Huzzah, I can now be welcomed to the club of “People who finished After Story before the end of the bookclub”! To give a very short review of how I feel about this route, I thought the Cohabitation, Birth, and character routes were all terrific writing. However, the Ushio arc I felt, was pretty rushed. There was so much more depth that could have been given to Tomoya’s point-of-view during that time, and leaving it out made it harder for me to relate to Tomoya as a person during those events. I realize that putting those in would have made people feel horrible about themselves, but that’s exactly the kind of thing that I personally enjoy.
I have so much more to talk about, too, and what I think about all of the messages in CLANNAD, but I will be leaving those to discuss with my good friends in the podcast (hopefully…?). What I would like to discuss, and further the discussion of, is the concept of the Illusionary world. Thanks everyone for starting this discussion and bringing in your opinions. So now: let’s discuss! First let me start with my own theory of things. @ZakM has a pretty good grasp of things already, but I think I would like to strengthen the whole concept with what I believe I have a pretty good grasp of.
The Illusionary World
So… What exactly is this illusionary world? It is, as is explained, a parallel world to the world of CLANNAD. It exists strongly connected to the town, and interacts with the town through the Light Orbs. One thing that needs to be taken of note here is that the world does not conform to the concepts of time as the rest of the universe sees it. It exists on a totally different plane, connected to multiple timelines and dimensions in the town.
It’s made fairly obvious that the girl is ushio, but… How exactly did she get there? Well, it was asked:
It’s a bit more complicated than that; the girl is a manifestation of Ushio’s will; the will to make this town happy. It’s something that we don’t see from her, due to her limited speech, but I personally believe that that is something she has been longing for. If only her sickness didn’t get in the way, I am sure we would see more of it from her in the future.
Now, how did her “will” come to get to exist in the illusionary world? Enter the Light Orbs.
Illusionary World Light Orbs
These orbs of light represent the people of the town. Their hopes, their aspirations, their will, among other things. This also answers the second question because each person has their own little Light Orb in that illusionary world. Why only this town? Well, Yukine says it pretty well in that the town is special.
Most of the Light Orbs come and go, appearing and fading as people in the town gain and lose happiness, but Ushio’s is special… Ushio’s entire will seems to have burst forth from her own Light Orb and, in some way, merged with the will of the world, causing her to obtain a physical form in the illusionary world. It is stated that she represents the will of this world and I can only interpret that as her will and that of the world naturally syncing together.
One might be able to chalk it up to the fact that Ushio is a child, and thus has no tainted memories of the town. Perhaps she does die, and her light syncs up with that of the worlds so well that she obtains a form. This is probably the most complicated issue out of the whole thing, but this seems like the most likely explanation to me. This also helps support my answer to:
I think leading into Ushio’s death helps us to realize that it was her will all along that helped manifest this girl that we see in the illusionary world. Sure, there is emotional manipulation, but in the grander sense of things, the epilogue after her death seems essential.
But to end this discussion, each little Light Orb in that world is a person in the town, and Ushio’s is special. But her’s isn’t the only one that is special;
The Junk Doll
We know that the Junk Doll was created from a Light Orb. Specifically, it was Tomoya’s Light Orb. Most definitely, Ushio sought out that Orb and tried to give it a physical form with her own two hands. Only she could have realized which Orb was her father’s, after all. And she spends time with that Junk Doll, and that is something I cannot rationalize. Perhaps she was a little selfish; after all, this world’s timeline isn’t synced to the real one, and she has all the time she needs. But at the end of the day, she slowly starts to merge back into the will of the world, both of them becoming one, and fulfilling the true wish: sending Tomoya back to the beginning of the story.
"You’re going to wake up on an important day on the other world" is what she tells the Junk Doll. I found it quite amazing because I never realized early on that this scene directly connects to the beginning of the game, in the first illusionary world scene. This will of the world was able to send Tomoya back to that day, the fateful day he met Nagisa, and allowed him to make many more choices in the real world. I’ve never realized it before, but this perfectly explains why the story branches now; the world constantly sends him back to that first day. Thus answers:
Now, let’s keep going…
Changes and grows…
That aside, what exactly is this place? Just to clarify, the place is the place where Akio brought Nagisa when she was on the verge of death. But when he brought her there, the place enveloped Nagisa in this light, sustaining her life force. The best that I can explain it is like the Aurora, and how Kotarou was saved by it from Rewrite. This light and this place became Nagisa’s lifeforce.
