Jul 14, 2015
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WARNING: SPOILERS WITHIN
NOTE: The purpose of this review is to compare the movie to the visual novel and the anime
It pains me to think of what this movie could have been!
I am a huge fan of the novel and anime series, but I always heard the movie was mediocre or worse, so I never took the time to watch it. However, when my wife and I bought the series on DVD, the movie was included, so we thought, "Why not?" I watched it, prepared to strongly dislike it, and I did . . . until the last half hour. I am not going to waste
time discussing the individual parts of the score I gave. Instead, I want to share why I was so heartbroken by the end of this movie.
Before you even watch this movie, consider that the movie will attempt to do what took the anime 10+ hours and the visual novel around 100 hours in . . . 90 minutes. Yep, this is the biggest flaw of the whole movie; I told my wife after watching this that if this had been about three times as long, I probably would've liked it more than the anime. Let me explain why.
The first hour was a botched mess. It was basically a summary of the school arc, and a bad one at that. It just seemed like a really lame romance where boy hates school, girl loves school, boy helps girl in school, girl helps boy to love school. Sure, that is arguably the way the school arc happened in other media, but the difference was execution. The school arc here felt very shallow, whereas there was depth and purpose for it otherwise.
The characters were alright, I guess, but they didn't have the time they needed to develop. Important characters like Kotomi, Kyou, and to a lesser extent Tomoyo were basically cameos in here, and it honestly didn't make sense to even include them (though Tomoyo is somewhat justified, the movie really didn't need her either).
The whole Illusion World concept was also wrecked; they bothered to introduce it, but they never explained its true significance. True, they kind of made their own definition of it, which actually worked okay, but I wish they just never introduced it. It would've saved them time, and I picture the audience being left confused on the whole thing.
So, that's the first hour. What about the last 30 minutes? Let me tell you something; in my opinion, if the last half-hour was given more time to work with, it would have rivaled After Story.
The last half-hour primarily focuses on the aftermath of Nagisa's death, and unlike After Story, it felt much more dramatic and tragic. Don't get me wrong; After Story made me cry when both Nagisa and Ushio died. But there was a level of hopelessness in this movie that was not reached by the anime, and I think this is where the movie excelled.
The environment is very dark, Tomoya expresses a shockingly dark level of anguish. Tomoya doesn't work, doesn't cook for himself, refuses to talk to anybody . . . it was heart-rending just to watch. The emotion I felt when they portrayed Nagisa's death and Tomoya's descent into depression was similar to that of After Story.
Eventually, the gang (Tomoyo, Sunohara, Kyou, and Nagisa's parents are the ones I remember off-hand) take Tomoya to a train station to finally meet Ushio. There were about 5 minutes left in the movie at this point, and I wondered how they were gonna do everything post-Ushio in that timeframe. Tomoya and Ushio have a tearful, beautiful reunion as Tomoya accepts her as his daughter.Tomoya also mentions his interpretation of the Illusion World at the end which, albeit not quite as good as the real deal, was a fitting conclusion to his experiences. . . .
Then the credits roll.
I was shocked to see the movie end that way; no raising Ushio, no Nagisa coming back from the dead . . . none of that.
As I thought on it, I saw the brilliance in it. Unlike After Story, which gets a little more into the fantasy side (which isn't a bad thing; I gave AS 10/10), this movie was very realistic. It was a very fitting ending, and I wanted more. I wanted to see Tomoya's journey to Ushio in greater detail, and I wanted to see more of that alternate universe where Nagisa DIDN'T come back. The last half-hour was done superbly. It was such a shame that it never got the love it deserved.
My final verdict: 7/10
I wouldn't recommend this as a stand-alone movie nor an introduction to the Clannad universe, but I would recommend it to Clannad fans, so long as they clearly understood its flaws (not every character you like is in there, and it is way too short), as this movie gave me a very moving alternate setting. The anime still outshines the movie in every single aspect, but I strongly believe that the movie would've been just as great if it had more time. I enjoyed it, and I was entranced while thinking what could have been had Nagisa never come back.