Yo, you know the drill! Every month I generate a random anime to watch and talk about with the help of a simply wonderful site called RandomAnime.com. (Here are the others #1 #2.) This site gets you a single (or a list) of whatever random anime you could want.
As the name implies, it’s all random. I do not know what I’m going to watch until I click the button and get that magical (or not so magical) series. I could get something wonderful or the anime equivalent of watching paint dry. That’s the fun!
The only rules I really have is that if we get One Piece or something with a similar length, I’m not watching all of it. I’ll watch like 26 episodes and call it. I also don’t need to finish the series if it’s so awful. I’ll give it like half. Anyway, let’s roll the digital dice.
Air Master. I have absolutely no clue what this is. All I can tell is that it looks fairly old, which is kind of neat. I don’t have enough retro (does 2003 count as that?) anime in my repertoire, really. Let’s see what it’s about.
A former gymnast, Aikawa Maki has turned her skills to a different way of life—street fighting. The only thing that truly makes her feel alive is violence. With amazing power and grace, she fights opponent after opponent, repeatedly demonstrating the gymnastic talent that earns her her nom de guerre, “Airmaster.”
I have a pretty good idea of what this will be about. To me, it seems like it will be one of those edgy shock-value series. Probably a lot of gore, maybe some fanservice. It is a seinen anime and an older one, so who knows what fun we might see.
My first impressions are it will probably be just ok, but I’ll keep an open mind. This wouldn’t be the first time this series led me to a great anime. I’m looking at you, Non Non Biyori! This will definitely not be a different series from Non Non Biyori, that I can assure you of.
So, how was it?
I seem to be losing my ability to accurately guess what an anime’s about before watching it. The previous two random anime, I did pretty well. This one, not so much.
As you might expect from the summary, Air Master is very much about fighting. Like a lot. Don’t expect much of anything else. That’s not a bad thing, of course. Series that are battle after battle certainly have a place. They can be a ton of fun to watch.
Getting a lot of unique characters together and seeing how they fight each other can lead to a lot of fun episodes. Not only because it’s entertaining to watch, but you can guess who will win. It almost becomes a fun game in and of itself. Air Master is no different.
The story largely focuses on Maki Aikawa and the various street fights she gets into. She is stupid strong. She can straight up snap someone’s neck in one second flat. Why? I don’t know. She used to be a gymnast, and that somehow makes her stronger than any other street fighter. Don’t question it.
The reason she is known as the Air Master is because she has developed the ability to fly and uses it in battle. Kind of. I mean, she can’t fly like Goku, but she can certainly defy gravity. A lot of the characters can, really. If anything, I would say she was strong because of her long legs, which would actually make more sense as she rarely throws punches, but Leg Master doesn’t sell as well, I suppose.
If you can’t tell, I don’t take this show very seriously. And the oddest part is, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to. You see, I cannot figure out whether Air Master is meant to be satire or not. On the one hand, I would say yes, it has to be. It’s far too ridiculous to be taken seriously. But it doesn’t feel like it presents itself as satire. Let me try to explain.
Take Konosuba, for instance. You know that series is making fun of itself and the genre. Everything from the plot to the way the characters talk, the world they live in, how they interact, everything. It screams comedy at the top of its lungs, so you can deal with it appropriately. Air Master is different.
It has moments where I know it’s meant as a joke. One episode is about Maki being a villain in an amusement park’s bootleg Power Ranger show as she beats up the heroes. Another, she enters a beach fighting competition. A few are about a random wrestling tournament going on that she wears a tiger mask for. There’s a very random relationship between some big dude and his friend who has kept all the women away from him his life so he could have him all to himself. They even dramatically kiss out of nowhere. Yeah. More power to them, but it certainly wasn’t meant to be serious.
It’s obviously supposed to be a joke, but there are times when the jokes fall so flat for me that I can’t tell if it’s satire or just bad writing. The second half is better because it embraces its stupidity, but the first half doesn’t.
The first episode acts like it’s trying to be serious. I get no indication that I shouldn’t take Air Master the series and Air Master the person seriously. Then, next thing you know, Maki’s throwing down in an alley with a Luchador, flying around, jumping off of buildings, doing all kinds of things.
You clearly cannot take that situation seriously, but the show attempts to, and I don’t know, again, if that’s poor writing or if the character’s taking things the way they do, is just some higher level of satire than my human mind can comprehend. It could go either way, really. I can’t tell!
What it came down to for me, is that Air Master tries to be satire, but not obvious satire. It’s subtle satire that is fairly hard to distinguish from the more serious tone it’s presented in. And when I fail to find that satire funny or even recognize that it’s there, it just comes off as being poorly written.
If I don’t get the joke, if there even is supposed to be one, there’s not a whole lot left. The actual anime, apart from the joke on similar shows I believe it’s supposed to be, doesn’t really stand on its own two feet.
But I did say the writing does get better in the second half. Just in some ways more than others. The writing got better because it stopped trying since it wasn’t very good when it did try.
Let’s use the story, for example. Air Master doesn’t have one. It is a bunch of fights very loosely tied together with an odd thread that some could say slightly resembles a story. There is no overarching plot. There is very little plot, even in the episodes that are meant to have plot.
