This anime was almost a masterpiece to me. It offered the same emotional value, comedy, realism, and on-point pacing that made Clannad so great as a romance. I was greatly attached to every moment that happened in After Story. The challenges Tomoya and Nagisa go through as parents was a phenomenal journey. I had become even more attached when their daughter came into the story. The struggles were had me completely caring about the characters’ situation. Everything was going perfect…. until Episode 22 came.
How could you FUCK UP an emotional rollercoaster and decide to put bullshit mechanics to warrant an exultant ending? I completely understand how these mysterious dream scenes build up throughout the full story and connect in alignment to the “final” episode. The light collecting does fit into Clannad very well to its themes and messages. I can highly understand that this one part was in the visual novel and that its parallel timelines are connected to Clannad. But FUCK! This kind of ending DOES NOT WORK into the anime medium!
This ending would have worked, had I been playing its visual novel. When I play a visual novel or game, interaction is usually part of the core experience. From what I could gather from researching, light orbs are essentially collectibles that appear when you do good deeds in Clannad. Hypothetically, if I were to be playing the VN, I would definitely feel rewarded and wonder what its use in Clannad will come to be.
From the perspective of watching Clannad as an anime, these light orbs were vague to me. I had barely understood what the point of those scenes was since I first watched Clannad. I initially thought that this a way to set the mood for episodes and that this would later be explained when the final episode came. In reality, what these light orbs led up to was taking Tomoya back to the time when Nagisa was about to die from giving birth to Ushio, and making Nagisa live.
As much as I really disliked the decision to let a precious girl like Nagisa see death in Episode 16, I was completely ok with it. That moment had enormous potential for an unforgettable bonding of Tomoya and Ushio. For the most part, that potential was achieved greatly. But, the end result of what built up to the light orbs is a complete robbery of the development that occurred with Tomoya and Ushio.
What basically happened in Episode 22 was a complete divorce of the built up emotions/connection that occurred in After Story, in favor of adding a new fantasy element that feels 100% out of the ordinary and cheap. I can tolerate its supernatural things like Fuko being a connection spirit that no one else can see. However, considering that the majority of what happens in Clannad is grounded in reality, its time travel event poses an immediate, flat-out unbelievable transition that I find hard to grasp.
Here is what I am getting at. If I were playing the VN, these light orbs would hold significance because I would be *interacting* and be a part of the experience. Eventually, once I hypothetically reach the Ushio death ending, I would feel my efforts to do good deeds in Clannad had paid off because *I* was able to revert back to the good times with Nagisa. I DO NOT feel rewarded for *watching* these light orb events happen in the anime because I am not interactively part of the core experience. Therefore, as a result, I initially watch and perceive these light orbs as insignificant, not knowing what the actual purpose these dream scenes serve.
Even if, technically, Tomoya does have memories of tragic experience with Ushio when he comes back to a happier Nagisa timeline, it does not change the fact that he himself was not very aware that he was contributing to the light orbs. Tomoya never worked hard on directly producing these and makes it seem like luck just came his way at his most desperate moment. This light orb time travel bullshit really pissed me off.
Kyoto Animation could have easily made a solid original story that continued what happened in the dead Nagisa timeline, used that miraculous orb moment to revive Ushio, and create a phenomenally powerful moment where Tomoya is crying and happy that Ushio is alive. This would not interfere with the straight-forward story Clannad has built up until Episode 22 and would have made a larger emotional impact on me. This would have made characters move on and accept the loss of Nagisa, helping Tomoya become a better dad for his wife. THIS would have worked for the anime medium!
As much as I ranted on After Story, this was still worth the watch in my opinion. What positives I said at the beginning of the article still applies, and this did not entirely ruin the experience I had with Clannad After Story. Although my feelings for Clannad right now are very neutral, I will still cherish the memories I had adoring Nagisa, laughing at Sunohara, and being emotionally connected to Nagisa and Tomoya’s relationship troubles. Maybe someday, I will look into the visual novel and see if my feelings for Clannad drastically change. Right now, I am just praying I do not have a bullshit story shift in another anime again.