well, in that case, I guess that is more forgivable. It’s just that seeing something slowly happening to Tomoya was also equally interesting.
I wouldn’t put this arc on the level of the best portions of After Story, but this arc still ranks high on some of the best stories Key has done. Every emotional beat hit the mark. Seeing Tomoyo persevere and continue to love and care for Tomoya over a three year span was touching and heartfelt. Her struggles and moments of doubt were portrayed effectively and realistically. After Tomoya proving throughout the entire game that he’s willing to go life-threatening lengths to help Tomoyo, she proves she’s just as capable (if not moreso) here.
Even the moments where Tomoyo recounts their days in Clannad together were interesting. Seeing Tomoya’s candid insights on these events was not only in-character but helped round out the kind of person he is. Under all the jaded skin he’d grown over his heart, he’s always been a kind person willing to go over leaps and bounds for other people so they don’t suffer the way he did. In the same way, Tomoyo is also very altruistic. Her more openly emotional investment can make her short-sighted, but she’s worked just as hard as Tomoya to help others, like saving the cherry blossom trees for her family’s sake or helping with the school for the village’s sake. Despite her flaws, she compliments his nature by being physically stronger and more capable. It’s part of the reason their relationship results in such endearing chemistry.
Although I’ll concede that the original ending was somewhat ambiguous in this way, I feel like having Tomoya die would almost make the narrative a Shaggy Dog Story. I mean, after both have them have worked so hard to accomplish their goals and have stuck with each other through thick and thin, Tomoya dies? (After Story spoiler) Nagisa’s death was different because it had proper build-up and foreshadowing throughout both her route and After Story, and in her sacrifice, Tomoya was able to become a self-sufficient individual worthy of having a daughter. . But here? If he dies, no one benefits. Tomoyo proved her strength and her desire to help others by caring for him all this time. Instead, she’s punished with an unexpected tragedy. I am aware that unexpected things happen in life, too, but in the context of a story, I feel something sudden like this needs to fit the narrative. As a result, I feel all of Tomoyo and Tomoya’s hard work and drive resulting in a happy ending better fits the story.
Thematically, I love how the story emphasizes the joy one gains from helping others. By supporting each other, Tomoya and Tomoyo are able to enjoy each other’s love and gain the satisfaction of seeing the happiness of the people around them. Showcasing that hard work and dedication to one’s meaning in life (whatever that may be) yields great results is a powerful message that resonantes greatly with me.
I also prefer how Naoyuki’s nicer side came out her than (After Story spoilers again) than the way it did there, where we’re supposed to instantly forgive him all of his wrongdoings . Here, while he’s still acknowledged to have his bad points, he’s organically shown to care for Tomoya underneath his insincere facade by preparing his house for the time he returns. It was a little touch that I appreciated. Hearing a Sunohara voice cameo was nice, and so was the nod to the very first moment in Clannad that we got. I do wish we had a couple more appearances from them, as well as Takafumi and Kanako, even though I understand there are in-universe reasons for why they wouldn’t be there. They were so important to the group dynamic, so seeing them not be represented at the end was sad for me…
Other than that, though, I loved this. 4/5. Now to get some much needed levity by playing Dungeons and Takafumis…
Just finished! There were some feels, let me tell you. It really made me empathize because I now have a person who means the world to me and has helped me become the best version of myself (which is still a work in progress) and has given me more happiness than I could have ever imagined. So thinking about going through that stuff with him? Powerfully heartbreaking. So good on them for getting me in that frame of mind. The part with the father also broke my heart. I enjoyed some of the subtle foreshadowing as to what was going on as well.
