This is a question that I really can't get my head around. I've asked many people but I still have not come to a good understanding of the ending of CLANNAD: After Story.

In the end of the anime, Nagisa and Ushio both come back to life. It's not terribly clear on how this happens and what causes it. Is it just magic?

I found the ending very cryptic, so anyone could explain it well with relevant information and evidence of some sort, I'd be very glad!

  • "System Restore" was the running joke I've seen about it. :)
    – Mysticial
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 12:38
  • I think this is one of those series that is supposed to be ambiguous, abstract. I think the answer actually can change based on the emotional maturity of the viewer over time. As this is an "I think" it will be left as a comment..............and now I will be sad all day due to remembering this series >.< Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 20:40

7 Answers 7


I don't think this can be answered unambiguously even considering the visual novel, but it certainly explains things somewhat better than the anime in this case. In principle I can find quotes from the VN to support everything here, but that seems like a pretty arduous task given the size of the VN.

Of course, what follows constitute pretty major spoilers if you ever intend to read the VN regarding the illusionary world and the "lights", though . Some of this is not discussed in any way in the anime, so I've spoiler tagged everything (but if you don't ever intend to read the VN, there's no reason not to spoil yourself).

In the visual novel, there are a number of "orbs of light" which are also in the anime but not focused on as much. Yukine describes them to Tomoya at the end of her route, and I believe also at some point in the anime. They are capable of granting wishes, but are fairly limited in power. They are created when someone helps someone else achieve a goal which brings happiness. For unknown reasons, Tomoya is one of the few people who can see them now, although they were visible to everyone in the past. In the game, Tomoya gets one orb for each completed route (8 total), with a couple of exceptions, and 5 more are available in After-Story. All of these are needed to reach the true end where Nagisa and Ushio don't die.

After Tomoya collects the orbs, they are transported to the illusionary world, where Ushio (the true identity of the girl who lives there) keeps them. Ushio created the illusionary world in order to save herself and Nagisa by collecting the fragments of happiness that Tomoya gathers in the form of orbs of light. She is capable of doing so because "children are the culmination of their parents' hopes and dreams" (a theme that is repeated many times in the series).

The only other people who are able to enter the illusionary world are those who willingly choose to do so, and Tomoya is the only person who falls into that category, so he is able to enter the body of a doll made out of garbage. Even when they made another doll, there were no more souls willing to enter the illusionary world, so it was lifeless. It isn't clear whether Ushio and Tomoya in the illusionary world have their real world memories, but Tomoya in the real world definitely doesn't remember the illusionary world, as evidenced by the fact that he thinks Nagisa's play is nostalgic but doesn't know why (Nagisa's play was about the illusionary world, although she probably also doesn't know this). It's also not clear how the chronologies of the two worlds works, but it's very likely that they are on completely different timelines. Judging by the fact that all of the illusionary world segments occur between days, he may be seeing it as a dream, but the research of the Ichinoses (Kotomi's parents, both of whom are theoretical physicists) indicates that the illusionary world is very much real and is connected to our world in many ways.

In order to save Nagisa and Ushio, Tomoya needs to do 3 things. First, he needs to gather a lot of happiness in the form of orbs of light, enough to make such a big wish. Second, he needs to clearly tell Ushio (who is holding the orbs via her alter-ego in the illusionary world) that he doesn't want her or Nagisa to die and that he wants them to live together as a family. And third, he needs to really mean what he is saying, as the orbs won't grant wishes that aren't what one truly desires. If all of those are completed, the orbs of light will grant his wish, returning time to the point when Ushio was born and saving both Nagisa and Ushio. It should be mentioned that in order to collect these orbs, Ushio sends Tomoya to many different timelines, each time returning him to around the same point when the anime begins and resetting his memories. This is touched upon briefly in the special episodes revolving around Kyou and Tomoyo in which we see orbs of light at the end, meaning it's likely they're canon and actually happened during one of the timelines Tomoya was sent to.

