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AIR – The Motion Picture (a J!-ENT Anime DVD Review)

May 17, 2009 by  



“If you enjoyed the AIR anime series, you may enjoy the motion picture even more!  A reimagining of the anime series but focusing primarily on the characters of Yukito and Misuzu.  Beautiful animation and detailed artwork, ‘AIR – The Motion Picture’ is a heartwarming, touching but yet tragic storyline.  Highly recommended!”

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

TV SERIES:  AIR – The Motion Picture

COMPANY: FUNimation Entertainment, Toei Animation

DVD INFORMATION: Japanese with optional English subtitles and English dubs

DURATION: 85 Mintes, 16:9, English 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound, Japanese 5.1 Dolby Surround Sound

TV RATING: TV 14

Directed by Osamu Dezaki

Music by Shini Orito, Magome Togoshi and Jun Maeda

Original Character Designs by Itaru Hinoue

Music by Yoshikazu Suo

Character Designs by Akemi Kobayashi

STARRING:

Aya Hisakawa/Luci Christian as Haruko Kamio

Hikaru Midorikawa/Vic Mignogna as Yukito Kunisaki

Tomoko Kawakami/Monica Rial  as Misuzu Kamio

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

Yumi Touma/Christine Auten as Hijiri Kirishima

Those who fall in love are the most susceptible to its inevitable pain.

Although blessed with a cheerful spirit radiating youthful innocence, the fragile beauty Misuzu is cursed with a mysterious illness.  Compelled to understand the history of her people, she delves into the heartbreaking tale of the legendary winged Princess Kanna.  During her journey, Misuzu encounters Yukito – a traveling performer desperately hoping to silence the demons of his past by finding his own Girl with Wings.

In a cinematic reinvention of the acclaimed television series, Misuzu and Yukito discover how a connection from long ago will determine the fate of their burgeoning romance.

The thin line between the beauty of love and the bitter sting of tragedy is explored in the unforgettable “Air: The Motion Picture”.

In 2005, the “AIR” anime series which consisted of 13 episodes featured a magical storyline about a traveler named Yukito who is in search of a girl with wings, a storyline passed down to him by his mother but a story passed down from generation to generation for a thousand years.  Throughout the anime series, we see Yukito meeting several female characters, a few which he feels may be the “girl with wings”.

The series featured a strong correlation to the Visual Novel released 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 series was quite endearing to the many fans who enjoyed its heartwarming and tragic tale but because the series featured several characters and their own storyline, the episodes were broken into arcs and ended with episodes focusing on Misuzu and her Aunt/mother Haruko.

Somehow the main character of Yukito which was quite dominant for the first seven episodes, seemed to be a secondary character in the second half of the animated series and many fans wished that there was some sort of closure between Yukito and Misuzu.

In order to do just that, a motion picture based on the anime series was created.  This time focusing primarily on Yukito, Misuzu and her aunt/mother Haruko.  Where the anime television series focused on the magical and whimsical side of the characters, “AIR – The Motion Picture” focuses primarily on love and relationships and less on the supernatural elements.

In a way, the motion picture is quite different from its anime series counterpart but both are effective in telling the story of Misuzu and the story of Princess Kanna in their own way.

“AIR – The Motion Picture” begins with the traveler Yukito.  His mother has given him a mission which he could either follow or not follow.  A story passed down from his family from generation to generation about a flying woman in the sky.  Yukito doesn’t know why he’s traveling and in a way, he’s quite skeptical about the story.

He ends up in a small town where he tries to make money by performing puppet shows and with a festival coming to the town soon, he hopes to make quite a bit of money.

We are then introduced to Misuzu Kamio.  A high school teen who has had an illness and thus has been away from school and has not really made many friends.  But she convinces a school teacher to give her a summer project and that is to document her summer.  One thing that Misuzu has been reading lately is a book about the Winged Princess Kanna.

A story about a princess born with wings.  Now a teenager, she has been told that her mother (also a winged person) and treated as an abomination had been imprisoned in an undisclosed place.   Kanna knows that her life of freedom is not possible as she can’t step outside the kingdom’s gates because she will be killed by the guards.  The winged ones have been cursed in which if they fall in love, the curse will automatically begin.  And for Princess Kanna, life changes when she meets her guard Ryuya, a man that she eventually falls in love with and tells him that one day, she hopes to see her mother.

Misuzu who is working on her summer project and meets Yukito.  Her clumsiness eventually brings the two together and she asks if he can help her with her Summer project and in return, she will treat him with food.  Being a traveler with no money, Yukito agrees.

