“My child…heed my words. The story I’m about to tell you is a very important one. It entails a long, long journey; undertaken by the parent and passed on to the child. Continuing from generation to generation without end…”
– Opening Dialogue.
Continuing with our Risembool Ranger theme, we’re going to look at one of Vic Mignogna’s more dramatic roles. While he’s done quite a few in his career, few can top his performance in what has to be one of the saddest series I’ve seen in a long time. “Air” is a show that, for all intents and purposes, is designed to make the viewer cry. Whether its tears of joy, tears of laughter or tears of sadness, “Air” is 99.9% guaranteed to bring you to the brink of emotion. What is it that does it in particular? Is it the storyline which tries to cram a lot in a thirteen episode series? Is it the intriguing characters with their own small stories that contribute to the overall feel of the series? Could it be the animation and music styles that leave other animated series in the dust? Or could it be the voice acting cast that brings the noise…in a good way? Well, let’s talk about it. Kick off those flip-flops and let’s take a walk on the beach.
Warnings and Notable Objectionable Content – Once again, I am surprised that a series based off a hentai video game could come out to be so clean with little to no objectionable content, but, that just goes to show how much I know. “Air” has little objectionable content as far as language and violence goes. There is a bath scene once or twice, but nothing is shown, and there is a scene when one of the characters disrobed due to a misunderstanding, but again nothing is shown.
Series Availability – This series is readily available in both brick and mortar stores and online stores that sell anime. “Air” was originally available in three single volumes by then-ADV Films. When Funimation Entertainment acquired the license for the series, it was re-released first as a “Complete Collection” set, then as part of their “S.A.V.E” Complete Collection set. As this series is only 13 episodes long, it is extremely, extremely affordable. I’m talking $15 brand new at Wal-Mart affordable. There is also a movie available which is a slight rehash of the original anime series, focusing more on Yukito and Misuzu, which we will review at a later date.
Story Premise – “Air” is a thirteen episode series, based off a visual novel created by a company called Kyoto Animation. The series follows Yukito Kunisaki, a young wanderer looking for a mysterious “Girl in the Sky”; a task he has taken on at the request of his late mother. As the story begins, Yukito arrives in a small town by the beach. Unable to raise money from his puppet show [which he manipulates by using a form of telekinesis] he soon encounters Misuzu Kamio, a slightly ditzy high school girl with long flowing hair who quickly and honestly accepts Yukito as her best friend; something that Yukito cannot begin to fathom. As the story goes on, we are introduced to other girls in the town, each one a little stranger and mysterious than the last, and each with their own unique and somewhat tragic backgrounds. As each episode progresses, we learn more about Yukito’s journey to find the “Girl in the Sky”, with each interaction bringing him closer to the answer he seeks. Fair warning for those who are looking into starting “Air” or any of its other sister series like “Kanon” and ESPECIALLY “Clannad” or “Clannad: After Story”; it can be somewhat complicated. There were times when I was COMPLETELY lost as to what the heck was going on, and the back stories of the other female characters in the town was hard to keep up with. Had this been a story EXCLUSIVELY about Misuzu and Yukito, as was done in “Air: The Motion Picture”, it would’ve been perfect and more manageable, but when you add in all these other girls and their side-stories, it can get overwhelming and a bit much for a thirteen episode series. Not saying that it’s bad or anything–far from it; “Air” story line is very deep, dramatic, and it keeps you locked in. That being said, I would’ve liked a full 26 episode series, to take in the other characters’ stories better. The ending is about as heart breaking as an ending can get. Seriously, if you are looking for a good cry, watch the end of this one; it will pay dividends. Overall, “Air” tells a good tale, but it’s a story that deserves the full 26 episode treatment. [22/25]
Favorite Scene – My favorite scene out of this series, aside from the drunk moments with Haruko, comes from Episode One when, after meeting Minagi, Micheru runs towards the group and plows headlong into Yukito, sending him twisting and flying in the sky. Misuzu then casually observes “Poor Yukito is flying like a leaf on a windy day…” It’s such a silly moment, capped by Misuzu’s almost poetic description.