Note also that this isn't the only time that the orbs of light grant wishes that would otherwise be impossible, although it's definitely the most powerful instance. When Nagisa is dying for the first time and Akio wishes to the tree that she doesn't die, that wish was also granted via the orbs. Also, when Misae declares her wish to Shima that she wants him to always be with her and love her, this is also granted, although unbeknownst to Misae, Shima was actually a cat and he returns to that form. In addition, depending on the order of routes that you choose in the VN, Tomoya may use an orb to pray for Fuko to get better, though if he does he'll be able to get it back in After Story. So this isn't as much of a deus ex machina as it might seem, but a legitimate plot point that mostly got swept under the rug in the anime.

  • 5
    Wow, amazingly well written explanation. Awesome job. I watched the anime but, as you said at the end, I couldn't have understood all of this merely by watching the anime.
    – atlantiza
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 19:00
  • 3
    @atlantiza It's to be expected that the anime isn't enough by itself. The anime did a great job, but the VN has a few hundreds of hours of content and fitting that into 49 episodes is just impossible. In fact, it's rather remarkable how much of the story they did manage to cover given the size of the game.
    – Logan M
    Commented Dec 12, 2012 at 19:07
  • There is still an even more basic baseline missing that feels a bit mutually exclusive. The illusionary world is trying to prevent the deaths of nagisa and ushio, but why? Also how does Ushio know they will die and know to save them? Is the missing piece here that they died once, and time reset after that, to let it play through again just to save them? The anime only went through 1 time, so it seemed like they were trying to be saved before it was ever known or seen what would happen to them. Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 23:21

Do you remember when Kotomi was talking about her parent's research, and how there were alternate universes where things were different from the one that they lived in? Do you also remember how they talked about the orbs of glowing light being a representation of happiness and can grant wishes?

Well, the ending basically brings those two concepts together. The other universe has the robot and the girl: the robot is Tomoya and the girl is Ushio. They are on the side where all the orbs of happiness come from the world that people live in.

At the end, after Ushio died and Tomoya collapsed into the snow, they show the beginning of the series again with Nagisa sitting under the tree and Tomoya saying to himself that he wished he'd never met her, because he regretted all the things they had gone through, and because she would still be alive otherwise. While he was fighting with his regrets, Nagisa started to leave and walked up the hill. Seeing Nagisa leaving, Tomoya chased after her and hugged her, where she responded with something like "What took you so long?". This is where he decided that he should have never regretted meeting her, as he realized that he loved the time he spent with her because he loved her so much. At that moment, the orbs of happiness essentially granted his wish and put him back into his normal universe with the alternate ending.


I know I'm a bit late to the party but I'd like to give my take on this considering my understanding of the show is a bit less literal than the rest.

So throughout the two seasons we get to see the life story of Tomoya as well as other characters. The story is composed of many fun and happy moments but also some very sad and painful ones.

At the end of the show Tomoya goes through very rough times and just when he's about to break he is given a choice:

"Would you like to go back and redo everything from the moment you met Nagisa and not go through all that tough things as well as all of the happy moments or are you glad you got to live the life you were given despite everything?"

After that we get to see a much happier version of the world were everything went well and none of the bad things happened.

So basically to me Clannad can be summed up like this: Life can be very beautiful or very sad but either way don't ever let those terrible things stop you from living life at its fullest.

If we understand the show as an abstract metaphor designed to first reach your heart and then transmit that single very powerful message then every imperfection can be excused because everything in the plot is just an abstract illustration, only there to reach it's higher goal. And that goal is successfully attained when its all said and done.

Clannad touches your very soul and teaches you how to live life. That is its only objective and it's perfectly achieved. Ultimately anything concrete that happens in the show isn't important at all. That's why it's perfect and it's the best anime to have ever been created.

