The scent of a memory: Reflections on a scene from Clannad ~After Story~ 19

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A very brief scene, but one that I find more touching than most.

Whether a whiff of perfume or the aroma of baking cookies can act as a powerful memory switch is up to men in white lab coats to prove, but I can certainly attest to the unique recollective properties of scent. For example, the rich earthy odours that precede a rain shower often transport me back to the chemistry lab in my old high school, probably because it was there – with its tall, open windows overlooking the muddy football pitch and the sweeping view it afforded of any rain clouds that might be marching towards us – that I first took note of the phenomenon.

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In Episode 19, the lingering scent of Nagisa on her beloved dango pillows serves a dual purpose. One, alluded to by Ushio when she relates how Sanae told her “this is mama’s smell”, is that it provides an important personal link between Nagisa and those who knew her in life (especially her grieving parents) – those who, having been around her when she was alive, can refresh their memories of her existence through this faint and fading trace of her that still remains. The other is unique to Ushio, who never knew her mother while she walked upon the earth: to her the precious scent offers the opportunity to create a new memory, a direct and more vivid memento of someone who had previously existed only as a ghostly image woven from the recollections of others.

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Now my own memories of this series are made richer by that fleeting moment when Ushio, her nose pressed into a green dango pillow and filled with the last traces of her mother’s earthly savour, whispers ii nioi before lapsing into the peace of her nightly slumber.

The words of a Robert Munsch book come almost unbidden to mind:

I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always,
As long as I’m living my baby you’ll be.

3 Responses

  1. Yes, smell can be a strong stimulator and variety of things can be associated with it 🙂

    Aww… Ushio and dango pillow is just cuteness overload! :3

  2. The scent of freshly cut grass sometimes transport me back to my childhood days playing barefoot with my friends on a grassy field near my childhood home. We kids loved the feel of the freshly mowed lawn on our feet. Aroma therapy is one way of making use of scents to evoke/stimulate certain feelings.

  3. @Kitsune: As I recall, many commenters on Random Curiosity’s regular episode write-ups for Clannad ~AS~ are going absolutely bonkers over Ushio’s cuteness.

    @ayumikat: I remember reading somewhere that scent doesn’t directly trigger memories – it triggers emotions and feelings associated with those memories, which we then recall based on the rekindled emotions.

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