended, and he doesn’t care what happens to him. Tomoya is furious about this. Nagisa went with Tomoya and the official to see Naoyuki (so that Tomoya wouldn’t run away), and after seeing his family situation, she offered to let him stay with her parents. Though it’s a bit of an awkward situation, Tomoya agrees, because he knows he must get away from Naoyuki.

When he packs his bag to leave, Naoyuki does notice, asking where he’s going and why his bag is so large. Tomoya simply says he’s going to stay at a friend’s for a while. Naoyuki comments that the house will be empty, and Tomoya walks out, leaving Naoyuki with a pained expression on his face (I believe it’s the first appearance of him actually having an emotional reaction to his son).
Naoyuki appears only one more time in the first season, and that’s at the school festival, where Nagisa puts on her play. Nagisa, who understands the importance of family, invited Naoyuki to come see the play; the meeting between him and Tomoya doesn’t do much to mend their relationship, to Nagisa’s dismay.

During the first half or so of After Story, Naoyuki is rarely (if ever) mentioned. Tomoya is staying at the Furukawas’ house, not at Naoyuki’s home, and he is busy getting acclimated to adult life. When Tomoya is offered a promotion at work (the electric company), Naoyuki violently bursts onto the scene. Just as it seems Tomoya has a new job, which will require moving to another town, he gets a call saying his father has been arrested for dealing something illegal. This criminal offense by someone so close to him leads to Tomoya’s loss of his new position. He and Nagisa go to see Naoyuki in prison. Even though Tomoya is shouting furiously, Naoyuki offers no comment or reaction at all. After leaving the prison, tears in his eyes and anger in his heart, Tomoya smashes his fist into a wall, and during a climactic (and absolutely beautiful scene), he proposes to Nagisa, and she accepts.

The next episode, as Nagisa graduates and the two prepare to marry, they go to see Naoyuki in prison again. He’s slightly more responsive this time, at least to Nagisa. Tomoya is vehemently silent.

A whirlwind of emotional events follows this in the coming episodes, until the death of Nagisa and the birth of Ushio. Following Nagisa’s untimely death in childbirth, Tomoya goes into depression, falling into the habits of drinking and gambling, working only enough to have the money for both vices. After about five years of this, Sanae plans a trip for her, Akio, Tomoya, and Ushio.

Unbeknownst to Tomoya, it’s really all a secret plan to get him to spend time with his daughter. During a trip he takes with her, he ends up at a field of sunflowers, with Ushio anxiously looking for a lost robot toy Tomoya bought her. Tomoya gets a strange feeling when he’s there, though, and he climbs up a set of stairs that seems familiar to him. When he gets to the top, he sees an old woman who introduces herself as Okazaki Shino: Naoyuki’s mother.

Shino explains the true story of Tomoya’s youth: after Atusko died, Naoyuki was able to keep going because of Tomoya. His son became his life, and he did all his work for him. He’d provide him with sweets and do his best to keep Tomoya happy. Naoyuki wasn’t perfect: he did fail and eventually become an alcoholic. But as he was doing that, he was still devoted to his son, and he persevered in doing what he could for him. He even took him on a trip to the sunflower field where Tomoya took Ushio.

As Shino explains all that happened in his youth, Tomoya begins to remember. His father wasn’t just a drunk widower: he also did his damnedest to be a good father. Shino describes it perfectly: “As a human being, he may have failed in some areas, but as a father, he did a great job.” Tomoya agrees. Shino asks Tomoya to ask Naoyuki to return to his hometown to live with her, and he says he’ll ask. Then he goes back out to the field and has an emotional reunion with Ushio.
Soon afterwards, Tomoya brings Ushio to Naoyuki’s house. He introduces his daughter and says he remembers all his father used to do for him in his early life, and he thanks him. Naoyuki is a little taken aback, but Tomoya reassures him: he did all he had to. Now it’s time to take it easy. Tomoya cleans up Naoyuki and the house, packs a suitcase for him, and sends him off to his mother’s home. As Naoyuki leaves on friendly terms, with the father-son relationship repaired, a light appears and enters into Tomoya’s chest.

Naoyuki is not seen again until the last episode, where he is shown during a quick flashback to his and Tomoya’s trip to that fateful sunflower field, those many years ago.

Effect on the Main Plot

Though Naoyuki’s screen time may not be majorly impressive, his importance is. While obviously his effect on Tomoya’s development is the key thing, he also affects Nagisa and Tomoya’s relationship in some critical ways as well. One of the first big drama moments of the show (Nagisa’s collapse in the rain at the basketball court) is, at least in part, brought about by Tomoya’s shoulder injury from a fight with Naoyuki (if anything, this is an important part of the scene). More importantly, though, is what happens later on in the first season: when the school official goes to Naoyuki’s house, Nagisa and Tomoya join him, and Nagisa gets to see Naoyuki’s fathering skills first-hand. After seeing what Tomoya has to go through at home, Nagisa invites Tomoya to stay at her home, and Tomoya accepts. Besides offering more time for Nagisa and Tomoya to spend with each other and get to know each other, it also integrates Tomoya more closely into the Furukawa family: staying with them lets him grow closer to Akio and Sanae. The other big event for Nagisa and Tomoya’s relationship is when Naoyuki is sent to prison. Not only does this occasion a discussion about the importance of the town, but the visit to see him in prison is what finally pushes Tomoya to ask Nagisa to marry him.

