First of all, I’m thankful for Sarazanmai’s premiere because it made me realize whatperspective I specifically have to offer. Perhaps one reason I fail to put out content frequently is that, when I want to analyze a work, I want to analyze everything. Nobody can do that. That’s what I’ve tried to do with Clannad and have failed spectacularly, barely scratching the surface of the first season alone in a total of over 100,000 words. I was most successful when I focused on very specific elements of the story, like the Ibuki Sisters. The work that I’m consistently the most proud of, like my (hopefully only first) piece on Suguha from Sword Art Online, focuses on specific topics, in that example, one scene in episode 15.
Anyways, I’ve realized that, in order to contribute to the Sarazanmai discourse in as meaningful a way as possible, I need to utilize my own perspective, and I think the most interesting perspective I can bring to the table is my own neurodivergency. One of the few things I’m not too hot on in Monogatari is how, in Hanekawa’s case, they make a point of comparing her apparitions to a multiple-personality disorder. I think it’s wrong to try to squeeze Hanekawa into a box like that. Fortunately, that’s the only instance in which Monogatari does that. Society’s insistence on pathologizing neurodiversity is a structure that I think I can actually engage with meaningfully in fiction. Okay, I’m not saying people shouldn’t get diagnosed, medicated and go to therapy, I’m saying that they should not have to hide their struggles out of fear of being treated differently for them. Folks should not be othered for any reason, including neurodivergency. But this is all obvious stuff.
In my own case, I’ve had ADHD and struggled with anxiety since childhood, struggled with depression since high school and have struggled with self-hatred and experienced delusional and psychotic episodes with varying frequencies since starting college. There’s a difference between me outlining those things myself and having them imposed upon me. The phrase “struggle with” is particularly empowering when it is applied to mental health issues, as I did above. Its better than saying “I’ve struggled with depression,” for me, helps me avoid the conflation of my bouts of depression with my identity, even though they have shaped who I am and will likely continue to in the future. Perhaps most importantly, I think, is that, in many cases, the social pathologization of neurodiversity misrepresents some of the frequent causes of many mental health issues. In my case, my anxiety is the consequence of my traumatic experiences with my second grade teacher. The social pathologization of anxiety does not accommodate the variations in each individual case. For example, my trauma shaped me so that I’m constantly afraid of “getting in trouble” even as an adult. For many people, life-shaping trauma comes at the hands of oppressive structures, and this is something Ikuhara has explored before. Honestly, whenever I’m watching anime, I’m always considering the specific ways characters might be neurodivergent. So yeah, my analysis of Sarazanmai will focus on what insight I can provide from my own perspective of being a neurodivergent individual.
Anyways, enough rambling, onto the actual content.
First of all, you should have expected me to point out this:
And most memorably.
Just had to get that out of the way. Those are probably meaningless parallels found only by grasping at straws, so they probably don’t mean anything.
Actually that’s not true, especially considering the fact that Bakemonogatari didn’t have to start with the scene from Kizumonogatari. The light changing at the crosswalk is a really classic way of indicating that the story is beginning. For both Araragi and Kazuki, these crosswalks herald the dramatic ways in which their lives will change, blah blah blah. The second parallel I noticed both seem to serve the purpose of contrasting the characters with the largeness of the world around them. In Monogatari, characters rarely explicitly engage with that outer world, but in Sarazanmai, I expect that to be different. As for the architecture, I’ve always interpreted the intricate architecture of Ikuhara shows to represent the oppressive structures that his characters are struggling against. Oh and Nobuyuki Takeuchi who storyboarded the first five episodes of Bakemonogatari is codirecting Sarazanmai, but I expected everyone to know that connection already.
Anyway, Kazuki is the member of the main trio that receives the spotlight in this episode. They spends the first half of the episode asserting their need to connect with a certain girl and carrying around a box, one they says they always keeps with them. These boxes contain the characters’ secret desires. The contents of Kazuki’s box “leak” and are broadcasted to Enta and Kuji when they are performing the Sarazanmai sequence. In Kazuki’s box are the clothes of the idol that appears on the TV. The conclusion I immediately came to is that Kazuki is a closeted trans woman. The woman they’re trying to connect with is themself and the model for their femininity seems to be the idol, Sara. Their reaction to the leaking of their secrets to the others is to say that they themselves are “messed up” and that they never asked anyone to understand them. Kazuki seems to have some negative feelings directed towards themself, feelings that are imposed by society’s values which label their behavior and trans identity as being deviant. Having the context of their box leaked put Kazuki on the spot, and their instinctive initial reaction was to affirm the assertions of the systems oppressing them. Kazuki’s assertion that they are “messed up” also seems like a fairly accurate reflection of the systematic government-imposed pathologization of trans identity in Japan, where gender dysphoria is legally considered a mental disorder.
Of course, at the end of the episode, we see a little girl that seems to be receiving their texts and my presumption was that Kazuki is sending the selfies to her, so perhaps their assertion of their need to connect with a certain girl has a double meaning. Another interesting thing is that Kazuki becomes anxious at the idea of being taken in by the police, and it seems that their assumption is that the cops would confiscate the contents of their box. The show has clearly set up the cops as the villains. Perhaps they are supposed to represent the oppressive structures our characters will be struggling with.
I’m not sure what’s going on with Kuji, but Enta explicitly states to his sister that the contents of his box are for Kazuki, and it seems like the contents are representative of romantic feelings. There seems to be a lot of anxiety between the three main characters regarding the secrecy of the contents of their boxes. I was considering taking this down cause I’m just stating the obvious, but it seems like that’s what some people on twitter want, based on what I saw of the tweets reacting to this episode.
Note: This is an edited version of a previous post. In that post the style of my writing in recounting certain violent episodes from my youth, my efforts to capture how I felt in the moment, as an unwitting agent in reinforcing the marginalization of queer identity, was very graphic, and some folks were unable to read past a certain point, so I’ve edited those parts out.
It’s no secret that Kyoto Animation’s adaptation of the Clannad visual novel is generally considered one of the most heartwarming anime ever made. It tugs at heartstrings in a variety of ways, like through its portrayals of the beauty of a family persevering through turmoil, of childhood trauma and the struggle to process it and of the miracle of life. The romance at its heart is often praised as being one of the best in anime, with Tomoya and Nagisa appearing in countless lists of top ten anime couples. The core theme of Clannad is that family is paramount. Clannad believes that families must always stick together no matter what. Clannad has a lot to say about what it means to become an adult, the value of blue-collar work, the difficulties of parenthood and many other things. Clannad also has a bit to say about queer sexuality.
