This entry covers the closing episodes of Clannad After Story. I will probably do one last shorter entry for my overall thoughts and opinions, but first I need to set the story straight. I’ll give you a forewarning that this entry is extremely long. A PDF version is being prepared.
I hate this city. It’s full of all the memories I want to forget about. Go to school every day, chat with friends, and then go back to the home I don’t even want to go back to.
Will something eventually change, doing this? Will that day come?
Do you like this school? I really, really like it.
But nothing can stay unchanged.
A girl I’ve never seen before.
The words weren’t directed at me. She must be talking to someone in her heart.
Fun things… Happy things… They can’t all possible stay unchanged.
Even so, can you keep on loving this place?
Just find them. Just find new fun and happy things.
C’mon, let’s get going.
We start to walk up…
…the long… long… uphill climb.Tomoya & Nagisa, episode 1
The closing episode of Clannad After took us by quite a surprise. The cryptic and puzzling ending, especially with Fuko, could be referred to as the Evangelion of Drama: fragmented pieces, seemingly irrelevant scenes, and an indefinite ending With time travel inevitably in the picture, the issue of ‘what happened when’ arose and aroused.. Many of us have our attention on 2chan’s Clannad Storyline Diagram as presented by Sankaku Complex. I have not played the game yet, so I was half-excited and half-nervous when I saw this; I really wanted to make an interpretation on my own. But I also wanted to see what interpretation was most widely accepted by the community, and I believed there might be some clues to help my own interpretation. Sankaku’s diagram gives an explanation of the entire Clannad series by showing us when each episode actually occurs. According to it, we never watch Tomoya and Nagisa in their first life, until her death after Ushio is born. The story then proceeds with After Story episodes 17 – 21. After jumping back in time, Tomoya saved Nagisa with light orbs gathered by helping the supporting characters as we saw in episodes 1 to After Story episode 16. Aside from completely omitting the Illusionary World, it contradicts with the story as presented by the episodes. This is my train of logic:
- Tomoya went back in time due to grief over Ushio’s and Nagisa’s deaths.
- For both Ushio and Nagisa to have died, Tomoya must have married and started a family with Nagisa.
- For Tomoya to have married Nagisa, they must have dated.
- For Nagisa and Tomoya to have dated, they must have re-established the theatre club.
- To have re-established the theatre club, Tomoya (and Nagisa) must have recruited other members.
- To have recruited other members, Tomoya and Nagisa must have helped them and become their friends.
- Therefore, if Tomoya did not help the other characters, none of the above would have happened.
This alone is enough evidence to disprove the diagram. There are additional discrepancies which I will present, but before I move on, I need to lay out some terms that I will be using.
Psychological Time: Time as it elapses in one’s mind.
Chronological Time: Time as is felt by one’s body; or as felt by the world.
Explanatory Example: Lets say Tomoya is 25 years old when Ushio dies. At this point, he is both psychologically and chronologically 25 years old. Now he is sent five years back in time, and this time he lives a 60 more fruitful years until he dies at the age of 80. At that point, he has passed 85 years psychologically (25 + 60), which is how many years have elapsed in his mind. Chronologically, he has passed 80 years – his existence in that world was 80 years long, and that is how old his body is. The difference between the two (5 years) is the length of the time-travel leap.
Oh, just another note: when I reference episode numbers, episodes from After Story will always be preceded by AS. Thus there are 25 episodes when I say ‘episodes 1 – AS 2’, inclusive (Tomoyo After is excused from this discussion).
Back on topic, remember the scene in the final episode of After Story with the following conversation? This is right after Tomoya was sent back in time.
I was really worried you might be thinking that you should have never met me.
I’m glad that I met you. I had a wonderful life.
So please. Don’t lose yourself.
No matter what may await, please don’t regret meeting me.
Is that too much to ask?
Thank you.Nagisa & Tomoya, After Story episode 22
This quote proves two things. Firstly, this undeniably proves that Nagisa is also aware of what happened in the previous world. Secondly, if at the bottom of the hill both Nagisa and Tomoya were aware of their travel through time, they would acknowledge that they have already married. Building from this, there would be no shyness between them in any of the episodes, and would have no motive to suppress or hide their feelings from each other.
