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