More out of boredom than anything else I put my name down to review this, the first disc in the series called Air Gear. Based on a manga by Oh! Great (I’m not kidding; that’s what he calls himself) that has also been turned into a stage musical (why am I suddenly thinking of Starlight Express in Japanese?). Air Gear is a sports anime mixed with a bit of teen angst and other by-the-numbers clichés, including the standard girl next door against out-of-mortal-man’s-league babe love triangles, which would normally be a recipe for disaster for a reviewer like me, who will avoid any physical activity more strenuous than walking to the shops, but at the end of the day I enjoyed my time in the land of Air Gear.
Itsuki “Ikki” Minami is a slacker living in the house of four sisters who routinely beat him up for very little reason, mainly for comic effect, in typical harem show style (minus the hammers but there might have been a frying pan or two). While snooping through the girls’ stuff, Ikki finds and steals a pair of Air Trecks that he takes a for a joy ride out into the night and then through various mishaps finds himself in the underground world of Storm Riders teams of Air Treck riders that battle it out for supremacy in a class based system A to F. It seems that although Ikki is supremely stupid in everything he does, due to his apparent raw talent and the ability to see something called the ‘wings road’, with a bit of training he could be the new number one in no time at all.
It is a bit clichéd but there is fun to had in the comedy of the girls being mean to Ikki, Ikki being Ikki (a loud mouthed, perverted, slacker prone to sudden changes into a more exaggerated art style, like panting dog’s and lovesick plates of jelly) and the various Storm Rider teams that have a style so over the top it makes the gangs seen in The Warriors look subdued by comparison. It helps immensely in the enjoyment and tension that each episode usually end on a cliff-hanger of wether or not Ikki will win the race or survive that high fall that would kill a normal man. The opening theme music is also really catchy. Yes I know I can’t speak Japanese well enough to ask ‘could you please point to where I can buy food?’ let along sing in the language, but it has a feel very much like Linkin Park that it makes me want to buy an album by the artists to hear more.
It really is all very typical stuff of this genre of anime and manga. The only thing that changes is the sport, be it the car racing of Initial D, the basketball of Hoop Days or the grappling of Baki the Grappler, the sport/competition anime will generally follow the same formula that has been worn down before them. Sure it’s not high art but at the end of the day it entertained me, which I can’t say of all the discs that end up in my DVD player and I would not have nightmares about watching the rest of the series, unlike The Guyver.