Air

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FalseDawn's avatar
Dec 11, 2007

Story

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.


Animation

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.


Sound

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.


Characters

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.


Overall

Air is a feast for the senses. Visually and sonorously stunning, the storyline will whisk you through its epic chronology-disrupting travels. At this point, I should probably point out that this is an anime you will need to muse over - it's very easy to get lost when the plot takes another turn down some unlikely path - but if you put the effort into being an alert, active watcher, it's one of the few series that will reward you for it. The rewatchability factor is high, as you'll pick up subtle hints you didn't notice first time round, and even though it's a couple of years old now, it still stands comparable to its newer counterparts in every department.

The only let down is its obvious H-game roots, but if you can survive some clichéd encounters, it's well worth the watch. The attention to detail is immense - and the ending is one of the greatest bittersweet endings in the history of anime.

8/10 story
9/10 animation
10/10 sound
6/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
mahius's avatar
Nov 3, 2014

Air is a chilled out drama romance anime, with aspects of supernatural fantasy. I got major Clannad and Kanon vibes. This anime is a lot like Clannad IMO, think the supernatural aspect of that anime, but more. IMO, only people with bad taste could hate this anime, especially after watching all of it. Perhaps it is for a more tasteful and mature audience? I honestly found little to hate about this and it was less boring than other, more story-driven action-packed anime. My eyes were peeled to the screen at all times. This is a lot like Clannad and if you're wondering which, I mean both.

Animation

Damn does this look good. The quality is stunning for a 2004 anime, just look at the scenes with the fields and such. So beautiful. The style is also great, since it's got the same style as Clannad. I would have had a complaint about character design, but that was solved by the story. In other words, the character design is done purposefully and well.

Sound

From the first moment of the intro, the music alone had me feeling touched. I sometimes skip intros and outros in anime, but this one was too good to skip. I almost wanted to get the soundtrack, but I was in the middle of sorting through a lot of songs and there wasn't enough music for me to really want it. But in this case, this isn't too bad, since the sound design was done very well. Music when relevant and it went very well with what scenes were trying to convey. Heck, that music alone is capable of stirring emotions. And the voice actiong? This has an English dub (as well as the Japanese audio) and I usually hate VOs done by Monica Rial, a big time anime dub voice actor who voiced Misaki in Tsukoyomi Moon Phase, the previous anime I watched. But I really didn't mind in this anime. There are other major voice actors including Luci Christian who voiced Nagisa Furakawa from Clannad and Wrath from FMA, Vic Mignogna voice of Erd from Attack on Titan and Edward Elric from FMA. ...Aww damn it! That's it, I'm getting the soundtrack!

Characters

Yukito Kunasaki is an adult (he doesn't drink out of politeness) of unknown age, who is a homeless wanderer. His only memory of his mother is a puppet which has been passed down through his family for generations and is said to hold the wishes and feelings of all of it's previous owners. It is his only possession and his only means of making money, since he has the ability to make it move, something his mother taught him. Yukito's goal is to find the winged girl his mother told him about. He seems to be a thoughtful person, despite his imperfections and his human tendency to get upset at stuff. This character reminds me of Tomoya Okazaki from Clannad, another great character from a great anime. He ends up living with the Kamio's from episode 1. Things get a bit vague towards the end, but I have no complaints about this character.

Misuzu Kamio is arguably the main character of this anime. She has a fragile mind and finds it difficult to make friends due to a condition she has. She tends burst into tears and cry at times, she loves Dinosaurs and a niche wierd juice. She keeps a diary of her summer memories while hoping that the summer would change things. Her past is important to the story and her character. Ever wondered about her parents? This isn't the typical unexplained single mother anime trope here, just watch and see. This character is somehow intertwined with another very important character. How? Watch the anime and watch the story unravel.

Haruko Kamio is Misuzu's mother and possibly a more important character than Yukito. She ain't perfect, she behaves and looks like a mere teenager. She rides a motobike and gets drunk often, not taking too much care of Misuzu. Arguably a very human character, I for one can really empathise with her. She seems to be a terrible person, but of course there are reasons for everything, even her behaviour. She goes through a lot, along with Misuzu and their journey is a beautiful one.

I could go on about other characters, but I need to keep this short and with few spoilers. Not that the other characters are bad, they are all done well. Even the kid Michiru, who appeared to be no more than an annoying brat that seemed to disrupt the peace and pleasantry, was a good character in the end. I'd just be singing the same praises over and over, but that doesn't mean they are the same, they are each different in their own way of course.

