CLANNAD is a Key/Visual Arts game, and as such, features many emotional moments across both its seasons. In particular, Nagisa, the female protagonist, is essentially the personification of Tear Jerker in that she's a shy, timid, Ill Girl from a happy family who is gentle to a fault, gets emotional easily, has unclear ambitions, sings an old children's song that no one appreciates, and occasionally gets so sick that she has to skip a good chunk of school, which leads to her having to stay back a year and leading to the events that follow. While CLANNAD may not have as many Tear Jerkers as other anime, it has been considered to have some of the most poignant and depressing ones.
- Much of this series, quite frankly, qualifies, seeing as Clannad brutally enforces its Earn Your Happy Ending. On the "plus" side, however, the series does have some happy tearjerkers as well.
- Fuko was lonely for a very good part of her life. She hoped to make friends in high school, but was in an accident her second day and has been in a coma ever since. Using some sort of Astral Projection of herself, she was finally able to make some new friends for support. Just as things were looking up, however, her new friends' memories of her disappeared from their minds more quickly than they could form, and she ended up alone again. Despite this, she nonetheless remains by their side in wait until they could see her again.They eventually do.
- Sanae started to forget her after visiting Fuko's body in the hospital. What made it worse was that she knew it was happening and was inconsolable, on the floor, asking through her tears if Fuko was there and if Fuko knew that she'd always be welcome at the Furukawa house.
- Whenever Nagisa is reminded of how she may lose her memory of Fuko eventually, she holds onto her like a teddy bear.
- The morning after their impromptu party with Fuko, Tomoya and Nagisa wake up and wonder what the two of them had been doing the previous evening.
- Fuko's arc ends with her sister explaining that Fuko's condition has deteriorated to the point she might never awaken from her coma, potentially causing her to disappear from everyone else's memories.
Tomoya: "That girl student suddenly became the talk of the school. Pure and earnest, running around the school… that's the image of the girl. And then we all waited for the day that girl might awaken. I was definitely one of them. And that day will, someday…"
- However, Tomoya has this during his Dream Sequence:
Fuko: "Please, please be my friend. Be one of my very best friends, would you?"
- Kotomi Ichinose's backstory. Her first and only friend – and implied crush – was Tomoya. However, as the years went by, he'd managed to completely forget about her, and she'd become so withdrawn that she initially fails to respond to any human contact (she doesn't even notice when Sunohara tips over a fully-loaded bookshelf to get her attention) with the one exception of Tomoya calling her "Kotomi-chan". As the story develops, we find out that her parents had died in a plane crash when she was a child and she Never Got to Say Goodbye. Upon hearing what happened, she lapses into a Despair Event Horizon, leading to an attempt to burn her house down while she was still inside. The attempt fails thanks to some last minute intervention, but Kotomi is left alone in her grief for years. To add salt to the wound, when she finally finds her childhood crush again, he winds up choosing her newfound best friend Nagisa over her, even though she's been in love with him since she was a very small child.
- Kotomi's reaction to a bus accident arises from the fact that she never got to say goodbye to her parents before they died in a plane crash. Who didn't want to give her a hug when watching the scene?
- Kotomi eventually comes to terms with her parents after receiving the Teddy Bear that was to be her birthday gift many years ago and realizes that her parents' last act was to ensure that she received that gift, even at the expense of their own research.
"Father… Mother… Welcome home."
- To truly capture the pain Kotomi suffered at her parents' deaths, she finds out what happens to them on her birthday after many hours of no one coming to see her. Upon hearing the news, she breaks down immediately. To further add insult to injury, Kotomi suffers a Heroic BSOD and pleads with God to bring them back, assuring Him that if He brings them back, she'll be a good girl. This is followed by her running around the house to search for her parents in an attempt to see where they have gone, after which, she attempts to burn down the house with her inside. She fails, thankfully.
- Though not quite as bad as Kotomi's, Nagisa has a reasonable Tear Jerker when she finds out exactly how much her parents have sacrificed for her sake, going into a Despair Event Horizon upon the revelation and publicly breaking down in front of her entire school. Of course, with the Furukawas being who they are, this only leads to a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming.
- Yusuke Yoshino's backstory is a gloomy one: he used to be a pop star whose career died after he began to singing about the plight of some terminally ill children...ultimately driving him to drug abuse. It gets worse when you consider that he was driven to drugs specifically BECAUSE he cared.