The issue of queer rights in Japan has become more prominent in recent years. Fear of queer sexuality is common in Japan, as it is in the United States. Naturally, this increased presence in political discourse has caused the most reactionary voices in Japanese politics to cry out in outrage. Mio Sugita, a parliament member belonging to the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, wields one of these voices. She recently appeared on television and recounted being asked whether queer problems have a place in Japanese education, saying that she thought it was “definitely unnecessary.” When told that the suicide rate among homosexual children is six times higher than among children in general, she laughed and articulated her belief that teachers in Japanese schools have more pressing concerns. Despite knowing that she is on the far right, has fringe views and has been condemned by politicians on both sides, watching this clip still sent a chill down my spine.
In my opinion, whenever a big fuss is made over one reactionary openly expressing their hate, the number of people that share that view is always more than the media backlash would suggest. What I’m saying is that Japan, like the United States, has a great deal of progress to make in queer civil rights and acceptance of queer sexuality. My impression of the clip of Mio Sugita on television is that her attitude towards queer people is one of dismissal. Dismissive attitudes are focal point in the system by which hatred is reinforced and passed between generations in Japan.
And now, a little bit about me.
When I was entering middle school, I was frequently the subject of gay-related name-calling. In one particular incident at Summer camp, I responded with violence. The eleven-year-old me was exhilarated at the feeling of power in being able to use force to punish the ringleader of the kids bullying me.
Outside of fighting a few times with my little sister, who I thought was out to get me, I had never demonstrated any violent behavior. This incident, during the summer before I started middle school, was only the second. In both cases, I became violent in response to gay-related name calling and got away with it because I lied and said the other kid had hit me first. The adults in charge never believed the other kids’ stories. They couldn’t fathom the thought of me being violent. None of my behavior up until that point had suggested that such a thing would even be possible.
When I was once again the subject of gay-related name-calling during the following school year I responded in the same way. Again, the feeling of having power over the one tormenting me was thrilling.
When his parents called the school, I pulled the same bullshit but ended up having to serve a detention anyway. With those incidents, I learned that I’m the kind of person that bottles shit in and then snaps, seemingly without warning. These memories were my first experiences with the concept of queer sexuality. The idea had filled me with so much fear and anxiety. I don’t look back fondly on these memories. It was petty and pathetic. It was also traumatic for me to witness myself cause such violence. Though I suppressed these feelings at the time, I became constantly aware and afraid of the potential I had for hurting other people. That stuck with me through high school.
I ended up placing into the highest track for the next year, and there was a lot less name-calling from there on out.
As an adolescent male, there was no graver punishment than being branded as gay. That’s what it feels like when name-calling comes from bullies, or people you perceive to be superior to you, it feels like a punishment. The only thing that could bring me to challenge that authority was my intense fear that people would think I really was gay. Due to traumatic experiences I had when I was in second grade, experiences I’ll perhaps dive into another time, I came to associate bullies with authority. It wasn’t a healthy perception to have, but it’s pretty insightful when used as a lens to explore gay-related name-calling and bullying of queer students in Japan, where teachers sometimes join in on the bullying. We’ll come back to that.
Why did I snap in each of those incidents? What was so gravely offensive about being called gay that would lead me to become so violent? Why was gay such a potent insult? It often has little to nothing to do with sexuality, but at the same time, it has everything to do with sexuality. In 2007, when I was in sixth grade, I was playing with Bionicles while all the other kids were out playing sports or playing video games like Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto. The only video games I played were Pokémon, Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones. Naturally, I never had anything to contribute when guys would stroll into class in the morning, raving about their heroism and exploits on the battlefield. I was too busy thinking about Bionicle’s expansive and complex lore. In addition, I have ADHD, so I’ve always been very impulsive. That combined with anxiety, tied to those traumatic experiences I mentioned, made me socially incompetent compared to most of my classmates. If life was a masculinity competition, I was losing, and that’s why I was labeled as gay. It had nothing to do with my sexuality. Well, maybe I was also particularly sensitive to it because there was a period of a couple weeks that year when I seriously questioned my sexuality. Anyways, being branded as gay has more to do with failing to conform to gender roles than it does with actually being gay.
They called me gay because I wasn’t manly enough.
Thoughts along the lines of, “there’s nothing wrong with being gay” never occurred to me, and if somebody said such a thing to me, I don’t think it would have made me feel any better. John Clark knew that being gay was a bad thing. That misinformation didn’t come from my home; it came from my peers. I entered middle school and the regime of masculinity sorted all males my age between ‘gay’ and ‘not gay.’ The kids that conformed to gender roles naturally were on top. The kids that were designated gay could only remove that label by conforming to the behavior of the kids designated as ‘not gay.’
Adolescent males also throw around ‘gay’ while messing around with their friends. The difference is in the delivery. When it’s from a friend and in a lighthearted manner, it doesn’t feel like bullying. It’s not being used to dismiss that person’s very existence. That doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful. Even I engaged in playful gay-related name calling with my friends, though I quit relatively early. One day, in February of my first year of middle school, my friend and I were messing around in the auditorium before play practice and calling each other gay. The only other people there were the director and the set manager, an incredibly muscular high school sophomore named Steve. To me, he was the pinnacle of masculinity. He was a very easily irritated person, and I was always afraid that he would bully me. He also wore pajamas almost exclusively, which I thought was awesome. The director, Andy, excused himself to go to the bathroom. When he left, Steve walked over, grabbed my friend and I each by the collar, and told us that he never wanted to hear us call each other or anybody else gay in a demeaning way ever again. He told us that Andy was openly gay and asked us how we thought it must feel for him to hear us throwing around homosexuality as an insult. He said it was like we were stepping all over Andy. My friend was scared shitless in the moment, but he didn’t really adjust his behavior after that, except for when he was around Steve. I never called anybody gay again… I think. That moment stuck with me, and I often thought about it even after the name-calling had ended in my second year.
I had never questioned the idea that homosexuality is wrong and weird back then. It wouldn’t have mattered to me, what mattered to me then was the fact that those that branded me as gay thought it was wrong and weird. The possibility that there could be people that thought otherwise never occurred to me. All of my negative feelings toward homosexuality were rooted in my resentment for being labeled gay and being dismissed and put down for it. The wakeup from Steve call is something that I’ll always be grateful for because it laid the foundation for me to eventually realize that there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about being gay. I’d never thought about how there were real people who were really gay and it was the first time that somebody other than my parents said that it was wrong to call to weaponize homosexuality as a tool for putting other people down. It was my first experience that challenged all the misinformation regarding homosexuality that was washing over me each and every day in class. On top of that, it came from the guy that I thought was the pinnacle of masculinity. I think it helped prevent me from getting totally lost in the hatred and fear that my experiences with gay related name-calling carried with them.
