Visual Novel / AIR

The young man is a traveler. He has two companions. One is a very old doll that walks without a hand touching it. The other is an ancient promise passed on to him by someone with great power.

Kunisaki Yukito is a traveler running low on money who lives day-to-day by performing a telekinetic puppet show. His travels, however, have a deeper meaning, one he's been trying to push away: for a thousand years now, his family has been searching for a girl with a curse upon her. A series of girls in town - cute, immature Misuzu; sly, friendly Kano; and quiet, serene Minagi - present themselves as possible candidates to be this "girl in the sky", as they all have mysterious dreams of flying and connections to the spirit world that unfold along with their problems in the present day. If the girl isn't found and somehow saved, once she reaches a certain age or finds someone dear to her heart, she will become very ill, lose her memories, and die...

This is the story of AIR, an H-Game by Key/Visual Arts with a clean version that spawned two anime, a movie by Toei Animation and a TV series by Kyoto Animation. (It was actually the first of three Key games that were animated separately by these two studios, although the Toei version of Kanon came out first.) It is seen as and marketed as a companion to Kanon; both deal with a young man with little to go on who arrives in a new town, begins living with a girl upon arrival, and meets various other girls while sorting out the supernatural mystery of the town. The themes of fate and miracles also run deeply through both series.

The doujin Fighting Game Eternal Fighter Zero by Twilight Frontier features Misuzu, Kano and Minagi as playable characters, but it's notorious for also featuring Kanna, who became the resident SNK Boss, and became banned in Tournament Play due to her being a Game Breaker.

Not to be confused with the French electronica duo, the graphic novel, the stuff you're breathing, or the 2015 movie.

This program provides examples of:

