Another week, another Sunohara-centric episode. I know that Mei has been on a lot of people’s minds, but I’m going to go ahead and skip that discussion, as it kind of weirded me out. I’d rather focus on Sanae’s insistence that, at heart, Youhei is a good person. I know that last week I was feeling sorry for Youhei, but the events this week have changed my opinion of him. I haven’t really seen this supposed good side, and though the flashbacks show a boy doing “what he should” for his little sister, everything we’ve seen of Youhei so far in the series suggests that he is a different person now – one who has grown up, essentially, into a bad person.
Can people, once down such a path, change drastically and instantly? That is apparently what Mei wants, though Tomoya seems willing to trick Mei into thinking everything is alright – kind of a shitty friend if you ask me. The choices made by Sunohara, his reputation, and his own acceptance that he will not further his education but rather assimilate into the workforce paint a bleak future for him, but with only a few months of school left, can we really hope that he will make a life-altering change, and that this change will have an effect on his prospects?
Yes, I think so. Such redemption is possible, but will be difficult to obtain. Sunohara is walking the path of lifelong unhappiness, because – as the whole of Clannad is testament to – family is the most important factor in lasting happiness; the realization that there is something greater than the self to which we must cleave is often regarded as the defining moment of adulthood. The authors of Clannad are directly pitting Sunohara’s disdain for his family, especially his little sister, against what he “has become.” More than any stupid pranks, fights, or social retardation, Youhei’s treatment of his sister, and by proxy all others with whom he has a relationship, is the reason that my attitude toward Youhei has transformed from pity to disgust. Tomoya was always a man looking for something, though he didn’t know what it was until he took a real interest in a makeshift family with the Furakawas. Youhei, in stark contrast to Tomoya, has never searched for anything other than a very temporary happiness – his problem is his short-sightedness.
This short-sightedness is evident in all of his actions, and is the character flaw undermining all of his efforts at even temporary bliss. It is what makes even the smallest effort on his part an unthinkable exertion – even at the end of the episode, when he was visibly angry with the situation surrounding a relationship between Mei and Tomoya, he refused to make a comment or reaction. This lack of reaction to such a forceful stimulus pains Mei and Tomoya as well, as they can see just how far removed Youhei is from his own emotions.
Youhei exhibits several other despicable traits, none so blatant as his complete failure to understand the mind of a potential love interest. The difference between love and lust, a major point in literature that can be endlessly dissected, is moot here. I would argue that Youhei has no actual desire for Sanae as an individual – she could be anyone, although the fact that she is beautiful certainly doesn’t hurt. Rather, Youhei is in love with the idea of himself as a part of a relationship with a beautiful woman, a relationship where he is cool, suave, and all the other things he assumes himself to be – but it is crucial to recognize that he knows that he needs another half. He is actually so in love with himself that he believes all this is not only possible, but actually happening. That he would be so clueless on a date would not normally be something that would make me irate – it can be quite endearing in the right situation. The problem is that Youhei is so convinced of his own merit that he cannot question whether or not someone else might have an opinion of him that differs from his own.
The day after the date – the one that went so horribly, terribly wrong – Youhei is in the best mood he has ever been in during the series. Totally lovestruck, it is one of the first times he is actually plesant to be around. However, we know that this happiness stems from a faulty assumption on his part – that the date went well, even exceptionally well. He has probably already forgotten that he was supposed to try and impress this imaginary girlfriend and has moved right along into thinking that they are an item. Hell, he starts talking to Tomoya about future plans – pipe dreams, as I like to call them – revolving around Sanae as a lifelong companion.
These plans, silly as they are, reflect the fact that Youhei is capable of thinking ahead, just that he doesn’t know how to do it properly. He has no idea of the work that needs to be put into a goal, probably because he has never had a real goal in his life. After leaving the soccer team, he lost his single focus and failed to find another. As we saw in this episode, he also lost a family – a group of people that relied on him and that even liked him. With Sanae’s help, hopefully he can regain that support group to help him through the time ahead, but more importantly I hope to see him regain a desire to do something, anything, with his life. Once that happens, I am confident that the rest of the pieces will fall into place.