Clannad: After Story is one of those shows that will start to stress you out near the end. It starts to go towards an ending that you know would absolutely wreck it and you’re just hoping that it doesn’t go that way but a small part of you knows that it could be possible. Well, it doesn’t happen and so you can breathe a sigh of relief. The show does stick the landing and ultimately it’s a good show. I do think it lags behind the original which managed to balance the drama and comedy a lot better. As the After Story this one is a lot more serious throughout with less time for light hearted humor. As expected from this franchise though the emotional scenes definitely do land and this will be a show where you get emotionally invested.
The show starts off with some final school adventures. Enjoy this part of the show while you can because once they leave the school then that’s it. The first episode is sort of the introduction episode for new fans that you often see for season 2s. It’s a chance to get the whole cast hanging out and having fun. It’s a Baseball episode so you’ve also got the sport bonus. It’s a fun way to start up the season and is probably the happiest episode in the saga. Nothing goes wrong, it’s just everyone having a good time bonding over the game. Definitely one of the best executions of the “intro” episode that I’ve seen.
The first real arc involves Tomoya’s friend Youhei as he finally gets his time to shine. Or falter as is the case this time. His sister Mei is really concerned about him because Youhei is still a big troublemaker and doesn’t seem to have matured at all. A lot of time has passed over the years so she was hoping to see some improvement. Youhei figures that he will need a fake girlfriend to trick Mei into thinking that he can look out for himself. None of his female classmates want to help out with this though so the only candidate left is Nagisa’s mom Sanae who doesn’t mind helping out.
The only tricky part is that Youhei doesn’t actually realize that she is the Mom and actually thinks he has a chance. Meanwhile Mei sees through this fairly quick and is discouraged again so she pretends to be going out with Tomoya to test Youhei’s bond but unfortunately he fails at this one because since he’s Tomoya’s best friend he figures that he will look the other way. Everything pretty much blows up at this point and it doesn’t help that Mei wants Tomoya to help her get Youhei back on the soccer team since everything seemed to go wrong as soon as he was kicked off of that club.
Part of the problem though is that the club is as corrupt as they come. The actual members of the club just aren’t good people so there isn’t much benefit in trying to warm up to them. It would have been better if they didn’t even try to help but of course once Mei says she will go Tomoya has to accompany her because these guys can’t be trusted. We do get a big fight there though and then another fight later on between Tomoya and Youhei.
This arc definitely had a lot of serious moments and a lot of dramatic ones as well. The reason I thought that Youhei didn’t look good though is because all of the plans were just bad. For starters, getting a fake girlfriend to convince Mei that he is mature now is just going to have the opposite effect when she inevitably finds out the truth. Even if he could keep the secret, well now he’s living out a lie. His best bet would be to get an actual girlfriend but of course that wasn’t quite in the cards for him either.
He’s always been the most unintelligent member of the cast and so Tomoya ends up tricking him a whole lot but if there was ever a time to rise above that then this would have been it. Instead Youhei makes the wrong call in not speaking up when he knows Mei is way too young for Tomoya. Honestly if the explanation was that he thought it was another prank that would have been way better than his nonreaction here. I would at least have been able to buy that a bit but otherwise he had to make a stand here and shut this down.
Youhei never really came back from that since he doesn’t get much of a role after this. Ultimately he was a good friend to Tomoya and kept him in check over the years but as the resident punching bag of the series it would have been nice if he could have at least looked really good during his big serious arc. That was his chance and he blew it.
Meanwhile I’d also say Mei didn’t look very good here. She could be a bit too forceful in trying to make sure that Youhei matured. At the end of the day it’s something that he has to do on his own and it’s not like you can really force it to happen. Her decision to get him back on the soccer team just ended up causing a whole lot of issues instead of really helping anything out.
It is unfortunate that Tomoyo and the others don’t get much of a role this time but it does work as the after story. It’s a bold approach for sure but when you think of this as the story taking place after the main story has concluded then it makes sense that most of the old characters would be completely written out. Their time in the sun has ended after all.
That said, we do get an alternate reality saga real quick with Kyou and Ryou. So of course Ryou has always liked Tomoya but was way too timid to actually say anything. Well, this time she does say something and he agrees to go out with her basically because he would agree to go out with any girl who worked up the courage to ask him out. That’s how it seems to be at least given how many alternate paths there are. Thing is…he quickly realizes that he actually likes her twin sister Kyou more which makes things complicated.
Kyou’s always liked Tomoya as well but tries to bury these feelings. Having her twin sister going out with him just makes it even harder to hide. Ultimately she wins out and Ryou gets wrecked again but I feel like having both of these involved in the same alternate path made things a little extra tragic. It would have been better if either Ryou got her own alternate universe episode or didn’t do much here. It just makes Tomoya look bad for jumping around so quickly.
