Air Review

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It’s time to look at an anime that’s a little different from the average title that I review. For starters, this is not an action anime. This is a tragedy mystery story where a guy must try to repair the lives of 3 girls and their respective families in the process. It’ll be tricky and the show will take you on quite the roller coaster. It’s definitely a solid title and a show like this can be a nice change of pace, but unfortunately it is hurt by the terrible ending. I had to slash away a full 2 stars on account of that and was tempted to take more away, but the rest of the show had been consistently good and the ending, while dark, could have been darker.

Yukito, a homeless guy with no possessions or money, finds himself in a small town after walking for a very long time. His mission is to find a girl with wings that his mother told him about. He doesn’t stop to question if this was literal so he continues to search. The main problem is that having no money really limits his options so Yukito tries to put on little shows with his telekenetically controlled puppet for the kids so they can pay him. As you may expect, this isn’t his greatest plan and he never makes any money off of it. Luckily, a nice girl by the name of Misuzu shows up and offers him a home and 3 square meals in exchange for being her friend for the summer. Yukito grudgingly agrees and so begins his adventures in this crazy town.

The show really has 3 main arcs, one for each dilemma so let’s take a look at each one individually. First up is Kano’s plot. Yukito was given a job by her mother (or if not mother, a close relative) Hijiri. His job is to do odd jobs around the house and to entertain Kano at times. Unfortunately, it turns out that Kano has been cursed by a feather and has a split personality. This new personality shows up once in a while and tries to destroy herself. If she is not cured soon, Kano will end up being gone for good. As you would expect from Air, there are quite a few fakeouts and even a scene where you’re led to think that Kano’s other side may have succeeded. It’s definitely tricky to stop Kano when she’s always vanishing and her alter ego has super strength as well. One grab was nearly lights out for Yukito…permanently. The arc went over smoothly though and the resolution was good. It definitely had its share of sad moments, but had a happy ending in the end.

Next up was Minagi’s plot. Her mother suffers from forgetfulness and has been unwilling to accept that one of her daughters died at birth. As a result, she believes that Minagi is actually her dead sister. As a result, Minagi’s been forced to assume this identity for years, resulting in a very awkward dynamic in the house. Things get worse when the mother finally realizes that the sister is dead, but then goes to the other extreme as she forgets that she ever had any daughters. Distraught, Minagi is forced to move out and live at an abandoned train station. Now she’s finally in Yukito’s home turf so he decides to help out a bit. He gives her the option of leaving the town with him or finally confronting her mother about who she is. There is also a plot twist about Minagi’s friend Michiru who happens to have the same name as the dead sister. Makes for an interesting dynamic although it leads into the arc’s sad ending. It’s sad, but at least it’s not tragic and all of the characters still had a good time in the end. Minagi is also given a nice epilogue as she leaves this mysterious town and gets to go to a happier place and meet up with some relatives. It was another solid ending to the arc.

Next was the big final arc and unfortunately, it was the one that didn’t go over so well. Misuzu has a unique condition, derived from a curse and a fate of an infinite time loop of very limited possibilities. She can never get a friend as she suffers from painful spells and seizures whenever someone gets too close. The curse also gets partially transferred so if someone wants to be friends with her anyway, then they will both die. There is no way to break the curse and Misuzu is even given the extra discomfort of knowing when she will die. As the show repeatedly states on this tale being the 1000th summer and how this show is essentially about having the best summer ever, it is also her deadline. Misuzu will not outlast the summer, try as she might. She will also have to continue to die every summer, forever and ever. Meanwhile, her aunt Haruko has decided to never get too close to Misuzu. She inherited Misuzu when the girl’s mother died and her father decided to run off. The problem is that the Dad could reclaim her at any time so Haruko didn’t want to get attached. As a result, they’re on good terms, but you couldn’t really call them great friends. They each lead their own lives.
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As a result, Misuzu’s been all alone right from the start. Nobody even wants to be her friend no matter how much she asks. Well, Yukito’s helped out a few people already so this shouldn’t be a problem right? Well, unfortunately this is not the case. In fact, he just adds to her troubles by helping her emotions seesaw all over the place as he leaves and returns multiple times. In the end he realizes that this was a mistake and wishes for a do-over, but things don’t go as planned. Now, it should be made clear that Misuzu did get to have some fun in the end and you’re supposed to be content with the fact that she finally got to walk and go to the beach. If there was never any hope given for her to avert this fate of death then that probably would have been okay. It would have been a little more somber throughout, but so long as the core anime was not really changed, it may not have affected the score all that much. Unfortunately, the show keeps on giving you hope that the powers of friendship will be able to free Misuzu. There are dozens and dozens of fake outs that keep occurring and the viewer is left to think that we have finally made it past the darkness and into the light. Over and over again until you finally realize that the anime has just been toying with you from the start. Yes, I’m still irritated at the ending and just thinking about it makes me annoyed.