Story

Probably the weakest part of this anime, but don't think there isn't a good story. There clearly is! Similar to Clannad (it's spiritual successor), it goes through various groups of characters and their individual plots before settling on the main plot of the main characters by the end. It's gentle and it seems a bit slow paced, so those most patient and mature would enjoy it and get the most out of it. The story actually wraps around itself and you may notice certain scenes from different perspectives. There was a big potential for foreshadowing, that they left out and it pains me, so I'll dock a point for that. It has a lot of supernatural goings on and the term 1000 summers is also important. I'll leave it at flashback and some would argue that the long flashback breaks the immersion, but I'd say it provides a break and a good explanation of the background and the 'real' story. Maybe a tiny bit of bullshit and odd character behavour, something that at the time doesn't make sense. It provides explanation to the main character too, though it might be difficult to notice/figure out. Overall it's very beautiful and it invoked a certain feeling in me. To mention it might give away the end, but I was frustrated at myself for being unable to... express my emotions by the end. If you watch this all the way through and don't like it, then you must be a heartless individual. And that's not opinion, that would be fact.

Conclusion

It's too short! But actually the right length. A great anime. If you are a human being, then watch this. And enjoy it. Maybe if you're too young you may be bored. Come back when you've developed a mature taste and an appreciation for the finer things in life. Such a beautiful anime. If you liked Clannad (and/or it's sequel), then you'll love this. Not quite one of my favourite anime of all time, but it really helps one realise how precious life is. Heck, it reminded me of my mother and how much I appreciate her. Especially since mothers are a big part of the story. A great anime and pretty much a must watch, do I need to say more? Enjoy!

Family-friendliness Rating: 2/5 If this was an ecchi, there were quite a few panty-shot opportunites. But this is a good anime, therefore sensible clothing animation ^_^ (lower is better)

Overall Rating: 10/10 (higher is better)

8/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
hamletsmage's avatar
Jun 14, 2011

As a note, I read the manga, but that was years ago. I know the anime differs greatly from the manga, but I like the additions because they ease a bit of confusion that the manga presented.

Story: The story mainly focuses on Kunisaki Yukito and a girl he meets at the beach, Misuzu Kamio. However, the story also moves, almost episodically, around the other women of the small beach town, all of whom seem to have ties to the "girl in the sky". The slow pace and quiet setting are dramatically foiled by the brief glimpse of the past, giving the origins of the legends that center in the anime.

Animation: Kyoto Animation tends to put this anime up as one of their best. And with good reason. The beautiful backgrounds and character designs make this anime visually stunning.

Sound: What more could a dramatic anime wish for than this soundtrack. Short of using Vivaldi's "Summer" orchestra set, this anime audibly brings out all that makes a lazy summer afternoon. The music sets off the story, enchancing audience reaction and definitely increasing the appeal of this anime.

Characters: The characters' individual storylines might give a little insight to the legend of the "girl in the sky", but overall, they take away from the main plot surrounding Misuzu Kamio. The characters are all a bit underdeveloped due to their brief, intermittent appearances. While the side-character designs are beautiful, they are essentially filler to make the anime longer. This filler status limits the side-characters to arbitrary, stagnant roles.

Overall, I liked Air. It's sad tale is enjoyable and beautifully done.

7/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
7/10 characters
8.5/10 overall
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ratchet573's avatar
Aug 6, 2012

Air is, to say the least, an entertaining anime. This is the first of the Key anime, which includes the likes of Kanon, Angel Beats, and Clannad. While Air is a pretty damn good anime that foretells some of the conventions of future Key series, it’s not as good as any of the newer ones.

Key anime of the romance department typically involve a single guy who is forced into a situation where a bunch of girls with issues need his help. This stems from the fact that Air, Clannad, and Kanon are all based on visual novels, and visual novels have multiple girls you can get with. So the anime’s attempt to tell each girls story while focusing only on a single romantic thread for our main hero. Air is different from its future incarnations as it doesn’t as much focus on that idea of multiple girls needing help solving their mental issues. It has three girls in it, two of which are the focus of maybe four or five episodes total. The others are divided into a really strange feudal Japan segment, a segment with our hero and the heroine, and a another segment between the heroine and her mother. It’s not typical of what will come, and I appreciate that especially.

