Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Air: The Motion Picture - Otaku Thoughts #58

This is the Air that I always dreamed of.
I really wish I had watched this film earlier; like Psycho Pass 2, I was put off from the low score of this film on MAL (anything below 7.70 on MAL is relatively low, for MAL's standards). Unlike Psycho Pass 2, though, I actually put this film off for not two years, but nearly FOUR years. In the watching of this film, I got a sense of fulfillment knowing that all of my issues with the Air TV series were realized in a concise narrative.

Disclaimer: There will be minor spoilers for both the Air movie as well as the Air TV series. Although, they are vague enough to where, if you haven't watched Air TV or this movie, you won't understand what they mean, anyway.

The Air movie has a very concise story. One of my major issues with Air TV is that the story was all over the place; none of the characters really mattered to the overall plot other than Mizuzu, Yukito, and Haruko, and the first half of the series really threw me off. It was boring, and felt like filler; like, they introduce Misuzu and Haruko, then throw them to the side to focus on other characters (that hardly even appear after their arcs are over, for pete's sake). In this film, they completely remove Kano and Minagi's stories (and reduce their character appearances to mere cameos), therefore the pacing for Misuzu's narrative was not interrupted and flowed better. Focus was never taken off of Misuzu and Yukito. This whole movie is about them, which I am so happy they chose to run with them instead of interrupting their character progression and relationship building with random other characters that have no relevance to the overall plot and the core relationship (which, some could argue the core relationship is Misuzu and Haruko; I hated that in Air TV, as well. Why even have Yukito and Misuzu go through so much together and then have Haruko suddenly be the main relationship focus for Misuzu? It made no sense. This film fixes that and makes Yukito's relationship with Misuzu more prominent; more on that in a bit).

Then, instead of tacking on the backstory with Kanna to the end of the show, which again (metaphorically) threw Misuzu under a bus in the TV version, this film brilliantly weaves Kanna's narrative inbetween Yukito and Misuzu's story; Misuzu would narrate a scene of the tale of Kanna, and then you would experience Yukito and Misuzu's story mirroring it right thereafter; this clearly emphasizes the connection between the two stories and doesn't take you out of the flow, it is part of the flow. This does wonders for the pacing, lets you stay with Yukito and Misuzu instead of shoving them to the side, and doesn't leave the audience confused. Huge plus.

I hear that some people appreciated how in the TV series, Yukito was more of a "big brother" kind of influence on Misuzu. I can see that, I guess? But I interpreted it more as, Misuzu had a crush on Yukito, and he looked over her as an almost 'protector', in a sense. Looking over someone doesn't automatically set you up as their 'older brother' or 'parent' figure. You can care for a girl and watch over her, and still see her as a woman. So why couldn't Yukito and Misuzu fall in love and be partners? Thankfully, I wasn't the only one who viewed their relationship in that way, as the romance in this film clearly shows that the two of them are a couple! Not right away, obviously; this film is a romance, and their relationship develops over the course of the film. And boy, does it pay off beautifully!

One of my personal favorite scenes is when Yukito is sitting down; Misuzu slyly sets up a camera, and then dashes over to Yukito and links her arm with his affectionately, posing for a photo. It was very innocently flirtatious of Misuzu; I loved seeing this side of her, this side that's clearly in love with a boy and trying to win over his heart and show her affection for him.
You see, that's something else I love in this film: Misuzu's character. She was slightly different than her TV counterpart. In Air TV, Misuzu was innocent, but also really aloof and had the mind of basically a 6 year old. In this film, she's more realistic; she acts more her age, but is still very sweet. She thinks about Yukito as a potential partner; she's interested in him as a man, not just a 'friend'. But she is also into cute things, like her adorable dinosaur collection. They also up the sense of depression that you can just feel lingers in Misuzu's lonely heart. You yearn for her happiness, and you can feel that Yukito, too, grows to want Misuzu to be happy. Misuzu's character, in this 90 minute film, was more clearly expressed, and felt more human, than TV ever managed to pull off.

And onto the subject of "more human": the art style. They fixed the facial proportions, and thank Haruhi for that. Misuzu actually looks really pretty in this film, and as Misuzu is a character I hold very dear to me, I definitely appreciated the artstyle fix.

Air TV by KyoAni on the left; Air The Motion Picture by Toei Animation on the right.
The only aspect that this film did not excel in, is the animation. Somehow, Toei must have been very rushed in the making of this film, because there were a few too many stillframes. It started to disappoint me a little, but thankfully they stopped using stillframes when I was starting to lose hope. So they redeem themselves. The animation quality never picks up per se, but they stop resorting to stillframes near the end so that made me happy.

The climax of this film with the festival was romantically satisfying in every sense of the phrase. MisuzuxYukito fans will be very, very satisfied with this film. Yukito fans in general will be satisfied, as, again, unlike Air TV, Yukito doesn't disappear! He stays as the main character until the very end. He tries to throw Misuzu away and move on, but his heart couldn't accept that. When he goes back for her, there is such a "HELL YEAH" moment, but I spoiled too much already. I don't want to spoil any major plot points of this film, as it is very different from TV and deserves to be experienced, so I'll leave it at that.
Earlier, I did mention how there is more emphasis on Yukito and Misuzu's relationship instead of Haruko and Misuzu's; this is especially evident in how Yukito stays until the end. I'm trying really hard not to spoil anything, so I'll just say this: if you were disappointed in how Misuzu's character ended up after Yukito's disappearance (and after the Kanna flashback) in TV, you will appreciate the route the movie goes in with her character. The ending scene on the beach is more moving as Yukito is there together with Haruko and Misuzu to give support.

The end as a whole... well, you may need tissues, but let me just say that Yukito's romance with Misuzu was a very important part of the ending and left the romance fan in me very, very pleased.

With Air: The Motion Picture, Toei Animation improved on all of the faults I had with Air TV. The romance between Yukito and Misuzu was fulfilling; it was genuine, passionate. Removing the other girls was a good choice, as the emphasis on Misuzu's story was stronger with their exclusion. Yukito, too, was much more likable; he was far more determined to help Misuzu, and it was clear that he loved her. Misuzu's character was given more emotional depth and romantic maturity while still keeping her innocent exterior. The two romance stories, that of Kanna's and that of Misuzu's, were beautifully interconnected in scenes of well-paced flashback sequences, and the ending is one that leaves an a huge impact on your heart.
Air: The Motion Picture is truly a Wonderful anime film.

Thanks for reading!

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