One story arc is just centered around Mina, Maki’s overly attached friend (lover?), who gets abducted by a bunch of male students so they can take her back to their leader guy. That’s it. It’s like three episodes for that. That’s the most plot we ever really get besides a character giving us some backstory in a flashback once they get punched a few too many times.
It’s all over the place. Beach episode, then abduction arc, don’t forget about the time Maki got taken to some strong, buff guy’s house against her will, where he rips her shirt off. No, that’s plot, apparently. Don’t worry, we’ll have the same guy jump her in her house later.
I think Air Master wanted a story originally, and then they realized they shouldn’t do one. That’s probably why towards the end of the series, there’s a large tournament arc, aka, what you do when you want to make a battle anime with no plot.
The story isn’t character-driven either. The characters are not so good. You have Renge, which is (and I truly mean this) the most annoying character that I think has ever existed.
She’s one of those annoying for the sake of it characters, which I already dislike, but I don’t find her funny like I think they wanted her to be. Her VA is also fantastic at her job because her voice irritated the hell out of me. The rest of the cast is just there.
Sometimes I feel like the writers forgot about them. A lot of episodes, we see them just running around looking for Maki, doing absolutely nothing on their own. Seriously, their entire role consists of looking for Maki and finding her at the end of a fight more than once. The rest of the time, they just watch.
I won’t say it’s upsetting for some of the cast because if they had potential, I would tell you, but I failed to see it. Still, It’s sad because the anime did a few characters right. Maki, our lead, she’s kind of cool.
I wouldn’t say she’s well written, per se, but she’s fun. I think she’s a good character for what the anime is. Her whole background of being this more feminine gymnast turned badass street fighter was a good idea. I really enjoyed seeing little of her past we did, and I really liked how her gymnast background felt important, even if it didn’t always make sense.
I would have just liked to see more. She’s a character that could have been really promising, but she boils down to almost Goku levels. She loves to fight. She wants to get strong. And she’s kind of stupid.
What I did like, is how Maki’s strength feels very real. If she beats another fighter, I really feel like it has a lasting effect on them. Half the characters hate/respect her or have some kind of rivalry with her.
Towards the end of the series, you see all of these feelings culminate, some characters actually harming or altering their bodies to become stronger. You see that they are obsessed with defeating her, which makes you excited for their eventual rematch. Problem is, it never happens for pretty much any of them.
That means you have a lot of relationships being built up that could result in some interesting grudge matches, but they don’t go anywhere. That’s one of my biggest disappointments, really. I was looking forward to some of them.
The fights that we do see are pretty decent. The problem is the way they’re presented. The anime handles fights in a way that I don’t like. There’s a lot of talking. I understand why, but they don’t do it the right way.
My Hero Academia, for example, also has a lot of talking in their fights. What makes that more acceptable is how it’s paced. You get lots of short action segments with little bits of dialogue in between. You get all the exposition without it getting dumped on you at once. A lot of the time, they’ll talk as they’re throwing down.
Air Master prefers to have a lot of dialogue, then about one minute or so of exchanging blows, and then rinse and repeat until it’s over. This means that the fights don’t only lose some of their excitement, but they also feel short. It’s more obvious that the fight has more talking than punching with the way they’re put together.
But when we do see fights, they aren’t bad. Each character fights in fairly unique (albeit crazy) ways and are fun to watch. Maki especially has some pretty cool moves, and the anime animates fast-paced fights pretty well. Lots of quick, smooth movements. When it’s done right, it’s really nice.
And that’s very important when you have a battle anime. I just wish the fights were paced a tad better, and not as many ended in one or two clean punches to the jaw. That way, I get to see the fights a little more, which isn’t only the highlight of the series’ art, but the series itself.
Some people have taken issue with the art style, but I feel it’s fine. It’s slightly unappealing, especially in the character design department, but for 2003 and for the type of anime it wants to be, I feel it’s acceptable.
I’m a part of the group that actually liked Maki’s design. I know some liked her gymnast look better, which while she was more appealing then, I already mentioned why I enjoyed the way she looks now. It draws some interesting comparisons that make her a better character—just a matter of preference.
And that’s kind of the whole deal with Air Master. People disagree on it a lot. Some have really enjoyed it, and some said it’s the worse anime ever and rate that with a low score immediately. I can’t say I don’t understand how some could do that, but I don’t think it’s fair.
I thought Air Master was alright. Just alright. If you take the anime entirely seriously, then I can see how it would bomb in your eyes. It has no story, pretty poor characters, and tons of stupid moments throughout, only a handful of which I found funny.
But if you understand that the series is supposed to be a joke, it becomes a lot more clever. The biggest problem I had, is that whether or not it was meant as a joke is up in the air. So it left me with this kind of muddled opinion.
It’s because I felt the tone didn’t match the satire it wanted to present. I think Air Master wanted to do more than it was capable of. It wanted to be a series that pokes fun at itself and the genre but also be a solid anime by itself.
Unfortunately, it couldn’t really stand up to that second point, and it ended up taking away from what it could have been. Had Air Master completely cashed in on its insanity, it could have been a great series. The Konosuba of battle anime, if you will. But we didn’t quite get there. We were left with something just ok.
Thank you very much for reading
Have you ever came across a series you couldn’t quite tell if it was a joke or not? It’s a tricky situation, to be sure.