In the summer before I went into seventh grade, I really got into Avatar. There’s an episode of Avatar in which Katara describes Aang as being, “more in touch with his feminine side than most guys.” I was immediately able to identify with that sentiment, and even through college, I often used it to describe myself when it would be relevant to conversation. Even more influential than that was watching Zuko grow and change over the course of the series. Zuko started out as the villain, chasing his father’s approval. As the series progressed, Zuko grew softer and warmer as he struggled with which side he was going to take. Zuko, at the end of the series, was much less concerned with masculinity than he was at the beginning. That growth stuck with me so much that the one thing I most associate with growing up is growing out of the obsession with masculinity that grips most adolescent boys. Breaking that obsession with masculinity is, in my opinion, the key to combatting homophobia.
The strongest fuel for homophobia is lack of information. That’s the key to how homophobia gets passed between generations, and the only way to ameliorate that is through education. Most people don’t understand queer sexuality. I think this is far more common than people not wanting to understand queer sexuality, though there are many people that feel that way. To them, queer sexuality is a source of fear, something to be driven away. However, it is precisely because people don’t understand queer sexuality that they fear it. Those folks that fear queer sexuality don’t want others to understand it either and spread misinformation, even through education. The lack of any positive or accurate information means that the misinformation is likely to spread, take root and remain unchallenged. The kids grow up knowing only that misinformation, and, unless they research on their own, they never will understand queer sexuality, so it will remain for them something to be feared. And why would kids research queer sexuality if they believe they’ve learned, formally or informally, everything they need to know about it?
Not all folks that don’t understand queer sexuality are overwhelmed by fear and the hatred that it sows but that doesn’t mean those people will see the value of understanding queer sexuality. Activism and visibility for queer folks are the only cures to this system. The truth needs to overwrite the misinformation. The lesson, which I think can be drawn from the anecdotes I’ve shared, is that a few positive experiences with something could potentially drown out the darkness cast by countless past negative experiences with that thing. Those experiences changed me for the better. They saved me from potentially living the rest of my life in fear of queer sexuality. The best way to prompt people to question the misinformation they were fed and seek the truth, is advocacy for understanding. As time progresses, it will hopefully become impossible for the queer community to be ignored. I would say the United States has seen this come to fruition to an extent over the past 15 years, at least in urban areas. The internet is a vital source of information and means for maximizing visibility as well. This is precisely why queer issues have been discussed more openly in recent years.
Everything I’ve written so far has come research and reflections prompted by my most recent watch of Clannad. Clannad indulges itself in four ‘jokes’ that treat queer sexuality as a punchline in its first season. The first time I watched Clannad, when I wasn’t thinking critically, just mindlessly consuming, I laughed out loud to all four of these jokes. With each rewatch of Clannad, I’ve become more and more perturbed by these ‘jokes.’ I’m going to use the research and anecdotes I’ve provided to contextualize Clannad’s jokes that target queer sexuality and explore the implications of each of them.
Clannad’s first major gay joke is in the second episode. Tomoya is speaking with Ryou Fujibayashi, the class representative, who has a crush on him. Her sister Kyou, who also has a crush on Tomoya, mowed him down with her bike on her way to school that day. Tomoya starts to complain to Ryou, but Kyou, who’s in another class, comes in, cuts Tomoya off as he’s saying “bike” and pulls him out into the hallway. She tells him that it’s forbidden to ride a bike to school and she doesn’t want anybody to know because she doesn’t want to get in trouble. Tomoya walks back to his seat and, as if to continue what he had been saying before getting hauled off, he stands up and announces, “Kyou Fujibayashi is bi.” That’s the joke. Confusion and shock follows, and Kyou drags Tomoya back into the hallway.
This is the most simple of Tomoya’s gay jokes. Unlike the others, it’s not meticulously crafted, because it happened in the moment. In reaction to Okazaki’s announcement, many students wonder aloud what “bi” means. The confusion here is actually reflective of the lack of specific information about queer sexuality in Japanese schools. One of the students in the class reacts by saying, “you mean like male and female,” to which another student responds, “she does seem very masculine.” This absurd piece of misinformation, which might sound right to somebody that doesn’t understand queer sexuality, is never refuted by the show. It’s left uncorrected. Clannad actively participates in spreading misinformation about queer sexuality.
Clannad is also making light of the very serious issue of queer students being outed against their will. In Japan, in recent years, increased prominence of queer issues and representation on the internet and in media has caused more Japanese youth to begin to question their identity. Kids explore the more remote corners of the internet or stumble upon manga like Girlfriends, or anime like Flip Flappers, Love Live and Gatchaman Crowds. They meet other folks or see characters with whom they identify, characters that are endearing yet don’t fit into the artificial boxes of male and female, into which society tries to stuff anyone and everyone. In the stories they read, they find shared experiences, similar in nature to the way I found reflections of myself in Aang and Zuko. With this trend, more and more queer Japanese students are approaching teachers and coming out to them for various reasons. Examples of these sorts of exchanges include a young transgender woman requesting to wear the uniform assigned to girls, or to change in the girls’ locker room, or to sleep with the girls on the class trip.
Unfortunately, most teachers in Japan have no training in helping queer students and have only cursory knowledge regarding queer issues and experiences. Much of this knowledge is likely informed by harmful stereotypes. Even formal education in queer related issues is problematic, because in Japan, being transgender is still considered a mental illness. As a result, most Japanese teachers are unequipped to assist their queer students. This lack of queer-related training for educators causes a variety of problems, the most prominent of which are the cases in which a teacher outs a queer student to their classmates and/or their parents against their wishes. This isn’t always malicious. It is the natural result of a lack of education and a proliferation of misinformation. What is malicious is Mio Sugita’s assertion that educating students in queer matters is a waste of time. Luckily, the system is changing. More people in the Japanese government are pushing for queer rights and the education ministry sent a notice last year to all teachers that outing their students can cause depression and suicide.
In the United States there is an infamous example of a student being outed by his peers. Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University, took his own life after his roommate secretly livestreamed an intimate evening between Clementi and another male student via iChat. Dealing with the suicide of a classmate or somebody else at your school can be a traumatic experience. It happened a few times when I was in high school and at Notre Dame. The entire campus is shaken, even those that don’t know the deceased student. Though it doesn’t seem as though Kyou is actually bisexual, Tomoya’s cruel joke makes light of the act of outing somebody against their will, and all the baggage attached to the subject.
