Searching for the feelings she had when she was younger, Maki Aikawa delves into the world of street fighting as the Airmaster.
What They Say:
Maki Aikawa is tall, with a nice model-like figure, but is also quiet and looks like an ordinary high school girl. However, her unique life style includes being a street fighter within the dark alleyways and back streets of Tokyo. To date, she remains undefeated against both men and women. And with a unique arsenal of aerial techniques allowing her to knock out opponents at will, people began to call her the Air Master.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Fighting series do seem to come and go in waves and at the time Air Master was first being released by Toei in the US, they were few and far between. They’ve had a few waves since then and there have been a few in the last year we’ve seen. In watching these other shows, it came back to us that we never did finish out Air Master and similar to what we did with Slam Dunk, streaming it via the FUNimation video portal seemed the way to get back into it. Fighting shows may not be in vogue but there have been a fair number of fighting series out in the last few years that have shifted the focus away from the beefy and brawny men and instead letting the women get into the act and really throwing the moves. Air Master follows in this line but unlike a lot of the others that are filled with oh so pretty girls, the designs here are a bit rougher and probably a fair bit more realistic in their nature.
Air Master has a fairly simple plot to go buy in its early stages and while I expect a few twists and turns along the way it's not a series that I think will be really epic but instead nicely focused. We're introduced to Maki Aikawa, a high school student who is unlike most of her friends in a number of ways. She's practically a foot taller than everyone else so she often stands out from there. Her general look in addition to that is of someone that's hard something of a rough time in life, her features seem more angular in some ways and her eyes show that she's fairly uninterested in things in general. She has the look of someone searching for something and letting most everything else just pass her by.
She's also one of the rising stars of the back alley street fighting scene where she's been nicknamed as the Airmaster because of how she seemingly flies when she pulls off a lot of her moves. When she's fighting, she's an altogether different person who is tapping into something that's almost like a drug, something that makes her feel more alive than at any other moment as she continues to search for the person that's even stronger than her so that she can have the challenge that will truly awaken what's inside her. With her short skirt and the slightly puffy yellow top of her school, when she fights and twirls around with the skill of a master gymnast, it is almost like she really is flying. It's all taken to an extreme but the moves are fascinating to watch and Maki takes as good as she gives when the opponents are able to provide something of a challenge.
Maki's been a loner for quite some time, based on what little we get to see of her past and the way she'd been left to her own devices, so when she stumbles upon a group of what I guess is passing for kogal's these days she ends up becoming friends with them as they're rather accepting of her and her differences and they're all in awe of her skills. It's an interesting group with Yu as the apparent leader and the only one with the deep tanning, followed by blonde Michiru. Mina's in the group but goes to another school and she's the token big breasted chick with the 41 inch bustline. She's also got a serious crush on Maki over these episodes though while the others play it up as real love, it really straddles the line between girl/girl adoration and potential true love. Rounding the group out is Renge, a dwarf-sized girl who acts her height and is generally the loudest of them all. Maki is well accepted by them and she becomes very fond of them as they get to know each other.
Throughout the first four episodes here, Maki gets into a number of fights and is challenged by others. One recurring challenger is the aspiring future supermodel named Sakiyama who finds herself continually upstaged by Maki and her friends. She starts off as a loud mouthed silver spoon type of sorts but she gets a fire lit under her by Maki's obvious superior skills once she gets a taste of them and insists on meeting her again at any time as she continues to train and do better. The rivalry she gets with Maki is amusing since Maki encourages her along but at the same time doesn't see her as a threat and sort of tolerates her for it and for the things that Sakiyama does at times that seem to be out of some weird version of what she thinks friendship is.
The fight sequences throughout the show is the real selling point and while some areas of the animation may look cheap, such as some of the areas where characters are running into the background, the fight scenes show where the money went. They're very fluid and stylish and definitely a nice level of violence right now where it you cringe a bit but expect it to get worse as it goes on. Tied to that, I really liked the character designs here because they are different from the norm. The "anime standard" is something that really needs to be broken up a bit and expanded upon more and while Air Master doesn't stray too far from what works, it is providing some controversial looking character designs that fall into a love it or hate it kind of realm. From the almost masculine feel of Maki to the variety of people she fights, I liked the variety and style of the characters. If anything didn't work, it's two areas. I really don't like Renge's bit as the dwarf of the group since it just keeps going with the wah-wah baby kind of material. I also have to say that I didn't care for the massive 41 inch breasts of Mina. They could have toned that down by half and still had all the same jokes but this is just too much and it looks bad.
Derided by a lot of people for its designs, Air Master is a surprisingly fluid piece of work at times that's part of the re-energized fighting genre that's been worked over by having more prominent female characters taking on the roles and going toe to toe with the men. These four episodes provided some really fun fight sequences that were creatively done as well as introducing an interesting and diverse crowd of secondary characters and fighters for Maki to deal with. Though it’s been four years since I first saw these episodes, coming back to them proved a lot of fun and has me back in the right mindset and eagerly looking forward to working through the familiar to get to the new.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.