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. Through a series of events the traveling winds up staying with this strange girl and her mother. He kind of becomes a part of the community and tries to get by with his puppet show but manages to score a job working for the local doctor. While this may sound well and good there are many odd things afoot and it's safe to say that this isn't an ordinary town and these aren't run of the mill people.
In the first volume after we were introduced to the characters and scenario the series started taking interesting turns. A bit of magic and mysticism worked its way into the show and the doctor's young sister provided a fair amount of intrigue. She was wearing a ribbon on her wrist and claimed that it kept her magical powers bottled up. Naturally Yukito brushed this off but when a strange vision of a field appears near the local temple he begins to suspect something. Apparently the girl was cursed by a feather that did indeed possess magical abilities. As the first batch of episodes ended it's safe to say that this wasn't going to be the only mystery placed in our path.
This time around the first episode gets things going with a little more of the unusual stuff that Air has been promising. Yukito starts us off with a strange dream involving his mother, which gives us a look at his character's history and motivations. It's neat how such a small thing can add some depth to a character's personality but for whatever reason, it works. He then goes on to spend some time with the sisters from the first volume, Minagi and Michiru; you know, the solemn and the feisty ones. We soon learn that their mother is really messed up and it's something that they both keep secret.
This storyline continues through to the next episode as Michiru winds up leaving home due to her mother's mental illness. Meanwhile Yukito has decided to stop staying with Misuzu because of a condition she suffers as well (is anyone in this town normal?). Whenever Misuzu becomes close to someone and feels a friendship she begins to cry uncontrollably. It has something to do with her past and as Yukito discovers the truth about her "mother" and some other facts he begins to suspect that she's the girl with wings that his family has been searching for. Some interesting bits come from that realization and it continues on even through the final two episodes here which revolve around events from the past.
Air TV is such an off-kilter show and it's very hard to describe in many instances. The world is peculiar feeling and the characters all have some kind of fault that fleshes out their personality. Eight episodes into the series and I still don't entirely know what's going on but I can honestly say that I'm mesmerized. This series certainly knows how to string viewers along and the atmosphere is intriguing enough to stay fascinating. I haven't seen anything that pushes the envelope yet but the quality is here and if you're looking for a solid release then this is one to add to your list.
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 second volume of Air.
Air is a highly unusual show that capitalizes on its detailed atmosphere and level of intrigue. As the second volume finished I found myself with the same feeling of bewilderment that I had with the first. I still don't quite know what to make of this show but I had a good time all the same. Many aspects feel like they are at odds with one another and yet the series really works on some level. So much attention to detail has been placed in crafting the world and characters that it feels as though it's building towards something. Let's just hope the payoff is worth it in the end.