Besides these effects on the relationship, Naoyuki is dominant in terms of affecting Tomoya’s character and development. A good part of why Tomoya is so surly at the beginning of the series is his crappy home life with a drunkard father, and the injury caused all those years ago didn’t help either. Throughout the series, Naoyuki’s presence haunts Tomoya, who considers him an absolutely atrocious father. Even when he’s yelled at by his son, he merely sits, stone-faced. Tomoya’s view of him is basically as a man who fell apart in the face of tragedy and, in turn, became a horrible father. The truly sad thing is that this is exactly what happens to Tomoya when Nagisa dies. There are obvious similarities between Tomoya and his father: both have the last name of Okazaki, both lost their wives early in marriage (Shino described it as occurring during “the happiest time of his life”), and both were left to care for young children on their own. When we learn Naoyuki’s true backstory, though, we realize there’s some differences: Naoyuki started off as a good father, or at least the best he could be, and slowly fell into becoming a complete drunkard. Tomoya just skipped the first stage and went straight to drinking and gambling. After this, though, he’s able to recover himself and become a good father for Ushio. That’s where the stories differ: the ordering of the stages of “good father” and “bad father.” And after learning all this, Tomoya is able to offer forgiveness to his father, and in turn he receives a light orb (which I think is one of the most important moments in the show: I’ll explain in my post on the ending).

One way to summarize these effects on Tomoya is to say that Tomoya ended up reflecting whichever part of his father he was accustomed to. When he only knew his father as an irresponsible drunkard, that’s what he basically became once Nagisa died. But when he learned of his father’s past kindnesses to him, he became a caring father to Ushio. It just goes to show that parents have a pronounced effect on their children.


Once again, the biggest theme is family. This is the main character’s father, after all. Naoyuki is probably the biggest example of how families are not all perfect. Of course, we saw some of that with Sunohara and Mei’s relationship and others, but Naoyuki and Tomoya’s relationship is the key one. I don’t believe there is a single moment in the first season when the two have anywhere near a cordial moment (most definitely not when Tomoya moves out). They don’t actually have any truly amiable relations until Episode 19 of After Story, the 4th-to-last episode of the series. The amazing thing is, though, that even with all this negativity in the past and throughout the series, Tomoya is still able to forgive his father and even thank him for all he’s done. It took only one conversation with Shino for Tomoya to recognize his father’s worth. That’s the great thing about family: even with all the hatred, tension, and disgust layered on top, there’s still a connection between family members that persists through everything, a connection that can be revived at a moment’s notice. Naoyuki and Tomoya showcase this perfectly.

On another family-related note, we see the effect an apathetic parent can have on a child. I discussed in Kotomi’s post how the lack of a parent can stall development of a child, and I think an apathetic parent can be almost the same as the death of a parent in this context. In some ways, it might be even worse, because it’s not a lack of parenting due to outside circumstances (a.k.a. death): it’s a lack of parenting chosen by the parent. Would Tomoya be so pessimistic, so surly, so (at times) critical, so lacking in hope if his father was actually a parent to him his entire life? Would Tomoya have ever become a delinquent without the apathy of his father? We know that Naoyuki was a better father in Tomoya’s early childhood, but the effects on Tomoya go to show that the later parts of life can have just as deep (or maybe even deeper?) an effect on a person’s development as the earliest stages. It seems almost as if Clannad is supporting the psychological view that development is affected by experience throughout life, not just in the earliest years (because if only the earliest years were effective, possibly Tomoya wouldn’t have become such a delinquent). Again, this is all the effect of the past on the present, as I’ve discussed before.

There’s also the idea of breaking out of conventions. For almost the entire series, Naoyuki is seen as merely a drunkard and an apathetic father. He doesn’t care to intervene in his son’s life except to screw it up, like by dealing drugs (I’m guessing that’s what the “something illegal” he was arrested for was). But then, in Shino’s story, we see that he really used to be a caring, loving father. There’s still a couple glimmers of that hidden throughout his personality, but it’s mostly overshadowed by the image of the apathetic drunk. We see, though, that this latter is not his entire personality: there is a caring side as well, even if it’s been obfuscated over the years.


Naoyuki’s story is one of the most powerful in Clannad, I think. It’s a story of forgiveness and redemption. There’s a bit of a parallel here to Kotomi’s story: she had some negative feelings about her parents, mostly from her telling them she hated them right before they died. When she received the suitcase and the last letter from them, it seemed that she was able to let go of her guilt and allow herself to love them and be loved by them. I think this is somewhat what happens to Tomoya in his relationship with his father: he’s harboring negative feelings, but when he learns the truth, he’s able to let them go. Of course, it’s not a perfect parallel (what parallel is?), but it explains some of it.

Basically, I think the main idea here is of forgiveness and redemption. When we forgive those who do wrong to us, we are released from negative emotions, and we are filled with joy. It’s a message deeply embedded in Christianity: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you; bless those who curse you and pray for those who maltreat you” (Lk 6:27-28). Of course, some of these phrases might be a little extreme in this context (I don’t think Naoyuki hated Tomoya or cursed him; of course, you could turn it around and say Tomoya was the one who needed forgiveness as well), but the overall message is clear: respond to evil with good. There’s also the whole idea of Christ dying for our sins: we offended God by our sin (according to St. Anselm, each sin is an infinite offense, because it’s against an infinite being), but God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us so that we could be forgiven. Overall, what I’m trying to get at here is that one of the biggest ideas in Christianity is forgiveness, and there is forgiveness present here.

