Personally, I love happy endings. I’m just disappointed when we go through a journey with someone (or some people) and we get a sad ending.
But with Tomoyo After however, I prefer the sad ending where Tomoya died.
Aside from leaving more of an impact (which it should) compared to a timeline where he survived, it also leaves lingering feelings in a realistic way.
Key could have decided to make a spinoff about Tomoyo, where Tomoyo and Tomoya are having fun and doing dirty things for the entirety of the game, with little drama just so that it could be considered Key, creating nothing more but a fan service spinoff that deserves nothing (Kud Wafter. Sorry not sorry), but they decided to go above and beyond, and create something that was worthy of being a spinoff to CLANNAD. They didn’t have a cliche happy ending because “the power of love should be able to SAVE someone”, no. The power of love should be able to SUPPORT someone in whatever they face.
There was no reset. There were no supernatural elements. It was a story about a 2 lovers who spent 3 years together, who decided that a love like theirs, couldn’t go on any longer, because they’d both end up being hurt in the long run. There wasn’t a happy reward at the end to “their love”. But the reward was discovering how fragile and wonderful life was. With having Tomoya die, Tomoyo grew as a person and had a new outlook. She might’ve had the same outlook if he survived for sure, but the fact that he was gone from her, pushed her to become someone who realized how fragile life was, more than she would have if he survived.
Personally, I think the reason why Tomoyo After is special, and stands out when compared to other Key works, is because of how realistic it was. Out of everything Key has done, Tomoyo After is the most realistic work that they’ve done. The ending especially supported it. The ending is what makes Tomoyo After so great. A happy ending where he survived, just wouldn’t be the same.
I feel like Tomoyo After is a gem that came out in the wrong time period. Everyone is so used to happy endings and miracles to the point where they think that it’s the best way to end a story, without realizing what a not-so-happy ending can also give to people’s outlook. It’s disappointing when people give this visual novel a low score just because of the ending. It’s so well-crafted and signifies so much, being overlooked by so many people just because the ending didn’t end with how many wanted it to end like.
Tomoyo After was a story about the present. Not the future, nor the past. I don’t think people realize this when they wonder why specific things weren’t foreshadowed as much as they could have been beforehand. Life moves on in mysterious ways, and you can’t predict when something will happen, which is why you enjoy the present. I think that’s why the visual novel format fits so well with the story. The arcs are separated and there’s no big overarching story with the 4 arcs, but only realization.