Air TV (& Movie) – Review

Japanese Title: AIR & Gekijouban Air (Movie)

 

Related: Air Movie (included below in review)

Similar: Kanon

Clannad

 

Genre: Melancholic Romance.

Watched in: Japanese.

Length: 13 episodes, 2-episode special & a movie (retelling of the series).

 

Positives:

  • Has nice environmental art.

Negatives:

  • Dopiest character design in anime.
  • Vague story.
  • Moments meant to be deep are laughable.
  • Weak characters, most notably the lead female, surrounded by a glut of stereotypes that develop poorly.

You have not seen bad character art until you watch Air, an anime about…something – there isn’t much of a story. But first we have to talk about the characters. A hamster riding a t-rex in a tutu wielding a turnip is less ridiculous than this! You will either fall out of your chair with laughter or vomit with disgust at how terrible the characters are designed, more specifically the females.

Now we all know that your typical anime facial proportions are a little skewed, but as it is animation, it looks fine. Here we have what can only be described as caricatures of anime characters. The eyes are bigger than your fist, while the mouth is so minuscule it is often no more than a dot. Seriously, if the eyes were out of their sockets, they would be the size of American footballs. The girls look permanently drugged; hell, one of them even sounds it.

And that’s just the start of the problems. The characters themselves are just as dopey. Lead female Misuzu is supposed to be cute, but with the tripping, squeaky voice, clumsiness, overused ‘cute’ noises, cutesy honorifics, and drug-addled face, it’s a wonder they didn’t make her hiccough rainbows, shoot love hearts out of her chest, and have candy floss for snot since they had already overdone every cliché. Closing my eyes whenever I talk makes me cute! (Every girl does this, jealous of Brock from Pokémon.) The creators have never heard of ‘less is more.’

Even the dog, Potato, who was cute enough being small and fluffy has to say ‘piko’ constantly as if that is a must or he just won’t be cute. Instead, it’s irritating and tiresome. If that isn’t enough, we have her friends, Kano – also drugged – and Minagi, who looks and sounds drugged. She’s meant to be gentile and smart, but you really don’t see it – unless being more addled than the rest counts. The I’m-aggressive-but-it’s-cute slot is filled by Michiru, the youngest of the girls with obligatory cutesy noises added to everything, and to top it off, is played by the same voice actress who does all characters of that stereotype.

Okay, you may ask, they look and sound stupid, but if the story is good, it’s still worth my time, right? I am forever and truly sorry; the plot is utter nonsense. See, one of the problems is that to tell you what it’s about, I would have to spoil some for you as the story doesn’t begin till episode nine. What, nothing happens for eight episodes in a thirteen episode series? Oh, stuff does happen, it is simply irrelevant to the larger plot. Even lead male Yukito is irrelevant throughout this, as he does nothing until episode ten. Friend Kano gets magically possessed (her eyes were vacant enough already) by something, but that goes nowhere. Minagi the Addled is so far gone that her imaginary friend is real, which is also immaterial. And the small things that do matter are in fact retold in episode ten! Even the two-episode special is simply a stupidity-padded version of the flashback episode nine.

So, the plot, the plot…where did it go… I have no choice but to start at episode nine.

A princess in the past had the ability to fly with cursed wings and is hunted for it. Her ability is passed down through someone else’s line because of “willpower,” but it kills the descendants through dreams as kids. (How they get old enough to bear offspring for the bloodline, I don’t know – don’t think about it. The only answer is too twisted.) And, that’s it.

No character development either. To develop, you need a catalyst (usually an event or conflict), a reaction from the character, and then overcome the conflict (failure to overcome can also be growth), but in Air, there is no catalyst; characters cry or get angry out of nowhere, subsequently it dissolves without effort, and is forgotten. The only growth comes from the lead female’s mother (who looks eighteen – also vacant) starting as an irresponsible drunk before learning to care for her adopted daughter. Don’t worry, this doesn’t affect the main plot either. What moments intend to be poignant and heartfelt are empty since the characters aren’t developed enough and I couldn’t imagine anyone caring for them.

So can anything good that can be said for AIR? The art outside of the characters is quite nice, I guess, plenty of colour. That’s pretty much it. The series isn’t terrible in the sense that everything is outright bad; it’s just that nothing is developed, no relevant plot goes anywhere, and it all-round feels…empty.

Art – Very Low

Can anything else be said about this drug-addled character design? The environments are passable.

Sound – Medium

Some decent tunes and acting, except for the little girl and the cutesy noises.