Of course, this forgiveness isn’t easy. It must have been difficult for Tomoya to forgive someone who he’d considered as basically an enemy his entire life, and I think it was also difficult for Naoyuki to accept that love from someone who had been rejecting him for years and years. Yet both were able to forgive the other, and they were both able to give and accept love. It’s a powerful message. It’s definitely something many people need to hear, such as my family and I. Within my family, there are some rough relationships, particularly against one pair of grandparents. They can provide for others materially, but they at times seem almost emotionally deficient (I’m not trying to put them down, that’s just how it looks). Multiple family members have had falling-outs (some minor, some more major) with these two due to their seeming lack of love. The message in this story could work well for them: showing love is the way to forgiveness. Tomoya was able to show forgiveness because he learned of his father’s love for him, and Naoyuki was able to accept Tomoya’s love (which I find a forgiving action) because he showed it.

All in all, there’s really a lot I could talk about involving Naoyuki. His final reconciliation with his son is one of the most amazing scenes, I think: such a long-lasting bitterness is able to be dispersed so quickly. It’s truly beautiful. And it’s also something that most people (including me) could learn from: love (which is an action of the will, not just an emotion of infatuation) is the doorway to forgiveness. It’s possibly the most predominantly Christian message I’ve explored in Clannad so far, and it’s just another step in showing how Christianity really is present (albeit not nominally or explicitly) in Clannad. But for now, we end with the closing shot of Naoyuki, that father whose story taught us of forgiveness.

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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Remembering 今敏 (Kon Satoshi)

今敏 -- 1963年10月12日 - 2010年8月24日
Satoshi Kon -- October 12, 1963 - August 24, 2010

Satoshi Kon, the famous anime director, died from pancreatic cancer this Tuesday, that is, August 24, 2010, at the age of 46. His work has always been some of my favorite, so I have decided to give a brief recount of his work in memory of him. I do not know much about his work as animator or other roles, so I will focus on his directorial work. To be even more specific, I will discuss his work which I have seen; this includes everything except the 2004 series Paranoia Agent.

Perfect Blue (1997)

Perfect Blue was Kon-sensei’s directorial debut. Based on a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi, this film is a psychological thriller that can cause quite a shock. This film is not for the weak-hearted. There are some pretty disturbing things in this movie: its story revolves around a pop star who decides to become an actress, but then she begins to be stalked by a dangerous person. Kon-sensei’s films often have a way of bending reality, and Perfect Blue does so by including the main character’s seeming second personality. The movie can be a bit confusing at times, and there are some fairly disturbing scenes in it, but it’s a well-made and fascinating film. I’d personally give it probably an 8/10.

An interesting fact about this film: it was a prime source of inspiration for the film Requiem for a Dream. In fact, it was so inspiring that the director of the previous-mentioned film, Darren Aronofsky, bought the rights for Perfect Blue so he could recreate one scene, shot-for-shot, where a character is sitting in a bathtub, sticks her head underwater, and screams silently, releasing a flow of bubbles.

Millennium Actress (2001)

Kon-sensei’s sophomoric directorial effort is, in my humble opinion, a brilliant film. Unlike the previous work, which was adapted from a novel, Millennium Actress is an original story created by Kon-sensei, who (as in many of his works) helped write the screenplay. It tells the story of a pair of reporters who get an exclusive interview with an old former actress as a memorial to the company she usually worked with, which was closing its doors for good. The actress explains her life story and her acting roles; the two mesh together so well that it can often be difficult to tell if you’re watching her life or one of her movies. That’s how Kon-sensei messes with reality in this film. It’s a beautifully-made and powerful film (which is sadly the only of Kon-sensei’s films with is out of print, even though I think it won the most awards). The animation is a large step up from Perfect Blue (a 4-year gap can allow that), and the music is wonderful. Susumu Hirasawa, a somewhat eccentric Japanese musician whose music is best described as electronic, was signed on to create the music for the film, and his style fits perfectly with Kon-sensei’s (which leads to his work on another of his films later on). This film also offers much food for thought on the topics of infatuation and love, along with some bits about fame (which is a more prominent theme in Perfect Blue). I need to watch it again, but I’d probably give Millennium Actress a 10/10. I have a feeling many will remember it as Kon-sensei’s best film.

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

This, Kon-sensei’s third film, is my least favorite of his works, but it’s still a good film. Another original story, Tokyo Godfathers follows a trio of homeless people as they try to return a lost baby to its parents on Christmas Eve. It’s the only of Kon-sensei’s films to not involve some twisting of reality (which I think is what draws me into his work the most). The animation is a step up from his previous work (since animation technology grows more advanced each year), and the music was composed by the same man who composed the soundtrack to the classic Super Nintendo game Earthbound (I prefer Susumu Hirasawa’s music, though). I’m not really sure why this film did not connect with me as much as his other works (unless it was due to lack of reality-bending, as I mentioned earlier), but even so, it’s still a good film, one I’d give a 7/10.

Paprika (2006)

Paprika is my favorite of Kon-sensei’s films, hands down. It’s based on a 1993 novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, a novel including many real dreams of the author. The story revolves around a device called the DC Mini that enables one to enter someone’s dreams for the purpose of psychoanalysis. When one of these devices is stolen, havoc erupts (to summarize the rest of the film very vaguely). Much of the film takes place within dreams (to an extent), which means that the film lends itself to extreme surrealism. Sometimes the dream events can go to the point of being psychologically disturbing, at least to some of my friends who have I watched it. I found it more intriguing and fascinating than anything else. This film has some of the best animation I’ve seen, especially with its mixture of 2D and 3D animation to create some of the dream worlds. The music is absolutely phenomenal: Susumu Hirasawa returns again, and the combination of his unique sound and Kon-sensei’s surreal film create a one-of-a-kind experience. Though the plot can become incredibly obfuscated (I’m not sure if it’s actually possible to understand it all), the film is all in all an absolutely breathtaking and mind-blowing experience. I’d definitely give Paprika a 10/10.

