Why Clannad’s [After Story] final arc is one of the most clever narratives of emotional storytelling.

クラナド アフターストーリー
WARNING> Contain heavy spoilers.

From all kinds of authors and stories out in the wild, some of them are what we label as “drama” and others “romance”.
This kind of stories usually carries a message, be it a life lesson, a tale of fortune/misfortune or even some kind of warning or criticize. Their goal is to make you, the viewer, to basically… FEEL.
However, some dramas do invoke feelings on you, but these feelings end up limited to things like “oh, that was sad” or “jeez, what a horrible person”. Apocalypse Now, for example, is impossible to watch and don’t have that sad feeling of “man, what a fucked up thing war is”.
Furthermore, there’s a kind of story that we could label as “drama/romance”. These are often called “EMOTIONAL” stories.
You’ll either love it or hate it. But if you hate it, it’s a sign that it also fulfilled its objective.

Each story is unique -except the ones plagiarized- however, most of them follow a certain path of action in order to allure the viewers. Meaning: The have a fixed setup and chain of events that when it’s concluded, it’s intended to bring you down to tears, rage, laugh, etc.
When it’s supposed to make you sad, the storyline usually go as the following:
>everything is fine, everybody is happy
you can feel it’s too good to be true “I’ve only watched 20min of this thing, I’m sure it won’t stay like this”
>some stuff start to develop
you start to get apprehensive, wondering what the hell is going to happen
>BAM, they deliver it.
Some bastard writer gets that lovely lullaby you were listen to and MURDER it. Destroys it. Rips it apart. Turns it to small little pieces of suffering and sadness.
No, it’s not over yet, ALL characters lives are turned into a sea of angst and they extract with a painful needle every little piece of happiness to OBLIVION.
[…]
Then, when everything is destroyed, authors can take two different paths. Leave as it is, and give us the so called “sad endings” or they can turn it over again.
Bring from out of the blue a miracle. An epiphany. Something that will end that endless loop of suffering.

That is it.
This is the usual setting. Now you wonder, isn’t Clannad ~After Story~ ending exactly like this?
>Tomoya and Nagisa living happy as a couple;
>Tomoya is improving at his work. Nagisa is finally graduating;
>Ushio;
>Nagisa dies:
>Tomoya loses the will to live;
>Depression;
>Miracle;
>Happy ending.

Then, Why is it so special?

It’s the way these topics are written that makes it special.
First of all, the “yay happy” section isn’t a plain on. It isn’t just a cheap setting with cliché stuff just to say that things were fine.
This section is already loaded with a heavy emotional luggage and may bring some to tears, but “tears of happiness” in the sense of “oh man this is so fucking adorable”.
We get to see Tomoya working really really hard to make up to society expectations. He gives his best at work in order to keep a good income for him and Nagisa. He worries if he’s ready to be part of a family and at the same time he’s afraid of being the same as his father.
“But what is it to be the same as his father?” he doesn’t know that. He have the feeling that his father neglected him, that he’s just an alcoholic bum, but this part of him tells him that he’s wrong, he love his father after all. He struggles with these thoughts when…
Nagisa is pregnant.
Writers did a perfect job with this section. My friends got a baby recently and I can say that went exactly like the series. I know every parent can relate to this.
Their world completely changed. He started working ever harder and Nagisa (worth mention: with a ADORABLE character design) is getting ready to receive the baby.

But then… Let’s be honest. We all saw this coming. We all knew it would happen. WE ALWAYS KNEW.
The story gives you that feeling of “just a little longer”, you want to longueur that happiness the characters were having just for a little bit more.
But no, the needed to do it, they wanted to do it, they freaking KILL her.
That scene is perfectly written. First you think she died. But ho wait, she’s moving! Yay she didn’t die. But then she goes quiet, oh no, she’s speaking again. Wait, she stopped speaking…
OH SHIT.
And it’s not a Game-Of-Thrones-like death, when you don’t care too much about it. It’s different. You saw everything she went through, all her life, and now, they take it all away.
Of course, now is the time they make EXTENSIVE use of flashbacks and dialogues just to make you more angrier at them.
They make sure to remind you OF EVERYTHING. Of how their life was happy, of how everybody was happy.

