dango dango dango dango… dango daikazoku

It’s not the best ending.
She’s not the best girl.
But it’s the best story.

I’m done with Clannad; I broke my own rule where I refuse to watch non-widescreen anime if a widescreen version is forthcoming. I broke down. I watched the final episode of Clannad. And it was fantastic.

The episode itself wasn’t what was fantastic. I’ve seen better. Six weeks from now, I’ll probably be writing up the episode and complaining how it ended on a Fuko note. But that’s not what’s important.

The second season itself wasn’t what was fantastic. I’ve seen better. I can poke holes in it like how it devoted too much time on Yukine’s and Misae’s paths. But that’s not what’s important.

The ending itself wasn’t what was fantastic. I’ve seen better. If Clannad were a Sunrise property, I’d be making the obligatory death is a temporary condition joke. But that’s not what’s important.

What is important is that all the pieces fit at the very end. Maybe not all the pieces seem right by themselves, but in the tapestry that the story built the past forty plus episodes, they all snap together and bring Tomoya’s and Nagisa’s… and Ushio’s story to a fantastic end. That’s the importance.

I watch anime for entertainment. I like some shows for their stories and drama, like Mushishi or Escaflowne. Others like Muteki Kanban Musume or Keroro for comedy. And then the train wrecks. Oh, you guys should know, I like me some train wreck anime. But Clannad‘s different. It’s a tapestry.

It started out as one of the greatest slice-of-life harem anime ever culminating in the unforgettable gym storage shed experience. Yes, it was that awesome. It should have been its own theme park ride, “The Unforgettable Gym Storage Shed Experience.” But it changed. Slowly. Subtly. The anime that had Sunohara as a perpetual comedy whipping boy… went without Sunohara for almost twelve episodes. The dictionaries no longer whipped around. Akio’s and Sanae’s Bailar de el Pan went from comedy to something endearing. The girls noticed the change when Nagisa got beaned by the tennis ball– it’s not the same Clannad anymore. If only did we know that their crying was just a foretelling of more to come.

The past dozen or so episodes have been just a strange, long story. It took the supposedly happiest part of any romance: the courtship, the marriage, the first child… and it ran it through both the happiest peaks and lowest valleys. It seemed like it wanted to test our protagonist, Tomoya, like how the Alps test those on the Tour de France. I started to feel empathy for Tomoya… yes… empathy. And that’s when I started to refer to Clannad as a chick flick. The greatest modern anime collection of melonpan and moe has turned into a chick flick. And I was even more glued to the show.

I’m sure some people bailed on Clannad at this point. I don’t blame you. But everything that the series was, harem comedy, romance, Sunohara bromance, Fuko starfish, it all served a purpose. Tomoya’s final redemption was the result of the tapestry he created while he was in that city. I didn’t see it at first, but now, I can’t not see it.

What allowed Tomoya to overcome his final despair was everything that happened before. Everyone that Tomoya helped repays him in a non-linear way. Yes, everyone from Tomoyo to Sunohara represent a light that ultimately allowed Ushio to send her dad back to her mom, but they all allowed Tomoya to gain the reps and the experience for the next challenge.

He could not have pulled off Nagisa’s play if it weren’t for Tomoyo’s, Kyou’s, Ryou’s, and Kotomi’s help. He could not have pulled off a reconciliation with his dad without Nagisa and Ushio. He could not have gained hope for Ushio without *gulp* Fuko. He could not have met Nagisa again without Ushio. And that’s what’s fantastic. Everyone’s actions had a purpose. Even the silly Dango Daikazoku song, even if when Another World Ushio sung it, it got a bit dusty in my living room. Even the location of the final scene had a purpose, even if it prominently featured Fuko. Even what Tomoya said to Nagisa that first day, even if no one was expected to remember it but Tomoya.

When the girl in the other world called the robot “Dad,” it finally came together for me. Not of the plot, but the significance of everyone’s action in the story, how everything came together like a patchwork tapestry, what Clannad was trying to accomplish. Maybe it’s not straightforward, but it all made sense to me when I watched Tomoya run up and hug Nagisa. It just made sense.

Yes, there could have been different endings. Yes, there could have been other girls. But none would have been this ending that gave this satisfying conclusion to a wonderfully woven tapestry.

It’s not the best ending.
She’s not the best girl.
But it’s the best story.