There’s also lots of interesting trivia facts about this film. For instance, the novelist voices one of the characters in the film, one half of a pair of butlers. And guess who voices the other half? Kon-sensei himself! This is his only voice acting role, and it gives viewers a chance to hear the late director’s voice. Another thing about the film is that it was a big influence on the recent American film about dreams, Inception. Also, Wolfgang Petersen, director of such popular films as The NeverEnding Story, Air Force One, and Troy, is currently working on a live-action adaptation of Paprika (an adaptation of Kon-sensei’s film, not the original novel directly).


All in all, then, Kon-sensei was an astounding director. His films explored human psychology in depth, and they twisted reality in novel ways. His films are each one-of-a-kind, and he put his heart and soul into each one. They often took longer to make than originally predicted because Kon-sensei would spend so much time storyboarding each shot of each scene; he also worked on art direction for most of his films, besides just being a director (to top that, he often worked on the screenplay as well). His directing was much more than just telling people where to go: each film was a specific vision of his that he worked diligently to turn into reality. The world of anime has suffered a great loss with his passing. He left strong, though: in his last blog post, “さようなら” (Farewell), posted in his behalf today, he ended with these words:

With feelings of gratitude for all that is good in this world, I put down my pen.
Well, I'll be leaving now.

Satoshi Kon

Rest in peace, Satoshi Kon. Blessed repose and eternal memory.

Nota Bene: All images are from Google Image Search. Thanks to Wikipedia for background information on these films.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

芳野祐介 (Yoshino Yuusuke)

"This is the best gift I can give you right now. A formless gift called memory. I don't have money. I can't buy you anything with form. Even so, even without form, a memory will last forever! I believe that it will."

Yoshino Yuusuke is a recurring minor character in Clannad. Though he appears sparsely throughout the first series, he becomes much more important in After Story, with his backstory being explained in Episode 12. Once he achieves this level of importance, around Episode 10, he appears in almost every episode of After Story.


Yuusuke is a rock-star-turned-electrician who can act a bit odd and mysterious at times. He has a penchant for the dramatic (and somewhat cheesy): bold, idealistic statements are his trademark, such as the one above. His idealism can be a bit of a problem at times, diverting him from facing reality. When he is not living with his head in the sky, though, he is very professional and serious: he takes care to make sure jobs are done right and that lives are lived right. Though it can sometimes border on the unrealistically hopeful, his advice is in copious supply, especially for Tomoya. When it's more down to earth, this advice can be extraordinarily helpful. Overall, then, Yuusuke is known for mixing the serious with the over-dramatic, in the end to good effect. His first scene shows this intriguing personality balance well.


Yuusuke first appears somewhat randomly. Tomoya is walking down the street when an enraged man pulls him into an argument. The man claims that Yuusuke, an electrician, dropped a tool while working and dented his car. Yuusuke calmly responds that he did no such thing, eventually monologizing grandiloquently about love. As the angry man stands in shock, Tomoya inspects the car and deduces that a fat cat (a very fat cat) jumped on the hood and dented it. This is proven when the cat walks by. Yuusuke thanks Tomoya for helping to diffuse the situation, and he gives him his business card. Later on, speaking with Sunohara, Tomoya learns that Yuusuke used to be a famous rock star, who both Sunohara and Mei love.

This seems like just an interesting random occurrence until Tomoya is in a conversation with Fuko. When explaining her sister's marriage, she says that Kouko is engaged to Yuusuke. Later on, as they're visiting Kouko, Nagisa and Tomoya congratulate her on her engagement to Yuusuke, at which point Kouko is flabbergasted: she'd never told anyone except Fuko about her engagement, much less it being to Yuusuke. Tomoya quickly sidesteps the true cause by saying it must just have been rumors escalating.

The events of Fuko's arc play out without too much involvement from Yuusuke, except for the wedding, of course. Yuusuke is, obviously, at the wedding, energetically professing his vows to Kouko, and he stands on the sidelines as Fuko says her congratulations to her sister.

Following the wedding, Yuusuke, like Kouko, mostly reverts to the background. He doesn't really appear again until the After Story baseball game. After an amusing Yoshino Call instigated by Sunohara, he joins Akio's team. He's shown at bat twice; the first time, he tries to make an inspiring speech as he is tagged out. The second time, he calls a time out, and delivers the following inspiring speech (which I excerpted for the opening quote):

Following this fun (and inspiring!) instance, Yuusuke returns to the background for a few more episodes (including during Shima and Misae's backstory), until Tomoya graduates from high school. Tomoya starts off his adult life working at the Furukawas' bakery, but he realizes he needs a job of his own. As he walks past Yuusuke working on a lightpole, an idea clicks in his head, and he races to Yuusuke, begging for a job. Thankfully, Yuusuke agrees to help.

Yuusuke's experience (and possibly an inspiring speech or two) lands Tomoya the job at Hikarizaka Electric Company, and he becomes Tomoya's trainer. There's a bit of a learning curve for the young man (especially with his injured shoulder), but Yuusuke is persistent and also kind in his corrections and advice. Soon it looks like Tomoya is becoming a fine young electrician, and he's also beginning to look up to Yuusuke, which is when the former asks for the latter's life story. And the latter responds (albeit hypothetically).

A young man (read: Yuusuke) had a natural talent for playing guitar and being a singer-songwriter, so he decided to pursue that course of action after high school. During high school, he met a charming young teacher, and he grew enamored with her, and she became fond of him. As he was leaving to become a famous rock star, he promised her that he'd take her on a date when he returned as a pro. At first he seemed to be on the road to glory. His songs were well-received, his concerts were packed, and his albums sold like hotcakes.

