Air TV Vol. #1 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, August 14, 2007
What They Say
Yukito is a traveling performer - a wanderer. He survives with only the clothes on his back, a puppet, and a story from his mother -- the story of ‚€œThe Girl in the Sky.‚€� He doesn‚€™t know who or where she is; only that he must find her. On the verge of starvation, he is befriended by a young misfit named Misuzu, whose eccentricities serve to hide a troubled home life. Misuzu offers Yukito a place to stay, and in return he listens to her dreams -- dreams in which she lives in the sky. To make ends meet, Yukito takes odd jobs from the local doctor, where he meets Kano - another girl with an odd fascination with the sky. As his search moves forward, Yukito finds that the possibilities are as numerous as the pitfalls. Will he find the girl in the sky? Does she even exist? The answers change with the breeze. The questions are up in the Air.
When Yukito's journey takes him to a small town where he meets a series of strange young women, his life takes on a surreal feeling.
The bilingual release for this series is presented with both tracks in a 5.1 mix that runs at 448 kbps. It's a surprising show t have in 5.1, at least for these first four episodes, as it's a very mellow and dialogue filled piece without anything that really stands out in the rear channels. The forward soundstage does come across well with plenty of distinct and clear moments and some good placement but the material itself just don't scream out to be done in a full 5.1 format. The opening and closing sequences make out the best with it by having a very full sounding feeling to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. Air features a very rich design when it comes to the character animation but even more so with the backgrounds. As such, the look of the show is lush and filled with beautiful detail and colors that comes across wonderfully here. The show has a fairly high bitrate for it and in general it's a very solid looking presentation. The faults with it, in the source itself I believe, lay within the edges of areas such as characters hair where you can see a good bit of line noise during some of the zooms and pans. It's very apparent in Yukito's hair due to the way he's designed but it shows up elsewhere as well. There is also a touch of light fuzziness in the opening sequence where it's very busy but it's very brief and hard to notice.
Using the same character artwork as the first Japanese cover but using a much richer looking background scene of clouds, the front cover here is a great looking piece that mixes bright and dark with detailed character designs. Misuzu takes up the bulk of the space due to the layout but overall it's just a very appealing design over all, right down to the use of the proper logo. The back cover has images of clouds and feathers obscured behind the dark overlay and is laid out in a very appealing way. Mixes of shots from the show are arranged across it with the discs features along the top and a good summary of the premise. The bottom portion has a good sized technical grid that covers all the basics of what to expect in a very easy to read format. The included insert is just an advertisement for various thinpak collections and there is no reversible cover here.
The design for the menu is an interesting one as it brings in the character artwork of Misuzu from the cover and pairs it with a sunset background with a couple of other characters as some feathers float by. There is a good brief instrumental piece associated with it that really reinforces the laid back nature of the show. The menu is fairly standard design for ADV Films but it has some good little bits to it that show them moving away from the very basic menus they've done for the past year. In an interesting and welcome twist, there is a title card at the end of the volume to look forward to the next volume. The title card is the same as the menu so when it finishes out you're dropped right back to the main menu with little change. It can't be seamless due to DVD limitations but it's a great little thing that ties it all together better. The disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.
The extras for the first volume are pretty minimal as it only includes a clean version of the opening and closing sequence.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally created by VisualArts/Key, Air TV is a thirteen episode series that has a very serene feel to it while playing out in a similar manner to the visual novel it's based off of. The show has a very lush feel to it with its settings and a relaxed pacing that works to suck you into its world but it also focuses heavily on the female cast. Almost to the exclusion of men entirely outside of the lead.
With its origins in a visual novel, the series for its first few episodes is essentially a lot of setup and introductions for what's to come. The series starts off and revolves mostly around a young man named Yukito who is traveling the countryside as a performer. His gig is interesting enough for what little we see it as he controls a puppet seemingly by magic. It doesn't impress most people though which means he's usually dirt poor and with few options. His traveling is done due to something his mother put into his head years ago, a story about a girl in the sky that he feels he needs to find.
Like any story at the start, everything changes with the chance meeting between him and a schoolgirl named Misuzu who almost seems to enter on a breeze. Misuzu is an attractive enough girl who seems slightly off in a way as she's very friendly but with a few quirks. Before he realizes it, Misuzu has befriended him quickly and even brought him to her house to feed him. She even goes as far as to invite him to stay until he has enough money to move on again, something that she believes her mother will be fine with. That of course doesn't happen but Misuzu's young mother is quite amusing as she lets him stay on so he can be her drinking partner. She also wants him to stay on to keep an eye on Misuzu as she is someone who doesn't seem quite connected to the world and hasn't grown up much from her younger days.
The series is intent on bringing in more female characters which is expected, the most prominent being the Kirishima sisters, Kano and Hijiri. The older sister Hijiri has taken on the role of a town doctor and she looks after her younger sister since their parents had passed away. Kano is in some ways similar to Misuzu in that her perception of the world isn't quite normal for a high school age girl. She keeps a ribbon tied around her wrist that she believes will eventually give her magical powers when she grows up some day. There are some deep secretes to the Kirishima family past that are involved in this and it's an interesting enough story that slowly mixes in some very surreal and magical moments as it's explored. Though by appearance you would believe that the show is all about Misuzu, it's told more from Yukito's perspective and the first arc is mostly about Kano. That doesn't stop them from introducing other characters though.
Air is a very laid back and mellow series that has a real slice of life feeling to it with a dash of magic on the side. Less magic maybe and more the unknown. Or at the least not magic in the traditional anime sense. Yukito is a character that changes the lives of others by his arrival which in turn will surely change him as well. This leads to plenty of material that revolves around simple things such as work, hanging out and basic character interactions that arise when you get to know someone better. The material is very well handled as it lays out each of the story elements bit by bit and is the kind of show where if it doesn't put you to sleep it'll keep you very engaged in.
Just as much a character as Yukito and Misuzu is the actual setting itself. The seaside town is beautifully animated by Kyoto Animation with incredibly detailed and lush designs. Though they provide a few cheating sequences here and there with bland backgrounds, once out in the world itself the design of it stands out strongly. Whether it be the simple sunsets or the long view of the town with the green of the trees, it all has a great depth and realism to it that helps to elevate the show. With the series having a title such as Air and a look to the sky, that area comes across just as beautifully with rich blues. The authoring here really needed to be solid for the backgrounds and it captures it wonderfully. The atmosphere of the series is a huge aspect of it and if the backgrounds come off as distracting it would lose a lot of its impact. Thankfully it doesn't and the end result is generally a great looking piece of work.
The first third of the series resides on this volume and it's certainly an intriguing piece of work but more so from the way it makes you feel rather than the actual content. There is enough here to certainly merit more attention as you want to know what's really going on here and what the deal is with Misuzu but it isn't a strong must. Where the show wins you over is in how it plays out, how it utilizes its animation, locales and music in order to draw you into what is otherwise a fairly simple story. Every aspect of the show around the actual plot is lavishly done and filled with detail, emotion and feeling. What remains to be seen is whether it can take what it's starting with here and make it something that you can't help but to rave about. The first volume is a solid start to the series in many ways but isn't a slam dunk across the board.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitle,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 480p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Air TV/Movie