Where the hell have I been? Stuck in a hotel with no internet for over a week! No excuses, I know, so I’ll get right to it. I did some thinking while away, and I have decided to give something a try. Rather than keep on with the episodic style I have been employing for my coverage of Clannad, I think that my writing style would be better served by focusing on the arcs as a whole; I often find myself wondering how to analyze the middle of a story beyond simple predictions. Though those can be fun, I much prefer looking at how the characters change over a little bit of time, even if it’s only 3 episodes.
I kind of started this with my last post, where I talked more about Youhei’s attitude in general than about the episode specifically. So, starting now, let’s talk about the last arc!
To be honest, I was underwhelmed by the conclusion of this arc. I felt that, despite Youhei’s triumphant return as the big brother hero, nothing about his attitude or demeanor actually changed. How was Mei able to return home? I though that she was determined to stick around until confident that Youhei was doing alright. The little show he gave when the soccer team was harassing Mei was nice, but showed only that he thought that he could trust Tomoya. Heartwarming, yes, that he trusted his friend so much, but completely separate from any emotional evolution on Youhei’s personal plane.
I’m not sure if KyoAni is purposefully using the “renewed friendship” device to obfuscate the fact that they had no real conclusion to this arc, but that ended up being how I felt about it. I admit, I did have a little tear in my eye at the end when Tomoya and Youhei started laughing at each other, just like old times. But when the ED came on and I realized the arc was truly through, I felt robbed of the closure I needed. I want the “after story” to start as much as anyone, but I need to feel good about every one else’s futures before I let them go. At the very least, I want to be sure about their future, even if it’s bad or contrary to what I would have wanted for them.
This is my problem with the latest arc: I have no clue what Youhei will do now. He has not changed – not even a little – and I am worried about his future. Will he give up? Lay down and become the bum everyone thinks he will be? At the very end of episode 4, Tomoya plays a little joke on Akio at Youhei’s expense, meaning that Youhei was still unaware that Sanae was not, in fact, interested in him. I’m sure that after all the talk of marrying into the same family as Tomoya, Youhei would be heartbroken that his new plans – ill conceived as they were – have shattered so soon. He never got a chance to think about what he truly would become, and it seems to me that now he has just as little incentive as ever. I know that this show has turned a bit to comedy recently, but at its heart it’s still a drama show, and I demand serious attention given to dramatic aspects!
So who is the victim here? It’s Mei, of course! It’s not just that I wanted closure about Youhei’s future for my own personal enjoyment, but Mei is as much a part of this show as anyone else, and I don’t think that she can be truly happy with the way things ended up. How can we be expected to let her just go back to her life without any change at all in her brother? I know I’m dwelling, but this is the most glaring omission I’ve encountered in Clannad – the complete lack of acceptable resolution to a major arc.
Allowing that Mei is gone now, there is still the business of Youhei’s future. Let’s assume that he gets over being played by Sanae. Let’s also assume that he and Tomoya have patched things up for good. What now? He said it himself, there is only 6 months left in the school year – and he has no idea what he will do. His personality has not matured enough to handle reality, and in all probability Tomoya is going to be too busy with his life with Nagisa to deal with him later. This goes back to Youhei’s lack of goals: the brief moment where he talked about his future life with Sanae remains the only time in the show that he has professed an interest in the future.
So what do I need to be happy? At the very least, I am going to require an “Animal House” style montage before progressing on to the after story part, but even them I won’t really be satisfied. I hope that Youhei remains a prominent background character in the next few episodes, with KyoAni subtly changing his mannerisms to reflect some kind of growing-up. I don’t think it would be too hard to add a minute or two of conversation with him, or an off-hand comment by another cast member that lets me know he is on some kind of path towards his future. I actually feel worse about his future than I did before this arc started – after devoting so much time to his well-being, the omission of development seems all the more glaring. Here’s to hoping the next arc is a little better.