I enjoyed the CLANNAD movie. But I realize it became a very narrowly tailored exercise in, well, dramatic reenactment of something that’s probably more powerful.
The problem with CLANNAD, and to some extent the Key anime adaptations we’ve seen so far, is that there is no way to traverse through all the key “checkpoints” without making a mess of the story. The story either loses some of the impact because of that, or the story just gets too convoluted for a straight-faced narrative.
In a more general sense, multi-pathing visual novels are like arcade racing games. Specifically, it’s those games that takes a couple tokens to play where you have to not only beat your AI opponents, but make various checkpoints to get more time. When you run out of time, even if you are ahead of the pack, you basically lose.
In this modular way to look at drama, where trying to hit every gut wrenching twist and turn becomes the purpose of an unstoppable, artfully sly narrative, we should see quite a few of those checkpoints in the duration of the story. But when as applied to visual novels, the difficulty arises when your checkpoints are not dotted across one race track, but in a city of one-way roads that necessarily limits you to only a subset of all possible checkpoints available in the game out of the total.
The approach in a theatrical adaptation is necessarily much more single minded. We want to go in and get it done in an hour-and-half. TV series can pursuit forks in the road, but movies lack the luxury of time to backtrack (so much).
And in exchange, the CLANNAD movie took us deeper and all the way through with Nagisa’s story. But at what cost? Was it worth it?
I think how you answer those questions will be the litmus test to determine what you enjoy the most out of an exercise in drama.
Perhaps more relevantly, with each iteration, each Key adaptation, both Toei and Kyoto Animation do a better job. At least that was my impression.