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 second volume Yukito got things started with a strange dream about his mother which gave us a look at his history and drive for finding the winged girl. He also spent the evening with Minagi and Michiru and we learned something was weird about their mother. Poor Yukito also discovered that his presence makes Misuzu cry uncontrollably so he decides to spend some time away from her household. Towards the end of the volume the story shifted somewhat and went back 1,000 years in time to tell the story about a winged girl named Kanna.
That last bit is right where the third volume picks up with Kanna, Ryuuya, and Uraha looking for the girl's mother. It's kind of strange how everybody in this show seems to be living in the shadow of their mother, but I digress. After searching for a while the three finally find her and convince her to come along with them. All is for naught though as Kanna and her mother meet tragedy in the end. This prompts the belief that Kanna will be reborn and the need for a bloodline to search for a winged girl. If you need me to spell it out for you this would be Yukito's quest at the behest of his mother.
In the next episode the focus is done somewhat different. Things jump back in time once again but not so far as a thousand years. Instead we go back to the point that started the series with Yukito and Misuzu meeting up. Thankfully it's not a simple rehash but rather a new perspective on things as we see events through the eyes of a crow. It was a nice way to retell their meeting because for the most part the first time around we saw stuff strictly from Yukio's perspective.
The third episode on this disc sees Misuzu and Haruko spending some quality time together. Well, I say quality, but really it's the two of them going through some really emotionally charged bits. Haruko is fighting internally over the struggle to be the girl's mother that she needs to be while Misuzu actually finds herself trying to figure out just who she is. In between her real father shows up to take her back and the heartstrings really get plucked during a few scenes. This continues through to the final episode here as things more or less come to a close despite the fact that there is a fourth volume yet to be watched.
For all of its peculiarities, the slow pacing, and the awkward characters, Air is a show that will leave an impression on you. It's a sad tale that will absolutely wrench your gut if you allow yourself to be caught up in things. Because of that Air succeeds where many other anime fail; telling an emotional story.
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.
A preview of the next volume, clean animations, and some trailers for other ADV products are all that you're going to find on the third volume of Air.
Air is a highly unusual show that capitalizes on its detailed atmosphere and level of intrigue. The series will hit you right at your core with some fantastically written moments that evoke real emotion. This is a rarity with anime and as Air winds down you'll realize that it's a gem indeed. Sure it's not a series for everyone and yeah, the continuity of the storyline can be hazy at times but it's a show that leaves a lasting impression on you. This title is recommended if you're looking for something different to watch.