Grabbing some air may have reached absurd levels but what the heck it makes for some dramatic artwork.
Translation/Adaptation: Stephen Paul
What They Say
Ikki and Team Kogarasumaru are in a bad situation: facing uber-team Sleipnir in an aerial battle on the back of fighter jets while the clock ticks down on a loved one being held hostage elsewhere. As the battle rages on, Sleipnir’s members reveal their true nature as lab-created experiments programmed with a desire to fly. Can Ikki show them the way, or is he destined to be another disappointment?
Content: (please note that content portions of review may contain spoilers):
The desire to win the Gram Scale Tournament is bringing out the best and worst in many, and it is definitely the later in the case of the leaders of Genesis who have kidnapped Rika in order to gain an advantage over Sleeping Forest, be it by having them split about rescuing her or watching them just emotionally fall apart- particularly once they discover that Rika is with child. With such a cloud over them it looks like Sleeping Forest will be in a handicap match against a team they may not be able to beat straight up anyway- or they would except that an eavesdropper on their conversation cued in another interested party and Ikki will be damned if he is going to just watch the family he grew up with suffer as he declares he will take care of Rika once his battle is finished.
The old adage “Easier said than done” however may rear its head as Ikki is going to have to win his current fight first which is a ridiculous battle that places team Kogarasumaru against team Sleipnir high above the city as the fighters battle in midair on the wings of planes in order to have the last team still with a mount declared the winner- and just to make things even more treacherous, each plane has a different amount of fuel forcing each participant to not just try to stay standing in the wind but it force them to make sure they have a place in this extreme game of musical chairs when the next plane has to drop out guaranteeing that merely just endeavoring to stay on their mount isn’t going to be an option as the combatants clash on thin wings of steel. Given that their opponents are geniuses and have a lot of skill has Ikki’s team finally bitten off more than he and his friends can chew or will persistence and determination trump sheer talent in time to rescue their friend?
Oh! Great has a tendency to take his manga to some pretty wild extremes at times and in this volume of Air Gear he just may have trumped all his previous attempts (well, until his next volume probably) as he creates an arena of truly vertigo inspiring proportions with its extreme battle set up for the characters to try to operate in. And if the idea of fighting on the wings of planes isn’t crazy enough (I’d argue it is) he then takes the bizarre power ability up a notch with a new cast of opponents who seem perfectly matched both in their fighting style in the current environment as well as against Ikki’s team when it comes to their ability to strategize and play to their strengths which maximizes their ability to take advantage of the other teams weakness both in experience and experience at analyzing and communicating in the middle of an impossible situation.
Anyone still reading the series at this point largely is going to find much of what they love playing out here as the author creates situations with some spectacular images and dangers while also playing around heavily with humor and not forgetting the fanservice for which he has become so well known. When he combines his sense of fun with the drama of the situation while also willing to tease some other impulses, Oh!Great shows off just how much enjoyment can be had as well in the theater of the absurd as he displays just how much suspension of disbelief can be pushed in order to set his stage and still have it draw in the reader without them reaching the point of walking away and shaking their heads in disbelief.
As they clash team Sleipnir is shown to be looking for more than just a win- though they do want that- but also they are looking for meaning in their life as they are more Gravity Children and this may be perhaps where the volume sags the most. At this point the “Looking for meaning through fighting” motivation is so frequently used in so many shonan series that it is almost disappointing when that motivation is dragged in as it feels almost like a safe trope these days for authors to pull out when they have no time to come up with something else. While at times it can still be an effective tool, a fair amount of the emotional kick of finding purpose through clashing fists has become such a trope that it probably should be used sparingly if at all in many author’s cases and the combo if I being used here while being applied to a group just being dropped in to the story makes it feel like a filler fight, placed because the author liked the idea but didn’t want to use up a clash with one of the established groups to play it out.
That the arc doesn’t collapse on itself due to this is pretty much a testament to the energy that Oh!Great’s storytelling and artistry bring to the table but it certainly isn’t going to be an arc remembered for some of the newer characters that are part of it. Given that Air Gear may be best looked at as a ride more than a destination (much like Oh!Great’s previous work), maybe trying to hold it to some standard of making a lot of sense should just be ignored in favor of enjoying the immediate rush each page can bring, even if it proves to be almost a completely empty of real substance sugar high when examined later.
Team Genesis has decided to take additional measures to try to have an advantage over Sleeping Forest and they have taken a hostage to try to get it. Ikki isn’t going to stand for that however and he pledges to mount a rescue…but his position has never been quite as shaky as his team’s current match finds them out on the wings of airplanes circling over part of the city and matched up against a far more experienced team. With some amazing artwork and a well developed eye towards (often perverted) humor and fanservice the latest volume of Air Gear takes to the skies and gains new heights that will entertain fans, if also probably leaving them slightly rolling their eyes at some of the exuberant extremes presented within.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A-
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: February 19th, 2013