With the school festival coming up, the drama club members are going through some vocal exercises that Koumura gave them, and Tomoya can’t help but smile at how determined Nagisa is with all this. For their production, she is writing the script and will be the actress, Ryou and Kotomi are handling sound, Kyou and Sunohara are handling lighting, and Tomoya is directing and handling stage management. For costuming, they are relying on Nagisa’s mother, and even her father helps out by borrowing a video of an actual theatrical production for Nagisa to watch. She’s moved to tears by what she sees and feels that her own play can’t compare, but Tomoya thinks that it’s fine because, as long as she’s serious about this, it’ll reach people’s hearts. Afterwards, Akio helps Tomoya go through the stuff in the shed outside to see if they can find the book that Nagisa supposedly based her play on. Tomoya now suspects that it could also have been a play that she had seen in the past, however Akio doesn’t think that this is likely because he would have known about it. Akio eventually locates a photo album consisting of pictures from his and his wife’s past, but they don’t find what they’re really looking for, and when Sanae yells for them to be quiet, they hastily throw the boxes back into the shed.
The following day, Nagisa proposes to Tomoya that they use a song at the play’s climax. His advice is for her to do what she wants because this is a stage that she created, and since Nagisa wants to sing, she decides to include the song. At school, they consult Nishina Rie and the girls of the choir club about background music, and since Rie understands that this is a sad story about being alone in the world, she suggests Ravel‘s Ma Mère l’Oye. Tomoyo also shows up to check up on them, though the first thing that everyone notices is how she’s wearing glasses now. She admits to having bad eyesight, however she didn’t wear glasses before because she didn’t like how she looked with them. In any case, she surveys the drama club’s progress and vows with Nagisa to work their hardest on the upcoming festival. Patting Nagisa on the head for being a good girl, Tomoyo comments on how she’s glad that it was Nagisa, and this statement holds particular meaning to Kyou, Ryou, and Kotomi. Nagisa then decides to practice in front of everyone with the music playing, and as he watches her, Tomoya thinks about how she brought so many people into what was once an empty room and how they’re sharing the joy.
In the days that follow, the drama club members work just as hard as everyone else in the school to prepare for the festival, and Sanae finishes making a costume for Nagisa. The day right before the festival is devoted to rehearsal, and Nagisa spends almost all of her time studying her lines. She gets really nervous while waiting backstage for her turn, and when it’s finally time, the group puts their hands together for a cheer. Rehearsal ends up proceeding without a hitch, and Nagisa’s parents are happy to hear about it after she and Tomoya return home. When Tomoya comments on how doting Akio and Sanae are, Akio suggests that Tomoya would be the same way when he has his own daughter. Nagisa agrees with him, but her reasoning is that Tomoya resembles her father. Later that night, she visits Tomoya’s room because she’s too nervous to sleep, and when they start talking about how her parents will be attending the performance, Nagisa admits to realizing again how much she’s loved by them. However, she’s still caught up on the feeling that she did something bad to her parents during her childhood. Remembering how Akio had told him that Nagisa would think that they gave up their dreams for her, Tomoya tells her that she’s being too sensitive about this and with blaming herself. He suggests that she just concentrate on the play tomorrow, and Nagisa decides to take his advice.
Before going to bed, Nagisa prepares her bag for tomorrow and remembers that they need a flashlight for backstage. She finds one in the kitchen, but it’s batteries are dead, so she heads outside to the shed to look for another. In doing so, she accidentally knocks over the boxes that Akio had hastily stacked earlier, and all their contents spill out. A few hours later, Tomoya wakes up to use the bathroom and notices that the light in one of the rooms is still on. He finds Nagisa sitting over a bunch of photos, play scripts, diaries, and fliers featuring Akio, and she’s shocked because she didn’t know that her father used to be an actor. Just like Akio predicted, Nagisa blames herself for her parents giving up their dreams, so Tomoya tries his best to have her to not think about this and sends her off to get some sleep instead. After Nagisa slowly walks out, Tomoya notices an entry in Sanae’s old diary that talks about a riverside stroll with Nagisa, and Sanae had written that if she had continued to be a teacher, she didn’t think that she would have been able to feel such happiness. Right as Tomoya finishes reading this, Akio shows up in the doorway and, having realized what happened, he’s frustrated over how this is the worst timing.
As far as next-to-last episodes go, color me relatively unimpressed. Nagisa finally finds out about what her parents did for her, and while it’s a big shock for her, I was looking for something a little more emotional impact here. Part of that stems from how, even though I know it’s not entirely valid to do so given the different story structures, I can’t help but compare this to what the next-to-last Kanon episode was like. It just doesn’t feel like we’re headed for a particularly satisfying conclusion here. With only one episode left, short of any big surprises, I expect that Tomoya will help Nagisa get over her mental barrier, she’ll perform the play wonderfully, and that’ll be it. It’s entirely possible that it could still tug at our heartstrings, but for now, I’m just not feeling it. Several people have speculated to me that there’s no way Kyoto Animation isn’t going to animate more of this (the After Story) in the near future, and I really hope that they’re right.