- The ending of that flashback as well. Just as he returned home after his career death, the first person who met him is his crush/future wife, Kouko, whom he promised to propose once he became a pro (he forgot to contact her after basking in success). While Kouko not caring about that and just glad he returned, and said that dreams come true if you don't let go of it would make a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, it doesn't quite fully: That made Yusuke realize if he had used his passion and love for Kouko to sing and create love songs, he might have kept his career alive. In the end, he completely broke down crying on the ground with Kouko trying to comfort him.
- The ending song, ''Dango Daikazoku'' is fairly happy in actual content but evokes sadness; its significance becomes apparent in ~After Story~ once the viewer sees who sings it to whom. The song makes another return when Tomoya invokes the Reset Button Ending. Subsequently, both Nagisa and Tomoya sing Dango Daikazoku to the newly-born Ushio.
- The girl and the doll attempt to build a second doll, with the subconscious intent for Nagisa to inhabit it. But it's no use, since Nagisa's soul went to the normal afterlife. They bury the doll in episode 22.
CLANNAD After Story
- The scene where Tomoya and Ushio reconcile is heart rending.
Tomoya: Let's just buy another one.
Ushio: There's only one.
Tomoya There's lots of them at the store.
Ushio: But that's the one you got for me. First thing from Daddy.
Tomoya: Ushio, were you lonely?
Tomoya: Ushio, would it be all right if I stayed with you? I've been a bad Daddy for many years. But I'll do my best for you from now on. So, would it be all right if I stayed with you?
Ushio: I want you to be with me. But today I lost an important thing, so I'm sad. Daddy… You know… is it all right not to hold it in anymore? Sanae-san told me the only places I can cry are in the bathroom and in Daddy's arms.
Tomoya: Yes… YES! [cue Ushio hugging Tomoya and crying her eyes out, reducing Tomoya to tears as the music crescendos]
- Misae's arc is a moving one and ends with this exchange:
"I'm sorry I couldn't be with you until the end of the festival."
- Doubling as a Crowning Moment of Heartwarming, episode 12 ends with the score "The Place Where Wishes Come True" playing as Tomoya proposes to Nagisa after an emotional moment where Tomoya yelled at his father sitting in prison. Nagisa's response?
Nagisa: Yes. Of course I'll stay with you. No matter what happens. For as long as we live.
Nagisa: Forever and ever.
- The dub takes this further with slight rewording:
- Episode 16 – namely, the part where Nagisa dies.
- Tomoya desperately crying out her name and all the flashbacks make it even worse.
- Episode 17 was equally unbearable. All the cutesy anime antics could barely cover up the fact that Tomoya is still recovering from a Heroic BSOD that lasted five years. That, and his daughter and he are barely speaking to each other, very much like how Tomoya's father emotionally abandoned him after his mother's death.
- Episode 18 ends with Tomoya finding himself unable to finish telling the tale of Nagisa to Ushio, breaking down in tears and crying out her name.note
- In episode 19, Sanae and Akio's conversation reveals the former's bottled-up sorrow.
Akio: It's all right, you know? You've done well. Now it's your turn to cry.
Akio: Even with all hope gone, I'll still help you. I'll be here until you stop crying. So it's all right now.
- In Tomoya's father's arc, the moment when father and daughter hugged each other for the first time, and when Tomoya was telling Ushio about her mother and started crying halfway through, quietly repeating "Nagisa..." is a particularly tear-inducing scene.
- "Dango Daikazoku" returns in Episode 20 when Ushio asks: "Daddy, can you sing Mommy's song?"
- In Episode 21, Ushio dies in Tomoya's arms from the same sickness that claimed Nagisa. Tomoya dies as well from freezing to death.
"Daddy? I love you."
- And just like when Nagisa died, we're treated to a Really Dead Montage for Ushio. Only this one is much shorter, because the images are all from the previous few episodes – in other words, all of the memories Tomoya had with the daughter he'd barely begun to get to know.
- Happy tears this time in episode 22. The moment when Tomoya runs to Nagisa and hugs her so hard that her shoe falls off is enough to make anyone get watery-eyed.
- The happy ending is still bittersweet, particularly if you pay attention to the lyrics of the song "Tiny Palms". The sentiment is that your children will eventually grow up and leave you, but you'll always have the good memories of them growing up.