It doesn’t help that this infinite loop of 1000 summers will never end. If you decide to believe that the kids at the end are the final reincarnations of the two main leads, then it’s possible that this was the final death Misuzu had to endure and now she’s free. It’s a bit of a stretch if you ask me though and either way this version of Misuzu will keep on dying. If Yukito had found Misuzu’s winged form after being given a random speech in the final minutes of the show, then that would have helped to clear things up quite a lot. Instead, it turned into another fruitless search for the guy.

Still, as a lead, Yukito is a good protagonist. I found him to be a lot more enjoyable than the guy from Kanon as he was nicer and more understanding. He did his best to help all of the characters out and did so without having to flirt with everyone. He helped the other characters out as a good friend and he got a pretty sad fate in return. Ah well, he was never looking for a reward in the first place. He’s not too smart though as trying to earn a living by entertaining little kid in exchange for their pocket money will never work. Not to mention that his show was rather lackluster since he could only make his puppet walk back and forth in a straight line. In his second reanimated form, he lost all of his personality so he couldn’t really add much to this.

Misuzu’s a solid heroine as well. I found her to be more likable than any of the other girls. As we get to see her events twice, once from an outsider’s point of view and one from within, she does a good job of keeping up a brave face even when she’s feeling down. She’s had a rather miserable life after all, but always does her best to make the most of it. She turns sad ending into a happy one for herself. The only time I found Misuzu to be annoying was when she lost her memories as she suddenly became a mean person. I don’t think memory loss should change your core personality and subscribe to the Medaka Box theory instead. I feel like Misuzu would still be super polite even if she had no idea what was happening. Regardless, her likable personality is why I was hoping she would have a happier ending.

Kano’s not bad either as she would love to fly, but real world physics don’t allow it. Her dog, Potato, is pretty cool and Kano’s nice as well. She just never got a whole lot of personality besides being a nice person. I guess the split personality counts, but luckily she grew out of that. Her mother, Hijiri was good as well even if she never actually got to even try and help out Misuzu. She’s a doctor so it would have been nice to have seen her make an attempt even if Misuzu claimed that it would be of no use.

If there’s a character that’s a little weak in this series, it would be Minagi. That’s more due to the fact that I don’t really care for soft spoken characters though. There’s really nothing concrete to dislike about her and she has a lot of things to deal with as well. She’s always glad to help out someone in need with free coupons and a place to stay. Air doesn’t just give characters annoying gimmicks to make them different. The show did a really good job of making everyone very nice and sincere even if they end up being pretty similar at times as a result. Michiru was more entertaining as she was very over the top. She constantly beat up Yukito and the two of them were always getting into fights until Michiru became super serious towards the end. She certainly had a lot of energy and I was glad that she channeled it into productive things like blowing bubbles as opposed to constantly accusing Yukito of stuff that he wasn’t guilty of. That would have gotten old very quickly if she hadn’t stopped.
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Haruko is Misuzu’s aunt and she gets a very large role in the last 2-3 episodes. She started out as a supporting character and quickly replaced Yukito as the main character once he died and reincarnated the first time. The new scenes gave her a lot of extra character development and ultimately turned her into the best character in the show. She drinks a lot and certainly isn’t the most responsible parent. It took her a while to realize that she should be more helpful, but was better late than never. The ending is particularly rough on her since she will always have some regrets as a result, but at least she’ll have a few fond memories from the last days. As for Misuzu’s dad, the show tries to make him seem like a reasonable character, but it’s hard to buy it. He completely ditched her for 10 years and shows up out of the blue to take her back. If she hadn’t gotten amnesia at the time, his offer would have completely been rejected. He never even has any defense to explain why he left. I’m glad that he didn’t appear as a super evil character or anything like that, but there’s no way that you can root for him by this point.