His life started to change, though. A group of kids suffering from many hardships (and I think some terminal diseases as well) informed him that his music kept them going and gave them strength. This struck him with an overwhelming sense of responsibility, and he took a break from his idealistic songwriting. During this sabbatical, though, another man committed a crime he could never recover from, due to the lack of the rock star's music. This young rock star then turned to drugs.

As the musician's addiction grew worse, so did his music; eventually, his concerts were barren and his music was removed from the shelves to be replaced with better selling music. Everything he had was gone. So he returned home, an empty, broken man. And as he stood at the bus stop in his hometown, he saw the woman he had loved, and he collapsed. He realized she was the one he should have been writing songs for the whole time, not anyone else. She was the one who was supposed to be his goal. It was all about her.

And there Yuusuke's story abruptly stops. He tells Tomoya that's it, and they move on with their job.

Yuusuke continues to be a wise mentor for Tomoya in the coming months, encouraging him when he is offered the new position outside of town, supporting him as he gets married, offering him sage advice (and a new rock album!) during Nagisa's pregnancy. He's there as Tomoya enters his years of depression following Ushio's birth and Nagisa's death, although he can't help the new father out, no matter how hard he tries. He's even there after Tomoya and Ushio are reunited. And when Tomoya quits his job to care for Ushio, Yuusuke doesn't let him go that easily: he has the two friends and coworkers exchange screwdrivers, so that Tomoya will have to return to work eventually.

This exchange is Yuusuke's last major role before the final events of the series occur. We last see this rock-star-turned-electrician playing his guitar for his coworkers as he sits in the back of his work truck: a fitting final image of a man such as this.

Effect on the Main Plot

Yuusuke's biggest role is his mentorship of Tomoya. If it weren't for that, he would just be a minor character, just the husband of a minor character. He really supports Tomoya in his adult life, which is a big help: being an adult can be a scary thing, especially when getting married and having a child so soon into it. Having a knowledgeable and wise (and idealistic) mentor is a big plus for new adults. So that support is crucial for Tomoya: without it, who knows how he would have developed?

As mentioned in previous posts, he can be seen as a foreshadowing of Tomoya in a way, like Kouko is to Nagisa. They look similar (come on, they share a hair color!) and both have the same job (through the influence of one of them, though...). They both have to learn to overcome hardship and the collapse of their life plans in order to realize what's really important (for Yuusuke, that's Kouko; for Tomoya, that ends up being Ushio). Could Tomoya have ever ended up coming to his senses without this example? I don't know, but I'm guessing Yuusuke's story was definitely helpful, at least. In the end, I don't know if Tomoya could have survived the adult world without Yuusuke's help (although other people's help was crucial as well).


Of course, family's a theme. But from what we see in the show, Kouko is the only family Yuusuke has. His backstory never mentions his family, and he never mentions it; his only family is his wife and his sister-in-law (Fuko). But there is more to it than that: he's sort of like an older brother for Tomoya. You could almost compare it (maturity-wise) as if Sunohara is Tomoya's younger brother and Yuusuke is Tomoya's older brother. Yuusuke corrects him, advises him, and supports him: all things a good older brother should do.

There's also perseverance, or, you could say, the effect of a lack of perseverance. Many of Yuusuke's speeches mention perseverance or family, but in his actual story, it's more a lack of perseverance. When he finds out that all these people depend on his music, he doesn't keep writing; instead, he takes a break. When a man commits a crime due to a lack of his music, Yuusuke doesn't keep making his music to stop such things from happening again; instead, he starts taking drugs, and his music goes down the drain. In the end, he realizes his real problem was that he didn't focus on Kouko, that girl of his dreams he'd known since high school. If he had persevered in writing music for her sake, maybe it all could have turned out differently. I think the example of what happens without perseverance helped form him into the wise man he is at the present day.

Yuusuke also shows a bit of breaking out of conventions: who would think the strange, idealistic electrician is actually a formerly famous rock star? And who'd imagine an electrician that releases an rock album? It just proves the famous adage: you can't judge a book (or a man) by its (his) cover.


First off, does anyone else think that Yuusuke sort of looks like Roy Mustang in this picture?

Anyway, Yuusuke is just a great guy. I'm a bit of a sucker for these inspirational speeches, as long as they aren't too sappy. Yuusuke's speeches hit the perfect balance between sappy and true, I think, which is completely amazing. All his speeches hold gems of wisdom in my eyes, so I'd recommend watching all of them (for instance, this one).

He's more than just a guy with pithy and sappy speeches, though: he's also a hard worker who knows what's important in life, and he supports his friends and family. By the end of the show, I think Yuusuke grew to be one of my favorite characters (although Akio still tops him for me; more on that later). There's just something about a guy who's idealistic (like me) and makes mistakes, but knows how to learn from them and live through them (something I need to always keep in mind). Plus he knows how important friends and family are, and he supports them whenever he can. In some ways I think Yuusuke could be the epitome of a great friend; so when you're wondering how to be a friend, take some tips from him: offer advice and support whenever possible. It can only help.

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.

伊吹公子 / 芳野公子 (Ibuki Kouko / Yoshino Kouko)

"If you continue and don't give up, your wish will be granted."

Yoshino Kouko (originally Ibuki Kouko) is a recurring minor character in Clannad. Though she has no backstory of her own, she's involved in Fuko's story (she's present in Episode 6 to 9 of Clannad) and in her husband Yuusuke's backstory (shown in Episode 12 of After Story). She appears a few other times as well (such as the show's final scene).