The second gay joke is much more calculated by Tomoya and is only possible because the writers crafted it. It wouldn’t have gone nearly as far if it only depended upon the natural outcome of Tomoya’s setup. Tomoya and Sunohara are helping Nagisa recruit members for the drama club, so Tomoya directs Sunohara to tell Ryou to come to the roof of the school because there is somebody waiting there that wants to confess their love. This is particularly cruel on Tomoya’s part because Ryou has a crush on Tomoya. Since Ryou knows that Sunohara is Tomoya’s “best friend,” she was likely led to believe that the one waiting on the roof to confess their feelings was Tomoya. If nothing else, she at least got her hopes up.
When Ryou reaches the roof, she’s shocked to learn that the one who wants to talk to her is a girl, Nagisa. Naturally, the charade would end shortly after Nagisa began speaking to Ryou, but the writers overreach and deliberately make Nagisa’s lines vague and misleading. The joke becomes artificial. After a lot of misleading build up, Nagisa asks Ryou to join the drama club, at which point Kyou comes out onto the roof, having been eavesdropping.
This scene mocks a very delicate type of situation, one in which somebody comes out of the closet to the person they are confessing without knowing how that person will react. The writers even have Nagisa say, “I’ve been troubled by it, but I decided to be brave,” mocking the immense courage required for Queer students to come out and confess to somebody who likely won’t even be attracted to them.
When Ryou says that she didn’t expect it to be a girl, Sunohara chimes in saying, “Sex doesn’t matter, the important thing is the heart.” This is a good sentiment, but coming from Sunohara and in the context of the joke, it comes across as mocking homosexuality. Sunohara’s characterization, especially at this point in the story, is such that nothing he says is meant to be taken seriously. He exists to suck so that Tomoya can look good in comparison. He is presented as a character that ought to be dismissed and this extends everything he does and says. Clannad’s attitude toward Sunohara’s declaration is just as dismissive as Mio Sugita was in her interview.
The third joke, which seems to target transgender and genderqueer people, is probably the most intricate and calculated of Tomoya’s queer focused jokes. For this joke, Tomoya once again takes advantage of Ryou’s submissiveness and her feelings for him to craft his hateful prank. When Fuuko zones out in the hallway, Tomoya tells Ryou say to Fuuko, “I’m Okazaki, I’ve become a girl,” when she comes to. Tomoya further instructs to her say, “it comes off sometimes” if Fuuko asks what happened and, “for the time being” in response to any other inquiry from Fuuko.
After hearing from Ryou that “it comes off sometimes,” Fuuko asks whether “it” might come and attach itself to her. This is yet another artificial joke. Fuuko’s questions and responses were designed by the writers to have maximum comedic effect without any regard for how realistic it would be for anybody to say such things. I admit, the idea of a little cartoon penis running around in red sneakers and randomly attaching and detaching itself from various individuals is a bit humorous, but the fact that the writers thought it reasonable to believe that the audience would buy into this is yet another testament to the void of information and pervasive misinformation about queer sexuality in Japanese schools.
Fuuko’s immediate concern that the wild penis in red sneakers might pose a threat to her, her gender and her sexuality is a testament to the disposition uninformed Japanese students have toward queer sexuality. All of these jokes treat queer sexuality as something alien, and this joke also portrays it as a source of fear from Fuuko’s point of view.
The final joke targeting queer sexuality focuses on Sunohara. Many Clannad fans, including myself, have theorized that Sunohara might be gay and Kyo-Ani’s adaptation seems to put some effort into portraying Sunohara in a manner which does not rule out this possibility. If Sunohara is gay, then this joke would be the only one in Clannad which directly targets a queer character.
After the end of Kotomi’s arc, Tomoya and the various women he has assembled in his harem all decide to join the drama club, giving Nagisa the number of members she needs to officially reestablish the club. The last thing they need is a club advisor. In the time in which the drama club had been dissolved, the former drama club adviser became the adviser to the choir club. The choir club was formed by Rie Nishina as a means for her to continue pursuing her passion for music after sustaining permanent injuries to her hand in a tragic accident which made it impossible for her to play the violin. Sunohara devises a dumbass plan to show the members of the choir club that they shouldn’t let handicaps hold them back, hoping to somehow convince them to surrender their adviser, the one true good boy, Koumura-sensei. This was something they did not need to be shown at all and was incredibly insensitive on the part of Sunohara because it just reminded Nishina of the fact that she can never play violin the way she used to because of the injury to her hand. Sunohara’s plan was to demonstrate their ability to overcome handicaps by having the drama club play the basketball team three on three. Tomoya had been on the basketball team and was forced to quit due to permanent damage to his shoulder, a consequence of domestic violence. Tomoya wants to avoid basketball, so he turns down Sunohara. Sunohara persists, constantly chasing after Tomoya and trying to convince him to get on board with his incomprehensibly idiotic plan.
With Sunohara on his heels, Tomoya, at the end of the school day, grabs Nagisa and runs away. When Nagisa asks him what Sunohara is chasing him for, Tomoya tells her that Sunohara actually likes him. I’d like to note that, if that is true, which is a point of fervent debate, it would be another example of this show making light of the issue of queer students being outed against their will.
The subject of the joke is Sunohara, but the purpose of it is to freak out Nagisa. Nagisa’s reaction is the substance of the comedy this joke is creating. Nagisa’s response to this is framed for maximum comedic effect. Nagisa’s immediate reaction feels a lot more like horror than shock. She becomes frantic and restless. In his explanation, Tomoya leans fully into the show’s portrayal of Sunohara as being totally pathetic, saying, “Lately I haven’t paid much attention to him and it’s made him so lonely that he’s carrying on like that.” Nagisa tells Tomoya that he should consider Sunohara’s feelings seriously. That’s a wonderful thing for Nagisa to say, but unfortunately, the writers made that part of her reaction because it is supposed to be funny. The worst part of Tomoya’s relationship with Nagisa is the dismissive attitude he sometimes has towards her when she becomes assertive. Nagisa herself doesn’t seem too confident in what she is saying.
When Sunohara catches up and reaches for Tomoya’s sleeve, Nagisa grabs his arm and tells him to stop. She then lies and says that Tomoya is her boyfriend, hoping that she can “protect” him from Sunohara.
