Air Gear Vol. #08 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, August 13, 2010
Release Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Amateur poets on rocket skates discuss life and death while locked in mortal combat. And occasionally make fart jokes.
Writer/Artist: Oh! Great
Translated by: Makoto Yukon
Adapted by: Makoto Yukon
What They Say
Now that Ikki's new team of extreme skaters have faced off in a battle to the death with the Behemoth, what's in store for them next?
The second installment of the Behemoth arc arrives in this volume of Air Gear. If you’ve read my review of Volume 7 you know that I wasn’t big on the direction the series had taken. I am sorry to say that it continues in much the same vein, with the absolutely flavorless Cube battles a poor substitute for the exciting team vs team encounters up to this point. This sort of development really brings out the worst in Air Gear and manages to illuminate flaws that otherwise tend to fade into the background. Without the presence of amusing character interactions and interesting action scenes, this volume falls short of the mark.
Oh! Great likes to exploit his female characters. This is pretty common in manga and while I usually see complaining about it akin to complaining ocean water is salty, he’s really gone wild here. Gorgon Shell, the female Behemoth member who strips down to more-or-less nothing, would be bad enough on her own, but combined with Ringo’s absolutely ludicrous outfit it blinds like the sun. As silly as Ringo changing into the outfit without realizing something is wrong is, it’s a gag that has been played out many, many times across the mangaverse. If it had showed up for one or two panels that would be fine, but it just goes on for way, way too long. Meanwhile Gorgon Shell’s entire battle is ludicrous, easily a low point for the series unless you are an insatiable fan of T&A, no matter how tacky. It comes down to Oh! Great having little to no respect for his characters, and that’s a problem for an audience trying to connect with the characters on some emotional level. Let me be clear: I have no problem with nudity, violence, cursing, or any other low-brow subject matter. When it’s injected with zero benefit, and actual detriment, to the story, then I have a problem. Particularly when you remember these girls are <I>girls</I>; Ringo at least is in middle school, and I would think most of the others are around the same age.
An aspect of Air Gear I have always disliked is the heavy-handed use of clumsy metaphors, and unfortunately that aspect has grown as the series has progressed. It reaches a fever pitch here, and Agito’s backstory, which would otherwise be one of the highlights of this volume, is essentially one big eye-rolling groan-a-thon. Then Ikki comes in and he has more metaphors to use; we know he’s a big fan of stringing together words like flying, sky, wings and the like to send his point stumbling across the finish line. I really have to stress just how miserable reading dialog like this is. Aside from the way it completely rips you out of the moment, since no middle school student speaks that way (or high school student, or any college student other than insufferable philosophy majors), it’s handled with zero finesse. Clubbing your readers over the head with a grab-bag of metaphors does not add intellectual depth to your work, it makes you a hack. I enjoy Oh! Great’s character interactions and their wacky antics, and there is still some of that in here, but the majority of dialog is fumbled allegory and limping simile. Oh, and there’s still plenty of highly questionable pseudoscience. Don’t you worry about that. The tiger snake’s natural enemy is the pig, eh? Great, I learned something. If only that had anything to do with the story <I>at all</I>. Truly, Oh! Great has some fantastic action scenes, but his mastery of the inaction sequence is something to be admired.
Speaking of action, you may expect a volume which is entirely devoted to Cube battles, a drag-down knock-out 1v1 fight, would feature plenty of great action. We didn’t get a ton last volume, but at least one of the two fights was fairly satisfying, while the other took place mostly with one or another character standing still. I had to flip back through the volume to be sure, but somehow - and don’t ask me how because I am at a loss to explain it - there’s not much action on display. There’s a bit, sure, including particularly enjoyable moments like Ikki playing Jan Ken Pon with Bandou and brief flashes of Akito and Udou battling, but they’re rare. Clearly we’re supposed to wait for the next volume for a big showdown, but that doesn’t make the relative lack of action for the past two volumes sting any less.
I know that’s a lot of negatives, and I don’t want to give the impression that this volume of Air Gear is terrible. It’s just very, very typical, and occasionally offensive. With so many action series clogging up store shelves, it takes something different to stand out. Air Gear used to have that. I’m not so sure anymore. The action and battles may pick up, which would go far to restore the spark; I just hope Oh! Great shakes some of his bad habits.
Mania Grade: C-
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Del Rey
Orientation: Right to Left