Watching the anime adaptation of Air was long overdue for me. I love Kyoto Animation, I am obsessed with mid-2000s anime, and I love that iconic Key style of character design. Honestly, the only thing keeping me from watching it sooner is that I needed to find a weekend where I could afford to be left emotionally devastated.
In my review I mentioned that the second half of the show abandons most of its cast to exclusively focus on the story of main girl Misuzu. At first, I felt like this was a shame because it meant there were less characters to have comedy scenes with and less variety overall, but then it kept lingering in my mind. It’s not just that the show is too focused on Misuzu, it almost feels like a watching different version of the same show. As if the writer couldn’t decide between two different stories and decided to stitch them together.
The first few episodes are about the traveling showman Yukito who ends up stranded and broke in a seaside village where he meets and befriends various women. As his friendship with these people deepens, he finds out that they have all faced tragedies in their past that continue to hold them back in the present day. He then sets out to help them overcome their problems and get their lives back on track, which in turn inspires him to become a better person as well.
Yukito’s story is an appealing one, which makes it curious that he doesn’t play any significant part in the second half of the story. After a flashback to old-time Japan, which serves to set up some background lore, we repeat part of the story and eventually resume it without Yukito being present. In this alternate retelling, it’s Misuzu and her mother who get focused on at the expense of everything and everybody else.
The relationship between these two was already a plot point I was eager to see explored. Even though both mother and daughter are friendly towards Yukito, they don’t seem to have any bond with each other, preferring to keep their distance and interact as little as possible. The last few episodes do a fantastic job at addressing this and I love the direction they took it in, but the absence of Yukito in it remains perplexing.
Every storyline before it requires his intervention. Characters need his insight to gain a new perspective, he is there to physically help them with problems, and there is even a magical element to it which also requires Yukito. To see the story formed around this man only to have him removed right as his character begins to develop in an interesting, new direction is bizarre. Instead of Yukito, the story is then followed from the perspective of a friendly crow, but even that is addressed so little that it hardly matters.
I realize that Yukito’s presence may have intruded on the bond that forms between Misuzu and her mother, but even greatly diminishing his role would have been better. Replacing him with a funny bird and not letting him be part of Mizuzu’s arc after watching the two become friends, if not lovers, over the course of 7 episodes, only takes away from the conclusion of this heartwrenching tale. While I personally liked the ending well enough and felt it was appropriate, there’s no denying it’s severely lacking and doesn’t entirely fit with the rest of the show preceding it.