It’s CLANNAD: After Story episode 22 – the final episode of the series proper. Stuff happens, then more stuff happens, then other stuff that I don’t understand happens,then it ends.
This episode starts in the alternate world, where the robot tries to keep the girl moving in the blizzard, but can’t and starts to have thoughts that he should never have led the girl o the trip, mirroring Tomoya’s refound thoughts about how he should have never met Nagisa. The girl then wakes up and tells the robot a dream she had: the two of them lived in another world long ago, and were very close. The robot says they should return, but the girl says she can’t or else all the glowing balls of lights, which are the “feelings of people from the other world” would meet misery.
The girl goes on to tell the robot that he has an alternate self in the other world and that he’ll soon fall sleep in the alternate world and wake up in the other world. However, the girl says that he will get to see her there, but she’ll appear as many shimmering lights which will become a powerful power when gathered together. There is then a huge light and explosion, which blows the robot away and, just before the two disappear from the alternate world, the girl says goodbye, daddy.”
Suddenly Tomoya, who had been moping in a dream-like state “wakes up” and realizes that it was still great to meet Nagisa, and thus “meets her” again in his dream, where Nagisa tells him to never loose himself and never believe that they should never have met.
Then something happens and Tomoya finds himself back at Ushio’s birth, however this time Nagisa lives. When Tomoya looks outside, he sees the town filled with glowing balls of light. We then have a montage of the next 5 years of Nagisa, Tomoya, Ushio, and other people that we know.
Finally, we end with Kouko out walking with her sister Fuko, who is acting childish as usual. Eventually they walk by the hospital, where Fuko senses “someone” and runs off into the woods nearby. There she briefly gets a glimpse of the girl from the alternate world, but then on second look, it ends up being Ushio. Fuko then asks Ushio to play with her and tells her that the fun’s just begun….
OK, am I the only one who thinks that this episode is challenging the last two episodes of Evangelion in it’s abstractness and convolutions?
I somewhat get the “whats,” such as when the robot “returned” to the world, Tomoya “woke up,” though I’m not really sure why nor what all the scenes in the alternate world before this were supposed to do, other than remind us that it was there (and I guess create the relationship between the girl and the robot). Also, I know that the glowing balls were apparently able for Tomoya to “go back” to an Ushio birth where Nagisa survived, but we only saw the glowing balls twice that I can remember, and I’m not sure why this happened now (other than it being caused by Tomoya “waking up”). And what caused the girl and robot to disappear from the world to begin with? The girl dying? I still don’t get that either.
And what was up with the long Fuko scene at the end, which took up the final third of the episode, and seemed to be rather pointless except for having Fuko and having her meet Ushio (suggesting that she saw her in the form of the girl in the alternate world) for…what reason? Hope for Fuko’s future? A Fuko-centric sequel? I have no idea. At first I thought it might lead into the next special episode, but it’s not based on the preview.
In any case, this episode just felt to me like one where a writer or movie director ran out of money and so decided to just “make things happen” to end the story. I realize that such “miracle” endings are nothing new for Key/Visual Arts story, but I at least feel that you could generally follow what was happening with Air and Kanon, though moreso with Kanon. At least Air has the excuse of only being 12 episodes, but even then we had several episodes with Yukito reincarnated to make the final reincarnation at the end not as confusing. The problem here is that everything is explained in maybe 10 minutes and then bang, we’re back to Nagisa living. If they were going to do something like this, I think it should have been better explained so you’re not going “huh? what happened?” at the end.
If this episode was supposed to be emotional due to Nagisa and Tomoya’s reuniting, it didn’t happen to be because I think I was too busy trying to figure out what in the heck was happening.
My other problem with an ending such as this is that it basically buts everything that happened after the Nagisa death episode (episode 16) into an alternate reality that didn’t “really happen” in a sense (unless Tomoya still remembers it, and it’s unclear that he does) because, well, Nagisa didn’t really die in the end. It also creates the paradox of, how could there be a miracle to “save” Nagisa if she doesn’t need saving, and if she doesn’t need saving, then there is no miracle, but if there is no miracle, then how can she be saved?
In any case, I either wish they would have either had a “Nagisa and Ushio are dead, live with it” type ending, or they had spent more than 10 minutes explaining what was happening. And shouldn’t we have seen a lot more glowing balls than we did if they were so important to the miracle at the end?
I guess to round things up, I wondered how they could get everything finished in one episode and in the end, in my judgement, they really didn’t. And even then they still only used half the episode. They just made the ending a muddled, confusing mess which disabled the entire emotional effectiveness of the final third or so of the season. Why cry over Nagisa’s death if she ends up coming back? Why get emotional about Tomoya finally coming to grips with being Ushio’s father if that never happens? And so on. In the end, this episode could have had a worse ending…but I’m not sure by very much.