There was also a random flashback mini arc that happened after Yukito died. It involved three new characters which included the original winged girl, Kanna, her friend, Uraha, and her bodyguard Ryuya. They decide to flee the land so they can have some happy adventures, but they’re caught and Kanna is destroyed. The other two decide to have a kid so that he can keep on being reincarnated to protect her future versions. It’s a very flawed plan at best. This episode gives you some extra context I suppose, but honestly I’d call it total filler. These guys will never show up again after all and they weren’t useful in the fights. Kanna and her Mom could level mountains with a single slash and yet they die to a casual arrow? That was probably the worst showing that I’ve seen from such a powerful being in some time. Not to mention that the Mom could have mentioned that she was cursed before Kanna made contact with her. It would have been more effective than simply saying “Don’t touch me” for no real reason.

The show did do a good job with the following episode though as it played out like a bit of a mystery. Why are we reliving the first episode? Has Yukito been given a chance to change everything? At first it seemed like that, but instead he gets a double take in addition to his original version so there are now two of him living in the same place and time as each other. It’s a pretty novel concept and as mentioned earlier, it’s interesting to see everything again from a new angle. If only the ending hadn’t spoiled its efforts.

The animation looks good. It’s not particularly awe inspiring, but it does look a little retro. (In a good way of course) We do get a quick action scene that is good and the character designs are all solid. I enjoyed the soundtrack to an extent as well. The themes in the actual episodes are all forgettable, but the opening is good. It’s an emotional theme that fits very well with the episodes. As a result, it’s not something that you are likely to listen to for fun at any given time, but if you just saw an emotional movie, then it’s a fitting theme to look up on Youtube.

As for negatives, there really isn’t much here. There is a little fanservice as characters dramatically shed their clothes to embrace the sky as they fly around. The aunt is also very casually dressed so she isn’t wearing much most of the time. Luckily, this show isn’t a shonen so the camera angles never really focus on it. I am still of the opinion that a risque costume does not necessarily have to be fanservice as long as the camera handles it appropriately. Air is a good example of this. There’s certainly no problems with language or violence here. This is something that you could easily show a kid although he/she would likely get bored due to the limited action scenes.

In the end, how does this compare to Kanon? Well, Kanon takes the definitive win here, but it’s not a lopsided contest by any means. Air has the better characters including the lead and has a better resolution to most of the plots. Kanon counters this by having the far superior ending and much better animation. Kanon was a lot sadder than Air despite the ending, but I’m not sure if I’d really call that a good thing per say. The soundtracks were more or less equal. I think “Ugu” beats “Gao” as a character gimmick as well. Really, the only thing separating these two series is the ending. Without it, Air actually takes the solid win here. After all, with better characters and better arcs, how could it lose? Kanon does have less filler though so that’s something to consider. Both deal with amnesia plots, but Kanon’s was more enjoyable.
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Overall, Air is a solid title, but the ending really saps the joy out of it. As they say, an ending can make or break a title. It breaks this one, but it still makes for a good ride to I’ll recommend it to you all. If anything, just watch the final episode until the initial commercial break and you should be okay more or less. It’ll have ended on a much better note for you or even just ending on the second last episode although I forgot exactly what the cliffhanger there was. The town’s certainly very deserted so it makes you wonder how living there would be. I doubt the wifi signal would be all that good so you could forget about online gaming for the most part. With this title down, it’s back to action titles. Still, we’ll see if the next tragic title can beat this one. It’ll likely all ride on the ending rather than the journey, but you never know.

Overall 5/10

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