Clannad After Story’s Unsatisfying Ending

Warning. The post will contain spoilers for Clannad After Story. If you have not seen Clannad After Story, I highly recommend that you do not read any further at risk of spoiling some incredible moments.

Recently, I managed to finish Clannad and Clannad After Story. Overall, I was very pleased with it, but if I have any complaint, it is that I just did not like the ending of Clannad After Story. It was not a bad ending strictly speaking. The illusionary world and the light orbs were worked in from the very beginning and the ending did not leave me thinking “what just happened?” Additionally, it was nice to finally see Tomoya’s family finally find happiness together. However, I just didn’t feel that the ending fit with the themes of the rest of the story.

The first and foremost theme of Clannad is family. But arguably more powerful than the family theme is the character growth over the course of the story, especially in response to difficulties. Or, even simpler, how things change and how individuals deal with it. Much like life, the journey in Clannad isn’t always a happy one and Tomoya (and other characters as well) experiences a lot of hardships. But how the characters respond to the hardships was a fundamental part of the story. Whether together with friends and family, or by themselves, characters eventually accept and overcome the difficulties and disappointments they experienced in their life. And in the end, they change because of it.

Unfortunately, that growth wasn’t represented in After Story’s ending with the alternate timeline where Nagisa never passed away. If you remember, in the aftermath of Nagisa’s death, Tomoya spent five years drinking, gambling, and thinking that he should never have met Nagisa in the first place (a feeling of regret that I can certainly relate to somewhat). But then, episode eighteen happens (the most beautiful and profound episode of them all) and on his trip with Ushio, Tomoya learns the truth about his father and comes to realize what a terrible father he himself has been for Ushio. This moment represented the turning point, where Tomoya realizes his love for his daughter and decides to stop neglecting her.

Putting Ushio under the care of Sanae and Akkio was Tomoya’s way of trying to forget everything that had happened. Ushio would remind him of Nagisa, and because he had not come to terms with Nagisa’s death, Tomoya did not want to live with his daughter. Things change with his decision to take Ushio under his care, but the final step would be to finally accept that his wife passed away. Not only that, but I wanted to see Tomoya conclude that even though it was cut short, he does not regret having met, befriending, and marrying Nagisa.

Thus, the ending I would like to see would have everything be the same up till the point where Ushio dies. This time, instead of watching another person he cares about die, Tomoya would be able to help Ushio recover and their life together would truly begin. For much of Clannad, the story focused around Tomoya helping others come to terms with their own troubles in life. It would be fitting, then, that the final part of the story would be about Tomoya coming to terms with his own life’s troubles. First with his father, then with his daughter, and then finally with the fact that his wife is gone. The pain and sadness happened, but he has become stronger because of it. And in the end, he resolves to keep moving forward with in life with all his friends, family, and most of all Ushio.Clearly, I am no skilled writer and I can’t properly describe what I would’ve liked to see with the ending beyond vague descriptions. But hopefully I have been able to explain my reasoning for the suggested ending, as the idea itself is more important.

As a whole, I really enjoyed the Tomoya’s journey in Clannad. It was beautiful, profound, filled with memorable moments and wonderful characters. The ending was the first big disappointment, but even that was not enough to ruin everything else that I experienced while watching it. For now, I’ll end this post, but you can be sure that you’ll hear about Clannad from me soon.

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8 thoughts on “Clannad After Story’s Unsatisfying Ending

  1. I actually would’ve preferred if the series ended just as Tomoya and Ushio re-established their relationship when they went together on that trip. That episode was easily the most powerful in the entire series, and maybe just a follow-up episode for making up with Tomoya’s father — that would’ve been more than enough for the series’ ‘family theme.’

    Too bad they had to stick so closely to the visual novel. I don’t really agree with it, but it resolves the ‘other world’ scenes that you see throughout both Clannad and After Story, so …

    • That would have been a better working ending for sure. Ultimately, I don’t think the animators could have deviated from the VN’s ending without upsetting a whole lot of people. However, the VN’s ending only really makes sense in the context of playing the VN, going through multiple routes to collect all the light orbs, and unlocking the true end to after story. The problem is that ending doesn’t fit within the context of the anime. Or at least, that is what I felt.

  2. Actually I found it satisfying and I felt that it fit well with the underlying theme of “Let me take you to a place where dreams come true”. The place here is not a location but a place in life, a place of the heart; its attitudes and perspectives. Tomoya was pouring himself into other peoples lives but had a rift in his life for his own family and himself. The tragic losses force him to face himself and come to terms. When he reconciles with his father he unknowingly catches one of the orbs of light that is said to grant a wish. When Ushio dies in his arms he cries out and the wish starts to unfold. The somewhat esoteric scenes with the robot and girl then give way to Tomoya finding himself at the bottom of the hill and he thinks if he doesn’t say anything then he wont have to experience the pain and Nagisa won’t have to die. Their time together floods through his mind as she walks away and he comes to terms with the fact that even with the loss he doesn’t want to loose what they had and he calls out to her. It is at that moment that he has come to terms with everything, his past with his father and loss of his mother and his present loss and is then at that place where dreams come true. Tomoya doesn’t know that it will work out but it does and he is left with two memories. And for us the audience we need to come to terms with two pictures of being with and being without so that when the tough times come we know what to cherish. This is the gift, the dream Clannad leaves its audience.
    On a practical note there is enough tragedy in the world and especially in Japan. With the high rate of suicide in Japan they can use something that ends with dreams coming true. Many Japanese movies and anime are wrought with tragedy, this is a refreshing break from the norm in that the tragedy turns around.

    • Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts! I see your point, but I’m still not sure it was necessary to reverse the tragedy. The scene you mention with Tomoya at the bottom of the hill was great because, as you say, it is the moment when he comes to terms with everything. But I still would have preferred to see Tomoya moving forward, having come to terms with what happened, to start his new life as a father.

      That said, you do mention something that I had not considered before in that Clannad deliberately leaves us with two pictures to compare between. Perhaps that is what the writers were trying to accomplish with that ending? Whether that particular ending fits with the overall narrative is still up for debate, but it is an interesting notion nonetheless.

    • clannad could have worked better without any magic stuff ……. a little of that human connection of the 18 th episode was lost in the last 2 episodes …. i dont know i prefer personal growth to wishes coming true but that is my own opinion

  3. it was great…and i feel like..it was or it wasn’t..but i depend on our undestanding…i believe..that there would never be this kind of situations about death of loved one’s..PLEASE…!! ANYWAYS..I CAN LEARN MANY THING……!!..but it was great..how it was ended…they were back..!! i think..it was a journey called “CLANNED”?

  4. I don’t wanna be the odd one out, but o really liked the ending. I mean, not to say you’ve proven very valid points for your complaint about the ending. What a I saw though was something everybody would want. Its so sad how his wife dies, and the when he’s just starting to bond with his kid, she dies too. The ending represents something we’d all like to happen. I lost my near and dear grandfather about a year ago to a circumstance that could have been avoided. I thought the ending reflected well on a desire a person in mourning would have.

    • First off, I’m sorry to hear about your grandfather. 😦

      There’s nothing wrong with liking something like this! Though I did not like the ending to Clannad, my own response to it is a result of both my own expectations and desire for the show itself. But that’s just my own response. When the show’s finished, what is important is how you respond to it based on your own emotions and experiences. And if you came out of Clannad liking it, I’d say that’s a good thing and a win for you! ^ ^

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