When a series claims that it spins a tale that spans a thousand years of history, it's natural to be a little wary of problems with chronology - how exactly can you tell a story that takes place over such a huge length of time? As a regular anime viewer, I'm used to the odd childhood flashback (it's almost a staple diet in romantic series nowadays) but this is a different undertaking entirely.
Luckily, the story isn't as temporally confusing as it's made out to be. We start in the present, with the protagonist, Kunisaki Yukito, a travelling puppeteer who is on a quest to find a winged girl. He reaches a seemingly peaceful town where he meets Misuzu Kamio, an eccentric middle-schooler who dreams about the sky and spends endless amounts of time looking at it. Throw in some more H-game conversion girls, and you arrive at Air.
Perhaps that's a little unfair, though. Yes, Air is undeniably a H-game conversion (a popular title that put Key, the developers, on the H-game map), and it shows its roots frequently throughout the series... but then again, it's so much more than that. Because of the jumps in time, cycling back to a thousand years before to complete the plot's backstory, it's actually difficult to see how the outcome could ever have spawned from a H-game title. Despite the first six episodes, this series turns out to be nothing like Key's other blockbuster H-game conversions, Kanon and Clannad.
Why is this? Put simply, it realises its ideas. Reincarnation and familial relationships are two of the most important aspects of Air, and the plot seems geared towards that - every piece of action that takes place, no matter how small or how irrelevent it seems at the time, has far-reaching consequences.
In short, without this title, Kyoto Animation wouldn't be as hot property as it is today. While Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu propelled the studio to everlasting fame, the stunning work done on Air opened the public's eyes to what the studio could do. The skyscapes are amazing, with sunsets that have only recently been surpassed by big budget movies like Byousaku no 5cm. The colours are luscious and the scenery, although magical at times, is rendered realistically. Even the jump through time is handled perfectly, with period costumes and architecture well-judged in their portrayal.
The character designs are equally rich. The girls seem less homogenous than most "harem" series, all with rather memorable features. Though, it shows that this is one of Kyoto Animation's earlier works: the eyes are sometimes too large, especially when a character cries, and facial features are geared a little too much towards being as cute as they can be, without any offer of maturity. Also, while extremely lovable, I have always wondered how Potato could ever be classified as a dog.
What I love about the animation most, however, is how intimate it can be. Closeups of cicadas, camera angles that leave certain characters in the shade while others stand shining in the sunlight, homes actually seeming homely... the animation is so exact that the viewer can't help but have a clear sense of place in their mind's eye. And I for one find that very refreshing.
The soundtrack for this series has won a number of unofficial fan-nominated awards for being the best of 2005, the year of its release. And it's pretty easy to see why. I hate to use the word perfection, but there's no other way to describe Air's aural representation of the season of summer. Most scenes are punctuated with flowing orchestral music, the soft crackle of cicadas and the relaxing sound of the sea.
As for the voice actors, every one of them fits perfectly with their character. While Misuzu can grate occasionally, her catchphrase "Gao" wearing a little thin at times, her more intimate scenes with Yukito and with her aunt are worth their weight in gold. Her voice, when it falters, is one that can make your heart pause in sympathy, and towards the end, mutual pain.
In retrospect, while the 13 episode format prevents the anime from becoming stagnant (series such as Kanon 2006 and Lucky Star strained heavily under the weight of more episodes), it also means that some of the characters are left underdeveloped. I still haven't figured out why Michiru, Minagi and (my favourite character) Kano were included, because while their scenes are certainly interesting and enjoyable, they seem to serve little purpose, especially in the latter part of the series. Air allows few moments for the cast of side-characters to show their individual virtues, turning an otherwise interesting cast into mere vessels for the plot to sail in.
Having said that, Yukito and Misuzu are two characters that struck a chord with me. Yukito is surprisingly reticent, and spends a number of episodes seeming more disinterested than he actually is. The transformation that Yukito goes through later in the series also comes as a complete shock to the system - but surprisingly, it brings about an interesting secondary point of view on the series, where romance takes a firm backseat. Misuzu, on the other hand, is a rare commodity - a cute, weak girl that deserves to be protected, but denies any such help. In her weakness, she finds a strength that becomes central to the final few scenes of the series. As characters, these two are fleshed out beautifully, and their progression becomes the crux of the story - more so, in fact, than the original basis.
So I didn't get the story of this animé very well. It confused me once in a while, and the switching perspectives used in Air don't make it much easier. But even though the story was to difficult to understand, I think this animé is very beautiful. Especially the episodes in the end made me cry. The episodes I liked the best where the episodes that explain where the girl in the sky and Yukito originally came from. Some of the stories around specific characters, Michiru and Sora, kept confusing me.
This isn't an animé you should watch if you don't like rather difficult and/or depressing stories. Same is for te manga by the way.
A well, this is just my opinion...
