Reviewby Luke Carroll, Aug 27th 2008
Air Gear V1
Ride Hard, Fly High! Welcome to the world of Storm Riders, where motor-powered inline skates called "Air Treks" take extreme sports to a whole new level. Those who dare to ride with these high tech devices risk life and limb in a struggle for fame, power and wings to take to the sky.
Enter Ikki Minami, the toughest fighter on the east side of town. He rules his school, takes on violent gangs single-handedly and lives with the Noyamanos; four sexy sisters with a surprising secret. And after a humiliating defeat to a terrifying gang of Storm Riders, the sisters welcome him to the world of Air Trek, where his strength, speed and ambitions soar to brand-new heights.
Now, with powerful new wings, he must protect his friends, his school and his pride in fierce Air Trek battles known as "Parts Wars." One mistake could cost him everything, but each victory brings him one step closer to becoming the king of the sky.
High speeds, big tricks and humourous situations are all in a days work for Air Gear, the latest sports crazed anime to hit our shelves in recent times courtesy of Madman Entertainment. Don't be fooled into any insecurities though as Air Gear is as formulaic as they come, combining the best clichés the shonen genre has to offer with fanservice, bad jokes and a plot which rivals that of a childrens show. Despite all of this though, Air Gear still manages to ooze enough 'coolness' from its music and animation that it is quite easy to forget many of its flaws whilst your reaching for the remote to turn the volume up during the rocking opening theme.
Air Gear is based around Air Treks (ATs) a modified set of roller blades containing a small motor which gives riders the ability to achieve high speeds and big airs. These 'Storm Riders' have formed an underground competition of sorts, allowing groups to compete against one another in order to move up the rankings and gain better status. As is tradition with these types of plots, a poor sapless down on his luck guy is given the lead role and is poised with an untapped potential set on sending him to the top. Air Gear does not disappoint one bit, introducing us to Itsuki Minami (Ikki) an 8th grade freeloader living with four sisters due to some undiscussed reasons. One night Ikki decides to venture into a forbidden room he comes across in the hallway, unsurprisingly discovering a number of AT's and an emblem for the sister's group Sleeping Forest.
Ikki decides to take a set of AT's out for some fun, but it quickly becomes pear shaped as he not only gets mistaken as a member of the Sleeping Forest, but also gets taken to a Storm Rider meeting and subsequently picks an Air Trek battle with the Skull Saders, a gang in which Ikki has had some prior run ins with. Despite not knowing any rules and putting his caretaker's group at risk, Ikki's brashness gets the best of him and soon his inexperience finds him in alot of trouble. It is not long though before the sisters show up to help bail Ikki out of trouble, giving him a much needed chance to catch up and rejoin the race. It is during this showdown though that we first witness Ikki's untapped potential, subsequently performing an advanced technique without realising and passing the Skull Sadder leader to win the race. It is not long though before Ikki decides to create his own Storm Rider team and begin making his way to the top.
Thankfully Air Gear makes up for its lack of plot with some interesting character models and some great visuals. The main cast themselves are unsurprisingly bland in terms of design with some fairly run of the mill looks that do not try to be original most of the time. Simca is pretty much the only standout main character in terms of design right now, however being one of the main female cast members its understandable. The gangs however are a different story, each being pictured in relation to their gang and personal traits, which leads to some quite amusing scenes with the Rez-Boa-Dogs and their dog masks, as well as large Buccha's AT's appearing as massive tanks from time to time. The art however is where Air Gear begins to shine, containing some of the most detailed background art around that goes brilliantly with the character animations. CG also makes a fairly common appearance and very rarely looks out of place.
Right from the start Air Gear does not disappoint in the music department. The opening theme "Chain" by Back-Off is an absolutely rocking track that will continually have you turning the volume up so you can rock out to it, whilst the closing theme “SKY-2-HIGH” by skankfunk is certainly one for the electronica fans out there. The background music is also just as good, keeping itself varied whilst playing a lot of pumped up tracks that suit the show very well. The only issue, which is probably a production fault, is that the 5.1 surround channel is absolutely blaring compared to the 2.0 Japanese track, so it may pay to turn the volume down slightly prior to watching this dvd.
The English dub may not light your ears on fire, but it certainly is above average compared to most of the anime we see coming out in recent times. Jay Hickman's British accent for Spitfire was certainly one of the best surprises along with John Gremillion's take on the Rez-Boa-Dog's leader Inuyama. The English script is fairly run of the mill, adding and changing slang and profanities to sound more suitable with the Western language, whilst keeping the substance of the Japanese script intact. At the end of it though, there is certainly a feeling of enjoyment that comes from the English dub, a feeling that fits the show's image wonderfully.
The extras are very minimal to say the least, including the clean opening and closing videos as well as a handful of Madman previews. Other than missing out on some foil effects for the cover, Madman's release is completely identical to its US counterpart.
Whether you will enjoy Air Gear or not certainly rides on your tolerance for light hearted anime and interests in the Air Treks. Despite showing itself to be a fun and amusing title during the first disc, Air Gear makes it quite obvious that the series will ride a very formulaic wave that we have seen done countless times.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B-
Story : C+
Animation : B
Art : A-
Music : A-
+ Great Background Art, Nice Lighthearted Moments, Shows Extreme Sporting Well
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