-This is where an average story would end if it had a sad end.
An average script with a happy end then would make 1 or 2 episodes about things getting back to how it was or they would just say “it was all a dream”.

Clannad, obviously, had to go further. C’mon, we’re still on episode 16 :D
They don’t add one extra episode of Tomoya’s suffering, but 3. MOTHERFUCKING 3 EPISODES.
They make sure to show us how miserable his life have become. He lost the woman of his life. The only one we would rather die in her place. He distanced himself from friends, work, everything. -MORE FLASHBACKS-. But wait, aren’t we forgetting something? Oh, yes, the BABY? What happened to the child??
He left Ushio with Nagisa’s parents. He neglected it. Isn’t it the only thing we was most afraid of doing? Becoming an absent parent?
NO THEY DIDN’T. YES THEY DID.

Then, “Clannad After Story – 18 (The Ends Of The Earth)” arrives.
He have his epiphany and get his shit together. Get out of his hole and go after Ushio.
YaY happy ending :D
No, no, no. Not a simple, common happy ending. Writers make sure you cry your shit out with their reconciliation.
I literally said “Oh man, this is fucking adorable” to a damn computer screen.
Tomoya starts taking care of Ushio, taking the burden out of Furukawas’ shoulders. Re-conciliates with his father, meet his friends again. Everything is happy.
…uhmn, what is this feeling of dejá vú?
>BAM. Ushio feels sick from the same illness Nagisa had.

See what they did here? It’s a freaking LOOP. It’s the setting INSIDE the setting.
The rollercoaster of FEELS all over again. THE RIDE NEVER ENDS.
This time I remember people who actually dropped the series because they couldn’t take it anymore, and others by saying “oh this is bullshit”.
How many times have you seen a series with a emotional luggage as heavy as this one? (NANA perhaps? Ef?)
Now it’s over, right? HA-HA-HA NO!!!
Comes episode 21.
More freaking darkness -AND DEPRESSING FLASHBACKS-.
>SHE DIES.
Comes episode 22.

By this time, 99% of those who watched when it aired were already saying “oh, this will have a damn sad ending”.
It would be rather impossible to make an plausible “comeback” and turn things around without one of those cliché “it was all a dream” kind of stuff.
HA! Such a misled.
They comeback, in a majestic as fuck way.
First you’re perplex “this can’t be possible” but then all those stupid scenes from LIGHT ORBS from the 1st season start to make sense.
-“Sayonara, papa.”
>Cuts to DANGO DAIKAZOKU.
If you didn’t feel nothing in this scene, you’re a fucking MONSTER. Go seek professional help.

Happy endings are the best.
Then we have this lovely epilogue with “Palm of a tiny hand” playing on the background. Everybody is happy, and you know that this time it’s finally over because there isn’t enough time to blow things up and someone mentioned to you that there won’t be a 3rd season, so it’s finally a HAPPY ENDING!
So there you are. Crying your shit out like a little imouto. You see the white fade and the little “CLANNAD AFTER STORY” logo.
While you’re still sobbing and brushing your tears off, comes a happy-easygoing-I’m-so-retarded FUKO to COMPLETELY ruin the mood and make you feel like a total RETARDED for crying over it.
PLUS: TORCH at the end with the most mood-killer upbeat I’ve ever listened to.
END […]

Isn’t it awesome?
You are so marvelous emotionally manipulated during the final episodes that it goes beyond a average “outplayed!”.
They make you feel all kind of emotions, even the ones you didn’t expect.
You not only feel FOR the character either WITH the characters but it reaches the level you start considering YOURSELF, what are you doing and what are YOU thinking of it.
But still there is one single feeling that they carefully remove from this salad. Anger. During the entire arc there isn’t a single character you want to punch in the face (I’m not taking FUKO into account).
Isn’t it great?? Finally a show where the girls aren’t sluts or brainless MOE stuff and the guys aren’t annoying little brats.
I’d love to have that group as friends, they seems like nice people.

This, my dear lolis, is true storytelling.

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