I have a few negative points as well. Well first is that amnesia did really suit what they were going for, but I would have liked to see a more creative way to challenge their relationship. Like the vegetable thing mentioned above or something else. Amnesia is used a lot in media because it’s easy. It would have been amazing if they could have used something else and given the same impact. Also, I understand it’s been going on for a few years and being in a relationship with someone like that has got to be unimaginably challenging. With that said, his mind reverts to a late middle school/high school age and I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being physically romantic with someone who mentally is like 14. Some of it was sweet, the “I love you” bits were sweet and I’m not trying to say Tomoyo is a bad person or anything. But mentally he was a middle schooler and our minds do a lot of growing and maturing in those years and after only a week of adapting to a new life (repeatedly, granted), I don’t feel his mind would have been where it should have been to fully understand that kind of adult relationship.
I did like the vague ending, it was quite touching and beautiful, I liked finding out Tomoyo was the narrator and the kind of fourth wall breaking motivational words were great. It did feel a little bit abrupt though and I would have liked to see more of the rest of the cast before things wrapped up.
So yeah, I enjoyed Tomoyo After, it was worth the price, and I probably will read it again in the future. Not my favourite, but Tomoyo definitely went up in my books for being willing to stick it out through that. That takes an incredibly strong person and I admire and respect that. I also liked the art much better.
Side note, does anyone feel for poor Tomoya and his romances? He ends up with amnesia in this one and possibly dying an early death and in CLANNAD his wife dies in childbirth.. I mean, poor dude can’t catch a break.
There was one thing about Tomoyo After that impressed me more than anything else that being it’s structure. Due to being structured around multiple routes, most Key novels sneak around conventional linear storytelling. However, those conventions exist for a reason, so I’d like to take the time to showcase how TA embraces a linear story while still making use of the power of choices.
As an aid in this, I’d like to make use of a technique explained by Matt Stone and Trey Parker in this video. Essentially, they explain that the major beats of a story should show a clear pattern of cause and effect. So if we look at the major beats of the “true” path through TA, it’d look something like this.
- We start off with Tomoyo, Tomoya and Takafumi fooling around.
- The Sakagami family backstory leads to Tomo’s introduction.
- And then Kanako arrives because reasons learned latter on.
- Tomoya draws strength from everyone in order to win his battles.
- Therefore he gains the confidence to keep challenging Takafumi.
- Therefore Kanako and Takafumi get back together.
- Because Tomoya promised, Tomo’s mom comes to get the pictures.
- Therefore Taka is able to track her down.
- I speculate that Kanako wouldn’t have been as helpful in the third arc if she hadn’t gotten back with Takafumi.
- However Tomoya’s efforts leads him to bang his head.
- But they still manage to resolve Tomo’s story.
- Tomoya’s injury obviously leads to the last arc.
- Tomoyo’s promise with Tomo gives her strength to stay by Tomoya
And that’s basically it in broad strokes. For negatives, it’s not super clear if Takafumi’s arc progresses the story. Takafumi definitely could have found Tomo’s mom without going through all of that. Like I said, I think restoring Kanako’s faith in love might have helped, but I’m not 100% sure. Other than that though, plot points continue to build on each other like a house of cards. And if a card isn’t added you won’t be able to finish the house; this is what happens if Tomoya loses heart in the first arc or if the school doesn’t get finished.
When I finished Tomoyo After, I could look back and see how every previous step had led me to this point. It’s straightforward and effective. I really like Key’s regular route based novels too, but sometimes it irks me to see how they’re basically held together with duct tape and staples. Tomoyo After seems to be unique in effectively contrasting it’s kin like this, so I’d be overjoyed if they could make more refreshers like it.
Before I even started Tomoyo After, I knew about its reputation. Many of the critiques I saw about it before the Steam release was announced talked about how it was one of the saddest Key games, but it wasn’t the kind of sorrow that led to a happy ending. It was a painful sorrow, as many reviews hinted that the ending was in no way happy. So I knew right off the bat that Tomoyo After wasn’t going to be like every Key game I experienced beforehand, not even its predecessor.
