Title: Air Gear
Company: Toei Animation
Format: 25 episodes
Dates: 4 Apr 2006 – 27 Sep 2006
Synopsis: Ikki Minami, leader of a petty high school gang, spends his days as an anonymous high school delinquent. After being severely beaten by a rival gang, he discovers a pair of Air Trecks “high-performance inline skates” and immediately finds himself hooked to this latest trend. With this discovery, he unearths an underground scene full of like-minded fans, competing to the best. With nothing but his pair of skates and innate talent and ability, he begins to climb the ladder with the inevitable goal of being the “Air King.”
Animation: High quality and stylized.
Soundtrack: Possibly one of the best; absolutely phenomenal.
Story: Completely unravels and lacking in coherency.
At first, Air Gear makes no effort to conceal its blatantly shounen premise. This by itself isn’t necessarily horrible since the result can be exceptional; however, the end result is nowhere near the caliber of such shows as Fighting Spirit and Gantz. Instead, the series suffers from a severe lack of genre identity, and ultimately its ambition exceeds its limitation.
Firmly falling into the action genre, much of the enjoyment relies on stylized animation to relay the impact of the events on-screen. Thankfully, Air Gear excels in this, with remarkably clean and smooth animation. This is complemented by its soundtrack, which is unbelievably well done; the smooth techno tracks are not only extremely catchy and high quality, but complement the feel of the show almost perfectly. Both visually and aurally, Air Gear manages to convincingly establish an urban setting, which helps portray much of the action that occurs throughout the series.
Despite its outstanding production values, the major fault of Air Gear lies in its excruciatingly poor storyline. Initially the anime tends to be very solid, if not particularly profound, and the fast-paced street races and visceral excitement made for a very enjoyable beginning. However, about a quarter of the way through, the anime decided to try and distinguish itself from other shounen anime and embark on a much more epic storyline. Unfortunately, while the plot does indeed become much more ambitious, the originally laudable execution quickly turns into a mishmash of random plot twists with little coherency or connection to the overall plot. On top of this, the original focus of the show was completely tossed aside; the contest-oriented nature of the AT battles is phased out, and replaced with literal fighting so the anime basically becomes DBZ with rollerblades.
On top of the abysmal shift in plot and execution, several new characters are suddenly introduced into the plot very abruptly, and each bring their own convoluted history and storyline. Instead of developing the characters and bringing out their backstories gradually, the information is simply thrown out there and ultimately becomes inconsequential to the plot. Frustratingly, all of this confusion and chaos culminates in a terrible ending which explains nothing and ends with no closure whatsoever. Characters are suddenly discarded and never appear again, some suddenly change their allegiance, and in general all logic is tossed out the window.
I tried to like Air Gear, I really did. The amazing soundtrack, animation, and decent plot structure in the beginning all added up to the making of a very entertaining, if not extraordinary anime. However, as the series progressed, the director tried to do just that: make an extraordinary and genre-breaking series. While they should be applauded for their ambition, it ultimately leads to a show which achieves little of what it set out to do, and fails in capturing what made it enjoyable in the first place. Ultimately, Air Gear tries to fix what isn’t broken, and thus comes up short as an anime.
The Rating: 4
Reviewed by: royal crown