Tomoyo After: After Arc Analysis
Here we are, finally. I’m now able to talk about whatever I want without caring about spoilers and having to worry about using things from the following arcs in my theories.
So, After Arc is finished, probably one of the best ending arcs in KEY. I’ll put it at the same level as After Story and Refrain, though I think that they all are at the same level for different reasons.
Without thinking too much, the only think I could say about the After Arc is that it was deep. It wasn’t as emotional as other ending arcs. It was just intense, deep and full of meaning. It made me suffer without really crying.
I hadn’t really been spoiled about Tomoyo After’s ending, so just as mentioned in the previous podcast, I thought that Tomo’s Arc was the last one, though I still kept thinking about Tomoya’s accident. Even then, when they returned to Tomoya’s house and both Tomoyo and Tomoya started talking casually I was surprised. The writing didn’t hint an ending tone, so I thought there was something more to come, and the only thing I could think of was Tomoya’s accident. Back from the Tomo Arc I kept wondering why such an important injury had been shrugged off so easily. I was sure there had to be more than that. And KEY delivered. When Tomoya started loosing his motor skills I started thinking that it might end up as in a certain KEY work (I’m not putting spoiler tag context because it would spoil the work itself, so proceed at your own risk) I’m talking about Angel Beats! more specifically, about the life Yui and Hinata would have lived if they were together. I was wrong, however. It was something completely different, Tomoya lost his memory. I should’ve seen that coming, there was a lot of foreshadowing about this during the whole VN. But when I thought everything was going to eventually be solved, Tomoyo comes up with a series of very worrying lines. For a second, I could see her dumping Tomoya, then I was relieved she didn’t, then I was tense again because of what she said: Tomoya kept loosing his memory every week or so.
I loved this specific part of the arc. I couldn’t see anything come. All the information was so sudden and provoked a train of totally contrary emotions: sadness when Tomoya awoke without knowing anything, happiness when I saw Tomoyo was there and would never abandon him, frustration seeing that Tomoya wouldn’t remember anything, pity seeing what Tomoyo had to endure, tension during the conversation at the hill outside the school, I was concerned about Tomoyo dumping Tomoya, relieve at seeing that she didn’t do so, despair seeing the real situation Tomoyo was in, hope knowing about the operation, sadness again when the operation didn’t go well…
But in the end (supposing Tomoya died), all I could feel was satisfaction. Not because Tomoya had died, of course, but because everything seemed as if it had ended. Tomoyo was satisfied, so so was I. And this satisfaction is about what many of you were talking about. Many things will happen in life, both happy things and sad things, and despite the bad things making us suffer, we must not forget that the happy things make life worth living. As many of you already said, It’s a wonderful life after all. This is why I think satisfaction is the best emotion to express that. Being satisfied means that you accomplished something. Maybe things could’ve been better, but despite all the bad things, what you accomplished makes it worth enough for you to say I’d repeat this life I had.
And I find it curious, that this is a theme a well known philosopher brought up. I’m talking about Nietzsche. Now, you may be more or less familiar with his theory of the Übermensch and the Eternal return. For those of you who aren’t, here’s a brief explanation:
People normally live plain lives and don’t put any effort into making theirs a perfect life. According to Nietzsche, the Übermensch does that and we should all try to be like this Übermensch. The Eternal Return is a myth in which every certain amount of time, the world would collapse and burn just to start over again (allowing everyone to live again). Normally, people would find this horrible, but the Übermensch finds this idea very positive because he was able to live a wonderful previous life, so he’ll be able to do the same on the next Return.
There’s a lot than this, but it’ll serve for the point I want to make.
Tomoyo became a Übermensch. She lived what she harvested from her actions and the random events that she had no control over, and she is proud of it. She treasures her live and would love to live it again if whe was offered the opportunity, regardless of all the suffering. And this is because all the suffering she went through didn’t crush her. Instead, she learned from all her experiences and decided to put them into good use. She never thought about feeling depressed during the rest of her life. You could say that what didn’t kill her made her stronger, which by the way, is another quote by Nietzsche.
Another trait of the Übermensch that Tomoyo has is Der Wille zur Macht (The will to do). This is a concept in which humans aren’t just creatures who eat, reproduce and adapt to the surroundings. They go further beyond. But I’m not talking about working like a dumbhead in a community like many people do. There’s people who survive, then there’s people who live. Tomoyo would be one of the people who live, since after the main events of the After Arc, she decides to devote herself into nursing and helping people in despair, not just to earn a living, but because she really wants to do so. She goes one step further and converts all her experience into knowledge, and then shares her knowledge with the whole world, specially with those who are seeking that specific knowledge she acquired.
Now stepping a bit away from all this philosophy, and going back to analysing the characters from a more standard point of view, I wanted to talk about Tomoya. It was really funny to see a 16 year old in the body of an adult man who had a job, a girlfriend and, after a while, a wife. But more than funny, it was interesting to see this evolution of the feelings he had. He awoke feeling that everything was off and weird, that he didn’t belong there, even that Tomoyo shouldn’t be there, but with time he kept changing his mind about his surroundings. Tomoyo became a friend / akward lover. and he became a foreigner in a town he vaguely remember. But after some more time, Tomoyo trully became someone he loved, and the town turned into the home of a homeless traveller: he didn’t know much about what was going on, but ended up feeling that he belonged to that place.
