Air: The Movie

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2 Stars
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.

  • Title
    Air: The Movie
  • Genres
    Fantasy, Drama
  • Contents
    91 Minutes on 1 DVD
  • Languages
    English, Japanese with subtitles
  • Based on
    A video game by Key/Visual Art’s
  • Director
    Osamu Dezaki
  • Screenplay
    Makoto Nakamura
  • Original Character Design
    Itaru Hinoue (game)
  • Character Design
    Akemi Kobayashi
  • Art Director
    Shinzo Yuki
  • Animation Studio
    Toei Animation
  • Released
    Japan, 2005
  • Region 1 Publisher
    ADV 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.

Parental Advisory

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.


Yukito KunisakiYukito Kunisaki is a wandering puppeteer who comes to a small town by the seashore. He hopes to make money by performing at shrine’s annual summer festival. Yukito is somewhat antisocial and misanthropic, but he is also a talented entertainer. He has the ability to make puppets move without strings or motors. This might seem rather creepy, but children come running to watch the performance and are happy to pay for the privilege.
Puppet ShowYukito is haunted by a story his mother once told him, about a girl with wings beyond the sky.
Yukito and MisuzuUnfortunately Yukito has arrived a week early and will have to find something to do to get by until the festival starts.
Misuzu KamioMisuzu Kamio is a lonely, clumsy girl who is gathering information on the town’s history for a school project. She encounters Yukito and gradually forms an attachment to him in spite of his cold manner.
Haruko KamioMisuzu’s mother Haruko Kamio allows Yukito to sleep in the shed. Haruko is a boisterous, irresponsible type who speaks with a comic Kansai accent. She drinks a lot and drives her motorcycle too fast, but she is obviously devoted to Misuzu.
KannaMisuzu reads an ancient legend about the town, a legend which has a special meaning for her. She seems to feel that it parallels her own situation. Long ago a girl was imprisoned in a mansion on the hill where the town’s shrine is now located. She was called Kannabi no Mikoto or Lady Kanna, and she was one of the last surviving Winged People. The rulers of the land feared the powers of the Winged People and wanted to keep them confined and under control.
RyuyaRyuya was one of Kanna’s samurai guards. He was handsome and kind and was also an expert swordsman. He had a magical ability to keep multiple tops spinning in the air while engaged in swordplay.
Painting of Kanna and RyuyaNaturally enough, Kanna soon fell in love with him. But this was a problem. Kanna, like all the Winged People, was under a curse that decreed that if a Winged Person fell in love and confessed her feelings to the object of her affection, she would die. (That being the case, it is not surprising that there were so few Winged People left.)


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.