Kouko is a soft-spoken woman who is often smiling. She's optimistic, and she does her best to support all her friends and family, most especially Fuko and Yuusuke. Her love for others is powerful, to the point of almost foregoing her marriage to be able to better take care of her comatose sister. Her patience and encouragement of others served her well during her years as an art teacher at the high school. Maturity and politeness are values she wants to stress, particularly for Fuko (who can at times be lacking in both). Overall, then, Kouko is a woman who thinks positively, cares for others, and pushes them to be the best they can be. You can see this when Nagisa and Tomoya invite her to the school's Founder's Festival:


Kouko is first seen as one of the customers of the Furukawas' bakery, who Tomoya meets as he watches over the store following on of Sanae's bread breakdowns. Later on, Tomoya learns that Kouko used to be the art teacher at the high school; even more importantly, she's Fuko's older sister, the one whose wedding Fuko is promoting. In another twist of coincidence, it turns out her fiancee is none other than Yoshino Yuusuke, an electrician whom Tomoya met during a random encounter on the street. (He's also a musician the Sunoharas love.)

After learning that Kouko is Fuko's sister, Nagisa and Tomoya visit her multiple times. She remembers Nagisa from her last year of teaching (even though Kouko stopped teaching the year before the story began, since Nagisa is repeating a year, she had her as a teacher). Nagisa and Tomoya learn Fuko's backstory: she was a girl who often played by herself and didn't make many friends. At one time, Kouko tried to force Fuko to get friends by giving her the cold shoulder, but that wasn't very effective. On her first day of high school, Fuko was hit by a car, and she's been in a coma ever since (three years). Kouko visits her often and does her best to take care of her. She even ponders foregoing her marriage to Yuusuke (which is a secret that Fuko informed Nagisa and Tomoya of) in order to take better care of her sister.

The two convince Kouko to come to the school's Founder's Festival in order to talk with her sister, but it's to no avail: she can't see Fuko. Thankfully, though, they're able to convince Kouko that what Fuko would want is for her to get married, and she decides she wishes to be married on school grounds. Nagisa and Tomoya go to Koumura for assistance there as people begin to forget Fuko.

Soon the day of the wedding arrives, and it goes off perfectly: it's held on school grounds, and countless guests are there thanks to Fuko's starfish. As the newly wedded couple comes to Nagisa and Tomoya, by a supernatural happenstance, Fuko is able to tell her sister congratulations on her wedding, just as she wanted to. (Kouko appears at about 3:45 in this video.)

After this, Kouko is basically relegated to the background until After Story. Now known as Yoshino Kouko instead of Ibuki Kouko, she appears with her husband at the baseball game. She next appears during Shima's arc. While Shima is dressed as a girl, he runs into Kouko in the halls (since she's an art teacher), and she allows him to see Misae at the student council meeting.

Her next main role appears when Yuusuke is telling Tomoya his backstory. He was a student when Kouko was a teacher, and they grew close. After he graduated, as he was heading off to become a musician, he swore he'd become famous, and he asked if she'd go on a date with him when he returned. She accepted his offer. During his tumultuous time as a rock star, he eventually hit bottom and returned home, only to serendipitously run into her outside the train station. He realized that she was the one he should have been focusing on, and he collapses into tears in front of her. She encourages him and offers him support, telling him to persevere and not give up, and that eventually led to their dating and getting married.

She next appears again 7 episodes and 5 years later. Tomoya and Ushio are walking by a park and see her and (lo and behold!) Fuko, woken up after all these years. She introduces herself to Ushio and tells her she'll grow up to be cute and strong like her mom. She then introduces Fuko as well, leading to an interesting friendship between her and Ushio.

Finally, Kouko appears for the last time during the final scene. She's walking with Fuko to the hospital to get a check-up (after being in a coma for about 10 years, you'd need check-ups too!), and they're having a cheerful walk, Fuko being childish as ever. Suddenly, Fuko glances into the forest and starts up a strange conversation that Kouko can't make heads or tails of. Eventually, Fuko just runs into the forest, leaving Kouko confused and dumbfounded.

Effect on Main Plot

Kouko helps Nagisa and Tomoya's relationship in a few, kind of indirect ways. For one, she provides the goal for Fuko's starfish quest; without her, Nagisa and Tomoya would have never met Fuko, and their time with her is a big help in building up their fledgling relationship. Kouko is also the one who supported Yuusuke; without her support, who knows what would have become of him? His being supported his a good thing, because he is a wonderful mentor for Tomoya in After Story. She also (re)introduces Fuko to Tomoya and Ushio. This provides Ushio with what appears to be her first real friend, which must make Tomoya glad (I have a feeling that having a friendless child would make you worried for her).

Kouko is also an effect in an even less direct way: she's somewhat of a foreshadowing of Nagisa. Liam Francis Traveller drew my attention to this aspect in his post on Fuko's arc: Kouko is a strong, caring woman whom Nagisa knows and who sort of looks like Nagisa. Both her personality and looks bear some resemblance to Nagisa (Liam says she looks like an older Nagisa, and the resemblance is definitely more blatant when looking at Nagisa at the end of the show). It's interesting to see that this woman who resembles Nagisa also have some aspects of her relationship with her husband resemble Nagisa's: she's an older woman who helps support a guy with some delinquent tendencies and inspire him with self-confidence and courage. There are definitely some interesting correlations between Kouko and Nagisa.


