*DISCLAIMER, HEAVY SPOILERS FOR CLANNAD VIDEO GAME AND ANIME FRANCHISE*
The first thing you may notice about this video-game-turned-anime-franchise is that the word ‘Clannad’ has its origin in the Irish Gaelic word meaning “family”. This would initially surprise as most Japanese franchises are either written in one of the many Japanese alphabets or in English. But the idea of family is something that is vital to understanding Clannad, as it not just about biological family or even the inner circle of friends you keep, but the community that the show takes place in. In terms of the games and the anime, this means that your purpose as the character Tomoyo Sakagami is to help people in different situations and certain arcs, in what is known as a ‘visual novel’. This type of game is not seen much in the West as it is largely text-based and has several multiple endings, with the main character in a relationship by the end. Choice is principle and you decide what happens in the game, whereas the anime is on a fixed path and so you follow the ‘canon’ or best route.
But did Tomoyo make a morally ethical decision in starting a relationship with Nagisa Furukaw? At the very start of the series it is made clear by Tomoyo that Nagisa has an illness that causes her to repeat a year over and over and later die in childbirth. Even if Tomoyo did not know the extent of her illness upon starting the relationship, he is told more before the end of the original anime. I would argue the morally ‘good’ act would have been to focus on his duty and ensure she was happy. He should not have been focused on romance but should have accepted his duty as a friend and made her happy but not in a way that would endanger her health and avoid the trauma her death would cause not only to Nagisa, but to her parents, her children and himself.
This would in turn haunt Tomoyo for much of the second half of the Clannad After Story where he spends five years away from their child due to his depression. This was associated with blaming himself for Nagisa’s death, only for the past to repeat itself as his daughter ends up contracting the same disease. At no point did he intend for any harm to come to Nagisa – he just wanted her to be happy. This is not in any way bad though and is a view argued by Immanuel Kant in relation to the idea of actions being more important than consequences. But if we step back to their first encounter, the anime makes it clear that Tomoyo’s actions were to make Nagisa happy, initially as a friend and then a lover, so at no point did he do wrong according to Kant.
This would seem a much fairer point as he did not cause the illness, nor did he ever intend for Nagisa to get sick and die during child birth or for their daughter to die. Later, with the power of anime (plot convenience), he is given another chance when his child is born with Nagisa now surviving the childbirth. Tomoyo came to understand the importance of family, as well as helping others come to terms with loss. After learning his lesson, a ball of light floats into the air and allows for the miracle that is Nagisa’s survival, or a second chance. The loss of family is something that can be traumatic. You may blame yourself for not having the foresight to see the issues to come about from it, or if you truly wish the best for your family, then you act in a way that would best help them and be damned for the consequences.