(Since this movie has a corresponding series, in favour of comparisons, spoilers will be contained in the following text)
There are plenty of reviews concerning the series, yet I feel that the homonymous movie created for the game of Key, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Taking into consideration the variety of different opinions surrounding the main series, I would expect a similarly controversial movie. Thankfully, I was wrong.
To begin with, I feel that the story is quite fair. Honestly, I wasn’t too excited by the series’ approach. Yet, although the movie keeps pace with the basics of the “official” plot, the focus that’s been made on the main story by Toei animation has somehow eliminated all the unnecessary elements that kept Air - the series - in mediocrity (always regarding my personal belief). It also gives the chance for a deeper and smoother approach on the finale which has a few differences as well.
The story begins with a travelling puppeteer that arrives in a small town in his lifetime journey in search of a flying girl above the clouds. There he meets and befriends (well, actually he is befriended by) Misuzu, a beautiful but lonely young teenager. Just like in the series, it turns out that she is the reincarnation of the flying legend he was pursuing, yet as legend unfolds, it turns out that she will die if she ever admits to be in true love with a person. And guess what… she falls in love with Yukito (the puppet master)! Throughout the film, various flashbacks of a story a 1000-years-old gradually explain the mystical relations that have been formed between the two of them either by fate or common circumstances.
A beautiful but pretty sad story with much potential to catch the viewer’s attention and fascinate his or her emotions, that’s what Air the movie is all about. For anyone who has already seen the series, this animated film has still much to offer: a non-identical retelling of the tale – highlighting the main arc, the addition of an actual romance part between the girl and the traveller, a happier ending and many more aspects that aren’t ruined just by watching the 13-episode series.
To conclude this chapter, I want to clarify my statement regarding the “happier ending” (big spoiler alert). First of all, the girl dies. In both editions she has to leave this ugly and miserable world in order for the drama to reach its climax and its expurgation through the protagonist’s doleful finale. On the other hand, this time she has by her side both her mother and her friend, who hasn’t just turned into a crow meaninglessly wandering in the sky… and to whom she has acknowledged a true love. A nicely done improvement, don’t you think?
Despite having in mind that Toei animation is one of the best in its sector, it would be too difficult to give Air a better score, since I didn’t truly like the direction. The drawing of the characters is far too beautiful and flawless not to take any credit, with comely sceneries at every background neatly bordering a seemingly realistic movement of each person.
The fact that irritated my eyes was the overuse of the sunlight falling at almost every scene for the first 40 minutes and another dark effect taking place during the other 40 minutes. Of course both effects were very nice and well designed, but after a while it gets a bit annoying. Moreover, the production team chose to lend a very dramatic tone to the movie, by adding some mistimed black captions and still drawings in order to frame narrations and intense scenes.
Generally, there is nothing wrong with the sound and music part. Both the opening and the ending theme are very beautiful and pleasant to hear, with matching lyrics to the spirit of the movie. Also, during the movie, the rhythm of the songs and the music help maintain the pace throughout the end.
Since strong emotions must be expressed in many occasions, choosing good performers is essential for a series or a movie to succeed. In the English version of the film, the actors’ voices were more than descent. I did see the Japanese version of the series only and I felt that it was pretty good as well. Hence, I reckon that the same actors participated in the film, giving a similar performance. The english casting was astonishingly good as well.
Between a 13-episode tv series and a 90-minutes-long animated movie, which one do you think would stand a more appropriate chance of deepening into its characters and their perspective of life? Yeah, sure, the obvious answer is the former, yet I truly believe that the film stood its ground on this part as well as did the series.
The analysis mostly concerned Yukito, Misuzu, her mother and Ryūya and Kanna, since the other characters only made a cameo appearance. The general approach to the protagonists’ characters is somewhat more mature than that of the series, focusing on reactions that could be corresponded more to an actual event. For example, Misuzu’s mother has a better relationship with her daughter despite keeping some distance from her, while the girl’s attitude towards her classmates and the isolation she remains into seems more natural the way it is displayed.
Air the movie is a must see for anyone who adores drama and good animation, accompanied by an ear-pleasing music. If you wish to delve more closely to some elements of the myth, try watching the series as well. My only protest is held against the movie’s direction and their constant persistence to those sunlight and dark effects – no big deal other than that. Air is an enjoyable 90 minutes film that will make you feel both sad and happy, wonder about the importance of life, seek the redemption for the wicked soul and witness the clarity of pure love.