All these changes where subtly done, but kept on piling up until the point they became notorious and relevant. It was, a very well pulled-off character development. Almost as good as the one in After Story, though the circumstances are completely different here.
Going back to Tomoyo, It struck me how she was able to keep going. I loved how they showed her staring into the abyss at times, hesitant to jump. It helped forging Tomoyo into a really believable character. She fought day after day, week after week, memory reset after memory reset. She never faded. I also loved the detail they gave about her acting in different ways with “different Tomoyas” as a way of explaining how she was unstable and staggering due to all the pain she had to withstand. This also shows how she was hesitant about how to deal with the situation, and we could see her cheerful one week, desperate the next one, and then sorry for having been desperate during the past one.
The side characters were almost nonexistant, but their scarce lines were of a golden quality in my opinion. Kanako’s anger and frustration was perfectly conveyed into the reader. It showed how she really cared about Tomoya, hence, confirming how she trully is this VN’s MVP (just kidding, Tomoyo did way too much in this arc to be ignored). Another side character that deserves mentioning is Sunohara. Even though his cameo was fleeting, it was enough to slingshot a theme brought up mainly in CLANNAD, that is how strong relationships between people are. Sunohara lived in a town, and now works in another one, both far away from Tomoya’s house. He was just in Tomoya’s hometown during his stay in senior high school. (Spoilers about Sunohara’s route in CLANNAD) There, he lost his dream of playing professional football, and with it, his only apparent motivation in life. There’s nothing Sunohara would like about the town if it wasn’t for Tomoya, his pal, his partner in crime. So when he saw Tomoya in that state, in a state where all his memories with Sunohara and their relationship had disappeared, Sunohara lost a place he could call home. Though fast and almost unnoticeable I loved the depth put into this short bit.
Overall, the Arc felt really deep. It had lots of suffering but didn’t try to provoke powerful emotions on the reader. I felt that it tried to rather convey a bigger message. Also, the bitter-sweet ending (depending on how you interpret it, of course), is something I like to see more that strictly happy endings, as they feel more realistic. In this case, I could feel everything was real, unlike (CLANNAD After Story ending spoilers) where the light orbs where properly foreshadowed and I still loved the ending, but deep inside me I still think it was a tiny bit unrealistic.
So 5/5 for this arc. I’ll later on do a more in depth comparison about it versus After Story from CLANNAD.
Finally, now that we’ve finished the entirety of the VN (although Dungeons and Takafumi’s engaging storyline still remains) I’d like to give special attention to something that I think all of us agree upon: Tomoyo After’s OST is amazing.
Since music is something very important, once again, as Nietzsche said: Without music, life would be a mistake. Even Tomoya says the same when he’s repairing an old gramophone in the Tomo Arc. And to give it the OST the credit it deserves, I present you the following analysis.
Tomoyo After: ~It’s a Wonderful OST~
First of all, if you haven’t bought it you should. It’s 2.99€ in Europe and I believe it’s 4.99$ in the US in Steam. This said, let’s get going with the analysis.
For starters, we have the opening, Light Colors, sung by Lia, is a song the lyrics of which uncover the message of having to fight in a collapsing world to recover the beautiful light that faded away. The clear parallel here is having to fight in the middle of despair to achieve the happiness Tomoyo once had besides Tomoya, only that this time she’ll have to achieve it herself. There’s also some lines in which Tomoyo prays for the one hearing her to believe in her ability to overcome the situation. While this someone hearing looks like Tomoya, it could also be a reference to Tomo and the promise they made at the end of the Tomo Arc. However, let’s look at it from a different perspective. What if the singer was Tomoya? Then it would talk about the determination he lost and how even in difficult situations he’ll step up and deal with problems head on. Also, there’s a line saying something along the lines of “the evening calm is changing to red”. Could this be a reference to Tomoya fighting the thugs during the first arc?
Let’s not forget about the melody itself. Light Colors has an ongoing solid accompaniment that reminds me of a hectic and turbulent atmosphere. The music never stops, there are no pauses, there’s always some powerful beat sounding in the background. All the instruments are playing loudly at all times, but even then, a voice tries to break through all the “noise” and express its intentions. If this song makes me feel something, then that’s determination and confidence.
Let’s jump straight to the ending theme: Life is like a Melody. The title itself is just on point with the core message of the whole VN, since melodies are supposed to be filled with ups and downs, but when you finish hearing them, you end up liking them. And what you like about them is the way they combine those ups and downs. If a melody had no contrast inside then it would become to plain and not as enjoyable, like life itself, at least according to the VN.
The lyrics speak about how having to move on after the main events of the After Arc is something hard and difficult due to not being accostumed to living alone, but the experience gathered during those years and the time they spent together helps them walk on to an unknown future. It’s interesting to see Tomoyo’s hesitance here once again, though there’s something very different this time.
