Air Master

Genre: Action
Format: 27 Episodes
Allegiance: Toei Animation/NTV
Director: Nishio Daisuke
Vintage: 2003
Intelligence Agency Report by: Lady Sage
Aikawa Maki was once one of Japan’s top gymnasts, but no longer. Now she is known as the Air Master, famous among street-fighting circles in Japan for the gymnastic techniques that allow her to fly through the air while fighting. One after another, opponents come to her, challenging her dominance of the back alleys. But she, too, is looking for something she lost long ago…

Field Agent Report by: Lady Sage
Overall 3.25
(not an average)
I have nothing against fighting shows, for the most part. I enjoy Yu Yu Hakusho. I’m a fan of Rurouni Kenshin. But Air Master is nowhere near the quality of those shows, because although it does deliver some cool fights, it fails miserably in every other respect.

Possibly one of the grandest failures is in characters. Almost every character is detestable, with one or two exceptions that only show up occasionally, and completely lacking in development. The only character that receives any development, in fact, is one of Maki’s rivals, who goes from punch-her-in-the-face irritating to less irritating than most of the other characters. Maki’s friend, Renge, could give Chibi-Usa ofSailor Moon a run for her money as the most obnoxious anime character ever created: a glutton and a whiner with a voice that resembles nails on a chalkboard. Not to mention that some of Maki’s opponents are completely stupid. Lucha Master? Come on, if I wanted to watch Mucha Lucha, I would put on Cartoon Network.

The plot of Air Master consists mainly of Maki fighting other street fighters and trying to get stronger. We are taunted and teased throughout the series about her past as a gymnast, but until the last episode, it serves only as an explanation for her fighting style. It could have been used as a way to truly explore Maki’s psyche and develop her character, but instead it feels tacked on, much like the rest of the ending. Furthermore, all of a sudden the producers decided to throw in a supernatural element, when before the most supernatural thing is Renge using the nose of her dead poodle to track down missing characters (ewww…). The result: a fairly coherent series suddenly turned inscrutable, and the worsening of an already bad series. The attempts of humor all fail miserably, as most of them revolve around a) Renge’s gluttony and general stupidity, or b) Mina’s grotesquely enormous breasts and her lesbian obsession with Maki.

It is fairly well-animated, as well it should be. The fights are actually fairly interesting most of the time, as Maki’s gymnastics make for some pretty cool fights, and some of her opponents have nifty techniques of their own (BMX-fu… heh). Unfortunately, the character designs are rather unattractive. All the male characters rave about how gorgeous Maki is, but she looks quite plain and manly to me. Not to mention Maki frequently fights in her school uniform, and her fighting style utilizes a lot of flips that reveal her underwear.

The music is a mixed bag. Most of the background music is unremarkable, but there are a few nice tracks, and the opening theme grew on me quite a bit after the first few episodes. The ending theme, however, is of the “angry people yelling” genre, which just doesn’t do it for me.

Air Master was a disappointment. With well-conceived fights and a protagonist with an interesting past, it could have been at least a passable series. Instead, it gets bogged down in poor development, fan service, and an absolute determination to deliver nothing but spiffy fight sequences. Although it may please fanboys who don’t care about anything but panties and punches, those who prefer their anime with a modicum of substance need not apply.