In the illusionary world, the robot and the girl have started to build a vehicle that can fly so that they can leave their world for a more lively one. The robot, however, knows that the girl won’t be able to move if it becomes cold, so they have to hurry. Back in the real world, Nagisa is considering getting a job after graduation because she doesn’t have anything she wants to study in college. Tomoya, on the other hand, avoids the topic of what he’s going to do and succeeds in distracting Nagisa with talk about giving her a present. From this, he finds out from this that her birthday is on Christmas Eve, so he proposes a date instead. He manages to escape having to talk about his future with Nagisa, but it stays on his mind, so he discusses it with Sunohara. As it turns out, Sunohara is planning on becoming a model. His other friends are pursuing a variety of different paths, including Ryou going to nursing school, Kyou studying to becoming a kindergarten teacher, and Kotomi going to study in America. This leaves Tomoya as the only one who hasn’t decided on something, but later on during that day when the others ask him about it, a more pressing matter comes up: Nagisa comes down with a fever. Nagisa’s sickness causes her to start to miss school again, and Tomoya is quite worried for her. Having to take care of Botan during class for Kyou and Ryou takes his mind off of it for a while, but his friends can tell that he’s feeling down.
An entire month passes by, and Nagisa doesn’t get any better. On the one day she was doing alright, she tried to go to school, but her fever went back up along the way. Tomoya stays by Nagisa’s bedside whenever he can, and he tells her that he’s waiting for the day when he can walk hand-in-hand with her. Autumn soon turns to winter, and with Nagisa still sick, her parents talk to Tomoya about the likelihood that she will be held back a year in school. Tomoya is against this because he wants to graduate alongside her, and he doesn’t want to graduate if she doesn’t. This causes Akio to call Tomoya a child because doing that will just cause Nagisa more pain, and Tomoya acknowledges to himself that he is a child. November then becomes December, and the group decides to hold a party for Nagisa. In that time, Sunohara has been rejected from a modeling agency and has opted to find a job instead. For Nagisa’s birthday, Tomoya gives her a dango-shaped doll, and when she almost cries after seeing everyone gathered for her, they make her understand that they’re all friends and family, and that her happiness is their happiness. Unfortunately, this was also the time that the decision to hold Nagisa back another year was made.
Tomoya stays by Nagisa’s side through the rest of the winter, and spring and graduation time eventually comes around. On the day of the ceremony, Tomoya considers breaking some windows to get held back, but Sunohara convinces him that it’d be pointless since he’d just expelled. The two happen to run into Koumura who congratulates them on their graduation and reveals that he’s retiring. Sunohara knows that it’s thanks to Koumura that the two of them didn’t get into more trouble and expelled, and Tomoya suspects that Koumura intentionally had them meet so that they’d be friends and wouldn’t quit school so easily. Koumura claims not to remember, but Tomoya and Sunohara bow to him in respect regardless. As everyone else is later taking pictures to commemorate graduation, Tomoya speaks briefly with Yukine and Tomoyo, both of whom will now be the same year as Nagisa, and they tell him not to worry and to do his best. He then heads home by himself and thinks about all the experiences he’s had with Nagisa, from their first meeting until now. He’s surprised to find her waiting outside of the bakery for him, and she explains that she wanted to see him the final time he’d be wearing his school uniform.
After Nagisa congratulates him on graduating, Tomoya can no longer hold back the tears as he recounts how he hated school but was willing to be there forever if he was with her. He feels that he should have held himself back a year to stay with her, but she tells him that he can’t stop moving forward like that. She promises to do her best for another year, and for now, she wants to walk hand in hand with him for a little while. As they do so, Tomoya thinks about how he wants to walk with her without stopping, on the endless hill, just the two of them.
Ah, I got a little teary-eyed at the end there. Actually, this was such a good ending (to the school part of the story) that it left me wondering why they didn’t try to end the first series at this point. It was a much stronger way to show how much Nagisa and Tomoya love each other and belong together than the confession scene. Of course I understand that the reason they probably didn’t use this is because there was too much material prior to this point to get through in only 22 episodes, but if not for that, then this spot would have been perfect to end the first series with.
In any case, now that the school stuff is over, how much is left in the story? My sense of time for this series is messed up because they sped through multiple months and seasons in this one episode (and because I’m not familiar with the game timeline). I know that AFTER STORY is going to be ~24 total episodes, but is there enough material for 15 more? I assume it’s not going to be one huge arc because no single arc so far has gone longer than five episodes, so I’m curious to see how the story will break down and what the conflicts will be (if this episode was any indicator, Nagisa’s poor health will probably be one of them). For the time being though, it looks like Tomoya’s going to be working at the bakery and thinking of moving out.