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Air Gear
by Master_M2K on June 29th, 2008, 5:18am

Rating - 8.4 / 10.0

User rating of this review - 4.5 out of 5
Story/Plot - 3 out of 5
Characters - 4 out of 5
Drawing Style - 5 out of 5
Enjoyment - 5 out of 5
Overall - 4 out of 5

Click here for series information

Oh great ... yet another interestingly cool manga, developing from its humble beginnings, into the convoluted mess I see before me. Anyone who has read most of it, or its previous incarnation Tenjou Tenge, will understand what I mean.

Air Gear is an exciting Shounen, Sports, Ecchi, Comedy that takes extreme sports to a whole new level. Nevertheless this is an Oh! Great manga; so expect mind-numbing violence, x-rated fanservice and an absurdly over-the-top storyline.

As it follows Itsuki Minami (Ikki), a boy who comes across as your typical teenage delinquent, with no real purpose or goal in life, but that soon changes when he discovers the wonders of the popular extreme sport known as “Air Treck”. Now Air Treck is like if you took rollerblading and stuck it in a shounen manga like Hunter x Hunter. I know that not everyone will understand the analogy, but it is the only way one can even describe the latter 2/3rds of the manga. Now the way that most shounen sports manga go, is by first introducing the protagonist to the sport and have said protagonist be met with an obstacle they must overcome, through both training and sheer force of will and then come across an even greater obstacle. Rinse and repeat. Sure Air Gear follows this formula but there’s a number interesting concepts that give this manga an edge over others; like the formation of an AT team, the bonds between them and infinite possibilities of ATs. From then on the story continually develops by adding new elements (e.g. Regalia) to the plot. Unfortunately the deeper the story goes, the more it loses the original essence that captivated the reader and in turn becomes a convoluted mess that even I struggled to follow. Which isn't helped by the dialogue the characters spew, when explaining a trick/ability/skill that often consists of either: something scientifically proven, some ancient mythology or philosophy.

But one thing that never loses its essence in Air Gear, is the cluster of clichéd but cool characters that fulfil every single archetype imaginable. Yet I feel somewhat torn when it comes to evaluating the characters of Air Gear. Because on the one hand you have Ikki, the main protagonist, who we will follow as he struggles to get to the top and pretty much exudes "cool" whilst doing so (I'm sorry but I cannot put it any other way). But it's not only him, as it is often nice to see his comrades develop along the way too, meaning that no one is left on the wayside. I in particular enjoyed seeing Kazu struggle to break free from Ikki's shadow and become truly formidable on his own. Even side characters who seem unimportant at first are given enough time in the spotlight, for the readers to learn what motivates these very diverse characters. Then on the other hand you have a certain character, who shall not be named, that undergoes a drastic transformation that felt so contrived and then there's Barack Obama... nuff said. Which is why I feel torn, because there's an amazing cast of characters and then a few that kind of ruin it.

Yet I can be decisive in saying the artwork is the best thing about Air Gear, with its unique look and cool design that sets it apart from all other shounen manga (except other Oh! Great manga). Not only do the characters look interesting, with their distinct look & feel and their expressively drawn attitudes, but this is the first time I'll praise the SFX katakana for not only being noticeable but for looking amazing. The environments are also very detailed and it’s easy to see that a lot of time, effort and creativity has gone into illustrating every battle.

Overall Air Gear is exactly what you’d expect from an Oh! Great manga: really crude perverse humour, imaginative character designs, extreme levels of fanservice and an over-the-top story to tie it all together. Now usually serialized shounen manga will prolong their run by continually upping the stacks, whilst retaining the theme that originally sucked in the readers. However where Air Gear falters is that mangaka continually adds new elements to the plot, transforming it from a sports battle manga hybrid into a pure shounen battle manga, disregarding what originally sucked the reader in. Gravity Children, Brain Charger, Barack Obama. Just to name a few of the random things later added to the plot that give off the feeling that not much thought was put into how they'd affect the story as a whole. In the end what is left is a story riddled with huge gaping plot holes, as far as the eye can see and no way to close them without completely abandoning your own sense of disbelief. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is still a hugely entertaining shounen manga to read, if you enjoy shounen manga. Just keep in mind that you may have to turn off your brain from time to time.
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I agree with the review :p by Lecros on December 16th, 2009, 5:56pm Rating: 4.5

Only I like that the story becomes a little more complicated later on because it brings lots of good things with it. Characters from other perspectives and some new ones bigrazz. It might be complicated if you try to get right into the newer chapters though.

And the Characters represent an Animal or Machine like how Kazu is an F-16 or something and Bucha is a Tank. Although I think you meant that and just wrote Animals and Beasts.
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