The difference in this hesitance can be found in the melody and the smooth voice this song is sung in. The smooth voice represents a calmed Tomoyo, while the powerful and crystal clear voice is the image of Tomoyo’s determination and resolve once she’s past the most painful days, so while she speaks about being hesitant, deep inside her she knows what to do and, in fact, ends up doing as written on the VN.
Now on to the unvoiced tracks. we have 17 of them, 14 if we don’t count the D&T ones. The first one I’ll talk about is hope, the menu music also used during Takafumi’s Ar for the first time and some other times during the VN. This is a very peaceful track. With a simple high pitched melody repeating over and over again during most of it, you might think that it’s a bit repetitive, but there are some slight variations to that main melody made at different points, such as cords or thirds and/or fifths being added to the main notes, adding depth to the melody and slightly changing the feeling you get from hearing every repetition of the main loop. The accompaniment represents very well the entirety of the VN, from simple 1/4ths adding some color to the melody, representing the peacefulness of the first two arcs, to chains of 1/16ths representing the ongoing tension going on at the village in Tomo’s Arc. There’s also the strings playing low notes on the background, adding more and more tension to the piece, until, finally, there’s a combination of 1/8ths that repeat for some bars, with just subtle changes, in which I see Tomoya loosing his memories over and over again, and the ups and downs of the dynamics show Tomoyo’s different mental states. However, the whole piece ends with an unresolved, peaceful chord without any tonic note, so as to say that the difficulties are now left behind, but life hasn’t ended.
Another good track is love song this one inspires tranquillity as well, but not the tranquillity hope expressed, this one has a different feeling to it. It’s the tranquillity of a happy day as any other, of things happening without any important consequence erupting from such mundane events. This feeling is also found in other tracks like dear old home and rivulet These make for great general background music when you want to give profundity to the atmosphere and just want to describe different things without nothing important really happening. Morning Glow is also a good choice for this purpose, but since it’s a tad more upbeat, it would fit comedy moments too, as well as some funny and happy gags. The same could be said about favorite loop. It’s a quite artificial track with an upbeat feeling that makes it great as a BGM for those comedic gags.
An special case is old summer days. This piece of the OST is both peaceful to listen to and has a slightly fast tempo, as well as an upbeat feeling. It’s a rearrange from Life is like a Melody, only that it transforms it into a melody that inspires happiness and a certain feeling of determination to go on. This feeling is conveyed by the melody combining several different rhythms, specially at the chorus. However, it also explains how the world overall doesn’t change much from these special actions the characters of the VN do. This is hinted by the accompaniment. It has ups and downs in its dynamics, but the main rhythm doesn’t change much and can be clearly heard after the chorus ends, symbolising that the world is still there, despite everything.
There’s a piece that fills a very particular need: young lust this is a track used for the fighting scenes. There’s not a lot to say about it. It needs to add tension to the atmosphere and it delivers it, so a nice track.
Since I’m a piano lover, I have to give a special mention to dear old home -piano- and love song -piano-. I liked the profundity added by the left hand accompaniment to both pieces, making them more downbeat and drama suited, specially with love song, the tempo of which has been reduced and very good rhythmic melody/accompaniment combinations have been added.
There are some very dramatic tones in the OST, as it should be. Clear examples are harmony and harmony with sorrow here, the instruments playing remind me of an ethereal world, something far away. This help giving a feeling of distance and coldness into the atmosphere, which helps further lowering the mood at some points of the VN. Harmony with sorrow is the favourite track for many of you, and while I don’t share that feeling, I still recognise it’s calmed piano playing over the ethereal track makes it a beautiful track.
Another dramatic piece of the OST is memories. This rearrange of Life is like a Melody uses a combination of instruments that make me imagine a light of hope in between the darkness that despair evokes. Also, due to the moment it plays, when Tomoyo starts crying realising that she has to be strong, this track has become my second favourite after hope. The xylophone-like instrument playing arpeggios makes me think of tears falling down continuously, while the powerful melody that kicks in after a while brings out all the frustration Tomoyo was probably experiencing at the moment.
Finally, there are the Dungeons and Takafumi’s tracks. These ones are the typical ones of action videogames and RPGs, so they fit perfectly in there. However, while keeping the elements the used at a very simple level, they managed to create really motivating music. Just having a main repeating melody and different accompaniments kicking in, they delivered a sub-OST of a decent level for the amount of time I would expect them to dedicate to D&T.
So this is it about the music. Speaking about such an abstract thing is, indeed, difficult, but if I have at least accomplished my of giving this OST the mention it deserved, then I’ll be more than happy. Feel free to comment on which track you like the most and why, and also go ahead and try to describe it!
Finally, I want to say that I spoke my mind about the arc, but even after rereading my post, I still think that I can’t express to the fullest what I experienced in this Arc and my thoughts about it, but if you manage to grasp a even a bit of what I try to explain, it’ll be worth. Once again, and excuse me if I’m boring you with it, I’d like to quote Nietzsche one more time: Thoughts are the shadows of our feelings - always darker, emptier and simpler.