Nevertheless, in trying to be different from its peers, it falls into new problems all its own. Like most final routes written by Maeda, there is repetition that is boring to read, but there’s a spin to it in that it’s all stuff I know about from CLANNAD. So it made me wonder, could this game stand on its own for someone who hasn’t read CLANNAD? I made the observation earlier, but I couldn’t be entirely sure until I read every line of this novel. Now, I feel more sure than ever that the possibility exists. This story, I feel, is far stronger than CLANNAD on the whole, although if you asked me, After Story is a far better final route than After Arc.
After Arc places focus on Tomoyo trying to reconcile with her feelings for Kotori, who has amnesia after the accident he had during Tomo Arc. Kotori has to relearn everything he knew from his middle school days onward, with Tomoyo placing great emphasis on describing her relationship with Kotori. I do admit, there is some value in learning how Tomoyo saw the events of her route in CLANNAD, but I find very little difference between that and what I read in CLANNAD. I’m actually pretty glad I didn’t reread Tomoyo’s route before I read this, because I would have been especially bored being fed information I wasn’t expected to remember. >.>
Still, the best parts of the route come after that, when Kotori understands how much he loves Tomoyo, even if he doesn’t remember any of the time they spent together. I felt a huge disconnect from Kotori before then, knowing practically everything that transpired except the three years Tomoyo wrestled with her feelings for him. From then on, some semblance of hope returns to Tomoyo and Kotori (and myself by extension) but things go downhill very quickly. I feel incredibly helpless watching everything transpire and being unable to do anything about it. All this talk of hope and union…and they make it out to be all hopeless in the end. Now I understand why people talk about how painful this game’s ending is. Tomoyo is left with nothing at the end, even after all she did, save the last comforting words of Kotori just before his passing. I can’t even begin to fathom the sorrow Tomoyo must be feeling after all that… T_T
I heard that the original release of the game had a different ending than the other editions (including this one). I feel that mainly applies to the epilogue which, speaking as someone who hasn’t seen the original ending, feels like the most out-of-place usage of Key Magic since (Rewrite spoilers)Chihaya’s route. I figure that’s why Yuuto Tonokawa got credited for writing the script in this release; he’s the biggest suspect for this kind of thing happening nowadays.
I still have Dungeons & Takafumis left. However, with the story ending like that, it only makes me want to see more of these characters. I gotta make it a priority to write a fanfic about this once I’m finished with my other projects…Excuse me.
walks away, holding back tears
They “jokingly” bring up amnesia quite a few times, for example, in the prologue when Tomoyo “forgets” Takafumi, or when Takafumi pretends to be a baby.
I really like to describe this arc as a mix of (ef: A Fairy Tale of the Two spoilers) Renji and Chihiro’s romance and the ending of (a certain Winter 2014 anime) Your Lie in April.
As for my actual thoughts, I like this arc. It’s a real shame that I spoiled myself really hard before reading this game. It can really hurt the entertainment value here, especially for TA which relied on a dramatic twist. It was a good thing that I forgot the anterograde amnesia part, which successfully caught me off-guard when I encountered it in the game.
Even if the spoilers took away the drama for me tremendously, there were a lot of things that I enjoyed a lot from this arc, namely the dialogue between Tomoya and Tomoyo. I did say before that I didn’t find myself digging this pairing, and even after reading this arc I still don’t ship it, but I really enjoyed the dialogue between the two and there was more than enough chemistry between them.
Sunohara getting depressed about Tomoya’s situation hurt me tho. :(( And speaking of which, I really like the scene with Tomoya’s father. That was After Story level of heartwarming man. ;u;
So yeah I like this a lot. I just wished I wasn’t spoiled so bad.
My overall thoughts on TA is that it’s definitely a really enjoyable read. I was thoroughly immersed by the story.
Funny you should mention that. I was also spoiled by the game a while back. It’s testament to Jun Maeda’s skills as a writer that I was still engrossed.
Why does being spoiled about the after arc seem to be a thing? I, too, was spoiled about the amnesia… Except I didn’t know it was anterograde amnesia. That fucked me up quite a lot while I was reading it!
I had every twist in the After arc spoiled for myself, except for the fact that it ends with Tomoya dying. Still my favorite ending to any VN ever, so I can’t say my impression of it suffered any for it.