- The entire last episode is a beautiful combination of heartwarming and tearjerker, really. The meeting with Nagisa on the hill becomes more and more heartwarming upon consideration. Tomoya doesn't know at the time that Nagisa will survive this time around, but he loves her so much that he chooses to run back over to her. He'd rather go through it all over again – the good and the bad – than be without her.
Visual Novel and Alternate Timelines
- Tomoyo's route in the game is unusual in that Tomoya and her hook up quick, luring players into a sense of peace with Tomoyo waking Tomoya, making him lunch, and helping him study in between sessions of sweet nothings and kissing. These times don't last, as the entire student body work towards – and succeed in – breaking them up. In the aftermath, Tomoya returns to his old ways punctuated with the heart-wrenching line "and now the last thing Tomoyo gave me… is gone."
- The ending is this combined with Crowning Moment of Heartwarming. Just when Tomoya resigned that all he'll have for the future is menial jobs, turns out Tomoyo sacrificed her already good prospects in future to stay with Tomoya, even if he berated her for trying to stay with a loser like him. After realizing that he still has Tomoyo, he reaffirms that he will stay with her and walk the path together, which results Tomoyo bawling Tears of Joy, and Tomoya followed suit while hugging her. The anime version greatly increases the mood to make you cry together, because whoever voiced Tomoyo, they did a god damn good job in the bawling part.
- In the Visual Novel, Kappei's arc has Ryou and Tomoya visiting him in the hospital to convince him to have the operation on his leg. It goes as far as Ryou talking about marrying him and having a family. As touched as he is, when he mourns over the fact of losing it, Ryou's response is simply
"Even if you lose your leg, you'll still have arms to hug me."
- Depending on your final option, Fuko whom had possibly woken up at the end of her arc will say something different at the end.
- Good End:
Fuko: If you don't mind, please become Fuko's friends!
- True End:
Fuko: If you don't mind, please go out with Fuko!
- Good End:
- Seemingly as a prelude to the particularly gut-wrenching moments, the song The Place Where Wishes Come True almost always plays in the background. It is first heard in the preview for the next episode at the end of episode eight of the first season, accompanying Fuko's little narration.
- Episode 18 of ~After Story~ takes this to a whole new level with a soaring version of that tune when Tomoya and Ushio reconcile. Viewers are suggested to have a box of tissues ready.
- To all fathers out there, imagine that your wife died of an unknown illness and your daughter is dying of the same thing in your arms, and the last thing she said was "I love you Daddy". You should be able to relate.
- In the Alternate Universe that Tomoyo After takes place in (following after the end of the Tomoyo Route from the original game) there are several, but easily the most poignant is the very end, which makes a valiant play for the most tragic sequence in the entire franchise.
Tomoya collapses from a head injury he sustained, and when he wakes up in the hospital he has a case of amnesia and has forgotten everything since just before starting high school, and thus before he met Tomoyo. She records the day he gets out of the hospital in celebration and takes him around for just over a week, showing him the school, meeting his father, etc. in the the hopes of something triggering his memory. And never once, in all that time did she hear the one thing she wanted to hear most from Tomoya: "I love you." Tomoya finally says it reaffirming his (forgotten) promise to her that no matter what he will always love her, causing her to burst into tears of joy. Her reaction seems justified, if a little out of proportion, until she explains that this isn't the first time she has done this, that every 10 days or so his memory resets in the same way. Then again, It is explained as blood pooling in his head from the injury. This has been repeating over and over again not for a few weeks, not months, but for TWO YEARS. And she has recorded every single one of his release dates.
Tomoyo and Tomoya get married just before the cycle repeats again, and after he wakes up amnesiac, he decides to undergo an incredibly risky operation to try and stop the cycle so he can return to his normal life. The viewer is just starting to feel hopeful and the epilogue tells us that Tomoya's memory comes back… but then he dies shortly after. So in the end, after everything Tomoyo has been through supporting Tomoya in the hope they could still be together and happy, she's left alone. She becomes an internet counsellor helping people through their grief online.
This ending was so tragic that Key, the generally accepted masters of heartbreak and tragedy actually released an updated version of the game – Memorial Edition – with extra text throughout, and an ending where Tomoya lives, to make it less depressing.