At first I thought it silly that Tomoya thought the place was making Nagisa’s condition worse, but once I reached the ending, I couldn’t help but agree with him. This place is directly connected to Nagisa, and the destruction of the town was slowly eating Nagisa up. Perhaps her birth pushed the limits of how much the place could support her; or perhaps some monumental tree was cut down as Nagisa’s life ended. But now I truly believe in this.
What strengthened my belief in this? The fact that, at the end of the story, the girl makes an appearance. It is quite vague, but that is how I interpret it: Fuko finds the girl in the grass near the hospital, as she has now been physically manifested in the world through the place.
Real World Light Orbs
The Light Orbs in the real world, on the other hand, are a manifestation of the girl’s desires. Whenever Tomoya obtains one of these light orbs, we see them in a title screen, under a tree. I believe that to be a representation of the real world, and the Light Orb transferring part of the girl into the real world. This counters a previous statement:
I think that the junk doll doesn’t hold any lights. He actually tries to grasp some but is unable to do so. All lights obtained in the game end up with Tomoya in the real world. Rather, I believe they find themselves nestled on a nice little tree in “The Place”, as is shown in the title screen.
The Girl in the Place
Explaining this also helps me answer @Karifean’s last question:
Getting the good end; getting 13 light orbs and saving Nagisa; allows the girl to transcend the illusionary world, and exist in the physical world. In truth, I believe that the illusionary world remains the same; but with one less light orb in it.
“But Pepeeee I thought the girl was Ushio’s light” and yes, it was; until it merged with the will of the world, thus making it both hers and not hers. The girl’s existence is, most likely, a manifestation of the town’s desires and, for some unknown reason, it needed two things to manifest itself: 1) 13 light orbs to arrive in the real world; and 2) Saving Nagisa.
Tomoya was the one that helped her transfer the Light Orbs, as we know from the common routes and after story. Saving Nagisa needed a little bit more of a push.
We know that, in Tomoya’s dreams, he calls out to Nagisa. However, without enough Light Orbs, that is not enough to save her. At the same time, if you try playing this scene twice with enough Orbs, you get the choice to not call out to her. This implies that saving Nagisa is a joint effort between Tomoya and the Lights/will of the world.
So, now to the crux of all this: How was Nagisa saved? By severing her connection to the place. By letting some other entity take over her connection to the place; an entity that can change and grow with the place, and isn’t limited by the mere bounds of a human body. An entity like Ushio’s light merged with the will of the world.
I think, in the original playthrough, without enough lights, Tomoya fought hard enough. However, I am of the opinion that hard work alone is not enough to make a miracle come true. They need a little bit of magic (which is why miracles don’t really happen in the real world ;P), along with your hardwork. Thus, him calling out to Nagisa was all the hardwork he really needed to do, and the rest was the job of the will of the world.
And so ends my grand theory that required way more setup than was necessary.
Akio wishes for his child to be saved on the verge of death, and “the place” grants him this wish, but at the expense of sharing its life force with Nagisa’s. Ushio’s light in the illusionary world merges with the will of the world to create a physical being, likely after her own death. This creates the girl which finds Tomoya’s light orb and turns it into a doll, which they now have the power to send across multiple timelines and different choices. The Tomoya in this different timeline helps bring light orbs to the world, slowly bringing in the girl to the physical world, light orb after light orb. As Nagisa is on the verge of death, and Tomoya had obtained enough light orbs, the girl manages to sever the connection between Nagisa and The Place, and attaches her own life force to the place, thus making her appear in the physical world.
So to compare my own theory with @ZakM’s
I find it more like:
Nagisa = The Place
Ushio = Light Orb = Merged with the Will of the World
At the end of the story:
Physical Manifestation of the Will of the World = The Place