  • Actually , a little ball of light that seen during After Story is a point to unlock good ending :D Commented Aug 2, 2016 at 10:00
  • @Namikaze Sheena What does that have to do with anything?
    – 0x6C38
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 1:21
  • well . it's based on visual novel. To unlock Good Ending you have too collect that little ball of light . so it's a nod to original visual novel. Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 2:51
  • I'm sure there are many concrete interpretations for what happened, including the orbs of light but my answer provides a more abstract interpretation that's completely unrelated. Both coexist.
    – 0x6C38
    Commented Aug 3, 2016 at 3:23

So, a few things before I answer this:

  1. I know I am late


Here goes...

About the orbs of light

The orbs of light appear when a particular goal is achieved. It has the ability to grant wishes.

About alternate timelines

In Clannad, there are alternate timelines where, obviously, things are different. In the OVAs, Tomoya dates Kyou and Tomoyo. These events take place in the alternate timeline. Kotomi's parents were performing a research on the alternate world.

About the Illusionary world

In theory, the Illusionary World is the afterlife; when a person dies they are still connected to the real world, yet they are free to create their own world.

The Illusionary World in Clannad was created by Ushio. In the Illusionary World the girl is Ushio and the doll is Tomoya. Tomoya also mentions in an episode that he somehow knows the end of the story that Nagisa told him. The story was about the Illusionary World.

The ending

We see that Tomoya had a miserable life. Nagisa and Ushio die, and it wasn't going his way. Later on, Tomoya goes back to the point where he first met Nagisa, and then he marries her and they have a kid. But this time Nagisa survived.

Now there are three possible interpretations:

  1. Tomoya was just dreaming of the worst that could happen. But in the end nothing bad happens and everything is okay.

    But if this would've happened, then the orbs of light have no role. And the scene where he goes back to the past wouldn't have made sense.

  2. Nagisa survived in an alternate timeline. But again, the orbs of light have no role.

    The scene where he goes back wouldn't make sense either because in that scene Tomoya and Nagisa remember each other... And it wouldn't have been possible even if they were in the alternate timeline.

  3. This is probably what had happened. So in the illusionary world we see the orbs of light every now and then. These were collected by Ushio (the girl) and Tomoya (the doll). Tomoya first wished that he shouldn't have met Nagisa. But it wasn't what he really wanted and thus it wasn't granted by the orbs light. What he really wished for was for Nagisa to be alive.

The orbs of light that Ushio collected in the Illusionary World granted this big wish and thus Tomoya is taken back to the past. He didn't say anything to Nagisa. He was in a dilemma here. Nagisa started walking away and at that moment Tomoya made his mind and ran to Nagisa and hugged her. They still remembered each other. Then he is taken to the point where Nagisa gives birth. She survives and they live happily ever after.

Now here both the conditions are satisfied.

  1. The orbs of light grant him his wish

  2. The scene where he goes back to the past makes sense because he has a faint memory of the terrible thing that happened to him (mentioned by Tomoya in the recap episode)

People can believe whatever they want. I personally feel the third one makes sense.

If you've made it this far then thank you for reading!

Clannad is really the best anime I've ever watched. Hopefully this clarified things :)

This is the ending: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tc4MsZwBWOA


For some reason I had a hard time believing that the robot was not Okazaki because of the voice it had. It just was not the same. Whenever he talks or thinks his voice is the same out loud. Why aren't they same. Sure you could say for the sake of plot so it wouldn't be obvious, but didn't Ushio sound similar. I'm pretty sure that if Ushio had grown up she would have sounded like that. So why isn't Okazaki? Some might say he could sound like a child, but we've heard his voice as a child before and he sounds nothing like that. (During the episode when Kotomi and Okazaki first become friends).

Doesn't the robots voice sound an awful lot like Shima? The kid that made a promise to Misae when they were high school and promised to stay with her. I don't doubt that the girl is Ushio but it'd make the most sense. You never knew much about Shima and his back story is very interesting. The robot never replies when the girl calls him dad. But then again the robot claimed to have heard of the Dango song. But the Dango family song was very famous in Japan but it was never specified during what time period and we can assume it was during the time Nagisa and Okazaki were kids since Okazaki kept referring to the Dango song as childish,and old. If that were true then it would fit the time period that Misae and Shima went to high school, since Misae isn't very old. Shima would make sense since he had apparently died already, just like Ushio, and claimed to have the power to grant any wish. From a pouch with a glowing light inside. Maybe the source is a glowing orb. He apparently was suffering from an illness and was being hospitalized, could it have been the same condition Nagisa and Ushio faced? Problem is he's completely foreign. We aren't even completely sure if he is Shima.