Because a lot of Clannad fans refused to read it, so those who had gone through it kept trying to convince the ones who hadn’t by spoiling more and more of it! That, and Youtube comments. Personally I was spoiled by the large conversations that were around when the old partial released. People don’t hide 'em.
So, haah, there are a lot of things in my mind about this arc. I’ll try to put my thoughts ordered here, but we’ll see. I might repeat myself several times.
First of, this arc was great. So great, in fact, that I’ll have to debate for myself at a later point, which VN I like more, Clannad or Tomoyo After.
For my first actual point I might actually steal a discussion point from the podcasts that I think @Karifean mentioned everytime, so please excuse me. So he mentioned in every podcast how in every arc something from the past suddenly shows up and that our protagonists have to deall with it. This time, it’s Tomoya’s injury that’s catching up to him, and man does it screw him over. But not only that, thanks to his repeated retrograde and anterograde amnesia, he is tasked to recall his past every week as well. This was in a way also a very creative way to make callbacks to Clannad. And since Tomoya lost his memory of everything, I can also definitely say that someone who didn’t read Clannad should still be able to follow the plot. Sadly, he is not able to actually recall anything, but his love for Tomoyo still persists, and in that one week where they meet Not-Nagisa he is finally able to muster the courage to tell Tomoyo that. And it’s beautiful. Honestly, I believe that he has fallen for Tomoyo in most weeks, he just didn’t have the courage to tell her.
For my second point I’ll talk a bit more about myself and how this arc touched me on a very personal level. You see, Tomoya’s situation reminded me of something that happened in my family not to long ago, and I’d like to tell that little story here. So my uncle had a severe problem himself in the last year. Through most likely stress he developed an aneurysm in his brain and he would have died if his wife hadn’t realized that something is wrong. And that she realized that, is also a sign how much she loves and knows him. That is because the aneurysm ruptured in the dead of night, and she realized it because his breathing changed slightly while they were in bed. So after that, he was brought into a hospital. The next morning, when he was awake, he thought that he’s still in school and could neither recall his wife, nor their three children. Thankfully, for him operation went alright, so now everything’s okay there. Still, Tomoya’s situation reminded me of that and therefore the whole arc hit a lot harder than it might have otherwise. Even the anniversary that Tomoyo was noting every week is reflected in my uncle’s life, because he called the day he left hospital his new birthday.
For my third point, I’d like to go over something else that I realized in the whole novel. And that is, that the title itself is a major theme. Every arc in this game has a bittersweet ending to it, yet life goes on and life is still wonderful. Granted, the first two arcs are more sweet than bitter, with the only bad thing being the conflict’s pointlessness (Tomoya arc) and Takafumi coming in at number 31 in the race (Takafumi arc) although this is expanded on with Takafumi saying that he’ll probably never reach a truly competitive state (as in, reaching the top of runners) again in the After arc. The other two arcs’ bitterness should be obvious, but I’ll state it here for completion’s sake. Tomo arc is Tomo’s mother soon dying, and the After arc is of course Tomoya himself dying. Therefore, i took as a message from this game, that no matter what hardships one faces, life is still a wonderful thing and one should enjoy every happy moment that comes in it.
Now my final point is a lot shorter and also more on the funny side: So Tomoyo basically wrote the whole story as a forum post. That forum really must’ve been very leniant on character limits, since with so much stuff that happened, a character limit would surely have been met at some point before the end of the post. Then again, I might be underestimating the Japanese language in its ability to convey more content in fewer characters. Maybe some from our Japanese-speaking forum members might be able to tell me if it would be possible to put it all in one post or not.
There’s something I’d like to touch upon in regards to this arc and Tomoyo After in general, which is its meta aspect.
