I’m gonna try something a little different. Rather than analyzing the story and characters (I think y’all did a great job with that already), I’m going to really focus on the music and visual portions of this arc.
Nagisa’s theme is notable, if for no other reason than it’s simply called “Nagisa,” unlike other character themes with more cryptic names. The song begins with a very simple melody, slowly expanding with more voices until you have completely filled all the space. Making a simple melody that can stand that well alone is no mean feat, and I love the instrumentation as the song fills in. There’s that otherworldly warbling sound that appears early in the song. And the light chords on the strings building slowly towards the bridge. Finally, when everything hits you have the tympany to really fill out the bass, a woodblock hitting every couple measures, and something akin to chimes to add a high end. Finally it goes back to the piano theme.
Something else I love about the song is how it sends mixed messages throughout. The song is really played at a Moderato tempo, but has the feeling of Adagio because of the bass line hitting on 1 and 3. Similarly, the primary theme is in F-minor, but the bass line invokes the relative major key, helping to lend the song a melancholic feel which is resolved when the secondary theme comes in on the major key.
Excellent song, and they make good use of it in After Story as well. Expanding on it with the Parting at the Bottom of the Hill.
The Days’ Leisure could really be called the route’s secondary theme. Another piano tune, this one far more harmonic than Nagisa. This one actually is Adagio, fitting with its role of laid back and leisurely. The song sticks firmly to its major key, though its slow pace makes it seem more pensive than expected (if you don’t believe me, try singing it to yourself at a higher tempo).
And how can we leave out Ravel’s Ma Mère l’Oye? I think Nishina-san made a perfect choice on this song for Nagisa’s performance, but I can only imagine how jarring it was for the audience when Nagisa closed with her rendition Dango Daikazoku.
Nagisa’s design is remarkably plain. Short brown hair with the little clip for decoration, rounded brown eyes. Her only really notable feature is the antennae on her head, which suggest her ditzy personality. One thing I really like about her is that cute serious and determined look that she gets sometimes. It’s very endearing!
Our first exposure to Nagisa, and the first character we see in the visual novel. The dramatic wind through her hair and the falling sakura petals strongly convey not just a sense of motion, but of a moment captured in time. Everything is in focus and high detail, from the falling petals in the foreground to the leaves on the trees in the background. Nagisa herself, is center of the frame, looking directly at the viewer. I think it's noteworthy that while Nagisa's body is facing left, the fact that she's centered helps to convey the sense that she's stopped (if she was positioned just a little to the right, it would look more like she had space to move into in the frame).
The official start of Tomoya and Nagisa’s relationship. Nagisa’s positioning has her largely being framed by Tomoya. The ruddy light coming through the trees helps to communicate the the time, and you can even see the reflection of the orange sky in the windows behind them. Though I will say that this image has one of my pet peeves about Clannad’s CG’s…tilted orientation as opposed to shifted perspective! But that’s a rant for another time. This is hardly the worst offender in the set.
Okay, this is the worst offender in the set. The damned picure is turned at like 45º…Anyway. Here we have “Sad Nagisa in the Rain.” Nagisa’s hair is slightly darkened, her face and the ball have deoplets on them, and the mist on her head helps to convey that she’s not just wet, but actively getting poured on. I love the body language here. Tight in pose, arms wrapped around the ball like she’s giving it a hug. Nagisa really looks pathetic here, which I’m pretty sure is the desired response. There’s also the muddy ground there, which is directly referenced in the scene.
If I can make one complaint (other than the angle) is that Nagisa’s hair and clothes don’t hang like they’re wet. Her antenna are slightly droopy, but nowhere near what you would expect. Compare to (spoiler other routes) Kyou Route, which does it better.
The first kiss. I love how close Tomoya and Nagisa are here, shoulder the shoulder, it really feels like a natural first kiss, unlike the face-to-face kisses you usually see. Sanae’s position in the frame makes it feel like a private moment, despite being outside with the children in the background. I really like the texture on the clothing, especially Nagisa’s dress and the flannel shirt. Also, dat Sanae booty in dem mom jeans.
Nagisa on stage. The use of light in this shot is really striking. Nagisa is starkly lit from the front, giving her lots of defined shadows, and something of a glow. We also have this costume which is reminiscent of the school uniforms from Kanon (probably intentional?) Even beyond the circumstantial reasons, I like how Nagisa is facing towards the bright part of the frame, and just how much negative space there is in this image. It really helps to convey that she is alone up there. Worth noting is that Nagisa is just slightly left of center in the frame, helping to draw the eye towards the space on the right. I also can’t help but wonder if that conspicuously positioned door is supposed to signify a point of escape, or if it’s just incidental to its primary purpose of filling an otherwise empty void in the shot.
The other shot from that scene. Here we have Tomoya’s view of the scene above. Nagisa is there on stage, all lights pointing at her. Her form is immediately recognizable and is notably smaller than all of the people watching her. It’s noteworthy that we have this angle, as it’s one of the only non-character focused CG’s in the entire VN, and the scene could have still been conveyed with the earlier angle focused on Nagisa. I think this is supposed to reinforce how far away Tomoya is, and the helplessness he feels given the circumstances.
Our closing shot of the couple. Again, it’s turned at a bit of an angle, but at least this one feels artistic. With the pair turned upwards and off-center in frame, there’s a distinct sense of motion into the negative space on the right. That combination hearkens back to the first meeting on the hill, but now with the couple moving up and towards a brighter future. And where the first CG seemed to convey a single moment in stark detail, this final shot seems to suggest an emotion that blurs time. I think the grainy texture, the pastel colors, and the overexposed background all lend themselves to this sense.