Continuing, recall when Nagisa had a mental breakdown the day before the School Festival. If this indeed happened after travelling back in time, Nagisa must have already known that her parents changed their dreams for her sake, and thus would not have been emotionally shocked when she found photo albums and video tapes in the shed.
If Tomoya had known about the seriousness of his father’s condition, he would have done all that he could to prevent it. His promotion was drowned because of his father’s dealings with drugs, so if he had known beforehand he would have done all he could to prevent it. Also, he made up with his father before Ushio’s death. There would be no reason for Tomoya to put off settling the misunderstandings with his father after travelling back in time.
It must have been hard.
Ryou, Kotomi, and Youhei are all worried about you.
We were thinking maybe we should visit you when we got together over New Year’s, but we ended up saying it’d be best to leave you alone for now.
But this means that everything’s settled, right? All the loose ends?
Yeah.Kyou & Tomoya, After Story episode 20
After Nagisa’s death, Ushio proceeded to attend kindergarten under Sanae and Akio. Kyou was her teacher, and when Tomoya finally readopted Ushio, Kyou mentioned the members of the theatre club and how they wanted to meet him. Nagisa had already died, and Tomoya was friends with the Theatre Club. This proves that Tomoya had already helped the heroines during his first psychological life, again disproving the timeline diagram.
All girls like fortune telling at the genetic level.
Of course, it’s a pity that I can’t get it right, but I think it’s better if I don’t.
If the results come true, it’s as if there’s only one future.
But if it fails, we can think that other futures exist.
We never know how the future shifts because of the slightest change.
I want to believe that in our future there are many possibilities waiting.Ryou Fujibayashi, episode 18
Now I would like to bring forward and explain my own interpretation. There is no way of knowing how true to the intended plot my interpretation stands, but all the clues I have found have pointed me this way, and I cannot find any big holes in my interpretation.
This is a world that has ended; a world where no one but I exist.
In the room are a small wooden table and a chair.
Outside the window is a vast plain with nothing.
The building is old, and there is no clue of when it was built.
I live here alone.The play, episode 22
Ushio existed alone in the imaginary world. I am uncertain the exact reason for this, but it definitely has something to do with Nagisa’s disease, which was passed onto Ushio when she gave birth and died. In this world, we have illuminating light orbs. We have learned from various segments that the lights represent memories from another world. We learned in Shima’s arc that these light orbs are able to grant wishes. I will jump to conclude that these orbs are ‘happy’ memories, as I see no reason to consider otherwise. But, aside from the light orbs floating freely in the sky, there is another major phenomenon in the Illusionary World. This would be none other than the junk, whose existence is similar to the light orbs, but have a different implication. If the light orbs are good memories from the Real World, then what is the junk?
I picked up branches, nails, and may other things.
It’s to make a friend.
But, will the one being born be happy?
With some doubt in mind…The play, episode 22
This world has indeed ended.
No more lives will be born; she’s the only being with life.
Either in the distant past or the dist future, I was in a different place.
It was a very lively place, but I can no longer return there.
I have this body she made for me.The Robot, episode 22
As you may have guessed, the junk represents despair; they are memories from the Real World that one does not want to keep. And using this junk; using this despair, Ushio create a companion. Tomoya was not born into the Illusionary world by pure coincidence. He existed in the Illusionary World in the form of bad memories, which is precisely what he became after experiencing Ushio’s death. He regretted meeting Nagisa and all the things they did during their senior year. With nothing left, he no longer wanted to live on in his current world, so he was created and born into the Illusionary World. Whether he and Ushio actually died or not is not shown, but that is irrelevant.
In the Illusionary World, Ushio eventually comes to realize who she and the Robot are. She tells Tomoya, and then sends him back in time to the moment where he and Nagisa first met at the bottom of the hill. Having learnt everything he needed, he grabbed Nagisa and re-lived his life. The second third of AS episode 22 shows his second life, the surreal light and slow-motion are fast-forward representations of what happened between metting Nagisa the second time up to Ushio’s birth. Tomoya’s second school life is represented in the episode, but beyond that we don’t know any details. This leaves all but one section covered, which is the final third of AS episode 22: Clannad’s final closing scene.
