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.
The third volume Air found its resolution and came to a close after 12 episodes. Now, I know you're probably thinking "12? But I thought Air was 13 episodes!" Technically you're right but I'll get into what's on this volume in a second. At any rate I don't want to spoil the ending of the series but I will say that the whole affair revolved around the relationship between Misuzu and her adopted mother Haruko. There was a ton of emotion thrown around and the story wrapped up satisfyingly enough.
Considering the show has already technically come to a close it seems strange that we're looking at a fourth volume. For all intents and purposes, yes, the show lasts 12 episodes. The thirteenth episode provided here is little more than a retelling of the original story all lumped together in the span of a single episode's run time. It serves little value other than a super quick refresher for folks who forgot what the series was about. The ironic thing about that is if you have actually watched this series then I'm sure you would find it hard to forget what happened. At any rate I suppose this was just a way of setting up the next two episodes.
Remember during the series there was a storyline that shot back in time by 1,000 years and told the tale of a girl named Kanna and her quest for her mother? Well, the two special episodes here take place during that time period and feature events that didn't quite fit into the span of the series. It's a shame really because these episodes really fit right into the make up of the show nicely enough. After watching the finale and going back to watch these two specials they felt a little disjointed to say the least.
This volume and these episodes are kind of questionable but I suppose we all want our anime complete, right? The recap episode turns out to be pointless if you have watched the rest and the special episodes would have fit better between volumes two and three but if you're just getting into the show then you can easily pick up all four installments and place them there while watching your first time through. The episodes are good but do not stand out on their own whatsoever.
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 fourth volume of Air.
Air was a very unique show that was presented in a manner that was outside the box. The characters were interesting and the concept was compelling but I'm not entirely certain it's a series that will work for everyone. It has a story that is pieced together in a peculiar manner but the payoff at the end is worth the momentary confusion. This volume feels kind of silly thanks to the recap episode and fact that the other two inclusions fit within a plot earlier in the show's run. I'm recommending it for folks who have already watched the first three volumes but it's not necessary for enjoyment of the show.