Story – Very Low

The plot doesn’t begin until the ninth episode, at which point you can expect one of the most empty and underdeveloped stories in anime.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Avoid this at all cost. Hit the random button in an anime database and you will likely find something better than AIR.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None.

Negative:

Atrocious PlotNo DevelopmentRubbish CharactersShallowUgly Artistic DesignUseless Side Cast

 

AIR the Movie – Review

AIR the Movie came out during the series (they are both based on a game of the same name and tell the same story) and is better in every way. Now, don’t get excited, I’m not saying it’s amazing; it simply has much of the rubbish removed from the series. For one, the characters don’t look so addled – it makes you wonder why they made the ridiculous art style choice for the series in the first place. The level of detail in the visuals is much higher overall.

At an hour and a half long, there isn’t the gargantuan amount of padding from the episodes. The story is also better told with much clearer dialogue and scenes. The relationship of the two lead characters is far more believable since it isn’t forced here, and the characters actually look closer in age (not twelve and twenty like the series). All the trash side characters, particularly her drugged friends, are non-existent in this. ‘Willpower’ also doesn’t carry on the curse and what triggers it also makes sense here (and you don’t have to wonder how they get old enough for children).

Unfortunately, Misuzu’s cuteness is still overdone, though as she is the only young girl this time, it feels lessened. The finer details of the plot are still a little vague, with plot holes, and a distinct lack of twists. I don’t think it achieved the intended depth. Still better than the series.

Overall Movie Quality – Medium

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Ah! My Goddess: Fighting Wings – Review

Japanese Title: Aa! Megami-sama! Tatakau Tsubasa

 

Related: Ah! My Goddess TV (main story)

Ah! My Goddess: The Movie

 

Genre: Fantasy Romance Comedy

Watched in: Japanese & English.

Length: 2 episodes

 

Positives:

  • Beautiful art and effects.

Negatives:

  • Poor resolution to the narrative with a feeble climax.
  • There is not much here unless you are familiar with the main Oh My Goddess! series.

Fighting Wings is a two-episode special of the celebrated Ah! My Goddess series. It fits in somewhere after the second season, though there isn’t a direct link between the stories beyond the general premise of the show: university student Keiichi accidentally called the Goddess Hotline, summoning the goddess Belldandy, who has been his girlfriend since.

For those wanting this special to further the main plot, you will be disappointed as this focuses instead on side character, Lind a Valkyrie warrior goddess, who made a few appearances in earlier shows. When a phantom known as the Angel Eater goes on a rampage in Yggdrassil (heaven), Lind descends to Earth, the next target, where Keiichi and the goddesses reside. The plot moves at an improved pace from the second season, and sports a good amount of action with cool magic enhanced by the clean and beautiful art you can expect from the Ah! My Goddess series. The symbiotic angels of the goddesses are of particular beauty. If only the new angels didn’t have names like Cool Mint (spoken in poor English by the Japanese voice actors).

Cheesiness is Fighting Wings’s biggest flaw. With humour thrown into the middle of serious scenes, it makes you wonder if comedy wasn’t an afterthought once they realised that there was going to be none in this romantic comedy. To exacerbate matters, the humour isn’t a success, falling far short of the main series.

The turnabout for the heroines is also rather lame, far too convenient without much of a struggle or conflict. Suffering in a similar manner is the side plot of Skuld, the youngest goddess, unable to summon her angel, resolved with zero effort. With a lack of resolution against the villainy, I was unsatisfied and questioned why they bothered. Don’t misunderstand, I didn’t hate these episodes – Lind’s story has closure at least – they are merely disappointing. Yes, the voice acting is good with the regular voices from the series, and the music matches the Celtic and Nordic tunes of norm, but none of these live up to the equivalent in the first season, and more particularly, the movie.

It has left me with one positive though; I do want to see more of Lind’s story and hope she does make a return in future.

 

Overall Quality – Low

Recommendation: For fans of Ah! My Goddess only. You aren’t missing out on much if you choose to skip Fighting Wings.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: N/A

Negative: N/A

 

Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi – Review

Japanese Title: Abenobashi Mahou Shoutengai

 

Similar: FLCL

Excel Saga

 

Genre: Fantasy Comedy.

Watched in: Japanese.

Length: 13 episodes.

 

Positives:

  • Nothing.

Negatives:

  • No visual detail, other than breast physics.
  • Mind-numbing characters meandering through a pathetic plot.
  • Several disturbing elements like underage nudity.
  • Unfunny comedy.
  • The character voice work, especially for the protagonists, is either loud or whiny at all times, which gets annoying fast.
  • Incoherent…everything.

