Leader of the youth gang East Side Gunz and also known as the “Unbeatable Babyface”, high school student Minami “Ikki” Itsuki is without a doubt a prime example of a school boy delinquent. Always looking for trouble, Ikki manages to bite off a little more than what he can chew when he takes on a vicious gang of Storm Riders known as the Skull Saders from which he receives a beating like none other thanks to their gregarious use of Air Treks (AT), basically motorized inline skates that allow the user to perform far more outrageous aerial maneuvers than what normal skates would ever allow you to do.
However, after stumbling onto a secret hidden from him by his benefactors, the Noyamano sisters, Ikki steals a pair of Air Treks for himself and begins to process of learning this new skill at which he amazingly enough seems to have more than just a natural knack for!
And while the first step is revenge against the Skull Saders, Ikki finds that the liberation of flight that the Air Treks offer him to be more than a little tantalizing as his love affair with AT slowly begins and he starts his sure and steady path towards the Trophaeum, the ultimate destination of any Storm Rider!
Air Gear is a 2006, 25 episode long series directed by Hajime Kamegaki and is based on the early arcs of the award winning shonen manga ‘Air Gear’ by the popular mangaka Oh! Great.
As with any shonen title, Air Gear is primarily focused on fighting in a tournament style environment, this time with it being the battles between Storm Rider teams through various ranks and battle types. Of course, this means that Air Gear is pretty action packed and this ‘extreme sports brawler’ will certainly satisfy any anime action junkie. At the same time though, Air Gear goes all out to try and differentiate itself from all the others and makes use of loads of comedy and just plain silliness to try and achieve this – and achieve it, it does. The story’s development is a little uneven in places and the plot jumps around a lot, as does the focus, but this constant mixing it up between drama, action and comedy goes a long way in keeping the often over the top Air Gear fresh and thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
There is plenty of character development tossed in for the more serious anime watchers out there, as well as a couple of hints of romance just to throw things off center. And if this still isn’t enough to entice you to watch Air Gear then perhaps I should add that the story goes out of its way to present loads of fan service to its primarily male target demographic audience, making it the complete package for any hot-blooded teenage viewer!
To emphasize the constant switching between drama, action and comedy, Air Gear tends to mix its animation styles up quite a bit, often making use of heavy caricaturized imagery as well as super-deformed characters and overly exaggerated facial expressions. The standard visuals used however are very nicely laid out with clean lines and decent detail, with good (and sexy) character design abounding all over the place. It looks like you standard, vibrant and brightly coloured TV anime production, and thanks to today’s TV standards this certainly isn’t a bad thing by a long shot.
The animation itself is very smooth and the well choreographed action sequences, particularly those on the ATS, are well done and very fluid, making it quite exhilarating and exciting to watch throughout most of the series.
Aurally Air Gear comes across as a polished production with some great and well established voice actors cast in the leading roles. Added to this is a great musical score which combines well with the funky opening and closing tracks by Back-on and skankfunk respectively.
Air Gear is an enjoyable mix of over the top comedy and outrageous action and while it does fall into the typical escalation of powers trap that plagues most shonen titles, it pulls off everything it does with tons of flair and makes for quite a good viewing, even if the plot seems to fall all over the place for most for the series. Because it is based on an ongoing manga means that the show doesn’t really end off on a decent closing note which is a bit of a pity, but this doesn’t really detract from the series as a whole. My only misgiving is that the anime loses its focus on the actual Air Trek for most of the anime, falling into the trap of outrageous powers and non-believable moves which is a shame because if they focused more on the skating itself they may have ended up with something a little bit different and perhaps even a tad more enjoyable.
Still, it will have you laughing out loud more often than not and its zany action makes for quite a nice break from reality, meaning that you won’t go wrong in picking up Air Gear off the shelf.
(Besides, Oh Great!’s signature female proportions should in any case be reason enough if you happen to be male – after all, this is the same mangaka that brought us Silky Whip!)
Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_Gear