So what’s the deal here? Fuko again? As moé as Fuko is, doesn’t KyoAni realize they already budgeted too much time on her? Why would they use the most insignificant, childish character for the closing scene to an otherwise great series? It seems like they tried to put so much emphasis on her, too. Aside from her screen time, she’s second in line in the ending sequence of AS episode 22, and fourth in line when he have the achromatic fly-by right before Ushio sends Tomoya back in time. But… why?
The city will change. But there are many people who treasure these sakura trees. Not just me. Many people who live in this city feel that way. No matter how depressing a place may look, the most important places don’t change. I think there’s a similar aspect to family, too.Tomoyo Sakagami, episode 18
The answer is clear. At least, it will be by the time you finish reading this entry, to which I must inform you is not even halfway to the end yet. Let’s first run a background check on Fuko. She was involved in a car accident in her freshman year and has been in a coma ever since. Because of this, Fuko’s sister, Kouko, was thinking of putting off her plans to marry Yoshino until Fuko awakened. Fuko knew she would not wake up anytime soon, so she created a second existence in her high school and tried to convince the students to give their blessings to her sister and fiancé. She met Tomoya and Nagisa, and together they convinced Kouko and helped her carry through with her marriage, and they even gathered many students to give their blessings and wishes to the newlywed couple. Fuko would be forever grateful towards Tomoya and Nagisa.
After her main arc, Fuko had some random appearances. Although these sequences were awkward yet light-hearted, she continued to try to help Tomoya and his friends whenever they encountered difficulties. Whatever her actions were, we can say for sure that Fuko has a strong ability to transverse between the worlds and to re-manifest herself in a secondary form. This must have been the result of the accident that happened to her on the first day of her freshman year.
Let’s take a more detailed look into Fuko’s arcs. In her first main arc, Fuko had one major contribution: She brought Nagisa and Tomoya closer together, both mentally and physically. She made Tomoya and Nagisa call each other by first name and made them comfortable sleeping on each other’s shoulders (episode 9). Helping Fuko also acquainted Tomoya and Nagisa with some of the other heroines, and without her help Tomoya and Nagisa may have never taken the first step towards their dating. We also have the appearance of Fuko towards the end of After Story; her second main arc. She fell in love with Ushio, but more importantly, Fuko recognized that Tomoya was still grieving over his deceased Nagisa. She kept asking Tomoya if he saw Nagisa in her, and was troubled when Okazaki started crying after hearing Ushio talk about her mother (AS episode 20). She must have remembered, subconsciously, what Tomoya and Nagisa had done for her and her sister many years ago. And because of that, she felt the need to repay Tomoya for his good deeds.
Shall I… Shall I take you?
To the place in this city where wishes come true?The play, episode 22
Ushio had a habit of walking to the hospital; this is the field Akio brought Nagisa to after he found her collapsed in the snow. Nagisa dreamt of the imaginary world and linked with that field, and when she died giving birth she passed that link onto Ushio. In the final scene, we watched Fuko find her way from the hospital to Ushio by way of scent. When she first arrives, she sees Imaginary World Ushio, but we know from the subsequent sequence that it is the Real World Ushio. Maybe Fuko does in fact see Ushio as she is presented in the Illusionary World? Whatever the case, knowing that Fuko had a glimpse of Imaginary World Ushio is further evidence to support the theory of her hidden world abilities.
Now, brace yourself while I present my biggest conjecture of this article.
Recall Fuko in the earlier episodes. More precisely, recall her attire. Aside from the standard school uniform, she had black knee-socks, and a ribbon that tied her hair into a tail. Black feet, black tail. Does that ring any bells?
Now does that ring any bells? Fuko is the sheep we see in AS episode 2. But it’s not only in the appearance where I have proof. Remember how the Robot got lost, and the sheep somehow led him back to Ushio? The sheep must have been able to instinctively lead the Robot back to Ushio. Fuko stated in episode 20 that she had memorized Ushio’s scent; that’s how she found Ushio by the hospital two episodes later. The field by the tree, where Nagisa was brought by Akio, where Ushio instinctively wanders, and where Fuko saw Illusionary World Ushio, is the place that links Nagisa, Ushio, Fuko, and the Illusionary World together. Here, Fuko, after recognizing Tomoya’s grief, showed the Imaginary World Ushio the dream where she learned who she and the Robot were in the Real World. Just like how Nagisa dreamed of the Illusionary World at that place, Ushio in the Illusionary World dreamt of the Real World because Fuko and Ushio were there. That is the place in the city where dreams come true. Ushio’s revelatory dream in the Imaginary World was what Fuko meant the by closing statement “This is where the fun begins”.
