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Anime: Airmaster
Saturday, November 19, 2005
Street fighting is a growing fascination on the streets of Japan and fighters of all styles, talents and abilities are frequently battling it out. One day four friends Renge, Mina, Yuu and Micheru are walking along the street when they meet a rather unique individual. Her name is Maki, a former gymnast turned street-fighter. But not just any street-fighter she is known as the "Airmaster". Quickly initiated into the group of friends the anime follows Maki and various other fighters as they battle it out all over the city from the streets to wrestling rings to ruined buildings.

Airmaster is pretty much a fighting series and little else, each episode focuses on Maki and occasionally other fighters as they battle it out. The fights can take a few episodes to pass at times (although usually about one episode) and are perhaps the most bone crunching I have witnessed in the genre. Fighting styles to suit all tastes are explored, from Maki's almost helicopter like ariel maneuvers ( that have gained her, her nickname) to energy based "Ki" fighters. Punches and kicks fly, people are propelled face first into solid concrete and blood flows freely all the time. It really is adrenaline pumping to watch all the fights as Maki goes from location to location, even taking part in a wrestling match and a street-fighting tournament ladder.

For a show who's main core is fighting with very little in the way of any plot in it's 27 episodes, Airmaster would certainly require something else to maintain interest in it (at least for me). Fortunately the show delivers on both the strength of its colourful cast of characters and the comedy. Maki herself while being strong and skilled fighter isn't to heavy on the brain department (not ditzy, but just a little bit dumb). What she lacks in brains for however she makes up for in raw talent, likeability and determination as she gets up again and again in the most brutal of combat. The support cast are also mostly all owners of strong personalities, Maki's friends being perhaps the most important. Mina (owner of perhaps animes most grotesquely large breasts ever) has a huge crush on Maki from very early on and spends most of her time pining when she's not around her or hanging off her arm. It's rather sweet and the lack of Maki's objections certainly say something to me!

Renge is the key comic relief character, a midget girl with the appetite of a gorilla who can out-eat pretty much anybody but is so poor and leeches all her food from others. The ongoing joke that she is a bit short on cash continues right to the end of the series when her mobile phone is bigger than she is. Yuu and Micheru while not as important as Mina and Renge also provide some fairly comic moments as a comedy double act. Mina's friends are certainly an interesting bunch but Maki's fellow street-fighters are just as entertaining . From important characters like skillful female wrestler Kai to the rather weak but hilarious bike-riding Reichi, they all have such unique fighting skills and personalities for the most part it makes them all a joy to watch. .

Perhaps the character that deserves a special mention is "Sakiyama Kaori" who leaps from job to job, claiming herself a "part-time-celebrity" and is always ready to pop up and challenge Maki to a fight (where Maki will invariably defeat her despite her training). Kaori's antics and the way she pops up out of the blue shattering any serious atmosphere like a mirror is a genuinely hilarious aspect of the show. In fact, many part of the show had me in stitches I was laughing so much. The pacing of the comedy amongst all the action is one of "Airmaster's" biggest strengths. Airmaster in a genre that's usually full of fanservice also steers rather more clear of it than most. There's a few mild moments of fanservice from time to time but certainly no-where near the levels of street-fighter "Ikki Tousen" or even "Tenjho Tenge".

But "Airmaster" is not without faults, the character designs for most of the cast are rather ugly and certainly take a few episodes to get used to. Some people may be put off by the frankly bizarre looks of some of the cast in particular. But stick with it and it's easy to overcome as they are all such pure entertainment to watch. Another area where the anime does fall down is of course the plot, there really isn't one and you get the impression a lot of the story is missing and only present in the manga. Various events from the final episode make absolutely no sense with the shallow explanations given for them and while it isn't a major pitfall for the show it could be very frustrating for some viewers. Overall though I could easily overlook these faults and see the raw fun fighting series that is behind them.

Overall 7.5/10

Mindless action, lots of great characters, comedy and adrenalin pumping fights. Overall well worth a watch and perhaps the most enjoyable fighting series I have seen so far.

posted by Mangaminx On Saturday, November 19, 2005  
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