Diary of an Anime Lived: The Selfish/Selfless Daddy

I’m a sucker for tearjerkers.  Even though I consider myself a realist, I’m very sentimental.  That said, although I often tear up as shows and movies, I’ve only cried twice – at The Passion of the Christ and during episode 18 of Clannad After Story, entitled “The Ends of the Earth.”

Even as I read a cold synopsis of the episode, I’m getting choked up.

Tomoya, Nagisa and Ushio
The happy family (Artist: Miyai_Max)

Inspired to write by Aorii’s recent post, this is my first Diary of an Anime Lived.  The screencaps below are all courtesy of the Subculture Anime Blog.  Beware, this post contains most of the major spoilers for the show, beginning with my final line before the jump:

There are multitudes of fans for Clannad, but I hold a connection to the story that most American fans (at least right now in their lives) won’t.  I am Tomoya, and although I didn’t lose my Nagisa, I do have an Ushio.

The power of Clannad is in its continuation, After Story, which takes what was a beautifully animated, but I would say middle-of-the-road Key production, from typical territory to a place few anime series go.  Clannad transforms from high school romance to a show about life in the real world, exploring realistic ideas like financial difficulties, sickness, marriage and childbirth, death, and coming to terms with an abusive past (albeit, all in a supernatural way).  It’s an unexpected but wonderful place for a series like this to go.  Tomoya, in particular, experiences each of these parts of life.

In episode 18, Tomoya is tricked into spending time with his daughter Ushio.  I should back up a bit – Tomoya doesn’t live with Ushio and doesn’t want to have anything to do with her.  Her birth caused his beloved wife’s death, and he became bitter and angry afterward.

I connected deeply with Tomoya’s feelings.  Tomoya easily gives love to those around him, but is sometimes cruel to those closest to him, including his father and his own daughter.  He blames them for the harsh circumstances of his life.  In the end, his selfishness pushes away two people who love him and are inextricably bonded to him.  It’s his selfishness that drives them away, as Tomoya can think about only how he has been affected.  He lets bitterness consume him at the cost of being a father to his daughter.

I understand him.  You see, for those of you without children, it’s almost impossible to understand what it’s like to raise a baby.  I have two young ones, and for me and my wife, having children has lead to deep, difficult valleys in our lives.  To be sure, the highs have far exceeded the lows, especially as the children age.  But nonetheless, depression, rage and sadness are all emotions that have become too commonplace in our household the last several years; it’s easy to be a good parent when it’s all hypothetical, but when the endless crying hits, life becomes hard.

My son was born first, and he was very difficult by all accounts.  We felt as if we were literally dying as we tried to raise a child who hated everything we did and who made life so difficult.  The unending love he needed showed how imperfect we were, as we (particularly me) fell short at every turn.

Our second child, a girl, was supposed to be the one who was easy, like all the other babies we’d seen.  She hasn’t been.  She cries a lot, hated being held by daddy (sigh!), and erupted into screaming whenever we left the room.  We became burdened by sadness and guilt whenever she cried, even when we had be apart from her, as when she went to sleep.

But Ushio, Tomoya’s sweet girl, makes me understand a simple truth every time I watch this episode.  Children are a treasure, and the love of a parent for a child cannot be equated to any other earthly thing.  As I watched the episode for the first time, I sobbed at several scenes – they kept hitting me like a heavy mallet.  When I rewatched it for this posting, the same scenes made me cry again.

The first time I cried was totally unexpected, since it’s the story of Tomoya’s father – not anything I felt would be particularly emotional.  Boy, was I mistaken.  Through it, we learn that his father loved him so much that he put all of his hope in Tomoya and gave up everything for him.  Oh…my…gosh.  The waterworks start here.  Tomoya’s dad had made such horrible mistakes in his life, but he is yet able to sacrifice everything for his son.  I think about how my selfish needs sometimes take the place of my son’s wants, and a lesson that my head knows suddenly touches my heart, and I feel a desperate need to hold my boy and tell him, “I love you and I will give up everything for you.”

