Rating: Teens (13+)
Released: April 2008
Synopsis: “Ikki’s the captain of a pretty good extreme skating team… pretty good, that is, for a bunch of newbies! The players have more heart than talent, but so far, that’s landed them close to the top. Now they’re facing a matchup that’s going to take more than guts to win: a battle to the death with Behemoth, the most reckless, cruel, and murderous team in the league!”
Air Gear volume continues the adventures of Air Trekking newcomer, Ikki, and his misfit team of friends and foes as they try to fight their way to the top! As a quick recap for those new to the series, Air Treks are essentially rocket-power roller blades and those who wear them for competition, most often forming teams, are called Stormriders. Now don’t let this quick synopsis turn you off the series; what seems like your average shonen series could very well surprise you, page after page.
Oh!Great has a vibrant way of storytelling, one that involves profanity, violence and lots of sexy women (objectified as they may be). It’s been a successful combination for him so far and he doesn’t back down from it in Air Gear, even if it does follow a more shonen-style archetype. In volume seven, Ikki’s team, Kogura-Sumaru, prepares to face their toughest opponents yet in an official ranking match. All odds are stacked against them but every character is readying themselves with their own motivations and attitudes. Side characters continue their climb to relevancy and old familiar faces return. On the downside, this does lead to a chunk of the book dragging on to accommodate the cast and associated explanations and tactical planning.
One of the things that makes Air Gear really fun is its characters; it’s crazy, nutty, exaggerated, humorous and attractively designed, characters. They’re all entertaining in their own right (even if the main character still proves to be one of the most irritating) and continue to carry the story along, now they’re just doing in classic shonen tournament style. As Kogura-Sumaru faces off against another new team, expect a bunch of new faces too, all with their own unique abilities, some definitely more crazy than others. Crazy long-limbed bug man… human? Questionable.
The artwork is top notch. The character designs are as diverse and memorable as the characters they belong to and they spring off the page, be it a dramatic flip-off-the-wall fight scene or a cheesy odd-faced interpretation of a pop culture icon. It’s all about the detail here, it litters every panel and background. The stylized and lively action sequences, from fight scenes to dance parties, do well to keep this tournament arc from getting dull as laws of nature are bent near breaking to insure everything is intense and eye-popping.
Despite some cover editing in previous volumes, DelRey has done a nice job at releasing this series. Always notable is their detailed Translation Notes. A particularly informative explanation was one regarding Agito, whose cursing was cut down in the English translation but for a reason that isn’t what you might first think. The text inside is easy to follow and it’s evident that DelRey puts effort into their writing, keeping the tone and the slang intact as best they can. Some word bubbles are difficult to read since the font has to be so small to fit everything in them but these are few and far between, only for background jokes.
All attributes combined, Air Gear continues to be an energetic and visually appealing series that’s chock full of site-gags, action and a hint of underlying mysteries yet to be divulged to readers. While parts of volume seven drag a little behind in pacing, it picks itself up by the end with climatic face-offs and the promise of more to come.