Cidolfas's Anime Reviews: Air
Air is a strange mix of fairy tale, suburban true life, and people with implausible psychological ailments. But it's also incredibly sad; so if you want something cheerful, try something else. Don't try to understand all of it or demand that it all makes sense, but if you leave your disbelief suspended, you will find yourself moved.
Air clocks in at a mere 12 episodes, but during that time there are three distinct arcs it follows. They're all connected, and it all comes together fairly quickly. At its inception, Air seems to be following a young man named Yukito, who travels from town to town making money off of a dubious talent to make a puppet walk around. His real goal, given to him by his mother, is to find a girl with wings in the sky. The story really starts when he stops in a rural town somewhere in Japan, and meets a girl named Misuzu, who almost forces him to be her friend, in a cutesy kind of way.
As it turns out, Yukito, Misuzu, and Misuzu's guardian Haruko are all part of a much larger scheme of things. Not anything having to do with saving the world, thankfully (that's been done enough), but something much more personal. I found that several episodes in the first half of the series (involving two of Misuzu's friends) were the weakest part of the series. Perhaps they felt they needed to pad it out to 13 episodes (as it is, episode 13 consists of just a bunch of recaps, without any new material at all), but they completely detract from the main theme and just make things slow down without adding much to it.
In particular, Air fails when it tries to take the fairy tale and have it starring real people. There's something unreal about them; for example, I don't see why Misuzu and her friends are entirely comfortable telling Yukito absolutely everything about them when they barely know him. There's no banter or insults; the people just don't seem to act like people. This feeling bugged me throughout the first half of the series. The people in the second arc, though in a totally different setting, come across as much more alive in some way... which doesn't change the fact that their story is almost as slow-paced as the first arc. However, the last three episodes entirely redeemed the show in my eyes - it features real people impacted by the fairy tale, and there is much to be said there. The last episode has to be seen to be believed. The themes and performances (both animation and voice) are filled with emotion... they could break your heart.
The animation is excellent, and the Japanese performances are pretty good as well. The actual drawing style is a bit strange... everything is too exaggerated, with almost nonexistent mouths and enormous eyes. You do get used to it after a while, though. The music is also perfectly suited, and there are some extremely catchy tunes.
The fan translation was all right, but amateurish. By that I mean that the translators felt required to tell me absolutely everything about Japanese culture I might have missed - and felt they had to tell me this before each episode actually happens, spoiling some of the suspense. I feel that "liner notes", while useful, should remain a last-ditch patch-up if the translator absolutely cannot find a way to include all the important information in English. There are many moments where this could easily have been done without resorting to extra notes. There were also way too many Japanese words that simply weren't translated (again, relying on the notes). It didn't kill it for me, but it really annoyed me.
All in all, Air is an excellent, though sorrowful, watch. Don't get too turned off by the first half of the series, because it gets much, much better. That doesn't knock the fact that you have to actually get there first, but it's worth the wait.
Favorite Character: Haruko
Overall Rating: 7.5