Characters – Our series starts off with our male lead Yukito Kunisaki. He’s a cynical, distrusting young guy with a goal in mind; to find the mystical “Girl in the Sky”; a legend taken on unsuccessfully by his late mother. His travels soon lead him to a town that is situated by a beach overlooking the ocean. After a few unsuccessful attempts to get money from the local kids from an impromptu telepathic puppet show, he soon encounters the sweet Misuzu Kamio. Misuzu is a very unique girl. She’s cute, of course, and a klutz, but there is something magical about her that Yukito can’t quite put his finger on. Along the way, we meet different characters, such as the lush yet caring aunt Haruko, the hyperactive Kano with her pet Potato [Don’t ask why…I have no clue…] the calm and soothing Minagi, and the mysterious Michiru. Overall, the characters are nice…but it just seems like there are too many of them for a short series like this, and their stories are too elaborate to be fit into one or two episodes. The characters are so detailed and multi-faceted, and you genuinely enjoy watching them and feel sorry for their own individual dramas. I just wish there were more episodes to enjoy them more. [23/25]
Animation – One thing that Kyoto Animation, [or KyoAni for short] is well-known for is producing beautifully animated projects that fans eat up like iced pocky on a hot summer afternoon. Series like “Full Metal Panic!” “K-On!”, “Lucky Star”, and “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya” have all been praised for their quality animation style and high production values. “Air” is one of those projects. The visuals are downright stunning. The colors are rich and vibrant with attention paid to every detail. Sunsets are given special detail; they are breathtakingly beautiful. Character designs are a little on the strange side with regards to eyes. While wider eyes are designed to show innocence, and with time, the viewer can get used to it, it is still a bit distracting; especially when you consider that the eyes are given the same dazzling color treatment that everything else is. One thing I have to applaud the creators for is the fact that they put the names of all our female cast in the opening title sequence. I don’t know why this impresses me, but darned if it does. [12/12.5]
Music – The music for “Air” is both hauntingly beautiful and downright video game like in nature. The opening theme, “Tori no Uta (Birds Poem)” by Lia is a unique song, with beautiful visuals playing in concert with it. It really gives the viewer the melancholic feeling of the end of summer, which is when the story takes place. Some of the incidental music borrows from the opening theme, and plays very well when used. Other musical queues, however, sound like they came straight from a video game. This is a short fall that has plagued some of KyoAni’s other game turned anime projects like “Kanon”. The ending theme, “Farewell song” by Lia, is okay…but there are some episodes when it seems like its out-of-place. There are some episodes that end on a really dramatic note…so to have an upbeat song playing right afterwards seems very jarring. Again, this is a KyoAni shortfall that occurred in “Kanon”. [12/12.5]
Performances and Production – “Air” was directed in Japan by Tatsuya Ishihara, a director who has helmed many of KyoAni’s projects like “Clannad”, “The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”, and more recently “Nichijou”. In the US, the series was originally licensed and dubbed by then-ADV Films with Kyle Jones at the helm, who has lent his directorial and writing talents to shows like “Kino’s Journey”, “Full Metal Panic!” and “Saint Seiya”. To start us off once again, let’s look at Yukito, as voiced by Daisuke Ono in the original Japanese, and our old friend Vic Mignogna in the US. Honestly, words for word, note for note, the two are indistinguishable, save for the language of course. Vic brings both personality and emotion to the character along with maturity that makes listening to Yukito’s monologues all the more interesting. Monica Rial as Misuzu is heart twistingly sweet and beautiful. Normally she is cast as more goofball type characters [Art imitating life? Just kidding!], but it was refreshing to listen to her in a slightly more dramatic and heart breaking role. Luci Christian as Haruko is a joy to listen to. Just when I thought that nobody could play a better drunk than Allison Keith-Shipp, here comes Luci in this role, and she nails it. She is, however, able to bring on the drama like the rest of them, putting a stamp on the most dramatic scene I’ve ever seen in anime. Other characters, such as Kira Vincent-Davis as Minagi, Stephanie Wittels as Kano, and Serena Varghese as Michiru put on some of the best performances I’ve ever seen before or since. I should also applaud Tiffany Grant for her cute portrayal as Potato the dog. Once again, she shows her range as a voice actress. However, this is not difficult at all for her; after all for the last few years, she’s voiced a two-legged, red-headed female dog in “Neon Genesis Evangelion”. [::rimshot::] [25/25]
Story and Premise: 22/25
Final Grade: 94/100 = 94% – (A)
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra)
- In Episode 2, when Yukito is delivering lunch to Kano’s school, he asks three girls where he could find her. These three girls are Ayu Tsukimiya, Nayuki Minase and Mokoto Sawatari from KyoAni’s earlier series “Kanon”.
- The original Japanese voice actor for Yukito, Daisuke Ono, had an animated cameo role in “Lucky Star”s end segment “Lucky Channel”. In the initial dialogue with Akira Kogami [Voiced by Japanese Voice Actress Hiromi Konno], Akira says “So, I see you’re not a crow today”. Daisuke replies with “And you’re not a dog today.” This is a reference to “Air” as the two actors voiced Potato and Sora the crow. However, this particular reference did not really work in the US, as the english actors for Daiskue and Akira Kogami are different.
- “Air: The Motion Picture” was created by a different company than the TV series, and as such, the animation style is slightly different from the original. The story is also adjusted so that many of the mystical aspects of the series were removed, and the series focuses solely on the relationship between Misuzu, Haruko and Yukito.
So where does that leave us? Well, simply put, “Air” is a solid series. With a story line that is both tragically too short and tragically tragic, characters that make you just want to hug the sadness out of them, animation that makes you stand up and take notice, music that draws you in, and an all-star acting cast headed by two of the best actors in the industry, “Air” is a series that should be on everyones “Must Watch” or “Owned” list if for no other reason than to just sit back and have a good cry.
And so, that’s it ladies, gentlemen, and Rangers of all ages! Another one in the can! I have to admit, this one was short, but it was EXTREMELY complex to write about! Last one for regulation review is one of Vic’s most identifiable roles to date. One might even say that he was born to play this particular role; after all, wooing the ladies is his forte. So get out those uniforms and beef up that bank account because we’re going to school with the filthy, stinking rich with our review of…
“Ouran High School Host Club”