So you’re saying that this world and the hidden world are related strongly at a deep level?
Yes. Time, space, and people’s minds echo in a strange way to recreate both worlds or create whole new ones. They might be affecting each other like that. That’s what I wanted to say.
Could our lives be tied to that world, too?
Maybe, then yet again maybe not.Kotomi Ichinose, After Story episode 16
Fuko holds a key to the Clannad series. In fact, I believe she holds the key, the key to Tomoya’s time travel and consequently his second joy-filled life. That is why Fuko is so strangely emphasized throughout the entire series. Without Fuko, Nagisa and Tomoya would have never gotten that first push needed before they could start pursuing each other. Without Fuko, the Robot would have gotten lost in the Illusionary World. Without Fuko, Illusionary World Ushio would never come to realize who she and her creation were, and thus would not have been able to send Tomoya back in time. Without Fuko, Tomoya would forever live in grief like his father. When Tomoya and Nagisa decided to help Fuko and her sister’s wedding in their senior year, they had created a foolproof plan towards their ultimate happiness. If anything went wrong in the future, Fuko would restructure the worlds and send Tomoya back in time with knowledge of the abilities of the Illusionary World.
Like we can see people’s feelings from the other world as light in this world,
my feelings will become many lights in that world and shimmer.Illusionary World Ushio, After Story episode 22
There is one more piece to put together before the entire picture is complete. This is Ushio’s role. We learned that Ushio is the Illusionary World; she is the container of memories. We know the rumour about light orbs granting wishes, but: Can one’s wishes be granted if they are unaware they are in possession of any of these light orbs? Simply put, no. We know this because Nagisa had died. If Tomoya was aware of the Illusionary World’s abilities the first time around, (remember that Ushio is the Illusionary World) we would have had a happily ever after and AS episodes 17 – 22 would not have existed. So the only way the light orbs could be used is if one is aware of their existence, and the only way Tomoya could be aware depended on two conditions:
- Nagisa and Ushio must have died, causing Tomoya to despair over his entire life and subsequently be delivered into the Illusionary World;
- Fuko must have revealed to Illusionary World Ushio who she and the Robot were in the Real world.
After reawakening at the bottom of the hill, Tomoya knows exactly what his, Nagisa’s and Ushio’s roles are. With this knowledge he is able to live the happy life which formerly was only a fantasy.
There may be more than one hidden world.
There’s a theory of multiple worlds existing, too.
Fujibayashi, I remember you saying something like that when you were talking about fortune telling.
Yes. There is no one future, but there are many possibilities. I still think that.Kotomi, Tomoya & Ryou, After Story episode 16
This concludes my discourse. I will now summarize my interpretation of the entire plot of Clannad; please refer to this timeline diagram.
Everything up to AS 21 happens as we perceive it. This is the first psychological life; Nagisa dies, but Tomoya can’t save her; he is unaware of Ushio’s abilities. Upon death, Nagisa’s ailment is passed onto Ushio. Fuko, who has frequently transcended the worlds during her unconsciousness, is able to rouse Illusionary World Ushio and reveal her role in the Real World to her. This is the final scene if AS episode 22. Real World Ushio and Illusionary World Ushio are now connected. Ushio eventually dies from Nagisa’s ailment. Illusionary World Ushio creates the junk doll and brings the despairing Tomoya to her world. Since time does not exist in the Illusionary World, this occurs before Ushio’s dream and contact with Fuko. Illusionary World Ushio’s powers slowly start running out. Because of Fuko in the Real World, she dreams about who she and the Robot are, and she uses the last of her strength to send Tomoya back in time. This is the first third of AS episode 22. Tomoya awakens at the foot of the hill and dashes to Nagisa. He goes through his senior year similarly as we have seen in his first psychological life, but this time through, he is aware of Ushio’s abilities and is able to save both her and Nagisa. We don’t see this in detail; this is represented by the blurred surreal monochrome sequences in the second third of AS episode 22. As per the middle section of AS episode 22, Nagisa and Ushio are alive and cured from the ailment, and Tomoya, Nagisa and Ushio live happily ever after.