Where to start, where to start… This anime is terrible. There is really no other way to put it. I could probably leave it at that and advise you never lay eyes on this abomination, but you deserve elaboration.

The characters are awful. Not a single one of them is redeemable in any way. Every episode, you have to endure obnoxious character after obnoxious character, especially the leads. The boy, Sasshi, spends all his time either yelling like a twit or fantasising about fondling – among other things – the breasts of his older sister and grandmother… (As I write this, he just made out with his grandmother…)

No, you didn’t misread.

He is rounded out in stupidity by his friend, Arumi, who yells just as much he does, but thankfully doesn’t dream of groping her family. When she isn’t yelling, Arumi keeps hitting the kid over the head with a paper fan – typical aggressive anime girl behaviour – only, she doesn’t hit him when he’s at his stupidest. To be fair, that would mean her hitting him non-stop. For a comedy, they simply aren’t funny.

The supporting cast in no better. We have this old woman, (possibly a man, though she does have personal airbags on her) who hits on the kid, a low teen…and likes to be whipped and ridden by little boys. Sasshi’s older sister is even creepier as she’s always in the least amount of clothing for her younger brother…and likes to play dominatrix with her father and grandfather, followed by her brother. This has got to be some twisted fan-fiction; it’s the only explanation. There’s also a blue haired man called Abe, I think (unmemorable), who is supposed to be the sage or sorcerer of this world, or something. I have no idea, as he’s pointless.

The greatest mental challenge this anime presents is whether the characters or story are worse. The narrative, such nonsense, is difficult to describe. Best I give you random bits first (it will make just as much sense either way.)

It starts with the news that the restaurant owned by the girl’s family will be closing, the latest of many shops in the same shopping centre. That’s where the normality ends. Dragons appear in the sky, old people morph into mushrooms, and a rainbow bridge manifests before them. The two kids are transported to different worlds, each depicting the shopping arcade in alternate realities, a parody of something famous: Voltron, Bruce Lee, film noire, JRPGs, Apocalypse Now, etc. This isn’t anything new, to use a different pre-established world episode to episode, and has produced great results in the likes of Doctor Who. With Abenobashi however, it is nothing more than a gimmick, as the humour has nothing to do with the parody subject. Take, for example, the film noire episode: the joke is that getting shot turns you into a comic relief midget… Yeah, I don’t get it.

In the JRPG parody, they defeat the Great Evil Lord, a giant skeleton in armour, by waving a giant floppy sword (not a euphemism) at its chest so that its breasts inflate to such a massive size that, get this, it falls over and they pop, defeating the creature… I can’t make this up.

Wait there’s more! There are breasts bouncing around as balls, dinosaurs with breasts bigger than their heads, and you have to watch the kid urinate while running with his seabiscuit in hand. The humour is random and relies too much on the characters being imbeciles. They try throw a twist to the story, but since I care naught for anything at this point, I laugh (for the first time) at how feeble the writing is. Zero coherency and zero intelligence are the themes of this show.

At first, I thought Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi  would be weird and simply not my sort of thing. A few episodes in however, it became more and more twisted, less and less funny. There is little to analyse here, for nothing makes sense, even the message they try to cram in at the end. I cannot fathom what audience the creators had in mind because it is inappropriate for kids with its underage nudity and not-so-subtle sexualisation, while too stupid for adults.

Art – Low

With characters super deformed for comedic effect at all times, it kills any potential for visual humour. No effort went into the art, especially the characters with no detail or lighting depth to them. Voice and mouth doesn’t synchronise half the time.

Sound – Very Low

Many of the music tracks are rip-offs of famous themes, especially Star Wars ones, done poorly. The voice acting is as obnoxious and ear grating as the characters, no matter if many of these actors have done great voices elsewhere. You may claim hearing damage compensation.

Story – Very Low

Such rubbish. The obnoxious and creepy characters would have been fine if humorous. They aren’t.

Overall Quality – Very Low

Recommendation: Don’t watch this torture. Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi isn’t even so bad it’s good.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: None.

