Air Master Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, May 06, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, May 10, 2005



What They Say
Created by the famous Yokusaru Shibata, Airmaster first appeared as a comic series in Hakusensha's well known comic magazine titled "Young Animal." What sets AirMaster apart from the other anime action series, is its unique blend of action (that includes well choreographed street fighting scenes) along with a humorous side (that highlights a "Kogal" group) and its cast of seductive, sexy characters. The talented anime director Daisuke Nishio, well known for his famous "Dragon Ball Z" series, takes his battle scenes to new heights by teaming up with Kenfu Denki the "Berserk" animation director who helped popularize the hit series Street Fighter Zero!

The Review!
When a vacationing horde of students comes down from Hokkaido, their wildest dreams come true and Maki gets to fight her toughest opponent yet.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The stereo mix for it is nicely done with plenty of directionality across the forward soundstage for the various fight sequences which also pack some oomph to them when they really start to heat up. Dialogue portions of the show are well done also as there are often numerous characters talking across a group so they're well placed. Dialogue in general is clean and clear and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing back in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The look of the show is quite good for a TV series with very striking and bold colors used throughout it in key places that are mixed with the more general palette that's found in series taking place in the present day. One area that helps the visuals stand out on this transfer is the thicker lines around the characters, particularly the hair. The transfer isn't completely problem free as some of the panning sequences introduce some rolling aliasing but this occurs only a couple of times and ends quickly, but it is noticeable. Backgrounds look solid and colors great overall with only some very minor gradient problems visible.

Packaging:
Packaged in a white keepcase and using the same artwork as the Japanese release, this volume's cover looks good with an action shot of Maki and Kinjiro going at it while Nagato's face and body make up the background behind them. With it having a lot of white I'm glad they chose to use a white keepcase for it since that only solidifies the look. The back cover is nicely laid out with the top half providing several shots from the show and a large piece with the summary of the premise included. The bottom half provides a lot of information such as the basic production and technical information along with the bilingual cast list and the episode numbers and titles. The insert replicates the front cover artwork minus a few logos and opens to a two panel spread that details the four episodes and the various people that Maki fights in them. The back of the insert is advertisements for their other series.

Menu:
The menu layout shows the minimal effort being put into these releases as it uses the same background as Interlude and Slam Dunk has with the numbers in blue going off into the distance while the left side has the artwork from the front cover and the right side has the individual episode selections as well as the language setup. No music is used with this so there isn't a loop but instead the one static screen. Access times are nice and fast and the layout easy to navigate. The disc did not correctly read our players language presets due to both language tracks being labeled as English.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first two volumes ended up being surprisingly enjoyable, which went counter to a lot of what we heard, the third volume was quick to be watched when it arrived. Curiously, we've learned that a lot of women seem to really enjoy this show and more often than not they can't quite pin down why. Suffice to say, as much as I'm enjoying it my wife is enjoying it even more.

This volume brings in a new storyline to the show that runs for the first three episodes before it shifts over to a standalone comedic episode that caps off the disc. After the events with Julietta in the previous volume, things have gone back to what I guess you could consider is normal for the group. Unfortunately for them, a large group of students have come down from Hokkaido for a school vacation and they're all part of one particular gang known as the Black Union of Righteousness and Sincerity. These are the basic kind of thuggish looking badass guys you'd expect as they all wear their bulky black school uniforms and essentially take over a large chunk of Shibuya as they check out the sights and sounds of the place.

What turns things on its ear though is when a small group of them come across our leads and they're all stunned to see... Mina. Through a brief and amusing flashback, it turns out that they acquired photos of her from her swimsuit gig previously and have been lusting after her since as the newest starlet of the big boobs fetish genre of Japanese youth. These guys are crafty and ask for a photo with her and are all nice and happy, but when the camera snaps they actually kidnap her and head off so they can take her to their leader, Kinjiro. Maki would go after them but she gets sidetracked beforehand by Sakiyama who foolishly continues to try and challenge her. She's getting better but she'll never catch up to Maki's level.

This leads to someone else picking up the slack and though it starts off with Reicchi on his bike going after her, and that has some great moments as they bike across the rooftops, eventually you get everyone getting into the picture from Roo-cha to the construction guy and eventually even Julietta and Maki's father. It's like old cast week as everyone gets back together in what turns into a ringside event. Kinjiro eventually ends up with Mina but he's so uninterested in girls that he's set to take her back and just be done with it so he can continue to look for the Airmaster. Of course, this brings the two of them together and we finally get one of the best fight sequences yet since the Black Union arrived. Kinjiro's surprisingly more of a challenge than even Julietta was and the entire event forces Maki to remember why she gets into these fights and we see more of her past from it. This is just really great and engaging fight sequences that doesn't hold back. Having watched a lot of tournament and fight shows in the last couple of years, the bloody nature of this one is refreshing " especially since it doesn't involve demons or some other kind of otherworldly beings.

While a lot of the focus is on the Maki/Kinjiro fight, the subcast got a lot of good time here. It was good to see such characters as Roo-cha appear once again to offer advice and his services as well as the two punks from the opening episode getting involved once more. Sakiyama continues to be a mixture of pure annoyance and amusement since she does have her moments, though this time she's more annoyance since she just interrupts other fight scenes. What surprised me was how little Mina really bothered me this episode and I even found myself laughing repeatedly at the big breast jokes. Heaven help me.

Technical Recap:
This section covers the changes from the first two volumes which had some serious technical flaws.

With regards to the subtitles, they've been cleaned up a bit but still have a good ways to go. The first part that helped ease the problems down with this release is that all that ADR information (the screams, the panting, etc) has all been removed. All we get this time is just the actual dialogue. Well, for the most part. There are a few areas where it's still not up to what I think of as basic region one standards as they include things like "Nh" "kch" and a few areas where letters are inappropriately extended when it should be using punctuation instead, such as "UPPP" instead of "UP!". A couple of three-line sentences made their way in which with the small subtitle font isn't terribly bad but it's still more than most shows do and actively try to avoid doing.

The previous release suffered in a couple of other ways as well. The lack of chapter stops made it so that you had to skim the entire episode to get somewhere. That has thankfully been resolved with the inclusion of five stops per episode (opening/part a/part b,closing/translated credits). This helps quite a lot in making it feel like a normal release. One thing that was not fixed that I'm hoping will be corrected in the next volume is that when each episode ends it goes back to the menu instead of carrying on.

In terms of the quality of the subtitles, it's still pretty much a dubtitle but there seemed to be far less problems with this one in terms of localization. A lot of it is just that it felt like it flowed much better without the inclusion of the ADR effects. But my knowledge of Japanese is pretty minimal so I'll leave it to those who know more and have seen previous scripts of the series to comment fully on that area. At least this time I saw no references to eBay and that alone made me happy.

In Summary:
While there are still technical issues to be resolved, the show itself continues to be a hell of a lot of fun. The fights this time are a bit more varied and a bit more comical up until we get to the real on between Maki and Kinjiro but they also allow for practically everyone from the first two volumes to get some screen time and participate in their own way. The whole thing is capped off by a pretty silly stand alone episode but overall this was just a lot of fun in general and I'm glad that Toei is at least making some changes in the short term considering the time between reviews and reactions coming out to the first two titles and when they had things going with the third volume. With any luck, everything should be resolved by the next volume (which I understand doesn't help most people but I'm still buying all of it so I want to see as much of it fixed as possible) and hopefully with whatever show they launch next we'll be past all of this.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: N/A
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Toei Animation Co., Ltd
MSRP: 24.95
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Air Master