Manga-ka: Oh! Great
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: July 2009
Synopsis: “Ikki is close to realizing his dream of becoming the Wind Keeper, and his achievements have won him a mysterious admirer: the beautiful Kururu, who claims that fate decrees she must serve the Wind Keeper. Who is this gorgeous girl–and could she be Ikki’s destiny?”
The first portion of the book slogs along like the volumes before it, too bogged down in its own ego to really establish half as much drama as it intends. While initially I lamented the loss of the series’ most slickly executed style, by the end I was finally granted a glimpse at the Air Gear I originally fell in love with.
There’s a lot of half-metaphorical exposition in this volume, and while nothing new to the series, it has started becoming more than a little convoluted due to sheer mass. The linearity of the plot has been lacking for some time now, and though it still consistently provides eye-catching artwork and a plethora of high-octave battle sequences (many of those staggering further away from use of Air Treks themselves), it has still been hard to really feel compelled by the unnecessary excess of other stuff. Air Gear started as a thrilling story of competitive sport but has now become interwoven with overwhelming elements of God-like Air Trekkers and abilities that go past cool accessories and straight into the territory of technologically-powered magic. It’s a little much for a series that could’ve easily run on its initial energy. Honestly, were rocket-powered rollerblade battles not cool enough on their own?
Air Gear volume thirteen sees team-leader Ikki confined to bed rest, finally succumbing to an injury that he can no longer healthily ignore. With Agito, the team’s strongest MPD, also out of commission, Ikki puts Kazu in momentary charge. The series has seen Kazu evolve from lackey-friend to a real standalone who is determined to prove himself as an equal to Ikki, or at least some one he can count on. I enjoyed that this book took more time to focus on Kazu’s motives and inspirations and I’ve only come to find him more and more interesting as a character, secondary or not. One of the team’s well-wishers and assistants, Emily, continues to crush on him as hard as any high-schooler can, and for a series that focuses much more on fan-service than romantics, I’ve still got my fingers crossed that the two finally open up romantically to each other.
Continuing on from my enjoyments of Kazu’s furthered importance, even if it does only remain short term until Ikki returns to the forefront, the second half of the book takes a wonderfully linear and action-packed twist when a crazy, nearly inhumane air trekker shows up with a plan to take Ikki’s life. Unfortunately he mistakes Kazu for Ikki and thus begins a terrifying chase through the city with Kazu and Emily’s very lives at stake. This kind of linear ‘do or die’ plot event ups the action in an easy to follow and easily gripping manner, taking the story back to its original versus set-up that I much prefer over the recent philosophical renderings of gang wars.
By the end of the book I found myself giddily enjoying the read more than I have any Air Gear volume in a while, which was a very welcome surprise. I hope the impending doom, that the series seems quite keen on pressing to readers, will continue to deliver additionally engaging directions for the story to follow so that I can eagerly anticipate more chapters of Air Gear at its best instead of worrying about more volumes that overdose on politics and under deliver on performance.