Air Gear Vol. #4 (of 6) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, August 20, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, August 07, 2007
What They Say
Ikki has formed a team of Storm Riders with the help of some new friends and old allies. With their first victory in the bag, they have begun their journey to the top of the ranks. Unfortunately for Ikki, Rika, eldest of the Sleeping Forest sisters, will do anything to keep the little crow safe and grounded. It's a good thing Ringo is there to teach Ikki a few new tricks to survive the territory and parts wars to come. Will Ikki get his bell rung or will he prove once and for all that nothing is limited for the Sky King?
Contains episodes 13-17.
The toughest opponent that Ikki has to face isn't that of another team or even himself, but that of Rika.
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 earlier ones but changes out the colors. Ikki and Ringo pair off this time though Ikki continues to get hamstrung with awkward looking mid-flight poses. Ringo naturally shows off with some fanservice that works well enough, particularly since they have her with the glasses on. 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. 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 the still shot of Ikki and Ringo from the front cover. The background is a purple/blue 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 gets a bit of a bump in the episode count department with this volume as it shifts from four to five episodes in order to get rid of that initial plan of a seven volume series. This works out in the shows favor as we get a fairly complete background arc and then kick off the next storyline instead of just dealing with one storyline.
Now seventeen episodes into the series, there continue to be too many things that just make it difficult to suspend disbelief over. That isn't exactly something new for an Oh! Great series but Air Gear manages to stand out more just because they're playing so openly with the Air Treks. While you certainly don't expect there to be a massive amount of use for them, just like any sport, it continues to seem that the only people that use them are high school kids or younger who need to be part of teams in order to defend turf. There really needs to be an episode that shows us how the modern octogenarian handles a pair of these Air Treks and what kind of moves they can perform.
The scope of the series is what tends to be the most bothersome. Again, it's obviously very Japan-centric, which is evident in the way it hauls out the Sky King storyline and the various other kings that have mastered AT's and are essentially unstoppable. But it's the way the story feels as if it's being written on the fly with no sense of proper place. Ikki and his group have faced some fun challenges so far with local area Storm Riders that have some recognition to them, but this time they're going up against a formidable group with thousands of members known as Behemoth. While it's understandable that Ikki will have no clue about the world around him, you'd expect things like this and the Parts War and numerous other aspects of being a Storm Rider would have cropped up by now. At this point in time, introducing a strong group like Behemoth gives it a tacked on feeling.
The bulk of this volume is focused elsewhere though as it initially kicks off with Ikki and his friends riding high from their recent victories. Ikki has a good amount of cockiness and confidence now but that all starts crashing around him when Rika returns home for a short term from her business trip. Amusingly, her business trip is that she's actually a masked mysterious professional wrestler and has kept it secret from Ikki. Her past is just as much of a mystery to Ikki so he can't understand why she freaks so heavily when she finds out that he's formed a Storm Riders team himself. She flat out refuses to let Ikki participate any more and has all sorts of threats ready for him. The pair are certainly quite stubborn and they rub each other the wrong way over just about everything.
Rika's attempts to talk sense into Ikki has her going to an old friend named Sora who has some strong connections to her past, around when she was Ikki's age. Sora's the quiet loner type in a wheelchair who has three dogs that he's trained well, so much so that they play Frisbee on the roof with each other. Rika's plan goes awry though when Sora is actually positive about Ikki's plans, at least until he sees how poor Ikki's skills are when dealing with Rika. Rika, as it turns out, used to be quite the famous little Storm Rider in her day with a reputation that was hard earned and quite serious. Over the course of a few episodes, it's laid out plainly enough as well as the price that she and Sora paid for their youthful indiscretions.
Similar to the Behemoth issue, this particular arc wants me to believe that a guy in a wheelchair can perform all the moves he does in this. When it comes to the Air Treks themselves, it's easy to suspend disbelief over it so that the show can work what it wants to do, but it's instances like this that pushes it too far. Putting Sora in the wise and experienced Rider position who has had his wings clipped isn't a bad idea as it puts another person out there who can see Ikki's potential. But they take his past skill in combination with his injuries and put him in an untenable position of still being more gifted in a wheelchair than most average Riders out there. The small moments that he's active during the competition with Rika, along with the dogs, took me out of the show completely.
Air Gear continues to be one of the more uneven and poorly paced shows out there. It also tends to suffer from some mediocre to below average animation which can really hamper a show like this that's all about action. There are good moments to be found but the overall package is one that just doesn't click well. Oh! Great's Tenjo Tenge had appeal for me from the start but something about Air Gear just doesn't transition well in this anime version of the manga. Not that the manga kept me interested either. The few moments of good material here, such as the conclusion of Rika and Ikki's fight and some of the battle moments with Behemoth, are outweighed by the more problematic areas that the series has in total.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean opening animation,Clean closing animation
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Sony PlayStation 3 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: B-
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: 125
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Air Gear