Air: the Motion Picture
Yukito and Misuzu both have trouble being with people. Yukito cannot stand people in a crowd, and is afraid to let himself go emotionally, while Misuzu is plagued by strange physical ailments every time she falls for someone. However, as fate would have it, they are each other's exception to their rule when they are brought together in a small town by the sea one Summer.
However, are they cursed to fall into the roles of the tragic star-crossed lovers in the town legend?
So here we have the black sheep of the Air franchise, which began with Key's hugely successful ren'ai game, and grew into two parallel anime adaptations: a television series (also hugely successful), and this movie. While fans of the game or similar shows gravitate immediately to the relatively traditional dating-sim television series, the movie has seemed always seemed somewhat left in the shadows by fans.
But perhaps the reason why fans do not like the movie as much is precisely the reason I DID enjoy it so much.
The Air movie is no more of a dating-sim than is a Miyazaki film. Instead, it is a moving, tragic story of star-crossed lovers, at times almost nearing Shakespearean levels, with the enchantment and simple charm of a story like Beauty and the Beast. This is of course not to insult the other incarnations of the story, which are both considered top-notch for the dating sim genre; but there was definitely something special in this little movie that I would be hard-pressed to find in any dating-sim.
There are only three main characters, an immediate surprise considering the plethora of girls surely found in the original game. However, with the time constraints of a movie's running time, this was definitely a wise decision, and one that paid off. Although all three appeared to be cookie-cutter dating-sim archetypes at the beginning of the film, they quickly skyrocketed out of such narrow boxes and become real, dynamic characters. By the end of the movie, I was completely attached to Yukito, Misuzu, and Haruko. I cared about them, laughed with them, and cried with them (almost literally, in fact, at the film's emotional crest).
The impressive characterization in Air was all that was needed to make the plot take off full-throttle, but this was helped even more by the presentation. The film was directed quite ingeniously, with great use of visual effects and camera angles to increase the emotion of the scenes. The animation was wonderful, and CG was flawlessly integrated into the lush 2D presentation. Although much music was taken from the television series soundtrack, this is not necessarily bad, as said soundtrack is quite impressive. And the movie does have an original song, the hauntingly beautiful ballad "If Dreams Came True", which becomes the main background music for the latter third of the film.
One bone of contention about the film's direction, however, was the rather clumsy integration of the ancient legend in the film alongside the parallel situation of Yukito and Misuzu. Although I eventually embraced the legend, and think that it was probably overall a positive addition to an already viable love story, the constant switching from past to present in the beginning of the film was a bit disconcerting, and seemed to get in the way of the present-day characters. The entire thing about the legend also required some suspension of disbelief, and one could make the claim that it was unnecessary to the tragic story presented in the film. However, on the flip-side, the legend is ends up being largely responsible for the magical aura that surrounds the entire story and encompasses it in the end.
Although probably quite removed from both the Air game and series, the movie offers a sweet, simple, different sort of love story nearly flawlessly. While not particularly groundbreaking or huge in any way, this little film might just take you on a wonderful journey. It's definitely one worth going on.
Recommended Audience: The love story in this film is mature from the start, and becomes quite sad very quickly during the film. Characters become angry and crushed by each other, and the emotional level of the film is suited only for fairly mature teens. Besides that, there was some nudity associated with the legend in the film but it was mainly entirely nonsexual.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Air: the Motion Picture © 2004 Visual Arts / Key / Toei Animation / Frontier Works
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