Watching a classic many years later in a batch mode offers obvious convenience advantages, but it makes one miss on all the fun discussions. And there sure were some. My kinda blog-friend from SDB's halo, Wonderduck, apparently was a big fan, for one (the leader of geriatric animebloggers himself boycotts KyoAni). I completely forgot that I commented on one of his entries, but perhaps he nudged me to start with Mai's branch in the game, who knows?
Naturally, heavyweights like Lawson and Omo did not neglect the high profile series either. But the two split: while Lawson was "enamoured with Kanon" and "enchanted with the story and attached to the characters", Omo proclaimed that "Kanon 2006 FAILS". I really cannot fathom why. Perhaps he secretly was in Nayuki camp too deep (j/k). His official explanation went to pay the due first, before turning to excessively cryptic, codewordy blows:
I want to talk about more good stuff about Kanon just so you don’t get the wrong idea. Kanon 2006 is very heartful in that it delivered the things that made the game great.
But [..] what really did Kanon in [was] pandering to the more intangible, emotional story aspect of Kanon. Invariably so, the 2002 Kanon rendition recognized this so they did their best to keep the drama tense and break it open at the end. In 2006 Kanon broke open 3 times before episode 18... but what does that leave the viewer and fans of Nayuki and Ayu? A wonderful epilogue?
[...] Pacing sucked for the last third of the series, and while the message and meaning of the last 6 episodes are especially touching, I wonder how many people even gotten it 
I'm here to tell you that the pacing was excellent. The real key to his disappointment, I think, is ultimately in the game poisoning, like so:
But how are we suppose to understand Mai without that wonderful flashback? Or Nayuki (at all?) and Ayu?
Here's where my difficulties with Japanese possibly helped: I do not remember anything all that dramatic about Mai's flashbacks. I am pretty sure iPad version is exact classic storyline for toned-down versions. Maybe they were too hard to read.
Speaking of Mai, she prompted Lawson to unfold a little more than usual:
I’ve been known to say, “I don’t care much for Mai’s story.” Repeatedly. The fact that Mai is so popular among Kanon fans has always baffled me, to be honest.
Until now, that is.
After watching the conclusion of Mai’s arc in the most recent episode of Kanon, it suddenly dawned on me: I do like Mai’s story. I think it’s incredibly moving. [...]
So, what gives? It’s not like Kyoto Animation made changes to Mai’s story. They followed the game fairly closely. And even though the Toei version of Kanon kicked a lot of the details of Mai’s story to the curb, all of the core elements survived intact. Is Ishihara Tatsuya just that good of a director? I suppose he is, and it clearly shows in the conclusion of Mai’s arc, but that’s really not it. Once again, what gives?
I don’t like Mai, that’s what.
Mai’s a tough nut to crack, that’s for sure. How can a parade of moe stereotypes like Kanon have an ice queen character like Mai? Yes, I know “ice queen” no doubt pegs someone’s moe meter somewhere (what doesn’t?), but if you lined all of the Kanon heroines up and played a game of, “one of these kids is not like the other ones,” the game wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Ain’t nothing moe about Mai.
Or is there?
Well, before someone shouts, “Are you some kind of fucking idiot? Of course Mai is moe!”, let me say this: yes, she is. It’s just that I didn’t quite realize it until now. Was Mai moe in the game? Sure. But to what extent? It was there, of course, but Mai’s moeness is so subtle that it doesn’t come across particularly well - especially when every other girl in Kanon is “moe-ing” with the brightness of a thousand suns. And the first anime series? As I said before, a lot of the details of Mai’s story were lost in the first anime series, and amongst those details was her personality. Or, to be more specific, the moe aspects of her personality.
Thankfully, Kyoto Animation brought the moe back… and proceeded to jam it down our throats. To be honest, I was a bit weirded out at first. “Is this really Mai? What’s going on?” But, as time went on, I grew to like the “new” Mai. And even though Mai’s arc was the one I was least looking forward to this time around, I’m now sad to see it come to end.
Once again… bravo, KyoAni?
Not that I agree with the whole of Lawson's analysis. On the factual side, I think, her personality was faithfuly reproduced (again, as much as my limited nihongo permits to tell). So, the final graf seems like a rhethorical flourish and a fictionalized account of Lawson's feelings. The rest is pretty great, however.
Since we're on topic, for me personally a lot of Mai's attaraction is in the challenge of managing her. She is very much like iM@S' Yukiho that way. Yuuichi is somewhat crude at meeting her challenge at first: remember the scene where he thinks, "I feel like I win when I make her talk". This attraction is not as subtle as Lawson implies above, and not a lot was lost in the adaptation. The ultimate price you pay for losing management vigilance was sure in!
UPDATE: Omo tweets: "you are right, my main objection is basically Nayuki disappointment." I feel for you, bro.