Air is a show with a rich background which includes visual novel games and manga. Consisting of 13 episodes the series began air-ing (pun intended) in 2005 and went on to receive a movie around the same time. I heard about the show shortly after it was released but I do have to say I wasn't expecting to see the amount of hype surrounding it. It would seem that quite the fan base has been formed within the American audience and though I hadn't seen any of the show I had plenty of expectations when it came time to watch it.
Yukito Kunisaki doesn't have much in the way of possessions or wealth. He has the shirt on his back, the dirty puppet in his pocket, and a story about a girl with wings, as told to him by his dead mother. The series begins unsuspectingly enough with Yukito traveling from town to town attempting to make money with his bizarre puppet show. You see, he has a small-ish telekinetic ability that allows him to control inanimate objects and make them walk around or dance. You'd think he'd make a killing with this skill but more often than not he's scoffed at by onlookers. One day Yukito wanders into a seaside town and finds more than he bargained for.
While gazing blearily at the sky and bemoaning his lack of food a girl happens by and startles him out of a daydream. The girl's name is Misuzu and she takes a liking to Yukito rather quickly. She offers to buy him something to snack on and even brings him home so that he can sleep beneath a roof for the night. At first he's opposed to it but she seems so genuine and her mother eventually warms up to the idea so he decides to be a freeloader.
Misuzu is a strange duck indeed. She has a tendency to make dinosaur noises, behaves much younger than she is, and has virtually no relationship with her mother whatsoever. Through circumstances Yukito basically becomes Misuzu's babysitter and makes sure that she doesn't get into trouble. While she's in school he spends his time trying to earn money with his puppet show, which is less than successful to say the least. Fortunately he manages to meet another strange young girl, her dog Potato, and through these events lands a job with the local doctor.
It is quite obvious early on that some things are not all that they seem to be. The latest young girl he has met wears a ribbon on her wrist and merely says that it is there to keep her from using magic. When Yukito and Misuzu stumble upon her at the town's shrine enrobed in light with visions of grassy fields dancing around her we know right away that something is amiss. In between the daily insanity of Yukito's life this is merely another unsolved mystery that continues throughout this introductory volume.
As things progress we meet several other characters as well. More of Misuzu's classmates show up and some of the adults in town have their own way of doing things and rewarding people. Throughout the four episodes here you'll get the sensation that something is amiss in this seaside village. There is something beneath the surface that defies explanation and as Yukito spends more time with these people this becomes evident.
Air definitely skirts many issues as it tells its serene and somewhat bizarre tale. Things are peculiar, yet comforting, and the world surrounding Yukito is certainly robust enough to draw you in. So far some of the characters are fairly stereotypical but the story is intriguing enough to allow for that. Overall my expectations were met but not exceeded in the case of Air. I'm interested in seeing where the series goes from here since this volume was a great launching point but with such a limited perspective on the show it's hard to gauge the quality at this juncture.
Air originally aired in 2005 and features a very up to date presentation with pristine artwork and an impressive technical side to things. ADV has released the show on DVD with an anamorphic widescreen presentation and the image is practically flawless. This is one of the most vibrant shows I have ever seen with a color palette that titillates the senses. Quite honestly there are few shows out there as rich looking as Air and from the ground up the design here is marvelous. Technically speaking the video quality suffers slightly from some softness and grain here and there but neither really detracts from the experience.
Considering Air is a dialogue driven show devoid of action of any variety I was very surprised to see 5.1 surround sound being available for both English and Japanese. A show like this could have gotten by with a 2.0 stereo track just fine but it seems that the producers wanted to make this project a labor of love. The extra attention to the sound pays off with a well-crafted sound field that draws you in with ambient noise and keeps dialogue and music separated nicely. The sense of immersion isn't the greatest but it's certainly better than I was expecting when going into the show.
Clean animations and some trailers for other ADV products are all that you're going to find on the first volume of Air.
Air is a highly unusual show that capitalizes on its detailed atmosphere and level of intrigue. So many aspects of the first four episodes are minimal in terms of how they are presented, yet somehow they all come together to craft an interesting and somewhat evasive story. The slow pacing and seeming lack of direction gives the world and characters the time they need to grow beyond their stereotypes but nothing satisfactory happens in this installment. I'm certain that every little detail is leading up to something much grander in scope by until we get there Air has the potential to merely string you along with a certain amount of frustration. For now this is a promising looking series with a strong start so we're going to recommend it.