Air: The Movie
I don't like writing reviews with spoilers. You might say that my reviews sometimes aren't as good as they could be because I don't discuss enough of the plot. It's fair; I've thought it myself on occasion. But I hate it when someone decides to tell me about the latest movie from start to finish, and I rarely can bring myself to make it so that the viewing experience is lessened for someone. But there are films where the story isn't as important as the way it's told. Air: The Movie is a movie like that. By twenty minutes in, if you haven't figured out where it's heading, you haven't seen enough movies. On a surface level, it's annoyingly predictable. But I found myself appreciating it anyway, not so much because it is great (it isn't) so much as it doesn't follow all the cliches previous films have laid out for it to follow. So those who wants lots of surprises, beware...but everybody else should probably know what they're spending their time on.
Yuichi is a wandering puppeteer who makes a couple bucks here and there doing shows for children. He's a bit jaded, an introvert who doesn't like huge crowds but has to work them occasionally to survive. He never stays any one place for too long, haunted by a story his mother told him over and over about how he would someday meet a girl with wings. At one of his random stops, he meets Misuzu, a young girl filled with life even though she's missed school for the last year. She's working on an assignment to make up some lost time...a report about her town due at the end of the summer break. Soon enough, Yuichi is drawn into her project, and Misuzu offers him a place to stay while he waits for the upcoming village festival. As Misuzu researches an ancient story from her town about a woman with wings who fell in love, she finds parallels in her own life. But it's a question whether she'll ever have the chance to find romance, especially as a disease without a cure takes its inevitable toll on her.
From here, you can pretty much guess the rest. Is it a spoiler to name some movies that are strikingly similar? Skip them if you think so...alright, anybody ever see Love Story? Too old? How about A Walk To Remember? Autumn In New York? That's what you're in for plotwise, no more and no less. Quite frankly, if you aren't interested in seeing a young girl become more and more frail as she finds her one true love, there's no reason to keep on reading -- unless, of course, you find my prose amusing, in which case there's something else wrong with you. I'm not sure that this really qualifies as a spoiler because what's going to happen was obvious, at least to me. It's telegraphed. It's not as blatant as Grave Of The Fireflies, but you get the idea.
As you might have guessed, I'm not particularly fond of films with dying "good" girls who find a "bad" boy and reform him just before they croke. It's a stupid waste of a storyline. Every last one follows the main cliches, even down to the Illness That Shall Not Be Named that apparently kills you after making you tired for a good long time, but not so tired as to not be able to get out every now and again, and not so painful as to be unmanagable. No, you'll probably throw up a few times, cough, and recover enough to make a nice soliloquy before you die. I've seen these films before, and if I were Catholic, I think that purgatory might be spent in forced viewings of them.
So some of you have already browsed down to my rating and seen that I gave Air: The Movie a B. What is he thinking, you may ask? It has to do with the way it goes about telling this story. For example, the parallel yarn from the town's history works. It adds a layer of mystery and interest that is largely lost within this genre. Meanwhile, the character focus is convincing. There aren't multiple characters getting in the way or romantic misunderstandings. Instead, we get to know the leads, which include Misuzu's "mother" Haruka. They are believable, played reasonably well in the English dub, and because we relate to them, the story packs more punch than it might. Our characters are allowed to fail and act in ways that are understandable given the nature of the story. There is no grand redemption at the end. The personalities on display change, but only in subtle ways. And perhaps more than all those things, despite running through the cliche mill, I didn't mind watching it at all. I knew what was coming in the broad strokes, but certain touches here and there surprised me.
Air is based on a dating sim game by Key, and with all the Key anime adaptations, the artwork is great to look at. To be honest, it's not as good looking as the animation on Clannad, which is the other Key show I've seen to date. However, it still looks lovely at times. I'm not sure how it would stand up on a theater screen, but at home it's just fine. The music didn't stick with me, but it appropriately underscored key scenes. Technically, it's a good package.
Had I known what Air: The Movie was about before seeing it, I would have taken it out of my Netflix queue. Most of the materials about the movie online don't really tell you what it's about. Now that you know, you can make an informed choice...but also know that it is better than a lot of other movies in its own (tired) genre. And if you really do love tearjearkers, then by all means seek this out. I wanted to dislike it, but I couldn't. I even enjoyed it a bit. If you can get past the genre conventions, you might be pleasantly surprised by the bits you don't expect going in.
Air: The Movie -- brief nudity, profanity, mild adult content -- B