Itsuki Minami needs no introduction—everybody's heard of the "Babyface" of the Eastside. He's the toughest kid at Higashi Junior High School, easy on the eyes but dangerously tough when he needs to be. Plus, Itsuki lives with the mysterious and sexy Noyamano sisters. Life is never dull, but it becomes dangerous when Itsuki leads his school to victory over some vindictive Westside punks with gangster connections. Now he stands to lose his school, his friends, and everything he cares about. But in his darkest hour, the Noyamano girls come to Itsuki's aid. They can teach him a powerful skill that will save their school from the gangsters' siege–and introduce Itsuki to a thrilling and terrifying new world.
Air Gear was first published in English by Del Rey Manga who released the first 17 volumes in the period from July 25, 2006 to August 31, 2010, with the latter three volumes released as a 3-in-1 omnibus. Kodansha Comic USA has been publishing the series from volume 18 since June 14, 2011 and has been republishing the manga in 3-in-1 omnibuses since May 28, 2013. It was also published in Spanish by Norma Editorial from November 2007 to September 2013 and in Italian by Panini Comics under the Planet Manga imprint from March 23, 2007 to March 16, 2013.
Oh great ... yet another 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, then come across an even greater obstacle. Rinse and repeat. Sure Air Gear follows this formula but there’s a number well-conceived 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 once captivated the reader and in turn becomes such a convoluted mess that even I struggled to follow. Which isn't helped by the poorly written dialogue the characters spew, when explaining a trick/skill/ability that often consists of either: something random scientifically proven theory, some random ancient mythology or some random 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. 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 in his own right. Even side characters who seem unimportant at first are given enough time in the spotlight, for the readers to learn what motivates them all. Then on the other hand you have a certain character, who shall not be named, that drastically undergoes the most contrived transformation imaginable 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 well thought-out design that sets it apart from all other shounen manga (except other Oh! Great manga). Not only are the characters fun to look at, with their distinct looks and their expressively drawn attitudes, but this is the first time I'll praise the SFX katakana for not only being noticeable but for enhancing those intense moments. 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, which is a damn shame. read more
Reading long running series can be quite the daunting task to start on, but you can reap the awards of what long series bring, memorial characters and terrific long stories.
I'm referring to good stories like One Piece, FMA, and anyone who can actually write, Air Gear's award is the boobie prize of absolute disappointment, a benefit of the doubt that was brought about by a good start.
STORY: Oh Great! Isn't that quite the name to give yourself? Especially since you're definitely not so great at a lot of aspects, except artwork. It must really scream confidence to those who pick up Air Gear (Or Tenjo Tenge, but I'm not reviewing that), expecting something great, well I wouldn't blame them, Air Gear does start out pretty decent, good even, but fumbles around later and finally falls.
Air Gear is dumb, really dumb, that one kid in first grade who is sent to the corner in class and has to wear a dunce hat everyday kind of dumb. But like the teacher having to watch over that kid, you grow fond of the kid's antics, even if you know what to expect from him, that's the charm of that rascal in the works. But the kid eventually grows up into a complete dumbass, and he's not only the kind of dumbass who does stuff only jackasses would do, but also the kind of pretentious ass that can only pretend to be what he is obviously not, smart.
That's what my experience with Air Gear has been like, and that's what the story amounts to, a smooth landscape that hides the grand canyon of falls. The story of Air Gear starts off pretty simple, Itsuki "Ikki" "Babyface" Minami, the strongest kid at his junior high school, is an orphan who lives with four sisters and is practicably a brother to them, the Noyamanos, Ringo, the series main female character and actually the most likable character, Mikan, the tomboyish and second oldest sister, Ume, the youngest and quirkiest of the sisters, and Rika, the oldest and bread winner of the family. But one day Ikki however fights the wrong crowd, and is slaugthered by a gang of roller skaters called Storm Riders, and from then on, Ikki is introduced to the world of Air Treks. Air Treks are super roller skates that let's you jump into the sky as if you're flying, enabling you to perform tricks that are otherwise, impossible without them (And magical BS, which I'll get to in a little bit).
The story is basically a sports battle shonen ecchi manga series with quite the strange concept, that starts off as good as anyone would hope for coming from the mastermind behind Tenjo Tenge (And just to clarify, I'm using the word mastermind very loosely, that word is too great for oh great). A lot of the early battles in the series are very entertaining, which the battles are actually various sports events (Mixed in with typical shonen style fights of course) that are quite interesting, and involves the main to use strategy (In terms of shonen strategy fights, it's up there with early Naruto). From racing and relay runs to standard 1 on 1fighting and survival king of the hill matches, this is one thing Air Gear continues as one of it's only constant qualities.