Once again, the big theme is family. Most of the times we see Kouko are because of her connection with Fuko. Her familial love with Fuko is a two-way street, even if it might not seem like to Kouko for a while. Kouko cares for her comatose sister for over two years with no sort of loving response from her (because it's simply not possible). Even with no possible encouragement from Fuko, Kouko still goes to visit her and care for her; she perseveres in it (and it's self-sacrificial as well). Through that supernatural occurrence, though, Kouko is able to receive a loving message from her sister; all the work that Fuko puts into making the wedding a success could almost be viewed as her thank-you gift to Kouko for all the caring she has had over the years, even if Fuko doesn't consciously talk about being in a coma.

Kouko also offers Yuusuke the advice to persevere, as the quote that started this post attests to. (The inspiration of others with advice such as this seems to be a common event in Clannad, even from the very first scene.)


There's only so much to say about a character like this. She has no real backstory: she just plays parts (at times crucial ones) in other people's backstories, like Fuko and Shima and Yuusuke. Sometimes she just seems like an accessory to Fuko: if Fuko weren't there, she wouldn't be there. It's almost like Kouko is a contingent character, depending on Fuko and Yuusuke to exist (in the show). Actually, Yuusuke almost seems like a contingent character dependent on Kouko (would anything have come of that random encounter with Tomoya if he weren't Kouko's fiancee?); so one way to say it would be that Yuusuke is dependent on Kouko, who is in turn dependent on Fuko. So it all rests on Fuko: that just goes to show how important of a character she really is.

That's mostly all I have to say about that: Kouko is sort of a support character for Fuko and the gateway (and sometimes a support character) for Yuusuke, plus she's also a bit of an alternate Nagisa. But above all, she's Fuko's sister, and a antithetically mature one too (she's sort of the Mei to Fuko's Sunohara, in a way).

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.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

宮沢有紀寧 (Miyazawa Yukine)

"My brother's wish was to rid this town of the fighting...I wanted to make that matter what."

Miyzawa Yukine is a recurring minor character in Clannad. Her story takes place in Episodes 7 and 8 of After Story, the last minor arc before the series dives full-on into Nagisa and Tomoya's story.


Yukine is a high school junior who spends most of her free time in the library: not the main library, where Kotomi is, but the secondary, even less used, library. It's also called the reference room. While this room isn't used much as a library, people still go there to visit Yukine. She's always waiting there with tea and a smile (and sometimes some food as well). She's pretty social for voluntarily confining herself to a library; though she doesn't seek out other people's company (at least at school), she has no problem with talking to anyone she comes in contact with. She's a (for the most part) calm girl who is also caring: she does whatever she can to help others out, whether by providing them with obscure charms or first aid. One of her goals is to get rid of the town's fighting and make it a more peaceful, caring place.

Overall, then, she's a somewhat reserved, calm, and caring girl who is at home in the secondary library; her theme's title, "Tea in the Reference Room," fits her remarkably well. Her first appearance is a good example of all of this:


Yukine is first seen when Tomoya is looking for a book on how to write speeches, so he can help out Nagisa. He tells Sunohara, who (always on the lookout for a cute girl to befriend) visits her the next day, with Tomoya in tow. Throughout the series, then, Sunohara and Tomoya (along with other characters at times) visit Yukine in her reference room to discuss topics of interest and sip tea calmly (and give her a starfish). She also provides assistance in interesting ways at times...

For instance, by teaching Sunohara and Tomoya charms they can use. In the same episode where Yukine inspires Sunohara to suggest a basketball game to resolve the choir club vs. drama club conflict over Koumura-sensei, she also informs them of an interesting charm. After performing the charm, the subject must walk around the school, and the first girl who talks to him is the one who likes him. Sunohara does this to no avail (after 5 rounds, no one had talked to him), and when Tomoya tries it out, Nagisa (of course) is the first one to talk (since he stopped Fuko from speaking).

Later on, Yukine also teaches Tomoya the charm that leads to his awkward gym storage room scene with Kyou. Also she unknowingly assists in causing Nagisa's onstage breakdown during the school festival: when Nagisa asks where the videos are of the former drama club (which her father was in), Yukine helps her find them. Watching those videos of Akio adds to Nagisa's guilt, which culminates in the previously mentioned breakdown.

Yukine's real story doesn't begin until After Story. During Sunohara's arc, when he is frantically searching for a fake girlfriend, he asks Yukine. Though she declines politely, a guest does not take it so lightly. A rough-looking young man appears from under the table and almost roughs up Sunohara, until he realizes he's lost his cover, and he escapes out the window, after which Yukine politely asks Sunohara and Tomoya to leave.

A few episodes later, Sunohara, Tomoya, and Nagisa return to visit Yukine, where Sunohara asks her to be his girlfriend for real (she declines instantaneously). After this, a strange, injured young man jumps through the window, and Yukine cares for him. Yukine explains this odd occurrence: her brother is the leader of one of the two rival gangs in the town, and she is friends with them, but she offers first aid and assistance to members of both gangs. Her connection to them can invite a bit of trouble, though, such as when a young boy named Yuu tries to intimidate her into telling him where his sister, who joined her brother's gang, is. Yukine responds to his threats with calm and caring, and she says she'll take him to his sister. While this conversation is going on, Sunohara somehow claims to be Kazuto, Yukine's older brother, the gang leader.

This has ill effects once the group reaches the gang's hideout, and Yuu points Sunohara out as Kazuto. The gang does not react too kindly to this lie. It turns out Kazuto's been in the hospital for a while, since he saved a friend and got in a car accident. While at the bar (the gang's hideout), Yukine explains well how the gang is like a family:

The troubles with Sunohara's claim don't end there. Apparently the rival gang heard about him being Kazuto, and when the group of friends is walking home from the hideout, members of the rival gang attack them, thinking they'll about to get Kazuto. Thankfully, Tomoyo appears (in a bit of a Deus Ex Machina way) and saves them.