When Sunohara’s sister later overhears Nagisa mentioning it, Nagisa clarifies that Tomoya and Sunohara aren’t lovers and that Sunohara is just “forcing himself” on Tomoya. Nagisa adds that she thinks that “love comes in different forms for different people.” This is a wonderful sentiment. Unfortunately, it is undermined by the fact that this is all a part of one big joke. When Nagisa asks Tomoya to say something to comfort Sunohara’s sister, he directly undermines and dismisses any sincerity of Nagisa’s words by saying, “this is too much fun, I’m just gonna sit back and watch.”
For Nagisa, Tomoya’s deception recontextualizes Sunohara’s behavior as harassment, reinforcing various stereotypes in Japan regarding gay men. In my opinion, the second most prominent way in which homophobia manifests in straight cisgender men is in the fear of gay men pursuing them, and I think this “joke” plays upon the fear that many straight men have of receiving unwanted sexual advances from gay men. In addition, Sunohara’s thorough characterization as a connoisseur of sexual harassment and depravity matches harmful stereotypes associated with gay men. Ultimately, the drama club does follow through with Sunohara’s plan, and it works. Sunohara’s suggestion of this plan seems to be intended to be a redeeming moment for Sunohara, an opportunity for him to not be the literal worst. Tomoya turns Sunohara into the bad guy by telling Nagisa that he is gay.
So, what does it all mean? Well, if you are going to opt to adopt the dismissive attitude of the people that allow homophobia to fester, you’ll tell me that it means nothing because they’re just jokes. If you’re not in the mood to take the attitude of oppressors, you’ll realize that, either intentionally or unintentionally, Clannad essentially contains anti- queer propaganda. At first, that might seem like a radical jump, but there are four of these jokes in the first season of Clannad. Two of them span across two scenes and one even carries over from one episode to another. Three of them are very intricately crafted. All of them treat queer sexuality as a punchline and between them, they cover quite a variety of different manifestations of queer sexuality. The worst moment in all of these jokes is after Sunohara runs away during the fourth joke. Tomoya and Nagisa are both blushing and Tomoya tells Nagisa that it made him happy when she said he was her boyfriend. This moment establishes Clannad as a story where heterosexuality reigns supreme by putting down queerness. Clannad is not wholesome. The warmth and fuzziness of Clannad disguises a disturbing preoccupation with demonizing and dismissing queer sexuality.
Here, to cleanse your soul after having to read so much about my past and about Clannad. That was some fucked up shit.
For subtitles, I’ve seen a few different versions of fansub, but here I’m using Sentai’s subtitles for reference.
If you’re interested in all the technical stuff regarding LGBTQ+ students in Japan, or even if you aren’t, I suggest you read this report by Human Rights Watch. This is where I pulled my information from.
So apparently there are people that don’t like senpai;notes—no, that’s not the right way to start this. However, that being my instinctual response to feeling I need to apologize is very telling. I believe I’ve said this in the past, but senpainotes is an exercise in performance art. Sorta. It wasn’t always that way. That doesn’t make any of my problematic behavior any better but hmmmm. I was going into this intending to say that the most problematicof Notes’s behavior was performative.But… I’ve always been unhinged Online. I’ve always been impulsive and obsessive. That has always been true of me. So while I had been intending to dismiss my more problematic behavior as elaborate performance art, I’m finding upon just the slightest reflection that I cannot say such things honestly in most cases. That’s just me being me. I’ve always been the kind of guy that won’t leave it be, that doesn’t know when to stop, that needs to have things spelled out explicitly in order to get the message. I’ve always been that kind of fool. Maybe the whole idea about it being performance art is a lukewarm justification that I manufactured to create separation between the real me and my abusive and otherwise deeply troubling behavior online. Perhaps it’s just one of my many delusions.
There is some problematic behavior or comments that I can categorically rule out as the product of my performative instincts, and that’s all the questionable little sister stuff. Leave it to me to replicate in my behavior the greatest flaw of the anime closest to my heart. I was wrong to think that people would be entertained by that, and I’m sure that many reactions I perceived as affirmations were really just folks trying to hide their discomfort. I’m sorry everybody.
I think… I think a big problem I have is that I’ve become so dissociated with the real world. I haven’t had a conversation with somebody my age outside of a classroom in over two years, and I haven’t regularly conversed with folks my age in almost three.Over the past four years I’ve gone through two major nervous breakdowns. The first one was the reason I originally had to withdraw from Notre Dame. That was the first time I hit rock bottom, and it was at that rock bottom that I first watched Monogatari. And no, I’m not gonna say Monogatari saved me, because I spent the following year and a half consistently sabotaging my efforts to get back into Notre Dame each semester, a pattern that culminated in my second nervous breakdown in the late Fall of 2017/Early Winter of 2018.
If you’re reading this, you probably knew me at that time. During that time I was particularly active on here. I went on a number of “crusades” during that time, a label that’s certainly reflective of my performative embellishments on my problematic behavior. That being said, Mr. Cynical is a rapist by his friends’ own (later) admission. So I’m not apologizing for that. Even so, those “crusades” as I call them, or “witch-hunts” as the folks on the receiving end called them, even though I almost always acted alone, were nothing more than harassment campaigns and they weren’t healthy for me. All notions of justice aside, those harassment campaigns always corresponded to manic episodes I was having, symptoms of the greater mental health crisis I was falling into at the time. I’m not trying to excuse any of my problematic behavior as symptoms of mental illness. My harassment of progrockboy carried on well into 2018. He didn’t deserve any of that, he’s just a reactionary kid who doesn’t know any better.
I was under the delusion that I’d be able to convert him, I had fantasies of him going on to become a model SJW in his own right and convert all of his reactionary followers. I really was delusional. I don’t know what to attribute that to. Maybe it’s from spending so much time stuck in my own head. Maybe it was boredom. Maybe those delusions, which trace back to that Fall of 2017, were born out of a need for something to preoccupy me, to distract me from how my life was collapsing during that Fall. I couldn’t face the reality of my deteriorating mental health, so I played at being a hero of justice on twitter dot com. The following Spring, when I wasn’t in school, I had nothing to do, so I think I probably hung onto those delusions as something to waste time on. Now that I think about it, whenever some reactionary would reply to me asking me about my motivations, I always replied that I was just wasting time.
More than anything else in that Spring, I spent my time really planting my roots firmly in this corner of Anitwitter, something that I think really solidified when I finally let go of the progrockboy delusions. That was also when I started the summer term, which ended up being my first totally successful semester of college since 2015. I’m confident that I only managed to do it because I’ve finally found a home with the community in this small corner of Anitwitter.
