Not having had regular contact with his own daughter for 5 long years, it is no surprise that Tomoya is at a loss as to what to do with Ushio in his hands. In a most bitterly ironic twist, he’s ended up doing with Dango Jr. exactly what he said he would when asked by a good friend about his feelings on becoming a parent; that is, winging it as it goes. Such a course of events came to be when the elder Okazaki, having lost the one thing he felt was worth living his life for, sank for the last half-decade into the apathetic self-loathing state which had characterized much of his early years. Yet, it is exactly this course of events which will lead him to truly understand and come to terms with the misunderstanding that has haunted his life all these years, as well as recognize that there was something else worth living his life for under his nose all along.
CLANNAD ~After Story~, Episode 18.
One can only imagine what thoughts have gone through Ushio’s mind since the day she learned to speak. Why has she lived her entire life being brought up by her grandparents instead of her parents, like all the other children? What kind of person was the mother whom she had never remembered ever meeting? Why did her father seem not to love her, like the fathers of other children seemed to do? Was it her fault that her parents don’t love her anymore? Nagisa was the kind of girl who blamed herself for the fact that she became an insurmountable obstacle in the way of Akio’s and Sanae’s dream careers; I can totally see a similar precedent in the future with Ushio blaming herself for the end of her Mama’s life, and robbing her Papa of the love of his life. In a way….it’s even more upsetting just thinking about it.
But if that were to happen, it would still be sometime in the future yet, so let’s forget that for the moment and focus on the present; at least, despite all the initial protestations within his inner monologue about the state of affairs, Tomoya actually seems to be warming up quite fast towards Ushio, almost as if it was always meant to be this way.
At first, I saw this scene for the innocuous "child playing in a sunflower field with father looking on" scene that it appeared to be on first glance. Then, I suddenly realized that "….there was supposed to be one more person there". And I (T_T) ‘d.
Amusingly, it seems that Dango Jr. inherited one of her mother’s most unlikely of traits. ^_^
In a twist of fate (or perhaps of overt manipulation), Tomoya meets the grandmother he never knew he had, Shino-san. It is from her that he would learn just what kind of man his father Naoyuki really was, and what little the latter had actually done right, despite the many wrongs he committed.
On another note, I kind of want to hear Sanae-san go keikaku doori in her best Grace O’Connor impression right now. Although I’m wondering, how did Sanae-san know of Shino-san in the first place? Perhaps we’ll hear from her later.
So, Okazaki Naoyuki was just like how his son was; ultimately, a born dreamer content to live in the happiness he found from day to day, hardly thinking about any plans that he might have for the future, even conceiving a child just like that. Everything that Tomoya had gone through with Nagisa and Ushio, to this day, was merely history repeating itself.
But unlike Tomoya a number of years down the road, Naoyuki seemed to have recognized immediately that there is still someone he has to live for, and without sinking into a long period of numbness like Tomoya did, he proceeded to wing the upbringing of Tomoya like he did with his relationship with Atsuko, and eventually the way Tomoya would do down the road with Nagisa.
And Naoyuki may have tried his best, but it is the sad reality that no matter how strong one might be, one cannot possibly endure the harshness of the reality that he found himself in; namely, that of a single parent who, having dropped out of school, could not possibly support himself and his child as well as he might have hoped. Simply winging it and hoping for the best ended up turning out for the worst, with Tomoya estranged from him, and only realizing the great sacrifices that Naoyuki made for his sake even if his upbringing wasn’t anywhere near perfect after he himself stepped into the elder Okazaki’s shoes. However, although Naoyuki never had any doubts about wanting to bring up Tomoya, perhaps there was one thing that his son enjoys that he never had; a supportive family like the one Tomoya found in the Furukawas. Perhaps, that may yet prove the decisive factor between Tomoya’s own less-than-satisfactory upbringing, and hopefully Ushio’s own.
It is almost evocatively touching how, in just this one moment, Tomoya matured by such a great deal, beyond the apathetic delinquent who professed to hating the city before his fateful meeting with a weak girl at the bottom of a sakura-laden hill path, beyond the prankster who took interest in the troubles of others in order to forget his own, and even beyond the young adult who sidestepped the attempts of his one true love to help him reconcil with the father he never wanted to acknowledged. There’s just something powerful in how Tomoya finally got around to admitting his own failings as a son, how by focusing too much on the disappointments blinded himself to the sacrifices that his own father made for his sake, even if they were sometimes in vain.
The mother who, though at the tail end of her life, never ceased to watch over her son as he, in turn, did his best to raise the grandson, though he did so at great cost to himself. And the grandson, in turn, realizes that it is his time to watch over his own progeny as they take their turn at growing up, going through their childhood and adolescence to the day that it would be her turn to watch over progeny of her own. When one takes the tale of the parent and the child in this context, one sees that it is really the story of the human family, timeless in its passage through time. It’s quite….overwhelming.
5 years it may have been, but it is not at all 5 years too late, it is better 5 years late than never. It may have taken 5 years for Tomoya to work out his issues, but he is finally ready to take charge of his own family, even if Nagisa is no longer with him. He can finally move on from the woman who turned his life around, to a life with the final legacy she has left for him in this world.
Though our beloved Dango-chan is gone, she lives on in the heart of the man she chose as the love of her life, and she shall live on in the stories that he tells to the Dango Jr. whom they have brought into this world.
And as Tomoya moves on with his life with Ushio in tow, it is nice to think that whatever they make of their life from now on, Nagisa shall always be watching over them from where she might be now. You will always be in our hearts, sugar.