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AIR – The Complete Series (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

May 16, 2009 by  



“A heartwarming and tragic anime series.  ‘AIR’ is indeed a special anime series in which the creators were thinking outside of the box and wanted to try something different in the way the storyline was told.  Featuring enjoyable characters and absolutely beautiful animated backgrounds and scenery, ‘AIR’ is highly recommended!”

Images courtesy of © Visual Art’s/Key/Angel Seekers.  Licensed by FUNimation Productions, Ltd.  All Rights Reserved.

 

TV SERIES:  AIR – The Complete Series

 

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment, TBS Animation

 

DVD INFORMATION: Japanese with optional English subtitles and English dubs

 

 

DURATION: 340 Minutes.  Contains all 12 episodes + 2 specials on 3 DVD’s

TV RATING: TV 14

 

Directed by Tatsuya Ishihara

Original Character Designs by Itaru Hinoue

Character Design by Tomoe Aratani

Art Director: Jouji Unoguchi

Producer: Yoko Hatta

 

Series Composition by Fumihiko Shimo

Music by Jun Maeda, Magome Togoshi, Shinji Orito

 

STARRING:

Aya Hisakawa/Luci Christian as Haruko Kamio

Daisuke Ono/Vic Mignogna as Yukito Kunisaki

Tomoko Kawakami/Monica Rial  as Misuzu Kamio

Asami Okamoto/Stephanie Wittels as Kano Kirishima

Chinami Nishimura/Cynthia Martinez as Kannabi-no-mikoto

Daisuke Ono/Vic Mignona as Sora

Hiromi Konno/Tiffany Grant as Potato

Kikuo Inoue/Allison Sumrall as Uraha

Nobutoshi Canna/Jack Hickman as Ryuya

Ryoka Yuzuki/Kira Vincent-Davis as Minagi Tohno

Yukari Tamura/Serena Varghese as Michuru

Yumi Touma/Christine Auten as Hijiri Kirishima

 

An elusive Girl in the Sky…does she want to be found?

Yukito is a traveling performer.  He moves through this world with only the clothes on his back – driven onward by stories of “The Girl in the Sky.”  Not knowing when or if he will find her, Yukito wanders, clinging to fleeting hope.

Destitute and near starvation, Yukito’s life changes after the eccentric beauty Misuzo offers him food and shelter.  This fragile treasure shares with him her dreams of a life lived amongst the clouds, and he listens closely out of a gratitude which soon gives away to rapt curiosity.

The unlikely pair grows close, but Yukito cannot forget his destiny – or his past.  In the end, the compelling need to find “her” remains.  Who is the girl in the sky?  Does she even exist?  The questions run rampant, but the answers float aimlessly through the air.

 

Over a thousand years ago, people born with wings were used by people as weapons in war, some were used for the protection of the world.  A mother and her daughter were the last remaining people with wings.  Those who feared the winged beings were able to kill the mother but as for the young daughter, a deadly curse would be put on every reincarnated winged person and the person that she was close to.

In an effort to break the curse, the young winged girl’s best friend and her bodyguard decided to have an offspring in an effort that one day, a descendant with the bloodline will be able to find the girl with wing in their current time period and break that terrible curse.

A thousand years later, Yukito Kunisaki, a descendant in search for the winged girl, believes he finally found her.

Welcome to the whimsical and magical storyline of “AIR”, a popular 2005 anime series is based on a visual novel by the Japanese software company Key back in 2000.

The original visual novel for the PC was an adult game but was later released without the adult content for the PC, Sega Dreamcast and Sony PlayStation 2.  And not long ago for the Sony PSP and cell phones.  The visual novel also branched out into manga and also an animated film.

Both the animated series and the film were originally released by ADV Films in 2007 but the license for the animation was transferred to FUNimation Entertainment and both have been re-released as a complete series box set (the 12-episode series and the two specials) and the film in 2009.

The series was directed by Tatsuya Ishihara (“K-ON!”, “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, “Tenchi Universe”, etc.) and features original character design by Itaru Hinoue (“Kanon”, “Clannad”, etc.) and character designs and key animation by Tomoe Aratani (“Munto”, “Lucky Star”, “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, “Clannad”, etc.).

“AIR” is one of those animated series that is quite difficult to explain and also having to be careful without spoiling any of the storylines.