Other "qualities" however, might as well have never been considered as quality. Specifically, the story telling. As I figuratively explained earlier, The story does nothing but goes down a downward slope after sometime, from fun foolishness with the main cast, Including Ikki, and the rest of his storm rider team, the whipping boy and fastest member, Kazu, the fat pervert, Onigiri, Oh Great's interpretation of Bleach's Chad, Buccha, and the fucking split personalities boy who says fuck all the fucking time that it is his catch-phase, Akito/Agito. Other characters includes a couple of groupies that become useful over time, a cock tease, and several countless roller skaters.
The story was basically about a group of boys wanting to become the best roller skaters in Japan, that becomes a cheap pretentious mess. From killing off characters that had no importance to the overall story to just improve another character's air trek skills, to throwing in pointless characters, to over exaggerating the power of the roller blades to ridiculous proportions e.g. roller skates determine the fate of the world.
And from then on the series loses all of it's fun, I mean, it's ridiculous, specific roller skates with magical powers and only naked girls can repair them? It's fucking retarded to put it bluntly, they're nothing more than cheap devices to make ridiculous powers and cheap fan service, but Air Gear takes a simple concept and over inflates it with story telling that's obviously over oh great's ability.
It's a shame that this series grow too serious, and that it looses any redeeming qualities other than...
ART: The artwork, this is the one thing Oh Great does to earn his pretentious name. Incredible detail on everything, the character designs are borderline realistic, bodily proportions are over exaggerated at times (Muscles, titties, and other lustful body parts), but everything looks great, especially the personified shadows of the characters, with great detail on these creatures ranging from vicious beasts to goddesses and hellish armies.
However, at times, when the story does it thing, text boxes and word bubbles fill too much of the pages, and becomes almost as messy as the story is.
But the word great should only be implied here when speaking of Air Gear.
+ A dumb fun story with a unique concept that mixes shonen and sports elements.
+ Good comedy if low brow and ecchi jokes are your thing.
+ Great artwork that deserves the word great.
- Dumb story become a convoluted mess later on that goes way above the head of the author.
- Cheap ecchi, and even cheaper plot advancements.
- Completely ridiculous plot devices, and all the magical bs roller skates can apparently do.
- Terrible mood swings.
Sigh... As easy as it is to drop Air Gear, I consider myself to be at the point of no return, but let this review be a warning to those wanting to invest into this mess of a series. Oh Great must actually be a sarcastic name, or should be used in an annoyed reply like, "Oh great... another chapter of air gear to read, woo whoo..."read more
I can't deny Oh! Great's skills when it comes to drawing, but he just can't write a reasonable story. His physics give me the creeps, and the way he draws women got boring and disgusting with all the overly sexistic scenes. Oh well, it's still looking good.
Even though I hate the main character Ikki, I must admit that his other characters are bit more intresting. The first impression of this manga was very captivating, but as the series got longer my intrest dissapeared. I do still enjoy reading Air Gear occasionally, but it's definately not among my favorite series.
Since this favorite manga of mine is so underrated, I would give it a 10.
All I can say is that this masterpiece of Oh Great! is just GREAT.
What you can expect most in this manga is its creativity in a kinda similar sense to that of Yakitate!! Japan. Well, everyone is creative, even my 2 dogs, but I really mean it in this case. You will be kept being entertained by its creativity at any point throughout the story, particularly at the very beginning of every single chapter (especially since chap 50) in one of many possible forms: design, parody, pose, machine, feat, etc. Oh Great's style.
At many points, you will find the conversations a bit vaguely philosophical surrounding the topic of "to fly" but they are pretty enjoyable as you get used to them. No goosebumps at all! Those are the pauses necessary after all the exciting parts. There is no major twist in the plot but mostly side changing between riders on two sides of the fence. The protagonists Ikky and his gang move on, beating enemies and turn them friends, just to find more enemies.
The story transcends the topic of sportsmanship and brings you to epic wars with super high technologies which make the most sci-fi sense. The author is always trying his best to be both creative and contemporary. I was extremely delighted to see President Obama making his parody gender-bender show. Oh Great! also does a great job in gathering materials - there are a lot of small things you can learn to amaze your naive friends. I myself never ceased to be amazed reading every chapter of this series.read more