Air Master

Air Master is a 27-episode series from 2003 which was directed by Daisuke Nishio. I’m pretty sure I only watched it because I happened to see Yoshihiko Umakoshi’s name in a few places on a staff list for it. Anyway, Air Master is a fighting anime. You know. Kicking people, punching them in the face, oddly specific fighting styles, and being a gymnast. That sort of anime.

The music of Air Master was composed by Yoshihisa Hirano. While I’ve loved some of his more recent work, Air Master’s soundtrack didn’t do much for me. There was only one track I ever really remembered noticing while watching this anime, and it’s the only one I can remember even now. It’s not like it’s a horrible sin to not have outstanding music, but to be this forgettable is certainly worthy of a frown or two.

Visually it’s sort of mixed, but probably mostly bad. I like certain aspects of the character designs (the eyes, mostly; but I’m also fond of how Maki is big and intimidating and doesn’t look particularly feminine — she beats people up at night and feels insecure about her enjoyment of cute things during the day so it’s pretty much perfect). But a lot of the designs just don’t look that great. Maybe they weren’t supposed to. At the end of the day everyone gets to be ugly and full of bruises anyway, right?

The animation, despite Umakoshi’s involvement, is not typically noteworthy either. They make due with what they have, though, so while I get the sense that they didn’t have the biggest budget for this (as if I know anything about financial matters), it’s not like it’s ever choppy or anything. Everything’s fluid enough.

My greatest enjoyment of this series is actually the choreography of the fights. This is how they can get away with having uninteresting animation in a fighting anime. The titular character’s fighting style is, as you’d expect, very air-oriented and involves a lot of jumping around and spinning midair, and using literally everything in her environment to assist with that (at times the opponents themselves are even used). And not everyone fights like she does, so you get to see the clash between two drastically different styles. It usually plays out pretty interestingly. There’s even a guy who fights with a bike. How cool is that?

Well, when you’re watching a fight scene, anyway. I don’t expect nonstop action even from a series like this, but as I was watching it I couldn’t help but feel like there were a lot of significant lulls in the action. There might have even been entire episodes with only a few seconds of fighting in them total.

What’s crucial is what Air Master fills those lulls with. It certainly isn’t anything serious, that’s for sure. It isn’t meaningful character development. That’s 100% okay, because Air Master is not interested in being serious. It is interested in being amusing. The problem is that its sense of humor kind of stinks.

There’s a main character who exists solely for constant jokes about her being a lesbian (and even more prevalent for this particular character is the obnoxious pokes and prods about how massive her breasts are). There’s another main character who has this horrendously grating voice that renders any potential humor in scenes she’s involved in null. Can I say it’s a really really anime sense of humor and mean it in a bad way? Am I allowed to do that? I’m doing it. It’s done.

But the sense of humor, classy as it may be, is not always a flop. I actually found myself giggling at many of the episodes. Anything involving Kaori Sakiyama ended up being particularly amusing to me. But I also sometimes got the feeling that even the attempted humor that I found incredibly stupid and irritating might have actually been Air Master poking fun at its own genre’s tropes. It didn’t make those parts any less annoying for me, but it’s possible that someone who has more familiarity with the genre than me would appreciate the humor much more than I did.

That pretty much covers all the important things. Air Master is… alright. Don’t even try to watch it unless you’re into fighting anime or neat fight scene choreography or something, though. And definitely don’t watch it if you can’t handle the worst jokes that anime is capable of. Because they are here.

tl;dr read the previous paragraph and commence your hunt for fight scene compilation videos.

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