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.
So begins 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.
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...
Not to be confused with the French electronica duo
, the graphic novel
, or the stuff you're breathing.
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.
- Justified. 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 year 1000, 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).
- Bird Run: Misuzu does this a lot.
- Bishoujo Series
- Bittersweet Ending: Finding true happiness breaks the curse that the Buddhist monks laid 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.
- Downer Ending: And yet we leave off on a grieving mother and the knowledge that in the past there were a bunch of monks who got off scott free for causing the last winged being and numerous generations of her reincarnations to suffer immensely.
- 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.
- 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.
- Continuity Nod
- Corner of Woe: Uraha and Ryuuya in episode 8, when Kanna tells them to get away from her.
- Dating Sim
- 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.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: Oh, Misuzu...
- Disproportionate Retribution: Note to any winged beings: leaving the temple, even if it's just to see your mother, will result in you being hunted, cursed, and killed by Buddhist monks and other peoples under orders of the emperor. Said curse will haunt you and all your reincarnations. The curse? Die when you fall in love. And that means feeling any sort of love too, including if that love is familial, or even platonic, like friendship.
- Disney Dog Fight
- Doomed Protagonist: Misuzu. With her illness, what would you expect?
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Yukito. He doesn't die, but as a crow, he has near to no relevance to the plot anymore.
- Precious Puppies: Potato. To quote JesuOtaku's Red Snark Titles, "Cutest fuzzy tuber ever!^_^".
- Eyes Always Shut: Uraha. Well, almost always.
- Festival Episode
- First Girl Wins: Sort of.
- 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
- Identical Descendant: 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.
- Jidai Geki: The Summer arc and OVA.
- Karma Houdini: Unless Nobunaga was around to raid the temple (which he was not, as he wasn't even born at that time), the Buddist Monks, who are responsible for the deaths of Misuzu, Kanna, and God knows how many countless incarnations, get away scot free.
- 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.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: In the movie, Misuzu has a "Godzillala" poster.
- 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?
- Motorcycle on the Coast Road
- 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.
- 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".
- Paper Fan of Doom
- 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.
- Rapunzel Hair: Kanna, Uraha, and Misuzu all have very long hair.
- Recap Episode: Episode "13."
- Refusal of the Call: Yukito, at first.
- Reincarnation: The plot of the series requires it to exist, while the movie is good enough even if you don't believe in it.
- Ridiculously Cute Critter: Potato.
- Rule of Cute: What else could justify the female characters' most peculiar eye placement?
- 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.
- "Silly Me" Gesture: Misuzu does this.
- Sitting on the Roof
- Someone to Remember Him By: Inverted by Ryuuya and Uraha.
- Something Completely Different
- 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.
- Supernatural Fiction
- 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..."
- 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.
- Twelve-Episode Anime: Plus a Recap Episode as episode "13" and two AIR In Summer episodes.
- Welcome Episode
- 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.