(MAJOR SPOILERS FOR CLANNAD MOVIE, ANIME AND GAME)
Alright, unpopular opinion time. I think the Clannad movie is better than the anime. But, before you chew me out, at least read why I am saying this.
Okay, so I have known Clannad for a fairly long time now. I know that even the anime gets criticized for not following the game as faithfully as it could. I understand there is now way in hell a movie could do it better. However, the movie deviating from the plot of the game is exactly why I favor it over the anime. Allow me to explain.
The movie knows it won't be able to fit everyone into the scenario, so instead of jamming everybody in with a bunch of side stories that will go absolutely nowhere, it prioritizes Nagisa. Now, this does mean that Tomoya pretty much marries her on the spot, since they only have the length of a standard film to work with. Understandable. Before I jump into my favorite parts, though, I am actually going to start with criticisms, because as you know, my score is really high for this, so I have less negatives to say about it.
The pacing is still abrupt. The beginning is very similar to the anime, where something feels off about Tomoya just seeing Nagisa walking around and the whole composition of this scene, the movie, anime and game, this scene just generally feels off to me and the movie only reminded me why. But, the movie does it the worst out of these three, since it rushes it. From my understanding, their first communication is supposed to be long in a sense of "atmosphere" or whatever, so the movie rushing it ruins the one thing it has going for it. Though, the animation in this scene is actually the best in the movie than the anime because of the scene choreography, featuring nice, fluid hair, beautiful colorization (which is sad to be unable to appreciate when you can not really find the movie in HD) and nice choice of BGM. However, that aside, the scene is very awkward.
Rushing in general. For the girls who did make it into the movie, they were immediately pushed aside to later become minor characters near the end, since well, they are still Tomoya's friends. They just did not have any screen time. Hell, Kyou has a single speaking line in the whole movie. Tomoyo has the most attention, since she is the one leading the charge to take down Nagisa's posters and is a lot more antagonizing here than in the game. As I said, everyone not being in the movie is sad, but understandable. They did not want it to look like a complete mess. Sunohara also went bonkers a bit too much in this movie than he should have, most notably during the sequence where he was taking upset about the posters.
Great Dango Family being butchered was unforgivable. It is the only reason why I did not score this movie a nine.
Now, the part where you are shaking your head at, why am I saying this is a great movie? Well, because I am doing what everyone else is not doing, that being appreciating it as a standalone product. In that sense, yes, I know it still has scene pacing problems, but for the scenes it did good in, they were pretty great. The movie deciding to retell the events of the game was actually intelligent, since it allows scene choreography to flow more naturally and it does help the scenes that did not look rushed. I liked that certain comedy was handled pretty great, most notably Sunohara having the most Sakuga moments out of anyone else in the movie with how bizarre he is here.
Now, praising the most controversial parts. Tomoya's original voice? I like it better! Tomoya is a depressed person, so it was weird he did not sound this melancholic in the anime. Scenes where he grieved, got angry and just talked in general fit the personality of his character way better. And he even does feel like a real delinquent with the minimal social interaction at the beginning. It complements his character very well. I am sad he was the only one who got a new voice for the anime, because I would have loved to see how this person did him with a full-length anime to work with.
As I also said before, this movie opted to have original scenes in place of being faithful to the game and that is where it shines. Since I absorbed this film after the anime and game, I already know the story and so watching more of it in a rushed format would have greatly effected my score of the movie as a whole. Instead, I am being treated to a unique take on Clannad that is pretty enjoyable. In fact, I prefer how certain characters were in this movie than the game. Most notably, Sunohara.
For starters, we see that they beat him up on the soccer field, which I believe the game mentioned that the fight was not started by him. Seeing it in action here, you can actually pity Sunohara. You feel bad that he was quite literally beaten up on the soccer field during a game and his anger was justified. He feels like he is really taking on the sadder aspects of his character way better and, due to how mistreated he was in the game, I feel happy seeing other characters pity him in the anime. Very notably, Sakagami, who listened to him during his grieving of Tomoya. Sunohara was also the most upset during the vandalizing of Nagisa's posters, which made him seem very commendable as a person, since instead of the anger he got from the mistreatment on the soccer team degrading him as an individual, he instead feels pity for other people who go through the same stress. It's more admirable and I wish this trait was in the game version of his character.
And for that earlier matter, the friendship of Tomoya and Sunohara. I understand the game does portray this better, since they established their friendship came over something pretty minor and they both disliked certain aspects of each other, so they naturally weren't very close and Tomoya messing around with him a lot makes sense. But, in the movie, Tomoya has a legitimate bonding moment with Sunohara which I appreciate a lot and I like the retelling of their friendship having holes, but they are trying to be close, rather than them just being distant and kind of having bonding moments. I want to say the game portrayed a more unique friendship, but I am still pondering if I prefer the nature of their bond in the movie or game better. They are both still good in their own ways.
Then there are the serious moments. This may be very controversial, but I believe the movie conveyed one particular scene significantly better to me than the anime. Nagisa in the hospital room just had a lot of love put into it. Nagisa slowly muttering her last words in her dying breath, acted very well, made me tear up more than I expected. The anime just has this weird montage sequence that made the whole death feel a bit weird, well the movie instead conveyed it in a much better manner. You could feel for both Nagisa dying and Tomoya crying. The entire composition of this scene is just beautiful and the BGM was chosen perfectly. I have a harder time watching this without feeling sad than any other scene in the entire anime. The anime did Nagisa's death scene too "epic" as comical of a word as that is to use. What I mean by this is that there is an intense track in the background, but it is not particularly sad sounding, but more like a buildup track of some kind. I'm not particularly good at describing this, but it just did not feel nearly as good as the track in the movie for Nagisa's death. If I remember right, the game does her death scene comparable to the movie, not using a weird atmosphere around her with bright lights, but rather a real, very sad death with appropriate music. The way the movie did Nagisa's death will always be my favorite.
So that leaves the more minor things. I actually think Nagisa looks more attractive in the movie than in the game as well, subtle as the design differences are. I have read that people said Toei did a very bad job with the animation, but I feel like those opinions are entirely out of hatred, because I like to analyze animation a lot in anime and I did not see anything wrong with the frame pacing, detail or anything else. I suppose the anime does look slightly better, generally, but when I say I prefer the design of a character, that is different. Objectively, I am aware the anime does have a lot more detail, but subjectively, I like Nagisa better in the movie. The movie does not come close to the Illusionary World sequences at all in the anime, which are still better than the majority of anime to this day. I can fully agree with anyone on that. The anime does make great use of the talent on staff. Those people will be missed. Their effort on the anime is unforgettable. The soundtrack was also nicer in the movie in regard to unique flavor, but I prefer that the anime used the raw game OST.
I recommend this movie a lot, but only if you are willing to absorb it without a hateful mind of Toei and a bias toward the game. You are allowed to prefer the game, but please try to watch the movie as a standalone product. It will make it much more enjoyable.