  • Achey Scars: Yukito was born with a scar that suddenly relives the time that his past life received the same scar, causing Yukito to collapse to the floor. His past life was the victim of a curse for being too close to Kanna, resulting in the wound not healing properly. Yukito began to suffer it because was likewise getting too close to Kanna's own reincarnation of that time period, Misuzu.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Watch the movie or the anime, then watch the other and note how different the main characters' personalities are.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Everyone in the feudal flashbacks, not just Kanna, has blue hair in the movie. Ryuuya is nearly unrecognizable.
  • Adult Fear: A particularly detailed and heart-wrenching example of the pain a parent feels caring for a terminally ill child, being unable to ease their suffering and ultimately having to watch them die.
  • Against the Setting Sun: Several scenes take place by the sea, against a sundown scenario. Especially relevant is the scene in which Misuzu calls out to Haruko, accepting her as her mother, and the two embrace as the waves crash against them.
  • All There in the Manual: Due to time constraints, the explanation of Yukito's past exists only in the game, and much of the medieval journey is relegated to an OVA. Also, the conditions of breaking Misuzu's curse are stated in the game and implied in the anime, making the ending more positive if you paid attention).
  • Bishoujo Series: Kano and Minagi were added so it wouldn't just be about one girl.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Finding true happiness breaks the curse on Kannabi no Mikoto, allowing the next life to freely pursue happiness. So, although Misuzu dies in this lifetime, her next life will be a happy one, giving the ending a heartwarming undercurrent of hope.
  • Bleached Underpants: The original game was an H-game, but the anime adaptation and PS2 port have the sex scenes removed.
  • Breathe on the Fan: Yukito does this in an early episode.
  • But Now I Must Go: Michiru after she's helped Minagi reconcile with her mother.
  • Call Back: In Kanon, Yuuichi narrates something only to have Kaori point out that he was saying it out loud. The same thing happens in Kano's route in AIR, where Yukito's "inner monologue" turns out to insult Hijiri to her face.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sora is really Yukito. Especially well done since he's given exclusive screentime hiding in the background throughout the whole series.
  • Children Raise You: Played with in Haruko's subplot — she's an immature and irresponsible woman raising her dead sister's child, but she behaves the way she does for a good reason. She does become a loving and responsible mother figure at the end, though.
  • Continuity Cameo: Kano, Minagi and Michiru briefly appear as background characters in the movie. Also, Ayu, Nayuki and Makoto of Kanon appear at Misuzu's school in the anime series, taking the place of Kano's unseen friends in the VN.
  • Corner of Woe: Uraha and Ryuuya in episode 8, when Kanna tells them to get away from her.
  • Decoy Protagonist: In the anime, at least, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is Yukito's story. Then he's excised from the plot via reincarnation as a crow, and the conflict between Haruko and Misuzu takes center stage.
  • Deus Sex Machina: Kano believes that "becoming an adult" will give her magical powers. Unfortunately, she was misled. No wonder Hijiri's so overprotective of her.
  • Festival Episode: Kano's troubles began when Hijiri took her to a town festival after their father died. Later in the series, we see the preparations for the same festival in the present day.
  • Fond Memories That Could Have Been: Played painfully straight with Haruko imagining all the time she could have spent with Misuzu as she died in her arms.
  • The Gadfly: Uraha and Ryuuya love nothing more than teasing Kanna.
  • Giant Poofy Sleeves: The school uniforms.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Yukito's scar, connecting him to his past life.
  • Identical Grandson: A thousand years and lord knows how many generations later, and Yukito's mom still looks like Uraha with brown hair and Yukito himself like Ryuuya without long or pulled-back hair.
  • Important Haircut: Haruko cuts Misuzu's hair, accidentally cutting it much shorter than intended, thus giving her a more childish look that foreshadows later events.
  • Jacob and Esau: Minagi was a Daddy's Girl, and her mother was hoping that the new child would be closer to her. When she miscarried, she lost her sanity.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • The feudal Japanese society responsible for imprisoning and killing off the angels because they feared them. It was the neglectful treatment of Kanna that sparked the journey to find her mother in the Summer route, and they both get killed by soldiers in the end. The monks of the temple were also indirectly responsible for the curse that affect Misuzu by sealing Kanna (who by that point was the last of her kind) into an endless void in the sky that would lead to her suffering through nightmares and reincarnating. Ryuuya gets ready to kill as many of them as he can, but Uraha forces him to stop; saying that Kanna wouldn't want Ryuuya to go back to being a killer. They weren't worth it. They technically get away scot-free because of the fact that the story's not even about them, but rather their consequences.
    • To be fair, since humanity had limited knowledge of angels at the time they might not have realized that sealing Kanna in the skies would lead to reincarnation. In the Toei film this detail was left out.
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: In the movie, Misuzu has a "Godzillala" poster.
  • Mind Screw: During the Michiru/Minagi arc in the anime, It is revealed that Minagi's mother miscarried a baby whom she would have named Michiru, causing Minagi's mother to act as if Minagi was Michiru and Minagi didn't exist at all and that The Michiru the audience got to know is really not a human but a wandering spirit who became Minagi's companion because she was lonely, which lead viewers into potentially believing that "Michiru" was supposed to be/represent Minagi's deceased baby sister. However, things get even more confusing after the spirit Michiru disappears for good after realizing Minagi had other friends now and Minagi reunites with her father and a younger half-sister, who looks identical to Michiru and is presumably named Michiru, so it turns out that the spirit Michiru likely was representing this sister instead of the miscarried one. In hindsight, the lack of family resemblance between Michiru and Minagi was noticeable even for show standards, which makes sense if they are really half-sisters instead of full-blooded sisters.
  • Mood Dissonance: Done pretty well with Kanna and her companions joking and dreaming peacefully while encircled by enemies, misused and abused everywhere else in the series. Did anyone laugh at any gag involving Haruko and Misuzu?
  • The '90s: The VN came out in 2000, but according to the screen text when the Summer arc starts and the amount of time that's passed in between, it's actually set in 1993.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The unnamed town is actually Kasumi, a small Japanese town that was absorbed into a city called Kami after the game came out.
  • One-Word Title: The title is "AIR", just "AIR".
  • Only Six Faces: In the series. One for girls, one for moms, and whoever is left...
  • Our Angels Are Different: The word "angel" is not used much, but anytime you think an angel appears, it's referred to as a "winged being".
  • Percussive Maintenance: Yukito uses this with Misuzu's TV. To no avail. The real fix is fiddling with the antenna, as generations of real-life analog TV owners with spotty reception can attest.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Haruko, when it rains the day of the summer festival.
  • Reincarnation: The plot of the series requires it to exist, while the movie is good enough even if you don't believe in it.
  • Rule of Cute: Key's art style gets a lot of flak for the huge eyes and tiny mouths and noses.
  • Scenery Porn: The sky and the sea play very important roles. The shots of the blue sky during the final scenes lend a very dramatic atmosphere.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Inverted, despite the first impression it might leave you. Misuzu dies, but her soul is freed of the curse. It's heavily implied in the anime, and confirmed in the game.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Misuzu lives in the manga, and Yukito remains human in the movie.
  • Spiritual Successor: The 2010 Jet Li film Ocean Heaven (his first non-Martial Arts Film) is thematically almost identical to Air; a bittersweet tale with symbolic allusions to the ocean and sky, about the love between a parent and a child in their final summer together. However, the roles are reversed and Gender Flipped; it is the single-father aquarium technician (played by Jet Li) who is diagnosed wth cancer, and must find a way to part in peace with his mentally-retarded son.
  • Story Arc:
    • In order - episode one, Kano, Minagi, episode seven, Heian period, Sora, Misuzu, episode 12.
    • In the game, the arc with the first three scenarios involving Kano, Minagi, and Misuzu is called "Dream", the Heian period arc is "Summer", and the final arc with Sora, Haruko, and Misuzu is "AIR".
  • Street Performer: Yukito tries to make a living as a performer by making his doll do tricks.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Played for Laughs. Near the shrine at night, Yukito helps a disorientated Kano to stand after she collapsed when Hijiri suddenly appears to find her sister in the arms of the part-timer. "It's not like I gave alcohol to an innocent girl and took her to a secluded place..." He actually didn't do this, but Hijiri takes it as Suspiciously Specific Denial.
  • They Would Cut You Up: "Flying probably isn't all that great, you know," Yukito comments after hearing one too many girls tell him their lifelong dream to fly in the sky. "The wind would be cold on your body, everyone would look up your skirt, you'd be on TV, the Special Defence Force would have to come out, and then you'll be dissected by scientists." (Kano's response: "That's fine!")
  • Together in Death: After Ryuuya dies, he's seen standing on a field in the afterlife, apparently waiting- and then Uraha walks up to stand next to him and the two set off to look for Kanna again.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth:
    • Misuzu and Michiru, angels in every sense of the word, who by the cruelty of the gods themselves cannot stay with the people they love.
    • Kanna, by extension. The monks, not the gods, were responsible for that, though.
  • 12-Episode Anime: Plus a Recap Episode as episode "13" and two AIR In Summer episodes.
  • Yamato Nadeshiko: Though it isn't explicitly stated, Uraha probably invokes and parodies this trope on purpose; her perfect-lady act is simply too over-the-top and unflappable to be entirely honest.
  • You Already Changed the Past: The series uses this trope as fuel. The movie, though, leaves some freedom of choice to the characters.

Alternative Title(s): Air