Additionally Kyou owed it to her sister not to make a move in that case. Teasing Tomoya on the bench and messing with him was really just a way to get him to fall for her even if she wouldn’t admit it. It’s only natural that she would defeat Ryou once she got serious because she’s more outgoing and attractive while also being able to hold a normal conversation with Tomoya way more than Ryou ever could. But it’s like the bro code, you have to have the sister code as well where you won’t just steal the man like that.
The instant it happened everything was all over because if Tomoya stayed with Ryou then she’d know it was out of pity so the relationship was destroyed right off the bat. This at least allowed them to get more of a role in the season though. Kyou appears a bit anyway as a teacher in the future but Ryou mainly vanishes. Fuuko also appears a bit in the future but her role is really small and I wouldn’t say that it’s too pivotal. It was mostly just a reason to have her around but I miss her supernatural abilities as a ghost. Surprisingly the ghost never got to appear again but I guess that’s because she was back in the world of the living.
We get a mini arc for Misae who is sort of the dorm mother for a bunch of the kids. She was around a bit in season 1 as well so I suppose this was her chance to finally get some real development. It’s a pretty emotional arc that even has some supernatural elements to it. Basically she likes one guy who already has a boyfriend and then a magic guy named Katsuki likes her but it’s hard for him to confess now since Misae was already crushed.
As you can see this is one of those very dramatic arcs. I do think getting together with Katsuki wouldn’t have really worked because the rebound would have been way too quick there. You need time to get over the first love since things didn’t really work out there. It’s interesting to know more about her past but at the end of the day it’s not like she ever ends up being a main character. Think of it as extra world building. Katsuki did the right thing in not confessing initially though. I would defend that as there are times where you shouldn’t “Shoot your shot” and confessing right after someone had a big break up or was rejected is certainly one of those times.
Yukine gets a mini arc as well and if you don’t remember her that’s fine. Her role was eve smaller in season 1 but basically she is always in a small room in the school with some coffee. It turns out that she works as the resident nurse for a bunch of gangs in the area and patches them up whenever they get hurt. As a result everyone likes her because she doesn’t interfere in the fights. Still, her brother was the only one strong enough to stop the fighting entirely and things are getting dicey without him. This leads our hero Tomoya to have to jump in and try fighting.
There are some fun moments here especially the big moment where the brother seemingly appears. This one is less of an emotional arc I’d say and more of a quick action one. The fight is actually played totally straight and has a good amount of tension. It’s clear that Tomoya won’t be able t win with his busted arm but it’s always impressive just how long he lasts considering what he has to deal with. He does well in every sport and challenge even when he can only use one arm.
Now we enter the big part of the series which is the climax to Tomoya and Nagisa’s plot. Well, she is sick once again which is rough because that means that she will have to miss school once again which could prevent her from graduating. Her condition has always been a bit of a mystery as the doctors could not figure out exactly what was wrong with her. This naturally makes things rather tough on Tomoya who can’t possibly enjoy graduation without her. Also if she has to start a whole new year again then that means she will be all by herself this time. He also has to move on and get a job which is where Yoshino comes in handy.
I always thought Yoshino was a good guy and he really comes in handy when it counts here. The guy does his best to show Tomoya the ropes and has his back at every turn. It’s not every day that you find a good friend like that. Yoshino’s speeches also may be a bit on the cheesy side but he does mean every word of them. I was glad that Tomoya never laughed at them because he does owe this guy a lot.
Akio and Sanae are fun supporting characters here as always. Sanae definitely likes to have fun and act as one of the kids along with the main characters. She’s good at alternating between being a motherly figure and a friend and helps quite a lot of the characters in the show. She really came in clutch with helping Tomoya when he was down in the dumps during the show. He really had a rough stretch and during that period she kept going after him until she was able to get him into the clear. It’s not something most characters could have done.
Akio also helps out a lot too of course both verbally and economically. He wants Tomoya to know that he’s here for him and the message is definitely received. I’d say a good part of why Nagisa is able to remain so hopeful throughout everything going on is because she had such supportive parents. It just wouldn’t have been possible without them.
The show definitely goes farther in the timeline than you’d expect but it’s why around half of the show takes place after school. We get to see Tomoya out in the real world working a job and how each character has went on to pursue their dreams. It does mean that the show takes on a much more serious tone for those moments though. There isn’t a whole lot of comedy after the school part is over and things can even get rather dark. It’s why everything was riding on the ending which ultimately is what keeps the show afloat.
You are super invested in everything going on and it’s all emotional but of course that is also why a bad ending would really doom the whole thing. The animation is solid here as expected. I would say it maybe doesn’t feel quite as high budget as the first season which had some really stylish moments for the occasional fight scenes and Chun Li combos. This one has moments like that as well but they tend to be rare and not quite as flashy. Still, it all looks good enough to me. Then for the soundtrack you’ve got all of the classic tunes. The emotional songs definitely fit in with the scenes really well and help to really amp up the atmosphere. I’d definitely give the full soundtrack a thumbs up for sure.
