Plot: Yukito is a drifter, on a mission to find ‘the girl with wings’ from the story his mother used to tell him as a child. While on this journey, he stops in a town and meets a girl named Misuzu. He’s initially put off by her energy and child-like optimism, but after she offers him a place to stay and some food, the two slowly develop a friendship. However, Yukito quickly realizes that Misuzu suffers from a strange condition. She is plagued by unusual dreams and cannot get close to anyone without bursting out uncontrollably into tears. They each have a place in this story of the girl with wings, but can they do anything to change the tragic ending?
Breakdown: Ah, Air. I’m breathing it right now. Also it’s the name of a visual novel, manga, anime and anime movie.
In chronological order, the visual novel came first, then the manga, then the TV series and finally the movie. This does kinda create a kink in my setup of AniManga Clash. Afterall, I think one major reason people have a big bias toward manga is because manga is usually the first product or ‘original’. And as we all know from the comments section on Youtube, being first makes you better than everyone else.
I’ve never played the visual novel, but I did watch the TV series a few years ago and just recently read the manga. So how do they match up against each other?
Round One: Art – The art for the anime…..is awful. The scenery is lovely and the animation is great, but my god the faces. I think this is how everyone who hates anime’s style sees anime. Gigantic eyes, tiny itty bitty dot noses and mouths that are both way too small and scrunched together too much with the eyes and nose. It’s like they’re old-timey cartoons and just got an anvil dropped on their heads. Also, the proportions for the characters’ bodies just look wrong. They all look very thin with large heads.
And you know what, I can’t really blame them too much for that because the visual novel art is just as bad.
As opposed to the manga’s art which, while still not being mind-blowingly fantastic is still eons above the anime’s. The faces look much more normal, the details are more fine, and the proportions are a lot better.
Let’s get some visual comparisons, shall we?
Round Two: Characterization – I believe this is about even between the two, at least for the main three characters of Yukito, Misuzu and Haruko. The manga may have a slight advantage with the friendship between Yukito and Misuzu, but it’s balanced out by the fact that I believe the anime does the relationship between Haruko and Misuzu better.
When it comes to the other main girls, Kano, Minagi and Michiru, the manga just barely touches upon them while the anime goes in depth into each of their stories. They suddenly decided to dump a good chunk of Minagi and Michiru’s backstory on us in the manga, but they didn’t resolve it all. It’s like a car crash of exposition. And pretty much forget about Kano in the manga, she gets no focus whatsoever.
The anime, deciding to do its best to cram all three paths from the visual novel into the anime, thoroughly characterized all of the girls and even more characters.
The question is, can I really count that against the manga when it clearly just wanted to focus on the Misuzu and Yukito story? I kind of can, yes. I honestly wouldn’t have if not for the fact that they mushed in Minagi’s story or at least some of it in the final part of the book, leaving you somewhat confused and unsatisfied in her characterization. Is this advertising to go out and play the visual novel or did they just want fanservice for the Minagi fans? I like Minagi a lot too, but I just found that final chapter pointless if they weren’t going to go all the way, and include Kano’s story (abridged if need be) as well.
In that regard, I think I’m going to give this one to–
Round Three: Story – Like I mentioned before, the anime delves deep into all three paths from the visual novel while the manga only focuses on the Misuzu and Yukito aspect. Since manga is praised for having more content than the anime counterparts usually have, I think it’s only fair to give the same props to the anime for doing the same. So the anime’s starting off with an advantage here.
However, I do have to note that the fact that all three of the stories are in the anime is actually a bit of a negative. Like I mentioned in my review of Air TV, it felt a bit overwhelming to have nearly every character have a screwed up home life or some sort of supernatural occurrence causing them to suffer or some mental issue to deal with. I appreciate trying to give everyone their shot in the limelight, but it does start to weigh on you.
Now, focusing on purely the Yukito and Misuzu story, I think both versions did a great job with it. Both stories are exactly the same, but the manga did answer a few more questions and made the situation with Yukito and the crow both less and more confusing and jarring. You’re lead to believe Yukito turned into a crow from the very second he made his wish in the anime, yet in the manga he pretty much disappears and we don’t see the crow until much later. Misuzu is the one who tells us that the crow is Yukito, but it’s left ambiguous as to if it’s really him or not. The bird never speaks or has inner monologue in the manga like it does in the anime so it’s still a bit confusing, especially when the crow shows up in a side story near the end when Yukito is still around.
Misuzu’s death is not shown in the manga, and it’s only slightly implied that she died if she even did in the manga. If she did, I feel a bit robbed. Her death and Haruko’s scene afterward was almost as heartbreaking as the scene on the beach. I guess a mostly-implied-as-happy ending is fine too, and it does make sense given Yukito’s wish, but that ending really resonated with me and I just feel weird seeing it play out so differently.
Yukito’s pain and his connection with the story is not as highlighted in the anime as it is in the manga. I don’t even remember him ever being in pain in the anime.
Finally, the true backstory behind why Misuzu and Yukito suffer because of this story and these dreams is explained in the anime, albeit a bit confusingly, and in the manga…..they don’t explain anything. We get quick shots of Misuzu’s dreams, she explains some of them a bit to us, but other than that we really get nothing, which makes the story pretty confusing in hindsight.
Yes, Yukito telling us the story his mother told him does explain in a prophecy type of way why this is happening, but it doesn’t explain why this is happening…Moreso it doesn’t explain why the story itself exists. The story tells of a girl whom we’re meant to assume existed. She had wings and flew in the sky, but she was constantly sad. Misuzu is apparently this girl, even though she doesn’t have wings, and her pain is caused by growing invisible wings.
Okay….why? If you never played the visual novel or watched the anime you’d really be wondering why this is happening. Why is she growing wings? What is actually happening in these dreams? Why is she the reincarnated girl in the sky? Why is whatever this is seemingly killing her? What’s the cause of Yukito’s pain? Why does Misuzu cry uncontrollably when she gets close to someone? How is Yukito’s puppet magic, and why can it seemingly grant one wish? Why did Yukito turn into a crow when he made that one wish? Okay those last three are questions I have for both the anime and manga, but still. It doesn’t explain what’s going on to make all of this happen very well, it just tells you a story Yukito’s mother used to tell him and asks you to roll with it.
Because of that, I have to say–
What the anime does better
More exploration on the other characters, possibly slightly more exploration on the main three of Yukito, Misuzu and Haruko.
More story to explore the other three routes from the visual novel.
More exploration on the backstory behind the girl with wings.
What the manga does better
Much better character art.
Slightly more details on the story of Misuzu and Yukito to make things less confusing.
Some of the characterization between Yukito and Misuzu is a bit better handled.
Wow, I didn’t think I’d find an anime winner on my first try out with this series, but yup. It was a close call, but I just think the anime had more to offer in both quantity and quality. The manga definitely wins in the art department and has some of its own specific benefits in storytelling, but overall the anime is just a more fulfilling experience to me.
As of right now, I’m not sure if I’ll tackle the Air movie, but we’ll see.