We learn of how Yukito has a dark way of seeing life.  He tells Misuzu of how he doesn’t believe a person can be sensitive and his dislike towards families.  Misuzu surprised to hear that.  Throughout the day, the two help each other out and her classmates start to look at her and Yukito as a couple.    She somehow feels close to Yukito and thus feels comfortable near him.  As the two are together, she shares the story of Princess Kanna with him.   Yukito is not at all into the story but for Misuzu’s sake, he decides to listen.  She eventually brings him home and gives him a place to stay temporarily.

Misuzu lives with Haruko (her aunt/her mother) who has raised her since she was a young child and after her real mother had passed away.  Haruko is always working and when she gets home, she loves to drink.  But behind-the-scenes, she cares deeply for her Misuzu and is told by Misuzu’s local doctor that her test results are showing that she is getting worse and recommends Misuzu to go to the hospital.

While living at the Kamio home and being with Misuzu, Yukito starts to see how Misuzu has grown sick.  When he asks Haruko about it, she doesn’t say anything.  Days later, Yukito then discovers unused medication all over the home and angered that Haruko has not given it to her.  He then learns that there is no medication that can help her.  All the medication can do is act as a tranquilizer and help her sleep and not be in pain, something that Misuzu doesn’t want.

Similar to the story of Princess Kanna and how she is no longer going to hide her feelings of love from anyone, she confesses her love to Ryuya.  For Misuzu, while together with Yukito, she confesses her love for him.   Misuzu knows what happened to Kanna after she confessed her love and has seem to accept that her life will have a similar fate.

AUDIO & VIDEO:

“AIR – The Motion Picture” looks absolutely gorgeous.  Where the animated series was strong in background artwork with somewhat simpler character designs, with a new production team for the animated film, we get more detail in the character design and the overall background.

I was impressed by how CG was incorporated for the beach to give that realistic feel, the amount of detail in the surroundings of where Yukito and Misuzu were in but also the amount of detail and shading on the character designs.   Colors are absolutely vibrant and overall, I was amazed by how beautiful this film truly looked. Toei Animation didn’t half ass their way with the film version of “AIR”, the production crew and the voice talent did an amazing job.  I was very impressed!

“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.

In the film version, Yukito is supposed to be much older and thus, another actor has supplied the voice of the character in the Japanese version.  The motion picture takes advantage of the 5.1 Dolby Surround sound by giving good directionals for the sound effects such as the taiko drums of the festival, the continuous rain that hits the town, the ambiance of the crowds near the festival and much more.

As you would expect from an animated film, the picture and audio quality surpasses the TV animated series.

Subtitles are English only.

SPECIAL FEATURES:

The only special features are for FUNimation Entertainment releases.

I have to say that I was impressed by “AIR – The Motion Picture”.  I enjoyed the animated series and I’m sure like everyone else who watched it, probably cried their eyes out.  The animated was an emotional, heartwarming and tragic tale that had a lot of supernatural elements.

But “AIR – The Motion Picture” takes the storyline of Princess Kanna and Ryuya and incorporates it into the modern world with Misuzu and Yukito.  The characters are much more different than their animated TV counterpart and the storyline has changed, in a sense that it primarily focuses on “love” and the relationships that Misuzu has with Yukito and the relationship she has with her mother/aunt Haruko.  And there are no major supernatural elements that come into play for the film version.

Yukito is an adult but has a cynical way of viewing life.  Misuzu has always been hampered by her condition but it is until the final reveal at the end, do we realize why she never showed her love to anyone until now.

Unlike the TV series, Haruko was never involved in her daughter’s life and in a loving but cruel way, had her reasons for it.  But in the motion picture, Haruko is a mother who cares for her daughter and worries about her deteriorating health.

The film version does a great job in exploring the relationship between Yukito and Misuzu.  In a way, I prefer the storyline being that way like it is on the film and the characters are much for mature.  As for the emotional impact, the TV animated series was quite sad but effectively done as the deterioration of Misuzu was more prominent and affected her not only physically but also reverting her more towards almost as a child.

With the film version, we know that the ending will be tragic (that is if you watched the TV series first) but it’s handled much differently and again, more effective but satisfying as Yukito is included in the picture.

Overall, it’s not difficult to recommend this film because it’s very well done.  The production value in the animation, its artwork, the acting is all magnificently done.  Despite being different from the visual novel, the production crew definitely put a lot of passion into their work and I was just amazed of how vibrant the colors and how detailed the film version looked.

In a way, you can watch this film and be content with the storyline but if you are a purist and want the experience of how things were presented in the visual novel and also get to learn about the various characters from the TV animated series, definitely check the series out.  It’s an awesome series that will tug at your heart because it is an emotional series.

But if you want the complete “AIR” experience, I highly recommend checking both the animated series and the Motion Picture.   “AIR – The Motion Picture” is a beautiful, heartwarming and tragic film.  Highly recommended!

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