First, let us analyze the technical aspect of the route.
Clannad divergence points usually involved Tomoya meeting a character by chance and choosing to engage with them. Using the economic concept of opportunity cost, Tomoya continuing to interact with said character usually closes the opportunity to interact with another. After all, Tomoya only has so much time
What I’ve noticed is this is not completely true for the Fujibayashi twins route. The divergence point of the route isn’t because Tomoya decide to go to the library or the classroom but Tomoya’s “preference”. It is also worth noting that there is a subtle sense of priority to the route as well. The developers made the choices in such a way that if you’re not following a walkthrough and just picking what you think is “good”, you will naturally enter and stay with Ryou’s route.
Just look, and remember your current girlfriend is RYOU.
Choice 1: The game asks if Tomoya likes long hair or short hair while having a picnic with the twins.
(Note: Your current girlfriend Ryou has short hair. Her twin Kyou has short hair. )
Choice 2: Tomoya wants to buy a souvenir for Ryou. The game asks if you want tanzanite or amethyst.
(Note: When you went shopping, Ryou said that her favorite is Tanzanite. Kyou, on the other hand, indicated her favorite is amethyst. If it isn’t enough, the best way to tell the twins apart besides their hairstyle is their eye color. Kyou = Violet (Amethyst) and Ryou = Blue (Tanzanite).
As I’ve said, if the player has good social skills and is trying to be a good boyfriend; the choices will make you stay in the Ryou route and I think the writer designed it that way. I believe for the designer of Clannad, they would like you to play Ryou’s route, wonder why you don’t have a light orb, go back and enter Kyou’s route wherein you will find the complexities hidden within. To be honest, I applaud that sort of technical magic in VN.
Still, that is meta-wise. Unlike certain visual novels, the protagonist of this one isn’t a mere blank self-insert. Tomoya has his own distinct character and it’s been noted in several routes that he has good social skills (when he uses it). What does this route then imply about his characterization?
Ryou’s route needs no explanation. Tomoya is going with the flow and trying to be a good boyfriend (which I think characterize a lot of Tomoya and Ryou’s relationship). On the other hand, Kyou’s route requires a certain social blindness uncharacteristic of Tomoya. And diving deeper within the route, I can only conclude that Tomoya is already in love with Kyou or at least have a strong preference even at the beginning.
If each Clannad route is a parallel world (as hinted by the plot), on Ryou’s route the Tomoya of the world doesn’t have strong feelings for Kyou to hinder their budding romance. While in Kyou’s route, the Tomoya of that world is already attached to her. Thus, no matter how much Tomoya try to build something up with Ryou, he always goes back and thinks of Kyou. The fact that Kyou and Ryou are twins probably made it harder to dissociate as well.
Now for the routes itself?
For a route that is considered by many as a “bad route”, it is actually not that bad. While Ryou and Tomoya don’t have explosive chemistry, they do get along well and their route ends with an optimistic feel. It is only when you look back and wonder why you don’t get a light orb that you question what went wrong
Remember: “Light Orb = Happiness”
There doesn’t seem to be any relationship problems. Ryou and Tomoya are content. Why aren’t they happy? It is only when playing the tail end of Kyou’s route that it hit me. The problem is with Ryou and Kyou.
You might be tempted to say that the problem also lies with Tomoya and how he is “settling”. But, I doubt it. We have access to his thoughts and he seemed to be satisfied.
On the other hand, the twins might have something going on below the surface. We have been given plenty of hints that even in Ryou’s route Kyou is still in love with Tomoya and is silently suffering inside.
More importantly, we know that Ryou knows this.
In Kyou’s route, Ryou confessed that she is aware of her elder sister’s feelings for Tomoya and despite this Ryou asked for Kyou’s help to set her up with the guy. Make no mistake that is a big douche move by Ryou. And to be honest, probably why the light orb won’t appear for this route.
Because at the end of the day, I think that Ryou is a good girl. No matter how resolved she is on getting Tomoya. I don’t think her conscience would rest easy knowing that her current happiness is ill-gotten gains built upon the sadness of her elder twin.
And finally, we talk about Kyou’s route. This route is a comedy of errors which showed how flawed and human – Tomoya, Ryou and Kyou are. In many ways, this situation brought out the worst of them.
Here I will analyze each one of them, their virtues and what made it flawed for this route:
I didn’t warm up to Ryou at first. As someone who listens to the voice-over even as I read the text, her stuttering, and slow speech is a pain. It didn’t help that Ryou gives an impression of a moeblob character and nothing else. But, that is on the surface.
For all Ryou’s stuttering and meek facade, the route proves that she’s the “aggressive” one of the twins. It’s true that Kyou is a go-getter girl in everyday matters, but it is also true that Kyou unexpectedly falters when it comes to the matter of the heart. A stark contrast to Ryou, who goes all in when she truly wants something.
Ryou’s asking for her sister’s help knowing Kyou’s feelings is douchy. But, it also shows how assertive Ryou is when pursuing what she wants. In this case, not even her beloved twin is a barrier and as we progress not even her very identity. In the name of pursuing Tomoya, Ryou is willing to change and sacrifice herself. And while this might be commendable behavior and might even be a source of strength for their partner (as seen in Kappei route). We can see in this case that the impossibility of the situation is pushing her into desperate and self-destructive actions.
It is only when Ryou stops trying and finally give up on Tomoya’s heart that the situation begins to clear itself.
Sometimes, its okay to give up.
Kyou at the surface is very aggressive and gregarious. But, her violent tsundere antics masks something – that is at heart Kyou is very much a caretaker.
Kyou is “careful” of the things that matter to her. We see it in how she treats her younger sibling Ryou – sacrificing her happiness for her without a single thought. We see it in how she treats her friendship with Tomoya, not allowing her deeper feelings to jeopardize it and stewing silently about her feelings.
But, like Ryou’s resolve, we also see its flaws. Her wish to make her younger sister happy could be seen as an inability to fight for her own feelings. Her being content with Tomoya’s friendship could be seen as cowardice.
Just like Ryou, Kyou has to go against her nature to make this route work. That is, admitting her own feelings even at the expense of her sibling (someone she loves and dotes on).
Sometimes, its okay to put yourself first.
Tomoya’s problem for this route is the fact that he doesn’t even know his own feelings. At the beginning of each route, you’ll notice that Tomoya has a certain distance toward most things. On one hand, this makes him an easy going nice guy. On the other hand, it probably makes Tomoya a bit obtuse on what he really feels about most things.
And once he knew what he really feels, Tomoya’s wish to not hurt Ryou which normally would make him a “nice guy” allowed the situation to escalate and cause a deeper hurt. And just like the twins, it’s only when Tomoya finally said who is really in his heart even if it will hurt Ryou that the whole situation is resolved.
For a “family” themed VN, a sibling love triangle which brings out the worst of the cast seemed like not a good idea. But, I think that this route serves its purpose, there is no virtue that is 100 percent right all the time. Sometimes the love of what we could consider “family” and the virtue that allows us to uphold it can be flawed and make a situation harder than required.
Like Aristotle said, “Follow the golden mean”. ^^