I’m a sucker for tearjerkers. Even though I consider myself a realist, I’m very sentimental. That said, although I often tear up as shows and movies, I’ve only cried twice – at The Passion of the Christ and during episode 18 of Clannad After Story, entitled “The Ends of the Earth.”
Even as I read a cold synopsis of the episode, I’m getting choked up.
Inspired to write by Aorii’s recent post, this is my first Diary of an Anime Lived. The screencaps below are all courtesy of the Subculture Anime Blog. Beware, this post contains most of the major spoilers for the show, beginning with my final line before the jump:
There are multitudes of fans for Clannad, but I hold a connection to the story that most American fans (at least right now in their lives) won’t. I am Tomoya, and although I didn’t lose my Nagisa, I do have an Ushio.
The power of Clannad is in its continuation, After Story, which takes what was a beautifully animated, but I would say middle-of-the-road Key production, from typical territory to a place few anime series go. Clannad transforms from high school romance to a show about life in the real world, exploring realistic ideas like financial difficulties, sickness, marriage and childbirth, death, and coming to terms with an abusive past (albeit, all in a supernatural way). It’s an unexpected but wonderful place for a series like this to go. Tomoya, in particular, experiences each of these parts of life.
In episode 18, Tomoya is tricked into spending time with his daughter Ushio. I should back up a bit – Tomoya doesn’t live with Ushio and doesn’t want to have anything to do with her. Her birth caused his beloved wife’s death, and he became bitter and angry afterward.
I connected deeply with Tomoya’s feelings. Tomoya easily gives love to those around him, but is sometimes cruel to those closest to him, including his father and his own daughter. He blames them for the harsh circumstances of his life. In the end, his selfishness pushes away two people who love him and are inextricably bonded to him. It’s his selfishness that drives them away, as Tomoya can think about only how he has been affected. He lets bitterness consume him at the cost of being a father to his daughter.
I understand him. You see, for those of you without children, it’s almost impossible to understand what it’s like to raise a baby. I have two young ones, and for me and my wife, having children has lead to deep, difficult valleys in our lives. To be sure, the highs have far exceeded the lows, especially as the children age. But nonetheless, depression, rage and sadness are all emotions that have become too commonplace in our household the last several years; it’s easy to be a good parent when it’s all hypothetical, but when the endless crying hits, life becomes hard.
My son was born first, and he was very difficult by all accounts. We felt as if we were literally dying as we tried to raise a child who hated everything we did and who made life so difficult. The unending love he needed showed how imperfect we were, as we (particularly me) fell short at every turn.
Our second child, a girl, was supposed to be the one who was easy, like all the other babies we’d seen. She hasn’t been. She cries a lot, hated being held by daddy (sigh!), and erupted into screaming whenever we left the room. We became burdened by sadness and guilt whenever she cried, even when we had be apart from her, as when she went to sleep.
But Ushio, Tomoya’s sweet girl, makes me understand a simple truth every time I watch this episode. Children are a treasure, and the love of a parent for a child cannot be equated to any other earthly thing. As I watched the episode for the first time, I sobbed at several scenes – they kept hitting me like a heavy mallet. When I rewatched it for this posting, the same scenes made me cry again.
The first time I cried was totally unexpected, since it’s the story of Tomoya’s father – not anything I felt would be particularly emotional. Boy, was I mistaken. Through it, we learn that his father loved him so much that he put all of his hope in Tomoya and gave up everything for him. Oh…my…gosh. The waterworks start here. Tomoya’s dad had made such horrible mistakes in his life, but he is yet able to sacrifice everything for his son. I think about how my selfish needs sometimes take the place of my son’s wants, and a lesson that my head knows suddenly touches my heart, and I feel a desperate need to hold my boy and tell him, “I love you and I will give up everything for you.”
When Tomoya realizes the error of his ways through his father’s story, he goes to Ushio. His daughter, in return, calls Tomoya “papa” for the first time and then says that she has been desperatately looking for a lost toy because it’s the first thing her papa gave her. By this point, I break down and full out weep – major sobbing going on here. I think about my children, and how much they treasure being with me, and how I don’t value that – how I don’t comprehend that sometimes the littlest things I do with them bring them such happiness. All they want is their mom and dad – I’m often blind to this.
And then, a third round hits when Ushio cries in her dad’s arm, saying that she can finally cry there – one of only two places Sanae said she could cry. By now, I’m bawling. Actually, as I’m writing this, I’m weeping again. You see, I’m away from home on a business trip, and I’ve been thinking about my kids all day. I miss them. I want to hold them. I want them to be safe in my arms. The world will cause them hurt…but my arms will always be a safe haven for them. No matter how much hurt life throws at them, they can always find solace with me. It reminds me of a great song by Plumb called “In My Arms”:
Knowing clouds will rage and
Storms will race in
But you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down
Waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms
And as Tomoya apologizes to Ushio repeatedly, I want to do the same to my children, apologizing for not being a perfect dad.
And so, thus concludes the crying. No. Wait. No…what? Another sledgehammer hits me as the episode comes to an end with Tomoya crying, this time, as he tells Ushio about Nagisa. It all comes full-circle, as I now think about how empty I would feel if I lost my wife. One episode reveals to me the depth of my love (and the depths that love should reach) for each member of my family.
When I’m at my wit’s end, I sometimes desperately cling to the beauty of how this episode defines the love of parent for child. Because of it, I’m a better daddy. As Tomoya lets goes of his selfishness and establishes the bond with Ushio that his heart so desperately wanted, deep in its recesses, I, too, push aside my selfishness in the form of frustration to focus solely on a beautiful gift in my life: my baby girl. As Tomoya understands his father’s sacrifice, I think about the sacrifices I want to give for the love of my precious son. I’m not perfect and I have a far way to go, but I can say without reservation that today I’m a better daddy than I was a year ago…or 6 months ago… or even a week ago. Like Tomoya, I’m realizing what’s before me and holding on to it as if my life depends on it.
And for the record…my baby girl now loves being held in daddy’s arms.