Creator: A Toei Animation Production
Director: Hajime Kamegaki
Genre: Future Sports, Comedy
Length: 25 Episodes
Purchase: Here From Amazon
+ The script is witty and doesn't take itself too seriously
+ The Air Trek skating scenes look amazing
There are a bit too many skating scenes
+/ Lots of censored nudity, fan service, and sexual innuendo
A series like Air Gear may be immune to review. If fans of the manga series can get past some of the deviations from the original plot they will likely eat it up regardless of reviews. Anime fans and casual anime viewers who have never heard of Air Gear will likely skip it. If you do happen to view this series, you may enjoy the visuals, especially the skating scenes and fan service. If you have seen enough anime you can probably guess how it will end after the first three or four episodes.
3 out of 5
Air Gear Anime Review
Written by: Frank B. Chavez III on 6/24/2008
How far will miniaturization take us? So far it has given us the laptop computer, the iPod, and cell phones that double as personal messenger services and portable TV studios. Originally created in the pages of Weekly Shonen Magazine by manga artist Oh! great, Air Gear is set in a not-too-distant future in which the miniaturization of electronic components allows for the development of motors with the speed and power of a full sized motorcycle but small enough to fit in a pair of inline skates. The development of this Air Gear technology has lead to the rise of roving gangs of roller skaters known as Storm Riders. The series follows the adventures of Ikki, a young man who discovers his talent for the advanced skating techniques associated with Air Gear as he sets out to create his own team of Storm Riders.
The Noyamano sisters belong to a Storm Rider "gang" called Sleeping Forest one of the more venerable teams. One night, while the girls our out, Ikki sneaks into one of their bedrooms and "borrows" a pair of Air Trek skates. In a scene reminiscent of Peter Parker discovering his powers in Sam Raimi's first Spiderman movie, Ikki bumbles his way through learning how to use the skates. He ends up at a roadside skateshop owned by a grotesquely fat old woman known as Grandma. When a Sleeping Forest emblem falls out of Ikki's pocket, Grandma's diminutive and bearded husband leads Ikki to the park where the Storm Riders are having a gathering. In an embarrassing misunderstanding of Storm Rider rules involving a girl named Simca and the placement of Storm Rider emblems on certain parts of the female form, Ikki finds himself in a skate battle with the leader of a Storm Rider gang called the Sader Skulls. Partly through the intervention of the Sleeping Forest, partly through natural talent, but mostly through shear dumb luck, Ikki wins his contest with the Sader Skulls and decides he has what it takes to become the leader of his own team.
Ikki is rapidly drawn into an underground world of roller skate races, emblem wars, and parts battles. Losing an emblem, much like losing a pink slip in car gang, is a matter of honor that can lead to a gang's permanent disbanding. Much like the gangs from the 1970s' movie the Warriors, the Air Gear gangs all have cutesy names that make pop culture references such as the Rez-Boa-Dogs (say that out loud with a Japanese accent), Potemkin, Animal House, and Night Kings. Needless to say, the members of these gangs take what may seem like a childish hobby very seriously – there are rigid, unwritten rules and codes of conduct; a strict hierarchy; and a variety of rituals that must be followed. It's also an expensive hobby: a good pair of Air Treks can cost a thousand dollars and require numerous replacement parts and upgrades. It also lies in a legal grey area – while the technology itself is not illegal, it is highly regulated and most of the "gang" activity is illegal or at least frowned upon by the authorities – Storm Riders are often on the run from a special police force known as the Windstorm G-Men.
Show More The story, such as it is, involves Ikki's rise through the Storm Rider hierarchy. Storm Riders are divided into classes based on skill level and victories in battles – with Class F being no-talent rookies and Class A representing the crème de la crème. Outside of this class system are the Kings – guardians of special semi-mystical "Roads" which, when used in conjunction with special Air Treks, allow the Kings to use special abilities not available to average Air Trek users. As in other anime series, the Kings all have kooky sounding elemental titles such as Wind King, Thorn King, and Flame King. Very early on in the series, it is suggested that Ikki has the potential to become the next Wind King and might even progress to the level of Sky King, a kind of rollerblading messiah. Behind all of this is of course is the typical anime plot involving a conspiracy to breed super children that can tap into forces beyond the understanding of mere mortals.
