Philosophy of adaption
Well, I think Kyoani and its creative minds were surely in a syncretic state – they had to balance viewer satisfaction with satisfying their own artistic minds. They had to balance – what Cuchlann and I fight about – the meaningless of art and the superimposed politics of art, entertainment. [This would probably apply to everyone who's ever had to publish something.]
So then let us say, “to excise, or not to excise, that is the question.” In order to provide the viewer with a narrative that avoids resets Kyoani would have needed to remove arcs, ends, and possibly rewrite some material. Yet they decided to include all the original material in the adaptation. The relationship between these two choices – that of “chastity” or “adulteration” – is not hierarchical. This is not a political question, it is a philosophical question1, and as such, the significance is not in the result of the deed (higher or lower viewer ratings, more or less money) but in the inseparable morality of the deed itself – the two are merely artistic choices devoid of any intrinsic meaning, therefore, both having no meaning, they are equal to one another.
So for some reason I don’t like bringing up talk about the VN and aspects of adapting material. Yeah, Clannad is an adaptation, yeah, aspects of linearity fail sometimes, that’s inevitable. I’ve been working under the presumption that it is literally impossible to encapsulate the aspect of VN replayability in anime, therefore it’s rather silly to compare an anime to something it is intrinsically incapable of doing because, remember, we’re operating under the philosophy that, basically, the means justify the ends (not a typo). Even if you were to reverse the position, say that Kyoani alters source material, rewrites a few endings, there would still be things that version would be intrinsically incapable of doing, like providing those very reset ends you removed and so forth. [hear hear!]
Psychology of time
Valsiner (2005) writes that
[t]he co-existence of different bases for time measurement in human cultural practices reflects the historical complexity of measuring time. Efforts have been made to turn time into reversible units, similar to measures of length, weight etc. These static depictions of time can be seen as examples of “reversible time”. Surely such units are convenient cognitive illusions, yet they have their practical utility. Thanks to that, continuous events can be turned discrete (for example, there can be specifiable “end points” to experiences such as sitting in a lecture hall…). By trying to measure time, the duration notion is lost and time becomes represented in ways similar to space. Practical needs for social organization of life activities in societies guide the thinking of persons about time in the direction of overlooking the irreversibility of the duration.
In sum – time is irreversible as it flows, intricately linked with our experiencing our relations with our worlds. As a result of human cultural history, we have attempted to describe it in terms of stable units, which have served practical purposes. For the understanding of development, units of time that are used in science need to retain some features of irreversibility.
The take-away message is that in our viewing of Clannad (or any sort of time travel) we have to separate psychological time from narrative time.
[There are some epistemological nuances here - the narrative as a whole doesn't "regress" because the progression of the narrative is tantamount to a developing human psychology within irreversible time, but the narrative does indeed return to events that happened within a past that was established within the framework of relative events of the holistic narrative.]
Previously, Pontifus had written:
I’m having a hard time convincing myself that Clannad is tragic at all, ultimately, when all its tragedy is erased by magic.
But this is a reductive view which equates constant psychological time with narrative time. If we were to say truly that specific events onto which we have attached personal meaning were erased it be tantamount to memory loss of the viewer. Thus we can expand our graph:
Here, because excel sucks for 3-axis graphs, psychological time = ∆0 because it is always constant. For every instance of psychological time we establish a narrative event, that ratio is 1:1. But narrative events can regress, so even in a ∆0 of psychological time there can be a +/-∆x narrative time. Finally, emotion is always situated in irreversible time (psychologies cannot transverse time) and thus, for the sake of this study2, we can set up some syllogisms:
∆emotion = ∆0psychological time
∆narrative time = ∆0psychological time
+/-∆emotion ≠ +/-∆narrative time
A change in emotion equals no change in constant psychological time.
A change in narrative time equals no change in constant psychological time.
A +/- change in emotion does not always equal a +/- change in narrative time.
Figure 2 is a hypothetical calculation of Pontifus’ psychology of Clannad. His psychological time is constant, yet as narrative time regresses his emotional level drops drastically. This is because, as he stated, “tragedy is erased”, which is just to say that narrative time regressed within a constant psychological time. But, as opposed to an Aristotelian notion of tragedy as an end product, it is clear that even a regression in emotion is a process that cannot disregard one’s history.
Even Nazarielle said:
…after what happened, it’s hard for me not to think that they were just trying to hit us as hard as they could, knowing that they could later reverse the sadness and make us all happy at the end. In hindsight, I can’t help but feel that it’s all rather artificial or fabricated. [emphasis added]
But for Nazarielle to explain his discontent, he must first explain the process by which this discontent arose. The process of emotion-building is invaluable because irrespective of what these emotions entail, they are always the basis for a developing psychology. And to explain more fully the process model within this developmental psychology, a fourth data series is need: reflexivity.
For someone like Pontifus or Nazarielle, or nearly everyone in the ‘sphere, reflexivity is crucial – it’s writing, blogging. If there is one thing that is not altered by emotion in irreversible time nor narrative time it is reflexivity – it is cumulative, you cannot erase it (unless you perform a frontal lobotomy or something).3
1 To be specific, deontological, I think. Politics is philosophical, but I was just using these semantics for convenience…
2 Obviously this assumes human psychologies aren’t active outside of watching the anime, but bear with me -_-.
3 and of course randomly dropping shows would constitute low levels of reflexivity, but that doesn’t mean it’s not cumulative.