The story revolves around the “Girl in the Sky”, an angelic figure who has constantly been forced to be in pain through incarnation after incarnation. She is forced to die every time she gets too close to someone and reincarnate again. A man has followed her every reincarnation to attempt to free her of these horrible bonds. His soul is stuck in the body of a crow and he can become a human vagabond in his attempts to free her.

So we have Yukito, the vagabond, and Mizusu, the girl in the sky. Mizusu has no close friends, no close family, and pretty much lives her life as a lonely klutz. But when she meets Yukito during one lovely summer vacation she may have found her greatest friend and the catalyst for her finally feeling accepted. He moves in with Mizusu and her drunken and rather inappropriate aunt, Haruko, and tries to help Mizusu be freed from her eternal bond. During that time he gets a part time job at the local clinic and helps the owner’s sister as she is being possessed (did I mention Key anime have really weird supernatural plotlines?). He also helps a girl whose sister has been dead for years yet her ghost has been following her around since she died.

The two arcs with the girls aren’t particularly great. Neither is memorable and both are seriously shadowed by those stories told in Key’s later anime.

During the last half the story shifts to feudal Japan where we learn the origin of the angel girl and the man who tries to save her. These episodes aren’t half bad, but really ruin the pace and interject very abruptly. It doesn’t feel right.

The final arc is of mother and daughter. Well, aunt and daughter. Yukito is a crow who is made to watch as Haruko makes amends with Mizusu and claims her as a daughter rather than a niece. This is the best part of the entire anime, a very touching and well executed arc that builds on the character of Haruko and makes her the most likeable character of the entire anime.

The ending isn’t the greatest. Now, I’m all for a sad ending, but I felt kind of cheated. I hate when an anime is just a small part of a bigger story and we really don’t see that story concluded. It’s just part of a story, a segment of a whole. And while Air contains a good enough story and characters, I want to see what happens to those characters and how the story plays out. Does the Girl in the Sky ever get freed? I really want to know the answer to it.

The character department is pretty sparse of anything worth mentioning. As I said,  the two girls at the beginning are decent enough characters with decent enough stories, but they really don’t matter in the long term and their characters are not real exciting. This is doubly so for the main characters. Yukito is pretty dull all around. He’s what I like to call a cardboard character. He’s flat as a pancake and doesn’t shine at all. The same can be said of Mizusu. While she displays emotions, she’s a typical cry baby with an issue that needs to be resolved. I wasn’t really a fan of hers.

Meanwhile, I grew to enjoy the character of Haruko. While at first I liked her as the drunken, idiot aunt taking care of her sister’s daughter, as you learn more about how she has had to distance herself from Mizusu, you grow to like her and feel empathetic to her having to stay away from a girl she really does love. As Haruko finally steps into the motherly roll and despises the fact she hadn’t done it sooner, you continue to love her. And as Mizusu loses her memories of her mother (she loses her memory of a person if they grow too close), and is nearly returned to her real family, it’s enough to bring you to tears as she struggles to return to her aunt’s arms, the woman she considers her mother.

For Haruko’s character alone, the series is worth watching. While the ending, as I said, isn’t at all what I had hoped, nor is the rest of the show too special, the final stretch is good and memorable.

Overall, I can’t give an enthusiastic recommendation as this is only going to appeal to fans of Key or romance in general, but I can say it’s a pretty good anime. The opening is really fantastic, the animation is good, the story is okay, and the characters are okay, but taken as a whole it’s a fun little experience. Not particularly as memorable as later Key anime, but it still contains the heart that you’d expect.

Oh, and try and find the Kanon characters that show up in one episode. It’s a pretty cool cameo!

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
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omnioblivion's avatar
Jul 15, 2015

Story:

Not much is said about the background of the story until halfway through the series. The main story and the background story can be confusing and distracting at times when going through this show.

Animation:

Absolutely gorgeous. Both the characters and the backgrounds of the story is something to take an example of for these types of anime.

Sound:

Again, something to take an example of. Proper use of sounds from the happy summer days to tearful events.

Characters:

The main characters of the story (the boy, girl, and aunt) are likeable characters. But the rest either seem underdeveloped or not really needed in a lot of instances.

Overall:

Definitely an anime I would watch again, both for the visual appealment and to understand the characters better.

7/10 story
9/10 animation
9/10 sound
7/10 characters
8/10 overall