Regarding the end of Clannad After Story, I just thought that Okazaki had died due to him collapsing in the snow and was reliving his life right before he died and imagined the best case scenario, seeing how he did that during a card game with fuuko and ushio or that when he passed away that him and his family were reunited in the afterlife, only problem would be the 22 episode that theory is contradicted with ushio laying in the grass at the end of it, but then in the last three episodes it focuses on their pasts maybe implying that their all dead. Ushio may have survived seeing how she was at the same place Nagisa's dad took her when she was facing certain death due to similar circumstances the hospital (highly doubt it though) But then I remembered something major, in a dream I pretty sure Kyou told him that he had Schizophrenia, and that's a bid deal. Schizophrenia is a brain disorder where the mind has a hard time separating reality from fantasy. Could the other world just be a figure of his imagination, a result from Schizophrenia? It was stated in his own dream, maybe a clue or hint to what's really going on. While they were children Kotomi and Okazaki always played with each other. Maybe she told him about her parents research. If that's true he could have been developing this story for a long time in his mind from the time since he was a child. The ending of Nagisa's version was much different to Okazaki.

The orbs of light I thought were symbolic of the connection the story had with reality that ultimately Okazaki and ushio would be separated only to be reunited in a better place. Similar to the fortune telling in a way. The other worlds kinda felt a bit far fetched seeing how this anime didn't seem to focus its plot lines in that kinda stuff but lean towards problems based off society issues and not other worldly issues (amazing vocabulary I know) The other worlds I felt were focused to Kotomi but I'm still unsure about that, but I agree on the theory that it seemed that Nagisa and Ushio can't be in the same world.

Disclaimer this is purely based off the anime not the VN.


So what happend in the ending was tomoya was holding ushio in his arms and Said "ushio? Ushio? Ushio! Some one please please help her! Nagisa please help ushio nagisa? Nagisa?" So he praticly he wished to be with nagisa and have a healthy baby to live a long happy life. The reason why that happend is because of the old town legend when someone achieved true happiness a ball of light appears and if you catch it you can have any wish, so when tomoya said goodbye to his dad in the second season him and his dad achieved true happiness and the ball of light landed on tomoya so that is practically catching it so the ball of light took him to the other world and that's how tomoya and nagisa both know the story of the world that has ended!


...I started watching from episode 5 so may be I am over interpreting... but ultimately Tomoyas alternate timelines seem to play out through a deeper understanding of the lives of people close to him. First, his father shows hom that his daughter and him may ultimately end up misunderstanding each other - that his fathers pride is how he ended up without family. this is clearly shown by his refusal of money and his lack of food or water even. nigasas parents also suggested a timeline where nigasa survives. nigasas parents, although loving, ultinately were ill prepared for a child. the fact that the lack of experience or tragedy blinds them to the fact thtlat a child needs more than love and fun. nigasas illness and desth may ultimately have allowed him to push past his own selfish needs to become the father his daughter needed. his coworkers fiances sister illustrates another example of the utility of pain and loss. also seems to suggest that wishing for another chance to choose does not prevent loss or death or love. also. i kinda got the feeling that nigasa and his daughter coud not exist in the same world. i got the sense his daughter like an afterthought. a lot of his inner monolgue seemed to be about showing the world he wasnt a bad dather. his child was left alone much like nigasa was after his grandma guilt tripped him. his last rwquest to his dsughter was stop making it hard for your dad to take care of your illnrss. abyways. he doesnt seem to understand people in terms of their feelings but only in regard to himself.

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