Tomoyo then talks to Yukine and the others about the gangs: she warns that if the fighting doesn't settle down, the police will get involved. To avoid this option, Yukine and Tomoya speak to the two gangs about having a one on one showdown between their leaders, with Sunohara being Kazuto. This all seems like it'll work out well, until Nagisa brings her mom's gift of "Hyper Rainbow Bread" and "Ultimate Jam": this combination fells all of Yukine's gang, plus Sunohara. Thus Tomoya has to take the initiative, and he begins a fight with the rival leader.

The fight seems to go on forever, as each fighter keeps getting weaker and weaker, but they won't stop...until Kazuto appears, that is. A covered person appears on the hill above the battleground and charges the battlefield. When he's hit with the first punch, though, it turns out that it's not Kazuto at all: it's Yukine.

She just wanted the fighting to stop, so she pretended to be her brother. It turns out her brother can't come save the day, because he's actually been dead. His gang hid it from the others, not wanting to be attacked as a result of this knowledge. The other gang, Tomoya, Sunohara, and Nagisa are stunned to hear this news. At her brother's grave, Yukine declares her brother's intention that the fighting stop, and the rival gang agrees to this, giving Kazuto reverence as they do so.

After the scene at the grave, Yukine thanks Tomoya, Nagisa, and Sunohara for their help, and she explains something that Tomoya saw at her brother's grave: the lights (I'll describe her explanation in the Effect on the Main Plot section). Following this explanation, she says goodbye to her brother one last time, and her arc ends.

Yukine doesn't really appear after her arc. She's at Nagisa's fake graduation, but besides that, she's only in the final montage, where we see her with her family: the gang.

Effect on the Main Plot

Yukine helps Tomoya and Nagisa's relationship in many small ways: the charms, the speech advice, the videos of Akio's plays. But really, her main plot effect is her explanation of the lights. While in Shima's arc we learned what the lights do, Yukine explains where the lights come from: an equally important aspect of them. In her own words: “Whenever something good happens or someone feels happy, an orb of light appears…It’s not certain what it is. But what is certain is that, that light is a symbol of happiness. If you can get one, you’ll be granted one wish…" Thus we learn that happiness causes these lights; that explains why when Fuko finally got to be in a class, one appeared, or when Kotomi finally received consolation and a final message from her parents, we saw them as well. These were moments of definite happiness for the people involved. Yukine also gives some interesting information: fewer people have been seeing this lights lately, but Tomoya can, and thus she says Tomoya is special (she also says "Okazaki is Okazaki"). That's true: the only time I recall anyone else reacting to a light is when Fuko's light appears: I believe Koumura follows it with his gaze. Most definitely, Yukine's words are key to understanding this supernatural aspect of Clannad, and thus the ending as well.


There's no doubt that family is a blatant theme in this arc: Yukine talks about the gang like a family of those who don't have families of their own, and all the tension focuses on her brother. If Yukine hadn't been so close to her brother, she probably would never have gotten involved with the gang (she doesn't seem to be the gang type), and none of these events would have happened: there would have been no end to the fighting, and Tomoya wouldn't learn about the lights either. Yukine truly has a deep love for her brother, and she has a deep drive to keep her brother's memory alive, first by trying to convince people he's alive, and then by fulfilling his one goal: the ending of the fighting. I find the scene at the grave, where she and the gangs honor her brother's memory, to be very powerful. It shows that the love between family can last even after death (something we see with the Okazaki family later on).

As I mentioned above, the supernatural is present in terms of the lights. There's some self-sacrifice here; in one way, Yukine's giving of her time and talent to help the gang members through first aid and whatnot is a sacrifice, and, in bigger ways, the people who fight for her brother's memory are showing self-sacrifice. Sunohara attempts this (although Sanae's bread takes him out), and Tomoya and later Yukine both go through with this, opening themselves to the possibility of physical pain and possibly serious injury by going out in the battle against the other gang's leader.

The other big theme is breaking out of conventions. Normally, a gang member is seen as a harsh person with no concern for others or common decency. But these gang members, even the rival ones, don't fit that stereotype at all. They can have kind, harmless fun (karaoke? Not your stereotypical gang activity...), and they can be loving (like Yuu's sister). They treat Yukine and others with respect, and she treats them the same way. She doesn't see them as lowly gang members, but as real people and as friends. And the fact that a quiet library girl is hanging out with gangs...definitely not a stereotypical activity for her either.


It's interesting to compare Yukine's experience with gangs to Tomoyo's experience. Yukine's gang friends are kind people who can bring out the best in her. Tomoyo's gang acquaintances, on the other hand, make her a hard-hearted, cold, brutal person. It shows that not all similar groups are equal.

What I especially like about Yukine's arc is the scene at her family grave. Something about the reverence that she and the gang members show really strikes me. I'm not even sure how to describe it...but it's powerful.

Yukine was originally supposed to be one of the heroines of Clannad, but her story ended up being too weak for that, so she became a minor character. I wonder what it would be like for Clannad to have an extra heroine for Tomoya to bypass on his way to Nagisa. How aggressive and appealing would she be in her attempt to attract him? I mean, even here she's got some familiarity with him, like in the somewhat awkward scene where she sleeps on his lap. What would the show be like with Yukine having a more major role? It would definitely be interesting to ponder.

But now that the minor arcs are done, we can move onto the more major characters, at least plotwise. We can't leave Yukine, though, without one last look at her and her gang.

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.