I came to Air having watched two of Key's other anime series, Angel Beats! and Clannad, both of which I had enjoyed quite a lot with some reservations. Air doesn't live up to these two later series, and though it never quite indulges in the sometimes irksome mood whiplash of those two series (which at its worst can undermine the emotion on show), it still has a whole host of problems some of which Key would become more adept at reigning in with later productions.
The story of Air primarily concerns the character Mizusu Kamio, a girl who is obsessed with dinosaurs (frequently spouting the phrase "Gao") and who lives a lonely life for reasons we discover later on. She encounters and becomes friends with a travelling puppeteer called Yukito, and the main focus of the series is on her interaction with Yukito and also with her foster mother Haruko.
The problem though is the other storylines... As well as Mizusu there are also a few other girls who Yukito encounters. When they're introduced it becomes painfully obvious that Air was adapted from a H-game (which, admittedly, is a quality that thankfully entirely disappears in the shows second half) as each girl is clumsily introduced and set up as a potential love interest.
The problems caused by having these other girls in the show are multiple. Each girl gets the Key-style treatment of some sort of weepy catharsis as a issue relating to their past is discovered and is ultimately resolved somehow. Except, it isn't really weepy at all. We get so little time with each of these girls that I never really cared all that strongly for them, and the series is so desperate to cram these stories in so that it can get to all the stuff it has planned in its second half that as a result the stories end up feeling rushed and awkward. It's not that the stories for these side-characters are bad - actually they're rather good - but the presentation for all the aforementioned reasons stopped any opportunity of them affecting me emotionally. And then, when the series moves on to its second half, it almost entirely abandons these characters with the exception of utterly inconsequential and mundane cameo appearances.
The second half of the series does two things. The first is that it seeks to parallel the story of Mizusu with a story about a girl that occcured 1000 summers ago: a winged girl named Kanna. The thing is, I like the things the series is trying to do with this, but the execution was once again at best clumsy. For a start cramming these couple episodes in to the middle of the series like this hurts whatever little flow the story still possessed by this point: I'd have far preferred it if the information about the past was slowly revealed to us over the course of the series, in a similar way to how Clannad slowly informs us as the series progresses of the story about the girl and her mechanical friend. Another problem is that the tone of these scenes 1000 years ago feels somewhat different to the tone of previous episodes in part due to a few fight scenes which don't really feel right as part of the series.
And then we go back to the present day, though I won't spoil what happens (but will say that, despite my feelings about the series as a whole, Episode 11 is wonderful). The end of the series is definitely my favourite bit, but I have to say that I find Air immensely frustrating in its own way. Perhaps the most frustrating thing is how good it could have been. There are plenty of interesting concepts and ideas in it and if Key were to have disposed of the side-characters and instead spent more time fleshing the central story out - and doing so in a more fluid manner - then Air would probably have been a very moving, engaging story. Instead I found myself almost dreading watching the next episode not because the series is bad (it isn't) but instead because it isn't so far from being very good.
Air is sad.
ok im done with this review now. XD
Seriously tho this anime is just freaking sad its not like Clannad or Kanon where it gets all sad but ends in a happy ending ooo no Air is just plain sad! Flat out very depressing! What made this anime even worse is the fact that I watched Clannad and Kanon first which both had that happy ending. sooo I watch this anime thinking "Ok Brook no crying its just a Key anime" and I kept that in mind the whole time watching this anime and when the episodes were coming to an end I was like WHAT!!! NO NO NO NO this cant be happening wheres the happy ending twist!!?? I felt like it was the end of the world haha jk but no jk!
To ignore the sadness of it all though, it was a beautiful story. I love how Key anime combines past and present into a story which beautifully was done in Air. Its so easy to fall in love with all the astonishing characters. I wish it would have ended better but me wanting the happy ending is my fault because I watched Clannad and Kanon first.
Air has great animation but totally lacks in direction.
What I like most about Air was the art. The characters, scenery and the detail was just great. I especially loved the ocean in every scene it was shown. One thing that did bug me was that all the characters had bangs, don't know why it bugs me, just does. Anyway, all together the art was amazing.
I watched Air because I heard it was a good tear-jerker(granted, it did make me cry but only during the last couple episodes). The story didn't appeal to me at all. I spent most of the time wondering what was happening. There are a couple short stories that were okay but didn't have anything to do with the main story. There was a lot of short parts to the story that promised drama or romance but they tossed those out the window right away*. I did enjoy the last couple episodes when they focus on a certain relationship. Also, I thought there was going to be some romance but there wasn't. I found the story random and it wasn't easy to piece together.
The characters were okay. I found Haruka the most entertaining and I thought Yukito was alright. Aside from those two and Misuzu the other characters didn't contribute much. There was a short background story towards the end that I did enjoy and I like the characters.
Altogether I didn't really enjoy the show. I gave it a 4 because I was pretty impressed with the animation.
*Spoiler Alert* <- I think :P
-Yukito saying he would let her draw things to do in the book and he'd do them with her, but didn't
-Him saying he would leave then he didn't, again, and again
-Her father was going to take Misuzu away but didn't
-Yukito learning how to put on a good show with his puppet and then he doesn't really do anything with it