Unlike your typical anime series and following the standard style of storytelling, the storyline is fragmented by its multiple storyline arc that revolve around main character Yukito Kunisaki’s search for the “girl in the sky” and Misuzu Kamio who has dreams that she is a girl flying in the sky.

Each arc  is self-contained and where major characters are typically seen throughout the anime series, not for “AIR”.  But do not let that push you away from watching this series because “AIR” is an anime series that deserves to be watched but also an anime series that will no doubt captivate you but also will make you want to cry.

The main characters for the anime series are:

Yukito Kunisaki – Yukito wanders around the country looking for the “Girl in the Sky”, a story passed down to him from his mother and her family in the last thousand years.  He makes his living by using telekinesis and controlling a puppet .  His life of living in the streets change when he meets Misuzu Kamio.

Misuzu Kamio – The first of the female characters that Yukito believes may be the girl with wings.  She is a girl who has no friends and since her mother died, her father left her with her aunt Haruko Kamio.   She tends to say “Gao” when she is about to cry or nervous and she loves dinosaurs and baby chicks.    She also tends to have these dreams of her flying in the sky.  She becomes close with Yukito and invites him to live with her temporarily.

Haruko Kamio – The aunt of Misuzu who looks quite young for her age.  A bit brash, she has taken care of Misuzu for ten years at the request of Misuzu’s father.  Haruko has not gotten too close to Misuzu because she couldn’t bare the thought of losing her.  So, she never bought her things or celebrated her birthday, she kept herself distant.

Kano Kirishima – The second girl that Yukito believes that may be the girl with wings.  She is an energetic girl who loves taking care of animals and with her dog Potato.  She lives with her sister Hijiri, the town’s doctor and wears a yellow scarf on her wrist.  She is told by her sister that once she is ready, she could remove the yellow scarf to use magic.  But she also dreams of flying in the sky.  Her sister Hijiri hires Yukito to do some custodian work at her clinic.

Minagi Tohno – The third girl that Yukito meets but is surprised to learn of the secret that she is keeping.  A top student in school and quite shy, she hangs out with a girl named Michiru.  Minagi has a major secret in her life that she has been hiding for years.    Meanwhile, her friend Michiru also has a secret.

The first two discs include six episodes each.  Included are:

Disc 1:

  • EPISODE 1: Kaze (~Breeze~) – Yukito Kunisaki is trying to make ends meet in a new town that he has arrived in and meets a strange and happy girl named Misuzu Kamio that brings her home and a place to live.
  • EPISODE 2: Machi (~Town~) – Yukito is doing a puppet show but a dog named Potato takes the puppet and runs off, Yukito goes after Potato and meets Kano Kirishima and her sister Hijri who offers Yukito a job.
  • EPISODE 3: Koe (~Whisper~) – Yukito and Misuzu see a transformation with Kano, meanwhile Yukito goes to the clinic and hears Hijiri talking to Kano and learns that there is more than meets the eye with Kano.
  • EPISODE 4: Hane (~Plume~) – Kano who is in a magical trance tries to choke Yukito.  We then learn the history about Hijiri and her sister Kano.
  • EPISODE 5: Tsubasa (~Wing~) – Yukito hangs out with Minagi and Michiru.  And when he brings Minagi back home, her mother acts as if she doesn’t have a daughter.  We learn from Hijiri of Minagi and her mother’s secret.
  • EPISODE 6: Hoshi (~Star~) – Yukito learns the secret about Minagi’s friend Michiru.

Disc 2:

  • EPISODE 7: Yume (~Dream~) – We see flashbacks of Yukito’s life and the stories told to him by his mother.  Yukito now feels that Misuzu is the reincarnation of the winged girl Kanna but also knows the fate of those who are Kanna reincarnations and the one person who is close to them.
  • EPISODE 8: Natsu (~Summer~) – A thousand years in the past, we are shown the storyline of Kanna, the winged girl and her friend Uraha and her bodyguard Ryuya.
  • EPISODE 9: Tsuki (~Moon~) – The second part of the story of Kanna and how she became cursed and the fate of Ryuya.
  • EPISODE 10: Hikari (~Light~) – We are then taken into the storyline of what had happened to Misuzu who feels that she is now alone in her life.  The perspective is through the eyes of a crow which she named Sora.
  • EPISODE 11: Umi (~Sea~) – Misuzu’s condition is getting worse.  Haruko decides that she wants to be the mother that she had wanted to be.  Meanwhile, Misuzu’s father comes back and wants her back.
  • EPISODE 12: Sora (~Air~) – Haruko will do what she can to be a mother for Misuzu, no matter how difficult her condition worsens.

