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.
Contents15 Episodes on 4 DVDs
LanguagesEnglish, Japanese with subtitles
Based onA video game by Key/Visual Art’s
Series CompositionFumihiko Shimo
Original Character DesignItaru Hinoue (game)
Character DesignTomoe Aratani
Art DirectorJouji Unoguchi
Chief Animation DirectorTomoe Aratani
Animation StudioKyoto Animation
Region 1 DistributorADV Films
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.
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
Characters from 1000 Years Ago
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.