Old habits die hard though, and, as you probably remember, in late August/early September, I struggled to kick my tendencies as a provocateur. It was only when I thought I had seriously endangeredmy standing in this community that I was finally able to kick the bad habit. Though, with the whole Juju situation I was often tempted and sometimes tried to use that to relive past glory, each time I did, I got tired of it before it became a shit show over which I’d lost control.
I think I can confidently say that I’ve finally really once and for all kicked that habit. At the present time, I have no desire whatsoever to engage in that sort of thing, but I know that may change and I may be tempted in the future. Wait no. I was sure I’d end it here, but reflecting upon my recent behavior, the belief that my obsessiveness only manifests in “crusades” is yet another delusion of mine.
Actually, I haven’t quit that habit at all. I haven’t learned anything and I haven’t changed. I’m still that same kind of fool, except this time, my foolishness is alienating people close to me. All I’ve retired from is crusades against people I dislike. Arguably it’s even worse now, it’s been reborn lately in my aggressive recommending if Monogatari.
Looking at my tweets from the past month, this too has been nothing more than a thinly veiled harassment campaign. And what’s worse is that this time, I’ve directed my obsessive energy against folks that I care about and respect. I’m so easily influenced by my own fantasies, and in this case, it’s my fantasy of the idealized Monogatari experience, a belief that everybody can find something of value in the series. I also conveniently forget that people have lives and are busy, or are just so turned off by what they’ve heard about the show that they’re very reasonably resistant to the idea of watching it. All of this just adds up to more delusions.
At the end of the day people should just watch what they want to watch. There’s no need to mention any show more than once. Nobody deserves the harassment I’ve been responsible for and I’m deeply sorry for this behavior. Maybe I’m talking out of my ass, but I’ve probably come to identify with the series so heavily that my aggressive harassment of folks that haven’t seen it is likely a manifestation of a deeper craving for acknowledgement and affirmation.
And, to bring it full circle, perhaps that craving for affirmation was caused by my inconsistent treatment of senpainotes as a practice in performance art. It’s hard to feel affirmed when the person receiving affirmations isn’t totally you. There’s a definite deviation between senpainotes and the real world John Clark —or at least there was. Now it feels a bit blurry, though it shouldn’t. Maybe it’s just because I live my life so totally online.
I think I fell in love with Sword Art Online, and specifically the Fairy Dance arc, on my rewatch because of the show’s theme that your real world personality adjusts to conformity with the persona you’ve built online. Well, I say it’s a theme, but Kirito just comes out right and says it, so, yeah. Anyways, that’s something I’ve experienced over the past five months especially.
There’s also the factor that I’m personally fond of this persona I’ve built under the name senpainotes. Like Sinon, I’ve built this online persona that’s the version of myself Imost want to be, one that I can’t make happen for myself in the real world. SenpaiNotes, the confident and bold hero of justice. Of course, that’s not my image here at all. I blunder too frequently for those ideals to be realized in the ways I want them to be.
“Confident and bold,” I’d like that to remain true of senpainotes, I think it’s part of what makes this special and it’s nice to be this version of myself that won’t come out in the real world, or at the very least, hasn’t yet had the opportunity to. But I’d also like to be SenpaiNotes, the guy who loves his friends and demonstrates it. SenpaiNotes, the guy that goes out of his way to make sure everyone he interacts with is as comfortable as possible. SenpaiNotes, the ally. SenpaiNotes, the guy that puts out compelling original content. SenpaiNotes, the guy that everybody feels comfortable relying on. All of those traits are more valuable than the aggression and obnoxiousness that my ideals have until now mostly been realized as. Those are the traits of folks that are heroes to me when I encounter them in the real world, where I don’t have any confidence in social situations.
Of course, I’ve been talking about how I’d like to change so that I don’t alienate any more people, but I’m not entirely confident that I deserve a place here anymore. Now that I’m taking the time to frankly assess my behavior, I’m bewildered as to why you all haven’t abandoned me. I know I would have. I’ve made myself utterly unlikable, and it’s going to be a Herculean task to try to rectify all the horrible impressions I’ve left on people. I’ve always thought I understood why people block me, but now I really do. Its for protection. This community is supposed to be a place where we can all feel comfortable. To those that I’ve already alienated beyond the point of no return, I will make no effort to win their favor or trust. I’ll leave them alone as they wish. As I type this, my overwhelming feeling is that Anitwitter as a whole would be better off if I left everyone alone forever. But if I did that, I mean, this is my entire social life, this place means more to me than anything in the world. I hate to believe that I’m poisoning it for the rest of you. I always see folks tweeting unwarranted self deprecating commentary, but in my case, there’s demonstrable evidence and likely dozens of personal testimonies that can attest that this place might be better off without me. For now, at least, I’m going to try my best to improve my behavior based on others’ complaints and my findings in this reflection. Please never hesitate to tell me how my behavior might be bothering you or making you feel uncomfortable.
There have been a few folks along the way that haven’t beaten around the bush at all and called me out when I’ve made the atmosphere uncomfortable, and I’m very thankful to all of them.
Damn, there’s so much stuff that I had in my head that I was gonna add. I definitely feel like I haven’t been as totally honest in my self assessment. If nothing else, my use of Monogatari screencaps clearly indicates that I haven’t given up on getting people to watch it, but they’re thematically relevant, so I’ll keep them. Oh yeah. If I’m a liability to you because of my problematic behavior, just cut me off.
I hit rock bottom in March of 2016. I was forced to withdraw from my dream school because my depression had made it impossible for me to succeed academically. I can remember telling myself that I’d manage to fix everything, but those were delusions. I was “averting my eyes” from the truth. I was so lonely. As my life started spiraling downwards, I never once considered asking for help.
I kept telling myself that I had the power to fix my situation all on my own, but every time I tried to focus on fixing things, I ended up just going to bed. I was spending so much time escaping into anime, especially shows like Clannad in which I could live my ideal wholesome trad fantasy.
I had reached the point where I figured that I don’t deserve the company of other people, but I still strived for companionship, always sabotaging my efforts as a way of sparing the person to whom I was trying to reach out the burden of having to deal with someone as rotten as me. Nobody had to suffer besides me when I spent time with anime. When my entire world finally came crashing down on me, I blamed myself for being lazy, piling on even more self-hatred than I had already accumulated.
It was not too lit fam. Anyway, part of me is still ashamed of the fact that I had to take a medical withdrawal from Notre Dame. I know I shouldn’t be ashamed and that I had long lost control of my life by no fault of my own, but I still haven’t internalized that.
