Air Gear Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, June 15, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, June 05, 2007
What They Say
Ikki must grind long and hard if he wants to find his own "road". And watching a few of his fellow Storm Riders battle along the way may be just what the "Swallow" ordered. As Ikki puts the finishing touches on his new AT team, he must put his friendships to the test, and his past behind him. Will Ikki and his mates be victorious in their first Parts War? Will he make it all the way to Tropaeum...a Storm Rider's ultimate goal? The stage has been set. The only question is, will they taste the sweet smell of victory or the foul stench of defeat? We'll never kiss and tell and neither will Ikki!
Ikki faces off against the G-men before he formalizes his own team taking to the air.
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, this volume uses the same style as the first but changes out the colors. The central focus is the two personalities of Akito/Agito split into their own form which is amusing to see as each has a different kind of smile. 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 done in green, the covers certainly 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.
The menu layout is rather simple and fairly bland with just a still shot of Akito/Agito from the front cover. The background is a green 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)
Air Gear creeps up towards the halfway mark of the series with this set of episodes and finishes out some of the earlier story arc subplots. At the same time it starts to shift things forward with Ikki and his crew as his team is now finally assembled and ready to go, quirks and all. A motley collection of Riders is ready to roll with Ikki who are strangely drawn to the young man. A young man who happens to like stripping down to nothing in order to defeat opponents.
The focus during the first half of this volume is around that of Kaito and his G-men crew setting out to capture the various criminal Riders. Their fanatical methods have been shown before but now we get to see just Kaito and Agito going about and being absolutely brutal with their victims, such as the leader of the Skull Saders. As the duo make their own waves in the community, Ikki is getting more familiar with the Parts War angle of it all and takes everyone off to see a new battle that's been scheduled between a pair of teams. Ikki's continuing to deal with the problem of finding their fifth member so they can become an official team but it doesn't hurt to scout out the competition once in awhile.
The actual competition is fairly mild though it has its amusing moments as the kids teacher, Tomita, finds herself being dragged into things. The competition turns brutal when Kaito shows up and unleashes Agito onto the scene. Agito becomes something of a main focus during these episodes as his multiple personality disorder is lightly explored. Between a few pitched competitions with their Air Treks, Agito's motivations become clearer and the character, quirky as he is, actually becomes an amusing and enjoyable addition to the show. How can you not love a character who goes from almost psychotically violent as he tries to take down Ikki to cute and huggable as he kisses Ikki in mid flight. Agito and his other personality of Akito do manage to find their place within the group as the show progresses here but it's hard to get in synch with them early on since Akito is so over the top at times.
The other focus during these episodes is the formation of Ikki's team and all that's involved with it. As usual, Ikki is so focused on just the concept of the team that the actual work and monetary requirement involved isn't even considered. Being able to afford the proper gear for everyone, designing the logo and more becomes a bit arduous for him but he has plenty of people to help him out as usual. What's really disheartening, and maybe it's just my own perspective about getting into something, is that he's in general so unaware of what's involved with being part of this community that he comes across as completely incompetent. The lack of knowledge about what the Parts Wars is really about and the other various rules and points of honor get to be annoying after awhile. It's something that's done both as his personality and as a way to instruct the viewer about what's going on but it can be handled so much better than this.
The formation of the team, awkward as it is, does bring something new to the show as they're rallying around Ikki. It now has a focus of trying to figure out what it really wants to be, though it becomes obvious through the explanations of what's involved with the Parts War. Owing to its manga origins, it's easy to see this shift heavily into a tournament mode in some form and that has me quite leery of the property in general now. Going into something that's so completely open ended and built around competitions like this has been done a great deal over the years but still works better in manga form than in anime form. Air Gear still has potential to it and this volume was more enjoyable from both an action and comedy aspect than the previous two but it still doesn't have me eager to see each new volume.
Keeping up the frenetic pace of the previous episodes and giving a lot of the secondary characters the shaft once again as more characters take the spotlight, Air Gear has plenty to offer but still hasn't found its own voice. The utter lack of Simca in general is something else that works against this volume as she barely gets one bit of a dream sequence to her name. The focus on Agito and Akito in these episodes does help to close out the first half of the series and set things up for the second half but it hasn't been able to do so in a way that demands you watch the second half. Similar to earlier episodes, it still feels like it's saying "watch me if you have nothing better to do."
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
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