I want to be the dad that holds my son’s hand and never lets go

When Tomoya realizes the error of his ways through his father’s story, he goes to Ushio.  His daughter, in return, calls Tomoya “papa” for the first time and then says that she has been desperatately looking for a lost toy because it’s the first thing her papa gave her.  By this point, I break down and full out weep – major sobbing going on here.  I think about my children, and how much they treasure being with me, and how I don’t value that – how I don’t comprehend that sometimes the littlest things I do with them bring them such happiness.  All they want is their mom and dad – I’m often blind to this.

Ushio cries
Ushio is safe to cry in her father’s arms

And then, a third round hits when Ushio cries in her dad’s arm, saying that she can finally cry there – one of only two places Sanae said she could cry.  By now, I’m bawling.  Actually, as I’m writing this, I’m weeping again.  You see, I’m away from home on a business trip, and I’ve been thinking about my kids all day.  I miss them.  I want to hold them.  I want them to be safe in my arms.  The world will cause them hurt…but my arms will always be a safe haven for them.  No matter how much hurt life throws at them, they can always find solace with me.  It reminds me of a great song by Plumb called “In My Arms”:

Knowing clouds will rage and
Storms will race in
But you will be safe in my arms
Rains will pour down
Waves will crash all around
But you will be safe in my arms

And as Tomoya apologizes to Ushio repeatedly, I want to do the same to my children, apologizing for not being a perfect dad.

And so, thus concludes the crying.  No.  Wait.  No…what?  Another sledgehammer hits me as the episode comes to an end with Tomoya crying, this time, as he tells Ushio about Nagisa.  It all comes full-circle, as I now think about how empty I would feel if I lost my wife.  One episode reveals to me the depth of my love (and the depths that love should reach) for each member of my family.

Tomoya crying
He’s lost his world…but hope in the form of a tiny hand reaching out

When I’m at my wit’s end, I sometimes desperately cling to the beauty of how this episode defines the love of parent for child.  Because of it, I’m a better daddy.  As Tomoya lets goes of his selfishness and establishes the bond with Ushio that his heart so desperately wanted, deep in its recesses, I, too, push aside my selfishness in the form of frustration to focus solely on a beautiful gift in my life: my baby girl.  As Tomoya understands his father’s sacrifice, I think about the sacrifices I want to give for the love of my precious son.  I’m not perfect and I have a far way to go, but I can say without reservation that today I’m a better daddy than I was a year ago…or 6 months ago… or even a week ago.  Like Tomoya, I’m realizing what’s before me and holding on to it as if my life depends on it.

And for the record…my baby girl now loves being held in daddy’s arms.

My little Ushio…or with that hair, is it Oguie?

21 thoughts on “Diary of an Anime Lived: The Selfish/Selfless Daddy

  1. This was a great and powerful post Charles, and I thank you for it. Clannad After Story has touched people in all sorts of ways—if only I could show you the last diary entry which was written about it, but the author eventually deleted it. Another author that deleted their post wrote about the similar themes in Kyoto Animation’s Air (if you haven’t seen that, I recommend watching it immediately. You might be about to cry yet again.) Those were two of the best posts in the series, but I understand how the authors may have wanted to throw away something that cuts so emotionally deep. I’m glad to have this post to sort of make up for some of that loss. Don’t you dare delete it!

    1. Thanks for the encouraging words! I wish I could read those entries! I’m starting to make my way through the others listed on your site.

      I have watched Air…didn’t hit me quite like Clannad, but then again, the personal connection wasn’t quite so strong. Still, it was pretty close to tear-inducing…Key gets to me like NO one else. 😛

  2. I think that, as someone who certainly doesn’t have children or a spouse, etc, I can’t connect to Tomoya as personally as you from that side of it.
    But I do understand him from the side of the abandoned child. The angry child. The one who feels betrayed by their father. And I think it is through this that I pulled out tears for this episode.
    (Well, and because I really liked Tomoya and couldn’t stand to see him like this. It was basically constant crying all through the middle episodes of Clannad, for me.)