(Episode post once I get a high definition copy. Maybe. But I just wanted to throw down my thoughts now with this post. An episode and show like this reminds me why I’m still blogging.)

19 Responses to “dango dango dango dango… dango daikazoku”

  1. Well, we all knew this was coming – but the last bit with Fuko sounding like a sarcastic adult, even as she looks like she’s 12… was worth it. No Starfish, just falling down and giving annoyed looks to people. Oh, and stumbling across undead children… much as she herself was during the original series.

    By the way, Miki wins even in her seiyuu’s battles.

  2. And this is the reason why I loved coming back to this blog website. Not because of the trainwreaks and the “OH GEASS NO” moments, but you actually make sense with talking about anime. I for once am all about the action and yuri moments for entertainment wise, and my friend had to introduced me to this type of romance drama genre. But now I can say it that Clannad was a very good series in overall storyline and all. I am a sap for happy endings, while everybody is raging on the deus ex technique the studio use for Nagisa. I couldn’t be any happier.

    It’s not the best ending.
    She’s not the best girl.
    But it’s the best story.

    I couldn’t have type it any better. Sure the second the season drag out because of all the drama and Sunohara was no where in site. But hey, sometimes you have to watch every episode to understand why the Dango Daikazoku song fits perfectly for the closure of the whole series. Clannad mean family in Irish or Scottish or something and that what the theme was going for. Kyotoani was threading an tapestry of epicness up until now.

    Jason don’t ever give up on blogging because we might getting more shows like this in the future. I wish I can say that with White Album but the storyline starting to look like School Days and I stop watching it around ep6. But for the love of anime I will probably getting back to this soon. Not like my friend like Mizuki Nana just because she is this anime but oh well …………

  3. “What allowed Tomoya to overcome his final despair was everything that happened before. Everyone that Tomoya helped repays him in a non-linear way.”
    That you can say that without having played the visual novel impresses me (in the visual novel, such a conclusion is more explicit). Maybe it indicates how accurately KyoAni was able to adapt Clannad.

    Please blog as long as you wish! No more, yet no less.

  4. The thing about Clannad After Story is that it just kept going. Past the harem. Past the graduation. Past the job. Past the friendships. Past the marriage. Past the mother. Past the daughter. Past the life. Past the death.

  5. It’s shows like this that reminded me to still stick around till the end when I start watching even the crapiest of the shows.

  6. Amen.

  7. It all happened once and it will happen again.
    Nagisa is the harbinger of doom. end of line.

  8. Won’t be watching yet due to my insistance on watching only the widescreen (i broke it once, and that was for the Gym Storage episode. Damn if that’s a good reason)

    Even so, good to know Clannad gets a nice wrapup, since i’m a bit jaded with it at the moment. Oh btw Jason, are you going to blog K-ON? I mean, it looks entertaining, but I have no idea how deep your KyoAni fanboyism runs…

  9. He’d have to wade through the 3:4 ratio or wait a week or so for the Widescreen release of K-On!

    And then there is it’s Widescreen only competition….the “possible return of” Haruhi.

  10. This is why I’m waiting for the final widescreen ep to come out then marathoning it all t once. Not because I don’t enjoy each ep individually but because the whole series is greater than the sum of its parts.

  11. Tapestry… that actually describes it really well.

    I can finally add another series to my very very small list of “series I actually finished watching from start to finish”.

  12. >> It’s not the best ending.
    >> She’s not the best girl.
    >> But it’s the best story.

    I cried. It’s really not the kind of post I have expected from you.

    Surely, it may have not been the best way to bring out the ending, sure it could have been done better. But I was actually rooting for the Okazaki/Furukawa families to get something happy in the end. And it happened.

    I don’t care if it is cheezy, Deus Ex Machina or fail when viewed through the prism of a Film Art 301 student and critic. In the end, I enjoyed the journey. More than Kanon 2006.

  13. It turns out that the critical thinking about this show in postmortem is quite exhaustive. It took hours for me to look back at the pieces and actually mount a defense on just whether or not if the final conclusion has veered off the Clannad worldview, and that is nothing comparing to the dissection of the validity debate on if this show should have chosen this conclusion.

