I would imagine that anybody who already knows there way around After Story would be well prepared mentally for what this episode brings, but whether you were ready for it or not there can be no doubt that sales of tissues must have rocketed over the past couple of days.
Episode sixteen of the series moves us forward further still, to the point where Nagisa's "bump" seems to be almost as big as she is, and the "imaginary world" gets some screen time too, keeping its tone alongside that of the main storyline.
Before we enter the sad, depressing ending to the episode, there is time for some light relief courtesy of the rest of the old crew (minus Tomoyo, which sucks) paying Nagisa and Tomoya a visit to celebrate the New Year. Kotomi in particular has plenty to day here, describing how she is now working on the alternate world theory that had parents had previously researched. This turns into a quite lengthy discussion about multiverse theory, and I was all but expecting a special guest appearance from Stephen Hawking - Oh, how I would pay good money to hear Stephen Hawking sing the Big Dango Family theme song...
Anyway, with that over, it's time for Nagisa to give birth, with the weather working against her making it to the hospital as was originally planned and leaving her to have the baby at home. To make things worse, she's already ill with a fever as she goes into labour a couple of prematurely and.... well, the rest writes itself really.
While the second half of this episode of After Story wasn't quite as tear-jerking for me as I was expecting (although my eyes were a bit damp, I must admit), Nagisa's labour and everything that came from it was excellent... no, beautifully... handled. From the dialogue and voice acting through to the use of colour, it really captured those moments for what they were, and I can only give kudos for handling such a difficult scene in a touching, sensitive yet oddly calm way - In many senses they pulled it off better than I thought possible, and my own lack of full-on blubbing to accompany it is more due to the fact that I've never felt as emotionally attached to Nagisa as I was probably supposed to be by this point. Indeed, with that in mind I almost feel a little frustrated at the series up to this point for not making more of Nagisa's character beyond the wishy-washy girl that was so often portrayed, had they brought her personality into sharper focus then I'd probably be sobbing into my pillow right now instead of writing this.