The timing of the Clannad series is a bane for Toei's movie version of the popular Key game. If this had aired a year or two before KyoAni decided to release its own version in 23-episode series form, then this would have undoubtedly had more interest than it received. As it is, I'm acutely aware that even my own experience of this movie is tainted by KyoAni's superior interpretation. Though, despite that, it's clear that Toei's version has major flaws in its storytelling.
The first thing you notice is how disjointed the movie seems. One scene in particular jumps into the future without any warning and because of this, makes absolutely no sense with the other scenes before and after it. The dream sequences, while being artistically realised in themselves, build up to a somewhat disappointing conclusion, bordering on deus ex machina.
However, the most unerring aspect of the Clannad Movie is that it seems to be split into two completely separate halves. The first half follows Okazaki's integration into a society that has abandoned him, using his growing relationship with Nagisa as the driving point -- but after an amazing plot twist, the tone suddenly gets a lot darker. Without giving too much away, an event that happens offscreen changes the disposition of the main characters altogether and the depression that descends is reminiscent of Kimi ga Nozomu Eien. In itself, the scenes are acted out well, but the odd severance of tone from the first section of the movie is a difficult stepping stone for the viewers -- especially when the second half takes place five years after the important life-changing event. When the flashback to the event and the immediate aftermath finally comes, it's too late to save the movie.
Competing with KyoAni again affects Toei here, though admittedly, they justify their decision to make this into a cinematic release sufficiently. The animation, in parts, is stunning, especially the cherry blossoms at the beginning, which are only a few notches lower than Makoto Shinkai's 5cm Per Second.
Where it falls down though, is character design and some rather static, unconvincing scenes. While KyoAni have made the school scenery their own, Toei still struggles with amateur-looking classrooms, endless reused corridors and overused settings, such as train crossings and small unidentifiable appartments. The characters are inconsistently drawn, and the differences between the high school characters in the first section of the movie and their older counterparts in the second section are noticeable but never explained. The motive of Sunohara's change of hair colour can only be guessed at, yet it's never explicitly remarked upon.
The first thing you notice when listening to the soundtrack of this movie (if you've watched the KyoAni series) is that the opening theme is the same. I've already explained my distaste for this particular song in my Clannad review, but in spite of that, this is the best piece of music in the movie. That will probably set the tone for this section, I'm afraid.
Everything is so flat and lifeless in the Clannad Movie -- even the music and sound effects used for Nagisa's play (one of the high points of the movie) is dull and uninspiring, lacking any kind of depth that you'd expect for such an important scene. I also found the segments where the characters sing to be out of tune and horrible to listen to.
Movies aren't greatly known for their character development admittedly, but I feel that Toei can't even blame the format for the utter lack of realistic development. Part of this comes from Toei's unwillingness to lose some of Key's huge cast of characters from the game. Notably, Fuuko, Ryo and Kotomi are missing from the movie version, but I felt that getting rid of Kyo and Tomoyo would have been a move in the right direction as well, as their characters are so amazingly undeveloped that they give the idea that they're merely cardboard cutouts with no real reason to be in the movie.
This is frustrating in itself, but doubly frustrating when compared to KyoAni's character development. My other quibble with Toei's interpretation of the Clannad characters is their portrayal of Okazaki. A much more brash and monosyllabic Okazaki takes to the screen than fans of the game or the TV series may be used to, and while this is an odd experience to start with, it seems to work for the first few minutes. After that, however, the holes in the character development show through. His personality is never fully realised and he seems to be far too unpredictable to be real. Coupled with his descent into emo in the second half, and all I can say is that this character has been slaughtered in adaptation.
Having said that, some of the Okazaki and Nagisa interactions are touching and I particularly liked how Okazaki warms to Nagisa gradually, though the climax of their relationship is ridiculous and spoils everything that comes before it.
I'd like to say that I'd recommend this for new Key fans, or that this is a good stepping stone into KyoAni's version, but it really isn't. This movie has flaws on too many levels, with too many plot details that just aren't explained, or are explained too late to make any impact on the viewer. Having been a fan of the original Kanon and Toei's interpretation of the characters and their situations, I was expecting a lot more from this movie than I got. Unfortunately, it seems that Toei have been undone by the restrictive movie format, highlighting the problems this studio has in stepping out of the shadows of other more successful animation studios. If Toei wishes to adapt any more Key titles, they have to improve every area a great deal to match the kind of quality that KyoAni is putting out.
In conclusion, forget this title unless you're a serious fan of Key -- and even then, I'd think twice before watching this again. Thoroughly disappointing, even for a fan of both studio and subject matter.
When his dream career as a basketball player is shattered due to a severed tendon, Okazaki Tomoya believes that his already depressing life has lost all purpose. To make matters worse, he is plagued by dreams in which he wanders through a land of nothingness. Attending school only through force of habit, Tomoya one day meets a girl called Furukawa Nagisa; and over time, while helping her to reform the school's drama club, Tomoya learns to smile and have fun once more. His dreams have become less dark, as though a ray of hope has appeared; but could there be more to these dreams than there appears to be?