Air (TV)–Anime Review

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3 Stars
I decided to rent this series because it was made by most of the same people who were responsible for Kanon (2006), which I liked a lot. As it turns out, it looks a lot like Kanon, particularly in the character designs, and the music sounds similar, but the story itself is sadder and darker. This is saying a lot given that Kanon has some pretty dark moments.

I have to give this series high marks for artistic quality and there certainly are a lot of people who love it. The series was very popular in Japan. (It may appeal more to Japanese than American sensibilities.) However I suspect that many Americans will hate it.

I described Kanon as a “fairy tale” because the universe of Kanon is harsh but not entirely unfair. No matter how bad things look, you can, if you are sufficiently brave and virtuous, earn a happy ending (though you may need to be very brave indeed). Tragic events occur, but life at other times seems pretty good, filled with happy moments and the companionship of good friends.

Air has a darker vision. Most of the people we meet are sad, and happy endings seem to be in short supply. Malicious acts reverberate down the centuries, causing suffering for innocent children. For some characters the only way to win is to face life’s hardships with courage and integrity and hope for a better deal in one’s next life.

  • Title
  • Genres
    Fantasy, Drama
  • Demographic
  • Contents
    15 Episodes on 4 DVDs
  • Languages
    English, Japanese with subtitles
  • Based on
    A video game by Key/Visual Art’s
  • Director
    Tatsuya Ishihara
  • Series Composition
    Fumihiko Shimo
  • Original Character Design
    Itaru Hinoue (game)
  • Character Design
    Tomoe Aratani
  • Art Director
    Jouji Unoguchi
  • Chief Animation Director
    Tomoe Aratani
  • Animation Studio
    Kyoto Animation
  • Broadcast
    BS-i, 2005
  • Region 1 Distributor
    ADV Films

Parental Advisory

Like Kanon, this series contains a lot of material likely to upset young children. Older children won’t be traumatized, but they still probably won’t like it. There is sort of a happy ending, but it’s not something that younger viewers will be able to figure out. This series is probably best suited for older teenagers and adults.

DVD Notes

This is one of a number of animes that ADV seems to have lost the licensing rights to and has removed from their web site. However the DVDs can still be rented and most of the online stores seem to still have them in stock.

As originally broadcast the series had 13 episodes, of which the first 12 episodes contained the actual story. The first 3 DVDs contain those 12 episodes, so in principle those are all you need.

The 13th episode was a “recap” episode that summarized the story of Misuzu, but contained no new material. This can probably be skipped, though I suppose it might be useful to someone who has watched the first 12 episodes, doesn’t understand the ending, and can’t be bothered to watch them again.

A 2-episode “special” was broadcast later. These episodes go back to the story of Kanna, Ryuya and Uraha and add more details. Nothing in the special episodes is really necessary to the original story, but I liked them anyway since these are my favorite characters from the show.

The fourth DVD contains the recap episode and the special episodes.


Characters from the Modern Era

Yukito Kunisaki’Yukito Kunisaki is a grumpy wandering puppeteer who happens to wander into a small town by the seashore. He hopes to make some money with his puppet show, but unfortunately he is not a very good entertainer. He has the magical ability to make a cloth puppet move without strings or motors, but the effect is more creepy than entertaining. Children run away and nobody wants to pay him.
Yukito’s PuppetYukito is haunted by a story his mother once told him, about a girl with wings beyond the sky. He is not sure what it means, but he wishes that he could someday find that girl.
Misuzu KamioMisuzu Kamio is a lonely, clumsy girl who finds Yukito sleeping on the seawall. Since she has no friends of her own, she decides to make friends with Yukito–rather to his annoyance.
Haruko KamioMisuzu’s mother Haruko Kamio agrees to let Yukito sleep in the shed. Haruko is a boisterous, irresponsible type who speaks with a comic Kansai accent. She drinks a lot, drives her motorcycle too fast, and seems to neglect Misuzu.
Kano Kirishima with PotatoKano Kirishima is an odd girl with a yellow bandanna tied around her wrist. Her best friend is Potato, an unusually intelligent stray dog who says “Piko Piko!” Kano says that when she grows up she will have magic powers, and she hopes to use them to fly into the sky.
Hijiri KirishimaKano’s older sister Hijiri Kirishima is the town doctor and runs the local clinic. She ends up giving Yukito a part-time job, which seems like a good idea because the puppet thing really isn’t going anywhere.
Minagi TohnoMinagi Tohno is a soft-spoken, intelligent girl. She is the best student in her class and the president (and sole member) of the Astronomy Club.
Michiru with MinagiMinagi likes to hang out at the abandoned railway station with her best friend Michiru. Michiru is a bratty little girl who likes to kick Yukito. She also likes to blow bubbles.
Minagi’s MotherMinagi’s mother is a pleasant but strange woman. Actually she’s not strange, she’s insane.
Misuzu and SoraMisuzu adopts a young crow who is unable to fly, and names him Sora (Sky).

Characters from 1000 Years Ago

KannaKannabi no Mikoto (usually referred to as Lady Kanna) is kept in luxurious confinement in a shrine in a forest far from the ocean. She is one of the last surviving Winged People. The rulers of the land fear the powers of the Winged People and want to keep them confined and under control.
Kanna is imperious, but childish and naive. Her dream is to be reunited with her mother, who is imprisoned on a distant mountain.
RyuyaRyuya is one of Kanna’s samurai guards. He is irreverent and cynical and somewhat uncouth, but he is also brave and loyal and an expert swordsman.
UrahaUraha is Kanna’s chief attendant and tutor. She seems cheerful and even silly, but she is deeper than she looks, a subtle woman with mysterious powers.


Wikipedia entry (spoilers).

ANN Encyclopedia entry.

My own spoiler-filled notes on the series, including my interpretation of the ending.


“Gao” is onomatopoeia for “roar”, the sound made by giant monsters.