Negative:

Atrocious PlotEar Grating Voice WorkIncoherentInduces StupidityNot FunnyRubbish CharactersTorture MusicUgly Artistic Design

5 Centimetres Per Second – Anime Review

Japanese Title: Byousoku 5 Centimeter

 

Similar: Voices of a Distant Star (same director)

The Place Promised in Our Early Days (same director)

The Garden of Words (same director)

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

 

Genre: Melancholic Romance

Watched in: Japanese

Length: 1 hr. movie

 

Positives:

  • Stunning art and detail beyond what one expects in anime.
  • Good atmosphere built from snow and rain particle effects combined with excellent environmental noises.

Negatives:

  • Too limited in scope.
  • Second part feels weak compared to the rest.

5 Centimetres per second is a rather unique anime in the sense that it has so few elements to its story, instead choosing to focus on one issue at a time. This allows for a deeper look into a single question or emotion, without distraction from other things.

This single movie is split in three, following different stages of the protagonist’s life. Now, before we dive into the story and characters, I must mention the visuals, as they strike you from the outset. All visual aspects are incredible; from the gorgeous environments to the watercolour art style, they will impress. The artists have taken great care to include plenty of detail in their environments, and made sure every single frame is of the utmost quality, the skies in particular – you see many sunsets and moments of twilight.

Animation is well done, especially with how many assets are animated at once on screen, avoiding that common anime issue where most of the world seems frozen outside of the focal asset. Lighting and shading is another standout area where no shortcuts were taken, no surface neglected. Even more impressive, I find, are the reflections; again, just as much work was put into this aspect as any other.

Now, the story. We follow male protagonist, Takaki and his female friend, Akari as they try to reunite after a few years separation. When they last met, they were graduating from primary school into middle school, only Akari was moving elsewhere with her family. They kept in touch through mail and phone, and at last as they near high school, they have a chance to see each other again. Alas, problems arise when Takaki’s train experiences delay after delay from the blizzard outside.

This first episode is told through a mixture of the present – the train journey – and flashbacks detailing their primary school years. It has a slow start, and never really speeds up to be honest, but it does establish their relationship and the current situation well. You feel the desolation and sorrow faced by Takaki, enhanced by the environment and weather to great effect. I don’t know if it was because I was watching this in a Himalayan winter or if the sense of cold was done especially well, but I felt cold while watching this.

As I said earlier, this story likes to focus on one thing at a time. In this first part, it speaks of an aspect often forgotten in young romance stories, in that their lives aren’t in their control yet, no matter how much they wish otherwise.

For the second episode, we re-join Takaki as he nears high-school graduation, this time told through the eyes of a new female character, Kanae, has been in love with him for years and is desperate to tell him before they leave school. Weather and the environments to symbolise the narrator’s emotions are put to great use; the near constant twilight adds to the imminent – and inevitable – change in her life. It is another look at how little control you have in life, even when you have aged considerably. Kanae struggles to adjust with the forthcoming changes.

Unfortunately, I found this second part to be the weakest of the three, as it doesn’t tie very well into the other two. However, it does contain the most beautiful artistic qualities.

We leap a decade into the future for episode three, Takaki now in the workforce with a dreary, repetitive job and an everyday routine. And again, visuals used to superb effect here. I don’t want to give anything away, but this third part asks the most powerful question of the film: given the opportunity, would you pursue a childhood dream as an adult even though all circumstances have changed? Nothing I have said so far would be constituted as spoilers as it isn’t the set-up of each episode, but rather the characters’ responses that matter.

Overall, 5 centimetres per second is a good movie, with each area seemingly executed exactly as the director wanted; however, this does mean you see a limited scope of this story and world. It feels like the sort of film that a small team would make and enter it in a film festival with the sole purpose of leaving the audience with a question they should ask themselves – oh, and show off amazing visuals in the process.

Art – Very High

Absolutely phenomenal. Worth seeing for the visuals alone.

Sound – High

Audio is the most ordinary of the film’s qualities. With so few characters and a consistent tone throughout, there is no diversity in the voice work. That isn’t to say the acting is bad, simply ordinary. 5 centimetres per second boasts little music, preferring to have ambient sounds and atmosphere take over, which it does superbly; however, due to the constant quiet, it lessens the atmospheric impact in the crucial moments. This seems intentional, in line with the single-minded focus of the narrative.

Story – High

A focused story on romance and coming-of-age that asks deep questions, at the cost of breadth.

Overall Quality – High

Recommendation: A film worthy of an hour of your time unless you require joy in anime. Watch 5 centimetres per second in a winter snowstorm, if able.

(Request reviews here. Find out more about the rating system here.)

 

Awards: (hover mouse over each award to see descriptions; click award for more recipients)

Positive: 

Fluid AnimationStunning Art Quality

Negative: None

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