A fun ride with an interesting cast shows that sometimes anime doesn’t need to have an intriguing plot to enjoy – simple fun works as well.
What They Say
Welcome to the world of Storm Riders, where motor-powered inline skates called “Air Trecks” 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 by a terrifying gang of Storm Riders, the sisters welcome him to the world of Air Trecks, 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 Treck 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.
I chose to listen to the English 5.1 track for this review. It’s a very high-quality audio track with no cutting out from subtitles and no distortions, making it a pleasure to listen to in English. Switching to the Japanese 2.0, the quality does go down a bit more than usual 2.0 releases, as had to turn the sound up a fair bit compared to the same level of sound on the 5.1, however it’s not a huge problem that can’t be sorted out yourself. Considering the amount of battle sequences there are, the audio is very important (especially with the excellent soundtrack as well) so it’s a very good release in that nature.
The video is of a mostly good quality – again, there were no problems with the video in tune with the subtitles, in a full screen format this show works very well video wise considering the amount of colour. However, in one point (episode 12) for some reason on my DVD player, it refused to play. This was unusual and when tried in on both my other DVD player and PC DVD player, it worked fine. I’m not sure if this is a regular problem with any other players, but it was worth mentioning in case it is a common issue.
The packaging is done in what seems to be a traditional of Funimation sets – a cardboard thinpack with the cover has a nice shot of the main cast, focusing mainly on Ikki and Ringo on a colorful sunset sky background, with the rest of Kogarasumaru in the background. The back has a few screenshots on the left with a slightly fanservicy shot of Simca on the right. Two problems, however, came from the packaging though – first is the very flimsy packaging which sadly seems to be a staple for Funimation, which can get easily damaged, and secondly that the show description on the back seems to be taken from one of the discs, as it basically faces some spoilers and doesn’t explain the description of the show at all, making it very confusing for anyone trying to show blind. Air Gear was one of the show transferred to Funimation from ADV so there could have been some crossed wires, but it does indicate a bit of laziness.
The menu is very basic on all 4 discs – following the same pattern of a character on a coloured background (Ikki, Ringo, Simca and Agito) – the episodes are clear (known as tricks) to select, as is language, but no play all option though and no scene selection either, which is always a pet peeve if you have to leave the episodes and your DVD player doesn’t go straight back to it.
Nothing is supplied in this collection as extras.
Air Gear is a mixed bag where good points and bad points can be split very evenly – but fortunately the fact overall it’s a very fun show kept my interest throughout without a problem.
Immediately, we are thrown into the world of Air Gear, explaining the main premise of the show, about AT’s – Air Trek – configured roller blades which is the current big thing, where battles, tournaments, gang wars are fought just for the power to get strong tracks, and be recognised by some of the strongest players, the Kings, where there are spots for players to become Kings themselves if they have the god given gift to become one.
Enter Ikki, our male protagonist, getting beaten up by a gang called the Skull Riders, one of the many AT based gangs around. After returning home, where he’s been looked after by his older/adoptive sisters, he’s angry about the AT phenomena and then discovers his sisters are apparently part of a gang themselves, known as Sleeping Forest. Angered, he steals a pair of AT’s – but in turn realizes his love for the sky, something always hidden within a child, and from watching a beautiful player named Simca who seems to be one with the wind. With this, he eventually gets his payback on the Storm Riders, but also his love for AT riding, something that his oldest sister Rika seems to want to detract him from.
The main premise is of Ikki journeying to find his love for riding, by facing gang leaders and other skilled riders. Whilst the opening episodes focus on being on his own, it later delves into Ikki developing his own team of Storm Riders. This includes his two best friends Kazuma, a pretty boy who is a bit envious of Ikki developing skills despite being a beginner, Onigiri, a short fat guy with a perverted streak, Buccha – a giant of a man who has amazing strength and speed for his size, and was converted after Ikki beat him in a challenge match, and Akito, a young man who has two personalities (Akito and Agito – which switch whenever he puts his eyepatch on the alternative eye, one violent and bloodthirsty, the other sweet and amusingly, appears to have a crush on Ikki) but also has a past with his brother Kaito, a police officer specialising in Air Trek. The team, known as Kogarasumaru, begin to challenge other teams for the rights of territory, and also of getting stronger parts in part wars.
At first glance, the show seems very generic – as it delves with a young man wanting to get stronger, and we watch the journey in him doing so by joining with friends, battling over gangs and seeing how far he has come. However, whilst for a lot of time it definitely seems this way, there’s a lot going for it as well. The origination of Sleeping Forest and how Ikki’s sisters fit in is a common theme, as it appears that Ikki’s family have a past they didn’t want to reveal to him. Rika, the eldest – had a bit of a tragic past in that respect, and the episode where everything is explained involving a romantic relationship with a now wheelchair-bound man named Sora shows that there is an underlying family theme as Rika, despite her brashness, doesn’t want the same to happen to Ikki. Also, there’s a sweet romantic underlying tone involving the not blood-related Ringo, a beautiful AT rider whose part of the family, and Cisca – the rider Ikki seems infatuated with before he got into AT’s. Simca is a very teasing girl, and very flirtatious with Ikki, but at the same time, she’s got his eye on him for other reasons, as Ikki has the potential to become a Sky King, as he has to ability to see the road in the sky. However, Ringo is very shy in revealing her feelings, combined with her connection to Sleeping Forest. I will admit Air Gear doesn’t have the strongest plot in the world, but small things do add to it, and Ringo I wanted to cheer on so much, despite Ikki being a typical lead who doesn’t see her feelings.
There are other things to praise as well, namely as the ending comes and the battle with the group with Genesis, the major player in the AT world comes, and how Ikki is linked with it. The trust being friends and former rivals plays on strong her, and it shows you how far Ikki has come. However, it does suffer with a literal ‘that’s it’ type of ending, which means that a lot of questions are unanswered. It seems to hint at a sequel hook, but sadly looks unlikely, and there is also an ongoing manga as well, so for the very anti-climatic finale, I can’t really rate it higher than I can.
The other characters, however, all have things going for as well, Kazuma and Agito in particular get their moments in the spotlight, Kazuma with his jealousy over his best friend, his past life in a gang, and his friendship/more than friendship with track girl Emily, whilst Agito’s past and his relationship with his brother are one of the true interesting arcs outside of the AT battles. Buccha and Onigiri seem more of comic value as well (and the show does comedy really well too so it’s got a bit of everything in that respect) but they definitely have their moments, but in reality, the main stars are Ikki and Ringo, and fortunately, they are more than capable leads.
Whilst not the strongest show plot wise, Air Gear has a subtle charm which made it very enjoyable. The excellent music combined with good language tracks in English and Japanese with a good all-round cast helps hide the generic weaknesses a series like this has. Whilst the ending makes you wonder what has happened afterwards, everything before that was pure fun, with an idiotic but lovable lead, a fun love interest or two, some good side characters with moments in the spotlight, and even a good combination of serious and silly with some good background on the life of ATs and Ikki’s family. A recommended show for those wanting some action and to put a smile on your face.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B Audio Grade: B+ Video Grade: B- Packaging Grade: B- Menu Grade: B- Extras Grade: N/A
Released By: Funimation Release Date: December 2nd, 2008 MSRP: $69.98 Running Time: 600 Minutes Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2 Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Toshiba 37C3030 – 37″ Widescreen HD Ready LCD TV – Tangent Ht-50 Home Theatre System Multi-Regional DVD Players/Speakers – Tangent Subwoofer 50-150 Hz, Impedenced 8 OHM.