When I returned home, I spent like three months almost entirely in my basement, curled up on the couch listening to music or watching anime (It was during that period of time that I first watched Monogatari 20 times in a row). A few days after I got home, I rolled over on the couch in the basement and heard some noise. It was my little sister playing with her barbies, which she hadn’t done in a long time. I chatted with her. I’d been crushed with shame whenever speaking to anybody since getting home, but for some reason, I felt totally comfortable chatting with my little sister then. She was in eighth grade at the time. This became a regular occurrence, and she’d always tell me she loved me when she was done and went back upstairs. My little sister became my best friend and helped save me when I hit absolute rock bottom. One of the most compelling scenes in Sword Art Online is in the first episode of the Fairy Dance arc, after Kirito has met Sugou *gag* and learned that Asuna is going to be married off. Kirito is absolutely devastated. His wife is going to be married off without her consent to a creep that she hates and Kirito can’t do anything about. And yes fuck this conflict it fucking sucks. Maybe it’d be okay if he wasn’t so rapey and the objective wasn’t so blatantly for Kirito to protect Asuna’s “purity,” but oh well. Its a testament to how great a character Suguha is that this is my favorite SAO arc despite all of that. Anyway, with a creeper stealing his online wife, Kirito has totally sunken into a pit of despair. This is rock bottom for Kirito.
That evening, Suguha enters Kirito’s room after he fails to respond to her when she tells him the bath is ready. She enters his room because she cares about her br- see, there I go, that’s way more specific than I need to be, I’m just stating the obvious. Anyways… Suguha’s perspective shapes this scene in Kirito’s room, which Sword Art Online utilizes as a representation of his now devastated internal world.
She finds her brother sitting alone on his bed in his room. The room is illuminated only by the moonlight streaming through the huge window in the corner of the room behind the bed and is freezing because it’s the middle of January and he hasn’t turned on the heater. In the first three shots of Kirito after Suguha enters the room, his eyes are hidden by shadows. Suguha turns on the heater and asks what’s going on. Kirito tells her that he just wants to be left alone, which is, of course, the last thing you should say when you want to be left alone. Perhaps Kirito was subconsciously trying to reach out to Suguha in that moment.
The concern in Suguha’s voice grows stronger in response to that most obvious of red flags and we see a look in Kirito’s eyes more harrowing than anything we were privy to during his experiences in Sword Art Online. Our (new) heroine immediately swoops down on him, taking his hands in hers, and asks him what’s wrong and if he’s alright, to which Kirito initially responds that “its nothing.”
Suguha’s demonstration of her love for her brother brings warmth to the room (she turned on the heater) and to Kirito (grasping his hands). That warmth, that love, allows Kirito to open up to her. We get to see the extremely rare “vulnerable Kirito,” a side of him we’ve only seen him show Asuna. He apologizes to Suguha, expressing his despair, saying, “I’m so hopeless and weak,” then expressing his regret that Suguha has to see him in such a compromised state, something he had sworn not to allow happen. Kirito gives an extremely vague explanation of his situation, breaking down into tears in the process.
Suguha throws her arms around him, allowing him to cry into her, uh, bosom, and tells him to hang in there and not give up on being with the one he loves. She instills hope in Kirito.
The next morning (after waking up in same bed as her), Kirito reflects on and affirms Suguha’s words of comfort and encouragement. And then he conveniently gets a message that leads him to the answer to all of his problems BUT THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT.
Just as Suguha brought love and warmth to Kirito when he needed it most and encouraged him to keep fighting, so too did my little sister comfort me when I needed it most. And since then, like Suguha, my little sister has always been my biggest cheerleader, encouraging me not to give up in my struggles to overcome myself. Oh, and now I’m finally going back to Notre Dame, I’ve finally finished clawing my way back up from rock bottom, and I was only able to do it because I had my little sister cheering for me all along the journey.
I’m gonna be writing more about Suguha, since this isn’t as much about her character as it is about the projections of my own experiences onto this one scene in particular.
Ladies versus Butlers is good, easily one of the best fanservice shows. If you know me, you know that my view is that the strength of a story is entirely dependent on the strength of its characters and the dynamics between them. This wasn’t something I expected from this show, but Ladies versus Butlers has what is easily one of the most entertaining and compelling rivalries in anime. I often say that fanservice and otherwise perverse fetish-fueled harem shows are often responsible for producing bombastic and charismatic female characters. Everybody loves Lala and Momo from To Love-Ru and Aqua and Megumin from Konosuba. Monster Musume has a more well-rounded ensemble cast, but all of the women have that fire in them that make them so fun to watch. Ladies versus Butlers has Selnia Iori Flameheart and Tomomi Saikyo.
Selnia and Tomomi, I think, are much more multi-faceted than the examples I gave above. They’re not like Lala, who has no problems and makes a habit of causing extremely amusing problems for Rito. Selnia and Tomomi’s bombastic personalities are both fueled by their own insecurities, which are exacerbated when they are in each other’s presence. Selnia and Tomomi were deeply jealous of each other from the moment they first met and throughout the show, both are driven almost entirely by their desire to confirm their superiority over each other. Every scene that Selnia and Tomomi share is extremely interesting, and as the series goes on, they progressively become more entertaining and intense, especially in the scenes the two share alone. These are the scenes in which one of Ladies versus Butlers’ greatest strengths shines the most. The direction of Ladies versus Butlers is way better than a fanservice show has any right to be. As Selnia and Tomomi’s rivalry begins to substantiate as a competition for Akiharu, the main character, the staging of the scenes they share becomes increasingly theatrical.
One of my favorite scenes in the series is in the fifth episode, when Selnia and Tomomi get locked in the bathhouse together… don’t you roll your eyes at me like that. No of course they don’t have towels. Y’know, actually I think I’m just gonna end it here.
Note: I feel like this ended up being a bit of a flop, it was a mistake to compare Sword Art Online with something as rich as Revolutionary Girl Utena because the conclusions I draw will inevitably be reductive. Honestly, Utena is like a critique of everything SAO does.
Kirito and Utena. What could they possibly have in common, besides swords? Not much, so this is gonna be a short post, unless I decide halfway to start gushing about how much I love Kirito (it didn’t).