    Finding out that Tomoya’s dad had really done his best…that hit me pretty hard. That you might not really notice everything your parents do for you, or that I might be doing something terribly cruel to my father by feeling such resentment towards him: that was painful.
    I can’t stop it. The resentment is growing with time, no matter how much I protest, but the guilt is there.

    And then seeing Tomoya do the exact same thing as his father, I sobbed for the creation of another shitty parent (even though he did turn around), and in a character I loved so much before.

    There was so much to cry about in this episode, and so many different ways to approach it. But it was powerful.

    (This comment is so disorganized, eek. Also, sorry for butting in on your story with my less exciting one. But, PUBLISH BUTTON AHOY.)

    1. No, please, butt in!!

      Thanks for sharing. I was really wondering what someone in a situation likes yours might think of the the episode. And even if a person hasn’t been in the role of a parent, like me, or the “abandoned” child, like you, Clannad makes a connection the heart that I think most people will identify with in a very emotional way.

      This and the surrounding episodes, I think, are some of the best of any anime series I’ve ever seen, and add a sense of something deep, powerful and moving in what was otherwise a series that often dragged.

      Thanks for commenting. 😉

  3. Ah, the experience of watching Clannad After Story… I sure missed that period of time!

    I can relate to this point really well. While I don’t have any children of my own, I do have siblings and I particularly treat my younger brother like how a parent would treat their son. Looking out for him, getting him stuffs that he wants and all the things an older brother is supposed to do.

    Of course, he gets on my nerves sometimes (and usually results in me getting extremely pissed) but when I think back, he has been quite a bundle of fun to have back when he was still a toddler. I still roughly remember how I usually played around with him.

    To be completely honest, I didn’t really like Tomoya as a character. Being extremely close to my dad (in some sense), I had harboured a strong dislike for Tomoya for how he had treated his dad. Sure, his dad might have been quite a drunkard and all, but his dad did genuinely wanted to help him at certain times, but Tomoya had refused to acknowledge his presence.

    But after, like what you said, Tomoya’s realization of his father’s sacrifices, I’ve come to dislike him a little less, and by the time he had reunited with Ushio up till the “revival” of Nagisa, he had clearly redeemed himself as a worthy father in my opinion.

    The power of a family is really a unique and strong one. Not even the closest of friendship can replace family bonds. I wouldn’t want anyone in my family coming to harm, regardless of how much bad experience I ever had with them and would do anything and everything just to safeguard them.

    1. Thanks for sharing! This is another interesting angle to look at Clannad at – from an older sibling’s perspective. I’m an only child, so it’s interesting to me to see how you feel.

      Yeah, I think Tomoya’s treatment of his dad was certainly poor through most of the show. Bitterness grows, and it’s easy to see how he got where he did. Despite a father trying the best he could, Tomoya only saw failure, and because of his injury, blamed him even further. That made the “moment” when he learned about his dad’s sacrifice even more emotional.

      Tomoya is a very flawed character. I liked him more for that, and especially for the fact that he changed for the better.

  4. Cute daughter! Mine’s only 10 months old but yeah a daughter changed everything for me :3

    Unfortunately I can’t comment further since I’m not inclined to watch Clannad. But cheers anyway.

  5. Oh dear, Im tearing up now… reading all the Diary of an Anime lived posts has washed me. To compliment that “I want to know what love is” plays in the background, making me even more emotional. Charles, I wish the best for your family 🙂

    1. Oh gosh, “I Want to Know What Love Is” KILLS everytime. Now I’m singing it to myself.

      Thanks for the well-wishes, and I hope the same for you. 🙂

  6. I got misty just reading your post and the answers. And I have never been married or had children of my own, nor see myself doing these things in the future. Nor have I seen Clannad (though I may have to put it on my list after reading these things).

