I’ve talked about this one before, I know, but it bears repeating. The basic plot is…well, there isn’t really a plot. It’s about an ex-gymnastics champion turned street fighter. Her gymnastics skill manifest as a distinctly unique fighting style which involves seriously BIG air. Hence the name, “Air Master.”
Aikawa Maki is a great heroine. Competent and cool in her millieu, sort of dorky and insecure outside it, she’s surprisingly human and likable. Her friends are quirky and funny, and her enemies even quirkier and, in many cases, funnier. Of these, the best, by far and away is Sakiyama Kaori, who may possibly be the funniest, most imaginative and most likeable psychotic to ever grace a manga or anime.
The Yuri comes in right at the start, as Maki’s new friend Mina develops a raging crush on Maki, which quickly develops into a raging lust for her. In the anime, this is seriously minimalized, but in the manga, there’s some terrific scenes as we get to see what Mina’s actually thinking (hoping/wishing/fantasizing ) about in regards to Maki.
There’s a few downsides to this series – for one thing, the manga art is *seriously,* distractingly ugly. There’s some intense fighting violence (which I quite like) and some serious sexual violence, as well (which I don’t.) Episode 24 of the anime is one of the single most violent 20 minutes I’ve ever seen animated that didn’t involve guns or mutating things. The little old lady who sat next to me on the plane while I watched it on my computer, almost had a heart attack, poor thing. And there is unneeded and egregious, yet expected service.
On the good side, you have great characters – I mean REALLY great. With the exception of one or two characters, even Maki’s opponents are engaging and fun. In the tradition of shounen fighting anime, most defeated opponents become allies, so it’s nice to have them stick and around and keep coming back. Rematches with defeated opponents are actually better than the original fights, as Maki’s skills keep improving over the series.
(Manga) Art – 2
(Anime) Art – 6
Characters – 9
Story – 7
Yuri – 8
Overall – 8