Wait, so inline skating is cool again?
The series Air Gear (based on the manga by Ito “Oh Great” Ōgure), is perhaps the very definition of anime. It blends together action and comedy (and of course a bit of perversion) in a way that only Japan can, and it leaves the viewer wanting more and more, which unfortunately leads to the biggest downfall in the series: its abrupt ending.
It follows the team mentality and the popular concept of pushing limits to the extreme, and while it might not be the most original presentation of these themes and ideas, it embraces their popularity and proves to be an extremely mainstream anime that many fans should be able to get into.
The series follows Itsuki Minami (Chris Patton), a high school student who gets caught up in the extreme world of Air Treks (also know as ATs), a sort of extreme version of mechanized inline skating in which teams race each other and battle for supremacy. New to this underground phenomenon, Itsuki quickly gains a following by showing unparalleled potential and a charismatic personality that pulls people in. It’s then that he forms his own team with his two best friends, Kazuma “Kazu” Mikura (Clint Bickham) and Onigiri (Greg Ayres), as well as two defeated former rivals, Issa Mihotoke (Mark X. Laskowski) and Akito/Agito Wanijima (Blake Shepard). Together, this team sets out to change the world of ATs forever, rejecting tradition and finding their own path.
Air Gear triumphs the idea of camaraderie and pushing oneself to achieve greatness, ideas that have appeared in a number of recent anime, like Bleach and Naruto. While it might be overly sentimental at times, that’s part of the reason people enjoy anime. Those long speeches in which a character vows to achieve the impossible or argues to the good that exist in the world are part of the charm that the medium has over fans. Perhaps it’s that it captures the romanticized ideals that “nerds” wish the world lived by, the need to feel like others in the world had the same level of devotion to each other that friends in series like this have. In this way, it might not be the most original series, but its presentation is tremendous.
Of course, it’s not all action interrupted with sappy monologues: The show also has a big focus on comedy. The main character, Itsuki, isn’t always the sharpest tool in the shed. He’s quite often more stubborn than is good for him, which is perfect fodder for great conflicts within the group. Then there are the numerous spurts of perversion that the series goes through. When you’re dealing with high school boys, though, there’s really nothing else that can be expected. The anime is filled with the cliché panty shots and miraculous moments of nudity when outfits are accidentally torn just so. However, this isn’t an aspect that it relies on to capture audiences. Instead, these scenes are meant only to interrupt intense moments, well-placed adjustments to the pacing, as odd as that sounds.
Air Gear offers beautiful animation and a great deal of creativity when it comes to the action sequences (thanks to director Hajime Kamegaki). This, combined with top-notch voice acting and oddball comedy, makes it one of the more fun series to come along in the past 10 years. However, it’s not exactly what one might call a great series, especially because of the sudden ending after the 26th episode (it’s a 25-episode series with one special episode). There’s no real resolution, and it will only leave audiences wanting more of the lovable characters. Still, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s quite appealing, making it a series that begs to be watched.