    My own amusement out of defending the way how this drama ended has been that it would seem that this debatable ending can be argued as acceptable in the Clannad worldview, despite how it may be flawed from a literary perspective. Kyoani did not have the benefit of long-drawn verbal defense in their presentation however, but it would’ve fallen on deaf ears to the people that they are mostly to address.

    Clannad is as you said, imperfect fragment wise but very well constructed as a whole. Here you see the town and everyone in it through the microcosm of Tomoya and his nucleus family. The scope of this drama has widely exceeded that normal dating sims and how Clannad speaks about life is the thing that people can take away from watching the drama.

  14. At the end of episode 21, I was literally looking for something to throw at the TV. I was livid about what they were doing to poor Ushio, and felt it had no place in the story. Also, I forgot that AS was only 22 episodes as well, so when the preview showed “Final Episode”, I was surprised and worried about what was going to happen with so little time left.

    Fortunately I had waited to watch 21 until I had 22 ready to go. I watched 22 and thought to myself, as many others apparently did, “so you’re saying the last 8 episodes didn’t happen and don’t matter!??” I was pretty disappointed, but I wondered whether it was simply an issue of adaptation decay.

    I looked around for details from people who had played the game, read a bunch of other bloggers’ takes on the last episode, and read some of the text from the baka-tsuki game, and came to the conclusion that Kyoani forgot to include some important detail(s) about the nature of how the reset was made possible and the role of the Illusionary World that would have made the ending seem a little less like pure deus ex machina.

    Personally, the dramatic high point was Tomoya realizing his fatherly duties and promising to take Ushio back. I was annoyed at first when the reset hit, thinking that it nullified the experience in Tomoya’s mind. But after looking at the commentary and reading about the game, I realized that in the game, you had to continually replay the game with new choices to progress the story. You, the player, would gain the experiences as represented by the “lights” that would lead to the eventual miracle. In the anime, on the other hand, it is a linear medium where there is a single continuous storyline. Sure, we got to see several of the story arcs, but they occurred in a linear fashion as opposed to several independent stories.

    So the ending of the game relies on the “one more replay” idea to allow for a “happily ever after” to make the reset not feel like it’s erasing an entire timeline. The anime can’t do this – a reset doesn’t feel like we’re starting over to try a new arc, it feels like it’s erasing the experiences that led us to care for the characters. Ultimately, Kyoani’s adaptation of the ending fails because it hews too closely to the game’s original ending. The different temporal structures of the two media get in the way.

    If they had been doing reboots all along a la Higurashi, I think it wouldn’t have seemed that the final reboot had been taking away from the series as much. For me, heading into the last arc of Higurashi Kai was exciting because you knew that this time, they had it pretty much figured out and just needed to pull everything together. Unfortunately, I think for Clannad that approach would have felt disjointed and detracted from the overall storytelling.

    I still rate the series highly, and now that I have a way to interpret the ending where it doesn’t feel like it’s cheating, I think it’s a fantastic story, and a very solid adapation overall.

  15. “Even what Tomoya said to Nagisa that first day, even if no one was expected to remember it but Tomoya.”

    YES! I always thought that the first thing he said to her was very well connected with everything else in the story. Tomoya was always helping others find that the elusive “new fun and happy things” and when he faced his own problems, those people were there to help him.

    Also I think, if there were a “Best Anime Moms,” I would put Sanae up there with Chigusa. Though my knowledge pool of anime isn’t very large.

  16. I never noticed the girl in the first OP was Fuko. Pretty cool.

    Anyway, those who bailed on Clannad missed some unique moments. I don’t think any other harem anime has addressed what happens after the guy ends up with the girl. Beautiful story (Key) and wonderfully executed (KyoAni). Here’s to looking forward to Little Busters.

  17. i BAW’d through the last couple of episodes. jason summarizes my feelings in three lines:

    It’s not the best ending.
    She’s not the best girl.
    But it’s the best story.

    i’ll miss you clannad, you brought great joy and tears these past couple of years.

  18. man, you couldnt have summed it up better.
    if it were any OTHER girl, the story just wouldve died.

    @roy: HELL YES we need little busters xD

  19. uhm, konnichiwa..
    *It’s not the best ending.
    I’m not the best girl.
    But it’s the best story.*

    But let’s sing my favorite theme song..

    Dango Dango Dango Dango Dango Daikazoku…
    …. …. … […] […]

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