    Why did I get misty? Simply because I can identify with watching an anime episode and finding myself crying like a little girl. Now I can be sure I’m not going crazy. There is a real God who really wants to communicate with his people, and who really will go to such an extent to do so. Even if it means that a grown man may find himself crying like a little girl while watching a cartoon?

    Yes, even if that.

    Therefore I will keep reading. (And keep trying to figure out how to put italics in my posts. Adding tags in square brackets didn’t work the first time, so now we’ll see whether writing the post in MS Word does the trick.)

    1. Well, thank you! This was certainly an emotional topic for me, and that episode of Clannad is simply the emotional episode of anime series I’ve seen. But no, you’re definitely not alone with the whole crying like a little girl thing…and certainly, all of my favorite anime series speak to something in my heart. Tears are inextricably connected to matters of the heart. 😛

      Oooh, you should watch Clannad! It’s terrific! 🙂

      Mmmm…the italics thing…I mess up with that all the time when I post comments on others’ sites. So I generally go with the whole ALL CAPS thing when emphasizing wording I would normally italicize.

  7. In his books, especially “Waking The Dead,” John Eldredge talks about the phenomenon of being especially struck by something like a book or movie, even to the point of tears. Exactly as you said, it is the phenomenon of “deep calls to deep.” God is using that medium to get a message across to a place near the center of your heart. I just didn’t realize that there could be another Christian in the world, let alone apparently enough to populate a forum like the Christian Anime Alliance, for whom anime was such a medium.

    I forgot to say it in my last post, but what makes me know for a fact that you and I are experiencing the same phenomenon is your caption to the screenshot with the father holding his son’s hand. God sent you a message with that image, and you received it.

    I don’t completely understand this phenomenon, but for me, it seems to have something to do with the combination of a foreign language coupled with animation itself. I have always loved languages (and am trying, somewhat in vain I fear, to learn Japanese), and there’s something about it being a cartoon picture rather than a real person that cuts off the escape route of, “But I know who that is. That’s Anthony Hopkins/Angelina Jolie/whoever.” For me at least, this combination is an effective bypass of the logical/scientific side of my mind, going straight to my imagination.

    There are about half a dozen such anime or manga series that have had this effect on me — interestingly, none of which you have reviewed yet. For most of them, I actually did most of my crying like a little girl when reflecting on them afterward, not while watching them.

    I am tempted to e-mail you a list of these five or six series, in case you ever need a guest column on any of them, but as I mentioned in another thread of yours elsewhere, I may just start my own blog on a similar topic. I have never done anything like that before and have no idea how, but for some reason it seems to me we would not be competitors at all. With an eye to my current focus on sports anime — and not failing to notice the long list of other blogs to which you link — I am very tempted to say we’d be *teammates.*

    But speaking of crying like a little girl, I really might start doing that if I allow myself to dwell on that topic. 🙂

    1. Gosh, it’s been a long time since I read “Waking the Dead.” I’m not the biggest Eldredge fan, but that was an excellent book! I did a small group based on it. 🙂

      Please, by all means, email me your list! Let’s definitely get something going here, if at the very least, to get you started on your own site, or possibly to get you to become a regular on this blog! 😉

      Btw, I like the line about teammates – ha! 🙂

      Looking forward to more correspondence with you!

  8. I have already jotted down some thoughts on various series, but they are nowhere near publishable yet in any sense. Maybe I’ll go over them and expand or contract as needed, and see whether any essays result that are worth sending your way. Most likely an e-mail or three will happen in the interim.

    In the meantime, I will keep reading, and will comment again if I feel I have anything of substance to add. As I said, I will reconsider on “Clannad” and “FMA: Brotherhood” per your reviews. I made it through about one or two episodes of the first “FMA” series, but couldn’t deal with the little boy’s voice being emitted from the big metal thing. I swear it gave me nightmares.

