Air TV Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, November 27, 2007



What They Say
What exactly happened in those mountains? Lady Kanna and her guardians, Uraha and Ryuya, traveled through the mountains of Japan for weeks in search of her mother, but until now you’ve only seen a small portion of their story. In these special supplemental episodes, Lady Kanna learns to step down from her pedestal and be a real girl -- a girl who sees new things, makes mistakes, and maybe even falls in love. This follow-up to the wildly popular Air TV series also features a retelling of Misuzu’s story. Don’t miss it!

The Review!
Taking a look back at the series and filling in some of the blanks, the final volume of Air TV is a nice supplement but little more.

Audio:
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.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
The cover artwork is positively delicious as it features the three leads from the flashback arc together. It's mostly made up of their character designs and little of the background but those designs are just very lush and detailed in every way, resulting in a very appealing cover that merits time spent. The back cover a very hard to discern image of Ryuya and Kanna walking together through the center while the top has a rather cute innocent image of her. 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 decent sized technical grid that covers all the basics of what to expect in a very easy to read format. No insert is included with this release nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The design for the menu is an interesting one as it brings in the character artwork of Misuzu from the first volume cover and pairs it with a background shot from the past with feathers floating 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. The disc correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The extras for this 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)
After the final volume of the TV series, Air earned something of a special place in my heart even if I can't quite consider it a top notch series. Some of the emotions it manages to evoke, the sense of feeling, worked very well even if it was as blunt as a two by four to the head. While subtlety wasn't is modus operandi, the end results were quite good and it left me feeling some strong pangs for what had gone before with one of the relationships. Unfortunately, that isn't one that gets examined much here.

The fourth volume of the series is an interesting one in that it contains the last episode of the TV series and two specials that were aired in the late summer after the series ended. Splitting off an episode of the TV series may seem strange to do but the fact that it's a recap episode basically makes it ok. The opening episode here provides a recap of the entire twelve episode main series, albeit in very condensed form and without any real emotion or attachment to it for new viewers, in a serviceable enough way. You almost wonder why they did it since it was aired as the last episode and most viewers were likely already feeling crushed by the events prior. Why not put them through the wringer again I suppose… Suffice to say, it's a recap episode so there isn't much to say there beyond it's a third of this volume that's not providing anything new.

The two specials, termed "Air in Summer", take us back to that time a thousand summers ago when Ryuya helped Kanna escape from the temple along with Uraha so that she could try to find her mother. Within the framework of the series itself, this storyline was done over two episodes and fairly well paced considering it shifted from a leisurely time for the trio to one of them on the run. As much as the trio faced from both the monks that wanted them back and some other force, there was still plenty of time for Kanna to practice with her beanbags so that she could show off something to her mother when she finally sees her. What these two episodes do is take us from the escape and a fair bit further as they travel. What originally felt like it happened relatively quickly, we instead see a bit more of the passage of time and the bonds that formed among them.

This is all very good material that if presented within the framework of the series would have helped make that arc all the more enjoyable. Yet at the same time I can't help but feel that it would have made it all overly long, and left some people like myself wondering when we'd get back to the modern times to see what was going on with Yukito and Misuzu. These two episodes definitely provide some good insights into the characters and help to explain why Ryuya and Uraha did what they did at the end of that arc in order to prepare for the future. Much of the time is spent here watching Kanna realizing how unaware of the real world she is, often through no fault of her own, but also how Uraha is toying with her in a way by pushing her closer to Ryuya. As a group, the three of them work surprisingly well together and have a good bit of fun even with being on the run and overly sensitive to their situation.

Not unlike the TV series, the animation and overall design here is just wonderful. Kyoto Animation has rightly earned a lot of praise in the last couple of years and it's very evident here, even if the series is not exactly a high motion piece. Even when you're dealing with something as laid back as this, you can still do some very big wow scenes with the animation and that's very key to making this work. The world these characters inhabit is so alive and rich that it captivates you just as much. The two specials really do a good job of capturing the feeling of the time period both in costume and set design but also in just the atmospherics of it. Tied with the haunting melodies of the score, Air just wraps itself around you and before you realize it, it's taken hold.

In Summary:
While not critical for enjoyment of the TV series itself, these two new episodes do a very good job of fleshing out a storyline that could have certainly used it. The Summer arc was one that provides the core of what's happening in the modern day so seeing those relationships delved into even more, seeing the bonds come together in a deeper way, only helps to strengthen it. I don't know that they're critical to enjoying it but it did let me look more favorably on that arc than I did during my original viewing. The only downside to the release is the recap episode which, having just finished the series very recently, feels very counterproductive. But, we cannot have any episodes missing, right? So other than that, this volume is really just the two specials and fans of the series will love to have these, which is all that counts. ADV Films has put together another solid release with this which in the end gives us a very fine show that will have grown men crying for years to come. You know who you are.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Opening,Clean Closing

Review Equipment
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, 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: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: TV 14
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Air TV/Movie