At the very end it turns out that the entire story we just read - not just After arc, but everything from Tomoya arc onwards - was written down by Tomoyo. She put it up on a public internet forum in the hopes that it gives people who read it and find themselves moved the strength to keep going and help others keep going as well. To put it bluntly, she literally becomes Key / Jun Maeda in this story. This is only underscored by the lines she directs at the “person on the other side of the screen”, which in-universe is a forum reader but is also a message directly from the writer of Tomoyo After to us, the readers in the real world. It quite literally analyzes and plainly comments on the relationship between Key and its fans.
These few lines concisely and precisely describe why I love Key as much as I do. Their stories are not tearjerkers meant to get an emotional reaction with no substance to them. These are novels that carry earnest messages, that the writers poured all their heart into.
This is also a major reason as to why I believe that Maeda had Tomoya die in the end. Because this time around, it’s not just about seeing fictional characters reach a happy ending against the odds. It’s plainly and obviously a message directly to us, the readers, about accepting the outcome and being happy in life despite shit happening. If the ending had Tomoya revive and live happily ever after, what would the message be to the readers who didn’t have things conveniently work out for them? No, it’s the other way around. The ending is meant to show that even though Tomoya died, even though things never worked out all that well for our protagonists from the beginning, even though Tomoya’s struggles in the first arc were ultimately without practical value, even though Takafumi will never be a pro runner again, even though doing the right thing in Tomo arc literally brought you onto the only path in the game that has Tomoya die, they can still be happy. That despite it all, they still firmly hold on to the belief that the world is beautiful, and life is wonderful. That those times are irreplaceable memories. That’s what Tomoyo shows us. That’s the narrative the lyrics of “Life is Like a Melody” weave. And that’s what makes this story so raw and powerful to me.
This aspect is not relegated to just those few lines in the epilogue either. The entire plot of the After arc feels drenched in this message. Tomoya wakes up with amnesia and for just one week, Tomoyo takes him on a journey to discover the things around him. It’s like a reader being brought into a fictional world by a passionate writer, one who tries their hardest to get their earnest feelings across to an oblivious reader in the span of just one novel’s length, hoping again and again to get them to reciprocate. Many times they don’t see it, sometimes they may dismiss it entirely, at times they do reciprocate but keep quiet about it, but then there are those rare few times where they do voice it. And then, hopefully, they join Kazamatsuri, a place for these people to gather. And for the author, as we can see in Tomoyo, those rare occurrences are worth all that effort. You can read even more deeply into what might have gone into writing the story this way, but this is already getting long as it is, and from here on out it’s only getting even more vague and subjective.
There’s no other Key visual novel that gives us that clear of an insight into the author’s heart and intentions in writing the story, and although I had a deep trust in Maeda’s best intentions from the beginning, seeing it affirmed so beautifully is a great feeling to me as a Key enthusiast. It makes Tomoyo After into a very personally moving story to me, in a different way compared to other Key novels. And for that I’ll treasure this experience forever, as my #2 favorite Key visual novel and #1 favorite ending to any visual novel ever.
I’ve mentioned it before somewhere, before all these fancy arc specific threads came up, but I like to believe that Tomoyo gathered enough orbs of light through passing on her message that she reset the timeline back to the start of Clannad. The old school Clannad synths that kick in at the end of Light Colors really gives it that “full circle” vibe. I do still think the story has a very satisfying book-end if you disregard this thought however.
Wow… That post was amazing! I think you perfectly summarized the intentions behind this visual novel. Being a Christian, I do take issue with some of the thematic implications here, but I am just amazed at how spot-on you are to Jun Maeda’s message. Major props.
Since Cloud and friends tidied things up nicely in this version, we’ve of course gotta do some public shaming. In the After arc epilogue, we have this line: (Version 1.1.0)
But when I read it the first time 2 months ago, it looked like this.
Someone clearly done goofed here, so obviously I can’t let the internet forget about that just because of a silly patch. It’s human to make mistakes, but I think it’s also human to poke fun at people who make mistakes.
