To really do Kanon and Air, as two franchises, justice, we really need a solid footing in history. It just makes no sense to head into it without getting your bearings right. Sadly, I’m not sure if I’m qualified to even try.
Well. I did try, but after writing a few paragraphs I realized it’s futile to explain it in detail. It’s beyond me. Instead, let me just be brief and sweet.
Kanon is about the girls, their stories, and the fable feel in that fantasy winter wonderland. Or winter tragicland. It’s enough, more than enough, to gather its own fans just based on the merits of Kyoani’s animated adaptation alone. The power of moe transcends petty franchise labels, after all.
Older Kanon fans, either from the Toei era or from the original uproar of Key‘s success, will enjoy the new anime just like how the fans do. I’m not sure what that means, but just seeing Mariko Kouda back in action (older, mellower, and more moe!) is enough to send me to that winter wonderland. It probably vary between each fan, and you know the drill.
But to compare it to Air? Sure, you can, but there’s so much one could say about the two beyond the superficial. In fact, you really have to get to the root of both adaptations: that they were sister games in a true sense. Kanon was a proof of concept, and Air is more radical and original which came at the wake of Kanon’s success. It shows in the nonlinear storytelling. It shows in the choice of narrative devices. it shows in the simplicity.
These fundamental differences surface in their adaptions. Kanon was by all means a straight-up harem, and Kyoani’s Kanon currently is just that. It’s no surprise people who are, for one reason or another, coming to be allergic to harems generally “don’t get it” why so many of their equally-jaded fellow fans like it.
The moral of the story, I guess, is to read Wikipedia. It’s common to mock Kanon as an eroge, but that’s kind of like laughing at Michael Jackson as a man with black skin–you could, but it betrays a good-faith understanding of the situation. It’s stupid and ignorant. It’s also a little disingenuous to compare Kanon and Air just on the grounds that one is really a harem and the other isn’t really a harem. There are probably a lot of great insights we can gleam from such an exercise, but we got to go deeper to grasp it.