Now I’m going to dive into the more spoilery aspects of the show so skip the next 5 paragraphs if you haven’t seen the show yet. After all with a big emotional show like this you don’t want to know any of the big events before they happen. It would soften the impact of every scene in a big way since you can only experience them once.
All right so here we go. Nagisa is unable to overcome her illness and ends up dying. It was definitely a real tragic moment because you really thought that she would get better this time. She does end up delivering her baby Ushio first though and asks Tomoya to watch out for him. Unfortunately Tomoya gets super depressed to the point where he can’t even interact with the baby and so for several years Nagisa’s parents take care of him instead. I have to say that this made Tomoya look really awful though. You can’t just shut down like that and he basically became his father even though he swore that he never would.
Well, eventually Sanae tricks Tomoya into spending time with his daughter Ushio and the two of them grow close. Tomoya finally reconnects with all of his old friends and becomes a good father…only for Ushio to get the same illness and die. So now Tomoya has lost everything. See, this is where the show would have immediately gone down the tubes for me if it ended like that. There would just be no coming back from this because it would all be way too mean spirited and empty. It would be like the whole adventure was a waste and it was a cruel twist of fate. Tomoya had a theory that Nagisa and Ushio’s lives were dependent on the town so it being changed was what destroyed them.
Well, that wasn’t quite it. It turns out that instead there is an Earth Prime of sorts with the robot and the girl. By sacrificing her life the girl is able to give everyone a fresh start and resets things to the happy timeline where everyone lives and is happily ever after. Every part from Nagisa dying onwards just didn’t happen. It’s a little rough for the robot since he wanted to have fun with her but in a way he is reincarnated to the human world too. It’s all a bit trippy there for sure bit I was a big fan of this one without a doubt. We needed a happy ending and it finally justified that whole plot so I was glad about it.
Otherwise that arc was quickly becoming a train wreck. Tomoya would have lost all my respect in ditching his daughter like that. It would have been such a horrible look for him. Meanwhile his father committed a crime and went to jail which I thought was unexpected but maybe it would at least remind Tomoya not to make the same mistakes. So seeing him go to the dark side anyway was just really off. Even though the timeline reset it still happened so I can’t forget that but at least he got a shot at a second chance.
Meanwhile Ushio was a good character. She had to live without her father for a very long time but she kept a positive attitude about the whole thing and didn’t hold it against Tomoya. She just rode the waves of life and kept it moving. We don’t get to see her too long since the series was nearly ending by the time she showed up but she made an impact in that time.
I didn’t really talk about Nagisa much but I’d say that she’s a good heroine. It’s certainly not her fault that she gets sick a lot and she tries to stay strong throughout all of the sad things happening to her. Having to repeat a year again for the third time just because she was sick probably felt really unfair. Then she does her best to work and support Tomoya during his tough job as well. She never complains and always tries to do the right thing so there’s nothing to really dislike here.
Meanwhile Tomoya definitely made more mistakes this time around. Even in season 1 he wasn’t perfect as I thought some of his pranks could be a bit on the mean side but at least that was more of a humor plot. Here he tends to make more serious mistakes as the show goes on, ones that are a whole lot harder to just wave away. To in the end I have to say that I didn’t like Tomoya, he erased most of the goodwill around his character.
At least I can say something for this show that I rarely say and it’s that the romance here was actually rather solid. At least for the main pairing since Tomoya and Nagisa got a lot of time to interact and build this romance up. It’s certainly way better than the usual rushed type of romances where you feel like it just happened out of nowhere. In context this one took months to develop and at this point they’ve known each other for well over a year. When a show that is part romance manages to execute the romance well you know that it’s going to be in good shape.
In a way the show benefits from not trying to squeeze in a bunch of side romances. That would ultimately just distract from the main one where you want as much development as possible. Since this is the after story we also don’t have to worry about any of the other heroines trying to make a move because at this point they have all accepted that Nagisa and Tomoya are together. So there’s no funny business. It’s just everyone being good supportive friends as the adventures go on. The show is also long enough where you feel like you’ve known the characters a long while and got to see them on their journey. Not all of the characters get a big conclusion but since it’s from Tomoya’s view it makes sense that he wouldn’t see them all complete their dreams. We do get quick glimpses to see where they are at though.
Overall, Clannad: After Story really lives up to its name as being the post game in a way. The characters get to go through their epilogues while you watch. It’s something you almost never see since usually the end of the story is just that…the end. It’s very rare that you get the cast back for a whole other season like this. Maybe a big movie or something but not a full show. In the end the first show still wins just because it is a lot more fun and the school setting just works better but if you saw the original show then you owe it to yourself to watch this one. Even if just to see how the whole robot plot ends since in season 1 it still felt rather pointless by the end. At least now in this season you really see why it was included.