For these series of posts, I decided to dig into an old favorite of mine, Clannad After Story. Other than a couple of my favorite episodes in the series (perhaps my favorites of all time in any anime), I hadn’t watched Clannad in years. Episode nine (and episode ten as well – I watched that one accidentally at first) of After Story helped me remember how good this show really is.
Episode 9, “En Route on the Sloped Road,” isn’t really a Christmas episode, but it does feature a short Christmas scene. The whole gang gets together at Nagisa’s house to celebrate her birthday, which to Tomoya’s surprise, falls on Christmas Eve. It’s a nice scene, and not just because Sunohara is funning it up in Santa gear – it’s a touching couple of minutes in a touching episode.
The Christmas Eve/birthday party emphasizes an idea that runs strongly throughout the entire episode: love. Tearfully, Nagisa basically says she’s not worthy of the attention on her birthday, but her dad tells her that’s untrue. They love her because she’s an important part of their family, while her friends feel the same way as part of their family (clan).
Nagisa is taken aback at the love she is shown by her friends and family. Maybe you could understand her feelings if you’ve ever had a big birthday bash. It can feel overwhelming being the center of attention at such a big event. During college, I was thrown a surprise party where dozens of people showed up. I was dressed in royal wear and had “servants” wait on me and order my meal, and even had two cakes (one wound up on my face). It was a wonderful evening, and one I cherished – how could so many people devote their precious time and energy to me? I think I was like Nagisa – neither of us had a self-defeated attitude, but more of a “really?” kind of moment at the love shown to us.
The love thread continues throughout the episode. Nagisa’s parents remain utterly devoted to her and emphasize it several times by the words they say to and about Nagisa. Tomoya, too, continues to show his love; he’s heartbroken that he’ll have to leave her behind. And in one of the most touching scenes in a series full of them, he admits to Nagisa that she has changed him:
Nagisa, I graduated…I’ll never bea student at that school again. I hated school, but because I was with you, I wanted to stay there forever.
Love has the power, indeed, to change even those like Tomoya, who have suffered much.
But perhaps the greatest love in the episode is shown by Nagisa herself. Though she’ll need to repeat a grade again; though she’ll again have to face the challenge of finding new friends; though she won’t be graduating on time; and though she faces a major illness, Nagisa is the one who encourages Tomoya at the end of the episode. Tomoya is teary-eyed, hurt by guilt and the inability to help the woman he loves; but Nagisa must be hurting even more. And still, she remains strong for her love, telling him what he needs to hear without batting an eye. She sacrifices for Tomoya.
What a beautiful idea to see an anime – and in no better season than during Christmas.