The machinations of the plot are made bearable by clever writing which never takes the absurd story involving nonsense like "Gravity Children" too seriously and allows the story to unfold almost organically and with an often wicked sense of humor. Unlike the other Storm Riders who seem to have unlimited supplies of money, Ikki earns money for his Air Trek supplies by working as a short order cook and delivery boy for a noodle house. And typical of many teenage boys, his raging hormones and libidinous fantasies are often a source of humorous embarrassment such as when he "accidentally" gropes a house mate or waits on the rooftop for the sexy Simca to skate by while ignoring the fact that his friend Ringo is madly in love with him. And although the series is of course top heavy with action scenes, the action flows organically from the story in a way that allows the characters and their personalities to come through – each character has his own motivations, styles of skating, and personalized equipment. Ikki, for instance, is driven to try Air Treks because he is obsessed with achieving the freedom of flight. He's a horny goof but often proves himself tough and clever in tight spots and brave when it comes to protecting his friends. Other characters are equally well developed. His friend Onigiri adopts a unique skating technique of riding his Air Treks while standing on his head. He also discovers the ability to cast illusions and turn other fool the senses with the power of perspiration, not bad for a character described as a perverted pig. Ikki's rival and later teammate the immense Fats Buccha is prone to rugged and violent power skating techniques which interestingly clash with his goodhearted and jolly nature.
Show More Visually, Air Gear is not the most original series in the world. With a few exceptions, such as Onigiri who looks like the Japanese snack of the same name, the characters are typical anime style handsome boys and pretty girls with giant saucer eyes, wild hair cuts, and unnatural hair colors. Where the series' animation really takes off is in the depiction of Air Trek races and battles. The animators manage to give each character individualized styles of movement and to create a real sense of speed and weightlessness. However, as beautiful as some of the skating scenes are, they grow tedious simply because there are so many of them. How many times do we actually have to see Ikki save himself from an otherwise deadly crash to know that he's good on Air Treks, probably the best there is?
A minor quibble with the series is the amount of sexual innuendo and nudity. While the Japanese audience and creators of the series have a famously high tolerance for the amount of sex and nudity in programs aimed at young people, Air Gear seems to push even that limit. On one hand, the characters are hormonal teenagers in a series aimed at teenagers, so we expect some sexuality. However, every other scene in Air Gear seems to feature either one of Ikki's sex fantasies or Ikki "accidentally" groping someone. When Ikki isn't fantasizing about his teacher or Simca or groping his housemates, the series finds ways to depict naked teenage girls. Usually this is innocent such as the Noyamano sisters in a public bath but occasionally it is more sexual such as Ikki going to bed only to find a naked Simca waiting for him as part of a needlessly elaborate plan to seduce him to obtaining higher and higher levels of success. The nudity in these scenes is self-censored by the animators through the use of Ikki's pet crow Ku. In the nude scenes, several Kus conceals the "naughty bits" by tastefully hovering in front of them. It seems that it would have been easier to simply leaving the nudity out. The problem with the nudity isn't that it is tasteless or vulgar but that the characters are high school or junior high school aged adolescents 18 years old or younger. The nudity (censored though it is) doesn't add to the artistry of the animation, help to develop the characters, or further the plot it seems rather to exist for its own sake to further the lolicon fantasies of the series' middle aged animators and potential middle aged audience members.
Air Gear is not the greatest anime series ever produced. It's not the worst anime series ever produced either. It lies somewhere in between at turns exciting, funny, and alarming. The characters are charming, the script is witty, and the plot is implausible and hackneyed. Fans that have followed Ikki's adventures through the pages of the comics may enjoy the series if they look past the deviations from the manga's original plot. Anime fans who have never heard of Air Gear may want to skip this series. If they've seen as many series as the writers for this website (and let's face it, they probably have) then they can guess how it will all turn out.
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