Review by: Clive Owen
Publisher: FUNimation Entertainment
Running Time: 650 minutes
Rating: TV M
Release Date: December 2, 2008
The boy who would be (sky) king.
As a sports fan, I find myself wonderfully overwhelmed by the number of fun sports manga titles available and even more overjoyed by the fact that many of these favorites have move to the small screen as anime series. Whether you like tennis, basketball or extreme sports, there’s everything for everyone. This is why I jumped at the chance at reviewing Air Gear: The Complete Collection. Having been a fan of the awesome manga by Oh! Great, the anime series is one I missed but – thanks to FUNimation’s latest release – fans of extreme sports will finally get a chance to experience all 25 episodes in a four-disc set.
Air Gear tells the story of a Junior High student named Ikki Minami who suddenly falls in love with the secretive world of the Storm Riders who use Air Trecks (or ATs), which are an extremely revamped version of inline skates. Little does Ikki know that Storm Riders just don’t skate for fun but rather they form unique teams that act like an extreme sports version of street gangs. As it so happens, Ikki happens to be living under the same roof as the four busty Noyamano sisters who have been keeping a secret from him for so long. You see, the sisters are Storm Riders that have inherited the Sleeping Forest team.
Ok, I should mention that the anime series differs from the manga series and has changed things around, For one thing, in the manga, the sisters invite Ikki to ride with them instead of immediately denying him the chance to try it out like in the anime version. Instead, Ikki defies the older sister Rika and even steals her ATs when he discovers how much he loves it. He even meets the Storm Rider babe named Simca he has been watching for so long.
It doesn’t take Ikki very long to master the basics of riding and soon he becomes good enough that he tries to convince his two closest friends, Kazu and Onigiri, to start a beginning team of their own named after the resident rulers of the school called the East Side Gunz. Before they know it, Ikki and his friends discover that there are several rules, classes and Storm Rider teams out there looking for their chance to climb the ladder. The cool part about this series has always been that all the rival Storm Rider teams are wonderfully unique. Anyone who has seen the movie The Warriors will love the fact that each team also has their own crazy look. It doesn’t take too long for Ikki and his friends to receive challenges from other teams who sees Ikki and a rising star.
The saucy Storm Rider Simca the Swallow takes an interest in Ikki to the Noyamano sisters’ dislike and even more so since the cute and nerdy Ringo Noyamano is in love with Ikki. As Ikki’s skills improves, his skills for flying earn him the Little Crow nickname and somehow he even has the power to befriend his rivals such as the nearly sumo-sized Buccha and then the psychotic/sweet Akito/Agito (who suffers from dual personality depending on the position of his eye patch) who later comes to live with Ikki and the sisters. It becomes apparent to other Storm Riders that Ikki is destined to become the Storm King and lead Storm Riders into a new era.
In episode 11, Ikki and his new set of friends that now include Buccha and Akito/Agito form their own team called Kogarasumaru. It is here that the series changes gears (no pun intended). What started out as a series of a young boy that discovers his new love for an extreme sport and the rivalry that comes with the territory becomes one of a young boy trying reach to the top of Storm Rider’s “tower” to become the Sky King by way of winning battles against foes that now have almost supernatural abilities. Take Kogarasumaru’s battle against a team called Behemoth, for example. Behemoth has a rider with super strength and another can somehow stop time.
Oh, but don’t consider that a complaint because the change does make for some really fun episodes such as the Special Trick episode included in the collection. The series never loses its wacky sense of humor that involves a heavy dose of fan service and the characters really stand out nicely such as their teacher the boys call Tom Tom or Ringo who aids Ikki in secret as Croissant Mask. To top it off the animation is beautiful and there’s some great voice acting (with Chris Patton and Monica Rial really standing out).
An absolutely enjoyable and fun series, Air Gear: The Complete Collection is simply one of the coolest extreme sports anime series to come along in a long time. I can’t remember the time I really laughed aloud in a sports series with a great sense of humor nor really getting into the sports side the way Air Gear handles it. Sure, it’s not completely faithful to the manga, but that won’t stop you from enjoying this series that flies high and flies well.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
Just as fun as the manga series by Oh! Great, Air Gear the anime series is loud, visual dazzling and enjoyable when it’s not too formulaic like the middle part of the series. Ikki’s rise as a Storm Rider contains numerous memorable highlights that don’t often revolve around the extreme sports side … and there is fan service.
VIDEO QUALITY: A+
One of the more visceral and impressive-looking extreme sports anime series out there, Air Gear looks amazing. The air tricks really stand out in this series and aren’t overdone like in other sports anime series. There’s fan service … of the nude variety.
AUDIO QUALITY: A-
The English dub isn’t bad although it obviously changes the dialogue around but that’s not to say the series loses its unique lingo. There’s also loads profanity so this series does earn it’s M rating. The music is solid throughout and the closing theme by Skankfunk is simple Ok.
You can find the cleaning opening and ending theme music and that’s about it. We would have loved some concept art and other goodies. At least the Special Trick episode that’s included was great.
Air Gear is one of those series that is over-the-top fun and damn cool because of it. It rarely takes itself too seriously and even when it changes its style in the later episodes Air Gear never loses its steam, sense of humor or steady stream of fan service. In other words, if you like a good anime series about extreme sports than Air Gear is a series that has it all.