At about the same time that the Air television series was released, an alternate version of the story, made by another studio, appeared in movie theaters. After renting the TV series I decided to rent the movie version as well to see how they compared.
After watching both, I definitely prefer the television series.
TitleAir: The Movie
Contents91 Minutes on 1 DVD
LanguagesEnglish, Japanese with subtitles
Based onA video game by Key/Visual Art’s
Original Character DesignItaru Hinoue (game)
Character DesignAkemi Kobayashi
Art DirectorShinzo Yuki
Animation StudioToei Animation
Region 1 PublisherADV Films
The movie looks quite different from the TV series–different in a bad way. The TV series has attractive drawings and smooth animation. The movie’s artwork looks cruder and the animation is fairly minimal. Perhaps to disguise this almost every frame looks either massively backlit or underexposed.
Occasionally in anime the artists will substitute a manga-style drawing for a short animated sequence. This can be effective when used once in a while at a dramatic moment. However in this movie the trick is used constantly and obtrusively, sending the message “we don’t have enough money to animate this properly.”
When telling the story of Kanna they don’t use manga-style drawings. Instead they use drawings that look like old-fashioned paintings. This is a rather interesting effect, but it leaves the impression that the story of Kanna is only a legend, which may not be what the director intended.
All this is very distracting but I nevertheless made a determined effort to evaluate the story fairly on its own terms. Naturally a movie version must give us a shorter and simpler version of the story. (The Kano and Minagi subplots are left out entirely and the Kanna story is massively condensed and simplified.)
As for the main story, not only are many of the details changed, but the ending is quite different. The TV series has a sort of bittersweet happy ending, while the ending of the movie is just sad. Worse, the movie just doesn’t have the same feeling of a well-constructed story. Even though it has far fewer plot elements, they just don’t seem to fit together well. Everything in the TV series makes sense according to the internal logic of the story. In the movie things seem arbitrary.
The movie version has fewer scenes likely to disturb young children, but given the sad tone of the story children probably won’t enjoy it much. For that matter, adults who don’t like sad endings probably won’t like it either.
Wikipedia entry (spoilers for both the movie and the TV series.)
ANN Encyclopedia entry.
My review of the TV series, which is far more worth your time.