    (True, I could have watched the English dub, where I understand the big metal dude had more of a robot’s voice. It was the same dilemma that I faced with “Fruits Basket.” I could watch that show in Japanese with subtitles, and get Kyo’s outstanding voice actor, but get Yuki voiced by a woman — a pet peeve of mine is male characters who clearly have made it at least halfway through adolescence being voiced by women (yes, Naruto, I’m looking at you, especially in “Shippuuden”), or I could watch in English and get Yuki voiced by a man, but get an English voice actor for Kyo who is not at all bad but can come nowhere near the emotional intensity of the Japanese voice actor. In the end, in the endless sub-vs.-dub war, I fall firmly on the sub side — but I often think, “I wonder how they dealt with that in English?” and switch over to rewatch a segment.)

    On the flip side, I am also considering looking up “Code Geass.” Unfortunately, your review has made me curious. 😀

    1. Well, I’ll say that Clannad isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I have a Twitter friend who absolutely hates it. If it weren’t for the above episode (and the ones leading up to and proceeding it), I would’ve thought the show was just “pretty good” with great animation. And those don’t come until about 40 episodes in.

      FMA is another long series…and even though I mentioned it in the post about Winry, I would never say it’s one of my favorite series. In fact, I haven’t finished it. I’m slowly working my way through it. But this is a series that many people really enjoy. It’s also more palatable, I think, than the manga, which is both better (imo) and darker. I understand about Alphonse’s voicing…it’s VERY strange, which is on purpose, but…I don’t like it either. The voice is still boyish in the English dub, if I remember correctly.

      When I first starting watching anime, I pretty much just wanted to watch everything dubbed. I didn’t want to deal with subtitles. Since then, I’ve certainly become more of a sub person, though I really appreciate good dubs (ex. Azumanga Daioh).

      Hmm…Code Geass. Ha, well, you know how I feel about it. But…I did really like it at first. It definitely panders to the crowds (unfortunately, one way is through fanservice). The animation and energy is also great. But…yeah…haha, you might really enjoy it, though. I certainly did until that particular episode I mentioned. 😛

  9. […] Diary of an Anime Lived: The Selfish/Selfless Daddy «Nov 1, 2010 … Because of it, I’m a better daddy. As Tomoya lets goes of his selfishness and establishes the bond with Ushio that his heart so desperately … […]

  10. Well. Some 11 months later, after leaving (I’m pretty sure) my first post on your blog here, finally I’ve watched this episode. Having never had children, I cannot feel its effects in the same way. I just tweeted that my only regret is that it never fulfilled the longing that welled up in me for Tomoya to say simply to Ushio in the scene on the train back home: I loved your mother so very much.

    Then I’d have been the one bawling.

    This is hardly a nitpick, let alone a criticism. R86 is a blunt East Coast boy that likes to put it out there, and Tomoya is Tomoya. I guess he did say it — only he said it his way. Is there any doubt on watching this scene that Tomoya loved Nagisa more than words could say? More than his words could say, at any rate?

    I just hit the “9” button at MAL, which you know is significant. That puts this show in the company of Fruits Basket, AnoHana, and the first season of Oofuri. A 10 would put the show in the same category as FMA: Brotherhood.

    Darned few shows make these ranks for me. Professor R86 is a tough grader, as everyone knows by now. 😉

    1. Wow, a 9! I do know what that means. Your tough grading of anime makes me wonder how difficult your college courses are!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the episode. I always feel this need for others to enjoy the same episodes/movies/series that I treasure. Obviously, this one is particularly significant to me, so all the more so. In fact, I’d probably be quite sad if you didn’t like this episode.

      Anyway, we’ll see where you you end up rating the series once you finish. Many (MANY) didn’t like the ending – I found it appropriate. I’m eager to see how you feel.

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