Air Gear Vol. #2 (also w/box) (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, April 03, 2007
What They Say
Ikki may not be a Storm Rider yet, but his battle with Buccha already has the AT pros talking. Unfortunately, his sudden popularity is attracting some unwanted attention from the leader of the Skull Saders, who is still bitter over his crushing defeat at the hands of a rookie. Now, with the Sleeping Forest emblem hanging in the balance, Ikki faces his rival in a gravity-defying race. Meanwhile, Ringo is torn between pulling Ikki into the dangerous world of Sleeping Forest and losing him to the sultry Simca. Onigiri has decided that he's more interested in riding girls than AT's. Ikki's teachers are threatening to hold him back. With new opponents and challenges at every turn, Ikki will have to rely on the strength of his friends to help him forge his road to the top.
After an awkward opening volume, Air Gear starts to find its rhythm and ups the fanservice level just right.
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The Japanese mix is a solid stereo piece that does a really good job with the music score as well as in general dialogue placement throughout. With a fair bit of action and characters at all different locations, directionality is good and well placed. The English mix is done in a 5.1 format, something ADV hasn't done too much of lately, and it adds some better clarity to the dialogue as well as placement. Both tracks are solid though and we didn't have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2006, the transfer for this show is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The source materials for this release are in very good shape with a very clean and smooth look. The show is done with a lot of bold colors across wide areas and they come across very solid here though there is some minor noise to be found if you're close enough. A good deal of the scenes take place at night with very dark blacks for the sky as well as some greens to highlight the lights from the city and there is very little visible banding in most of this. In addition, they also look very solid while still providing detail. There is some minor aliasing in a few scenes though cross coloration is mostly absent. The worst looking area tends to be the opening sequence where they decided to do the replaced credits to match the original. The credits look fine but they aren't able to do it as smoothly which results in some stuttering as the camera moves around.
Using artwork that wasn't on the Japanese retail release cover, the second volume uses the same style as the first but changes out the colors. The central focus is Simca because of her lighter colors but Ikki provides some balance to her as they share the cover. The cover uses a fair bit of text to it, pushing "Oh Great"' along the right side but not strongly while also having a very noticeable spot that indicates that it's uncut. The logo along the bottom is decent along with more text for the volume name. The foil aspect sort of works but it doesn't really jump out a lot and just feels kind of superfluous in a way. With this volume being an orange color and the first one blue, they certainly will stand out in a bad way on a shelf. The back cover is decently laid out with two strips of shots from the show along the left and right while a surprisingly text heavy summary covers the premise of the show. The discs features aren't given much notice here alongside the number of episodes while the remainder of the cover is filled out with the production credits and a solid looking technical grid. No insert or reversible cover is included for this release.
With this being the second volume, a disc+box version is available in addition to the disc by itself. The box is the standard heavy chipboard type with a lot of white space on it that's actually nicely use. It takes the various graffiti style emblems and puts them in gray behind the characters that are used on it as well as the grid style. The contrast of the white and gray looks good as do the characters. One of the main panels features the shot of Ikki from the first volume while the other one has a shot of Ringo. The spine has the series logo and the small versions of the characters from the second volume around it. It's not a huge standout in terms of style and appeal but it's solid and fits with the show. As is standard practice for ADV Films, no sort of bonus items are included in the release.
The menu layout is rather simple and fairly bland with just a still shot of Ikki leaping forward with his Air Trek's on. The background is an orange CG piece that kind of gives hint to buildings which looks decent but the mixture of it and the character artwork just doesn't really do all that much. There's a bit of fast paced hard instrumental music with it and the navigation is straightforward enough that everything works well and is easily accessible. Submenus load quickly and the disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.
The only extras available on this volume are the clean opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Air Gear series is one that's been somewhat difficult to get into in its manga form. The anime didn't win me over handily with its first few episodes either but it's now starting to get into its groove some with this set of episode. A bit lighter, a bit more progress but still with some leaps of logic to it, there is more going on that what you see at first glance and I'm starting to like some of the characters.
Unfortunately, Ikki continues to be the one character I really don't care for. With his supposed natural gift and ability to simply pull off amazing moves that even some seasoned folks can't do just pushes him beyond believability. The intent to get him to a level where he can play with the truly big boys is brought into this more during these episodes as Simca talks about what's really going on out there. These Kings are something that is likely to dominate at some point but with how they're pushing Ikki so quickly it's going to lead to it feeling even more forced and rushed. It's not something that's unusual in these kinds of shows, particularly in the original manga versions, but they tend to run for a lot more episodes than what this is slotted for.
With Ikki being the central character, a lot of the focus deals with his skills and abilities. His brash and cocky nature, tempered with an unhealthy dose of arrogance, has him ending up in all kinds of challenges that naturally draw out his hidden talents. This volume sees him going through a rematch with the Skull Saders since he's gained some confidence now after dealing with Buccha in their challenge. With his new apparent nickname of "Baby Face," his confidence level is quite high and he's really rubbing it in with the women he lives with. But he's just as cocky with others, particularly when it comes to his confrontation with the Skull Saders.
A couple of characters get some good moments in this volume that help to elevate things a bit. First and most important is Simca as she's basically my favorite of the show. Her role isn't really any different in these episodes but she's a bit more provocative about things. With her belief that Ikki will become like the Kings that she talks about, she's very interested in giving him the incentive to get there for whatever her reasons may be. Unlike the kind of motivation he gets from the women he lives with, she uses her feminine wiles on him to their fullest without actually having sex with him. At least not yet. She's got some great fanservice scenes and amusing moments of sexual contact that don't feel out of place with the style of the show. Add in that it's a rare time that I think pink hair works and it's all good.
The other characters that get more time involve Ikki's school situation. His friends such as Onigiri get more time as they work together towards forming their own team to build up their reputations. The pacing for it feels a bit awkward but it does lead to some good scenes, particularly when Buccha is used to make one of them look better to his incredibly hot girlfriend who only likes overweight guys. The other one that gets a good episode of coverage is their teacher, Tomita. She's a weird character to begin with for a teacher since she's not only young but dresses in a very sexual way but seems to be offended by what she does. We get to see some of her background as the trio find themselves close to being failing in class and this allows for everyone in the group to get some nice if minor growth to them.
While I can easily see where Air Gear is intending to go, it doesn't feel like the show is getting there in an interesting manner. There are moments I like throughout these four episodes but as a whole it still leaves me fairly unimpressed. I really like the designs and the style over substance approach that Oh! Great tends to use but this doesn't have the kind of draw that his other recent series has for me. There's still plenty of room to grow however and there are enough hooks to keep me interested in enough to hope that it does become more than it is now.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: C+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV MA
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Air Gear