My post was a little late for the beginning of the After Arc, so I’ll finally be able to write my overall thoughts about it. The start of this arc was shocking when Tomoya had developied amnesia. I felt for Tomoyo struggling to as she decides to visit certain places that he might remember as they had both attended the high school during the events in CLANNAD. The scenery was so nostalgic when Tomoyo had first met Tomoya on that second floor classroom 2-B. When she first transferred to the school, she wondered about the time that Tomoya and Sunohara had fun as they were goofing off with their lives being delinquents in the past. As Tomoyo revisited the sakura trees, she told him how her family was saved during that incident which turns out to be the deciding factor by becoming the student council president. With that determination, she would do everything possible for Tomoya as the recovery process slowly begins by getting his memories back.
The scene where Tomoyo and Tomoya met up with the girl named Ogawa almost reminded me of Nagisa from CLANNAD. Ogawa was afraid to walk the uphill path leading up to the sakura trees as she had health problems. The fact that they both wanted to help her out was suprisingly memorable as Ogawa was thankful to them as she was given the courage needed to go back to the school.
There were some scenes that I had a hard time re-reading which some were new in this version that got me teary-eyed at times such as the part where Takafumi, Kanako, and Tomoyo were sitting at the hospital learning of the cruel situation that befell on Tomoya. I was heartbroken when Kanako was outraged saying it was unfair that they have been suffering for so long that she was willing to beat him up which Takafumi told her it wouldn’t have done any good. The other scene that made me cried the most was Tomoyo had at one time given up hope and wandered aimlessly at their apartment living day by day as the weeks passed by on an endless loop that seemed forever. It was painfully cruel and emotional at times that it felt impossible to keep going on without him as Tomoya would end up forgetting everything once he loses his memory for every week that goes by. After all those three years, she was very devoted to Tomoya and lovingly supported him throughout all the struggles they both faced was part of their eternal bond of love for each other. The fact that Tomoya proposed to Tomoyo surprised me despite the consequences of the decision whether or not he should go through the operation was sad but she had faith that he would regain those memories again. I was surprised when they met Tomoya’s father to tell him that the operation was going to happen depsite their bad relationship, and after they left, Naoyuki was cleaning the house to prepare for the day when Tomoya would come back had left me speechless. I thought that was very special of him to do that and it made me appreciate him a lot more than ever as he probably really did care for him in his heart.
The end scene where Tomoyo types to the viewer (assuming us as the readers) was so emotional that I couldn’t stop crying because we all face problems in life. It’s that no matter if we are happy, sad, angry, or even cry, that we are never alone in life and we can find that treasure within ourselves and live a wonderful life as we help each other out together to face forward and see what the future holds out for us.
Overall, the message I gained from Tomoyo After is that life can be wonderful and we have to cherish those memories spent with others. True, we’ll make mistakes and fail at times but it’s when we become strong that we can overcome all odds when finding the very treasure which can withstand everything we hold precious and dear to us. It has truly become one of my most treasured Key VNs that shows that things don’t work out the way we want to but we have to make the effort to try our best in life and find the things that make our lives meaningful. That’s what I learned from re-reading Tomoyo After as Jun Maeda’s wonderful stories continue to inspire me.
I’m actually quite interested in hearing you talk about this in more detail, if you don’t mind. What implications do you take issue with?
Perhaps I’m over-analyzing it, but as a Christian, I believe that repenting of one’s sins and choosing to devote and have faith in Jesus’ message of salvation is what ultimately gives us meaning. Essentially, I’m wrestling with whether the world has value apart from God. However, one could easily look back in the Bible and point out that God loves all people, sinner and saint, and therefore things like friendship, love, and self-sacrifice would still have value because they are still wonderful things. Furthermore, although it has been tainted by sin, the world still has value. We are meant to connect with other people and to live life not only putting deep trust in God but to live it in a way that we put others above ourselves. The latter is handled excellent in Tomoyo After, with both of our leads getting a chance to support the other when they need help.
So… I guess you could say I’m divided? I might see a slight problem in this, but now that I’ve thought it over, I’m not so sure…