DISC 3: The third disc includes the two specials titled “Air in Summer”.

  • SPECIAL EPISODE 1: Yamamichi (~Mountain path~) – An extended version of episode 8, the Summer arc in regards to the adventures of Kanna, the winged girl, Uraha and Ryuya.
  • SPECIAL EPISODE 2: Ametsuchi (~Universe~) – Part 2 of the Summer Arc featuring the relationship between Kanna, Uraha and Ryuya.

AUDIO & VIDEO:

“AIR” features a vibrant and colorful animation style for the backgrounds but for the main characters, parts are well animated and shaded while some parts are quite basic in presentation.  A lot of details in the eyes and the hair and clothing but it’s the use of color to show the town that looks absolute beautiful.  From the sunsets and everything around the scenery in amber to the colorful beach scenes, the background animation work was well done and helped enhance the character design.  Overall, picture quality is vibrant, bright and colorful.

“AIR” features both the Japanese and English dub work and are well done.  English dub is featured in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound.  Japanese dub work is also featured in 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound.  Only the OAV specials were featured in English and Japanese 2.0.

The Japanese voice work is actually quite exciting as the series showcases popular Japanese voice actresses  Aya Hisakawa (“Ah! My Goddess”, “Bubblegum Crisis”, “Devil Hunter Yohko”, etc.), Kikuko Inoue (“Ranma 1/2”, “Ah! My Goddess”, “El Hazard”, etc.), Daisuke Ono (“Blood+”, “Eyeshield 21”, etc.), Tomomi Kawakami (“Bleach”, “Fushigi Yugi”, etc.)  and Yumi Touma.

Meanwhile, the English version has talents Vic Mignogna, Monica Rial, Luci Christian and Alison Sumrall and many more.

I watched the series with both languages and both are quite solid.  Main difference is that for the character of Misuzu, the Japanese version features her character with a childish, high pitched voice.  But overall, the voice work was well-done for this series.

Subtitles featured are only in English.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

Disc 3 for “AIR – The Complete Series” features the clean opening and ending themes which features no text or credits.   Included also are FUNimation Entertainment trailers.

“AIR” is a heartwarming but yet tragic anime series.  From it’s interesting and enjoyable characters to the vibrant animation, I found the actual pacing of each episode to be quite interesting and different compared to any anime series I have seen.  In a way, you can see “AIR” as an anime television series, although 12 episodes long, are broken into different story arcs.

The first seven episodes are used to feature Yukito and his searched for “The Winged Girl” and building on character development of how he meets three girls who have the potential to be reincarnations of Kanna.

Episode 8 and 9 features the back story of how “The Winged Girl” became a story that would be passed down to generations but how her curse has continued on for all these years.

Episode 10-12 primarily features the relationship of Haruko and her niece Misuzu and the two finding comfort with each other and making the steps necessary to grow as individuals.

The series is enchanting and magical but it all boils down to a thousand years of stories passed down from generation to generation in hopes that the descendants of the bloodline will continue in telling the stories but most of all, hope for that descendant to find a way to end the curse.

I felt the characters were enjoyable to watch but to see how the characters were all woven together and having some sort of connection with one another but I did feel that this buildup of learning of these characters would have something to do with the final episodes but they don’t.  Each episode arc is pretty much contained. Most anime series are not this way and because of that, I was more open to see where this anime was taking me.

Needless to say, by the end of the series, you can’t help but cry.  How the series ends is quite heartwarming but tragic.

Without spoiling the series, I will say that “AIR” is one of those rare animated series that presents itself unlike any normal anime series when it comes to storytelling.  In fact, because it does something quite different, may be thought of creative and exciting while others may find the storyline to be disjointed and even perhaps, maybe frustrating.  For me, I felt that the storytelling and pacing of the arcs was well-done.   The staff behind the anime series seem to have wanted to think outside of the box and do something that wasn’t so “typical” and do something different and I feel they succeeded.

But the good news for those who want an unfragmented story arcs, especially focusing on the characters of Yukito and Misuzu, will want to pick up the “AIR – The Motion Picture” DVD which was released simultaneously by FUNimation Entertainment.  The film features none of the extra characters but solely on Yukito, Misuzu and Haruko.

“AIR” is highly recommended!

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