The fourth episode of Revolutionary Girl Utena starts with Miki and Utena about to duel, with Miki going on about how he has to possess Anthy to be able to protect her, after that, the rest of the episode is a flashback and it cuts to a scene where Miki is playing piano. In the Sunlit Garden arc, Miki fetishizes Anthy as a replacement for his sister and wishes to take possession of her by winning her in a duel from Utena. Utena goes on a rant about how Anthy shouldn’t be treated like an object, and Miki says the same thing VERBATIM to Touga and Juri when proposing that the student council be disbanded. In this arc, as is the case for most episodes of Utena, Utena is not the protagonist as much as she is a character that functions as a narrative tool used to prompt growth in the focus characters. Over the course of the series, Utena’s actions prompt most of the student council to fall in love with her.
Kirito functions similarly as an auxiliary character throughout much of Sword Art Online. The best examples would be in episodes four and seven of season one, the Black Swordsman and Temperature of the Heart. Although it is much more direct in Kirito’s case, he, like Utena, functions to prompt growth in the focus characters of those two episode, Silica and Liz. Silica, well Silica doesn’t actually grow at all, but Liz does. Well, now that I think about it, Liz’s character development consists of, uhhhh, falling in love with Kirito. Okay, bad example. The better examples are the Fairy Dance, Phantom Bullet and Alicization arcs. Each of those arcs focus primarily on the development of a character other than Kirito. In Fairy Dance, its Suguha, in Phantom Bullet, its Sinon, and in Alicization, its Eugeo.
Suguha is by far my favorite of these characters, and her story is one of escaping into video game adventures with the mysterious Kirito to avoid having to face her complicated feelings for her brother. She originally got into VR games as a way of connecting with her brother who’d lost so much time in the real world because he got trapped in SAO. While unknowingly going on adventures with that very brother, she comes to learn from Kirito that there’s no difference between the virtual world and reality, something demonstrated hilariously when she realizes Kirito, who she fell in love with, is literally her brother, the guy she was trying to forget about. And though she had her heart broken twice in the process, Suguha managed to regain a close relationship with her brother (who’s actually her cousin).
Sinon uses Gun Gale Online “to get stronger” as a means of coping with her past trauma and Kirito shows her that her conception of what constitutes strength is off base, allowing her to find her real strength. That being said, that arc also revolves around Kirito dealing with PTSD and having to face the fact that he’s killed three people, but the emphasis is definitely on Sinon’s journey. Like Suguha and Eugeo, the ED of Sinon’s arc focuses entirely on her. In Alicization, which puts more focus on Eugeo than those other two arcs put on their heroines, Eugeo is struggling to learn to think independently of the corrupt laws that govern their society. So, like, there’s kinda a parallel between Utena and Kirito. In the segments that focus on other characters, in both shows, the protagonists serve as tools for advancing the narratives of the focus characters.
Tomoya didn’t have to be Kotomi’s childhood friend for this to work out, in fact, it would have been better if he wasn’t. We don’t get any other glimpses of Tomoya’s childhood at that age until After Story episode 18. The only thing that these scenes tell us is that he’s wary around adults at that age. Well, actually, it wouldn’t have made sense for Kotomi to be comfortable talking to Tomoya if they weren’t childhood friends.
Kotomi doesn’t have much agency. Tomoya whisks her away on a tour of the school with the intention of making her friends and teaching her to be funny. Neither of these things did Kotomi ask for. The suitcase comes out of nowhere. Couldn’t Kotomi have overcome this on her own?
Kotomi has a rich internal world invisible to all those on the outside, she sees herself as being on a mission to complete her parents’ research as penance. As a result, it is almost impossible to get through to her. She talks to Tomoya because she remembers him, but what would the benefit be to her of interacting with others and making friends? How does making friends help her in her mission? I’m not saying that there’s no benefit of Kotomi making friends, I’m just questioning whether or not she’s able to recognize those benefits or if she’s just letting Tomoya drag her around. Why, Tomoya, why does she need to socialize more? Some people prefer to be alone, and Kotomi’s willingness to sacrifice her time to learn to socialize makes little sense in the context of her fixation on continuing her parents’ research.
Kotomi’s arc is just a really shitty version of Rin’s development in Yuru Camp, and unlike Yuru Camp, Clannad seems to be forcing Kotomi into socializing, whereas Nadeshiko slowly coaxes Rin into camping with the club. It’s hilarious that Ryou is basically a more nuanced version of Kotomi. It’s obvious that Ryou is just as timid as Kotomi, but has developed strategies to overcome that.
Kotomi, like many characters in Clannad, is excellently animated. Special care seems to be given to her movements compared with other characters. Kotomi’s movements are somewhat sluggish, like she’s some moe sloth. One example that really stands out to me is the scene where Tomoya approaches her in the library and she pats the floor next to her, urging him to sit next to her. The way she sidles on the floor of the library is also well done, and, in my opinion, is evidence of my belief that she isn’t as inattentive as she seems and simply doesn’t want to exert the energy to pay attention to people when they approach her. Ugh, it’s like she’s playing dumb!
Kotomi almost certainly fails to see the point in socializing with anybody other than Tomoya until she’s become friends with Nagisa and the Fujibayashi sisters. If Tomoya hadn’t forced her to introduce herself to all those people, she would never have left the library. Don’t get me wrong, I sure as hell am not praising Tomoya. Some people prefer to be alone. You shouldn’t force people to interact with others if they don’t want to. For Kotomi, there was no reason to have a social life. Her entire world revolves around her quest to complete her parents’ research, and friends would only get in the way. Of course, the way Kotomi was living up until this arc was not healthy at all, but Tomoya has no way of knowing whether or not Kotomi simply prefers to be by herself, and Kotomi is too weak willed to resist being pulled around the school.
Kotomi’s back story is handled extremely well, which is a shame, considering how contrived and manipulative it is. The highlight of these flashbacks is Kotomi’s father, who reminded me a lot of my own. The way he is trying to teach his daughter theoretical physics with a metaphor which he has clearly spent a lot of time carefully constructing felt very true to life, the way a real father would get excited when their child demonstrates interest in what they’re passionate about. As great as this, Eureka Seven does it better in its second episode, when Renton feigns interest in becoming a mechanic, causing Axel, his grandfather, to pull out a special set of tools he had been saving for Renton.
Another great moment with Kotomi’s Dad is when he asks her what she wants for her birthday. When Kotomi tells him that she wants a teddy bear, his voice is giddy with excitement, saying that he’ll find the biggest teddy bear there is. Kotomi’s Dad was so elated because it was the first time that Kotomi said that there was something she wanted. This moment is reflected in episode 18 of After Story, when Ushio stubbornly searches for the toy Robot that Tomoya gave her. When Tomoya says that it can be replaced, Ushio says that she wants the original, because it was the first time that Tomoya had picked out and bought her a toy. That’s a pretty great callback, five points for Clannad.