Given the seemingly never ending stream of uninspired, shitty, pedophilic anime that I am continuously subjected to, it seems wondrous that I continue to deem myself an anime fan. Truth be told, there have been many a time I have wondered to myself if I'd be better off giving up on this self hurting hobby that could possibly get me arrested in some states.
But then, every once in a while, I find an anime so brilliant, so entertaining, so Manly, that it washes away the pedophilic aftertaste of the shows before it and reaffirms all that is good in anime, and reminds me why I love it so much. Air Master, is one such show.
This is what I look like when I watch most crappy anime. Except I'm not a redhead. Or a girl. Or a cartoon character.
Released in 2003, Air Master is the touching story of people getting kicked in the face. Eschewing moe, unrealistically beautiful characters, needlessly drawn out fights and all manner of bullshit that pervades modern anime, Air Master focuses all it's energy on one simple thing; brutal yet beautifully choreographed street fights.
One thing that must be kept in mind while watching Air Master however, is that the entire series serves as an elaborate parody, of the fighting genre in particular, and anime in general. The story is paper thin, the reasons for fighting are ridiculous, character's regularly break into long winded speeches on the nature of street fighting, and many characters themselves take common anime cliches and exaggerate them to the point of absurdity.
Maki is a street fighter known as the Air Master, because she utilises an aerial fighting style. She then spends 27 episodes kicking people in the face.
The main character. A former competitive gymnast, she eventually quit the sport because her sheer build and height had become too great to allow her to continue as a top level competitor. Missing the adrenalin rush of competition, she takes to street fighting. Utilising her skills as a gymnast, she eventually built her reputation as Air Master, an undefeateble street fighter who fights with an acrobatic, aerial combat style.
One of Maki's friends. Has no real personality. The only things you need to know about her is that she's totally gaybones for Maki, and her boobs are the size of your head.
Yuu & Michiru
Two of Maki and Minas' friends. May possibly be a high mind, as they never seem to exert any personality to distinguish the two.
A parody of annoying, kid, sidekicks, Renge takes the trope to levels beyond the impossible. Basically only has two states; eating and crying. May possibly be a gremlin.
A model and tv personality, Kaori became Maki's self proclaimed rival after Maki and her friends stole the spotlight away from her while she was doing a photoshoot. Completely batshit insane, Kaori makes up for her mediocre fighting ability with sheer force of will. Refers to herself in third person. Easily the funniest and most entertaining character in the show.
Sakiyama Kaori-same demands to be given the spotlight in this screencap.
You can clearly see why she's a model.
The aptly named master of lucha libre. One of the few characters who can match Maki in aerial combat. Wears a lucha mask EVERYWHERE. Also has a 'battle mask' underneath his everyday mask. A closet otaku. Easily one of the coolest characters in the show.
Lucha Master's younger sister and another practitioner of lucha libre wrestling. Unlike her brother who is a pure lucha wrestler, Kai combines lucha with traditional Japanese pro-wrestling moves. Aside from her brother, she is the only other character able to match Maki in aerial combat.
In one scene, Kai had a flashback of her childhood, where she used to beat up little children while wearing a lucha mask. It was glorious.
A gang leader from Hokkaido and the show's token gay dude. Kills bears and other assorted animals by punching them. Mainly utilizes fast and powerful punching attacks in fights.
An absolute giant of a man and Kinjiro's gay lover .
A creepy pedophile whose obsessed with Maki. An extremely high level fighter who is almost completely immune to pain. Fights using the ancient martial art of rape.
It takes many years of training in the mountains to master the art of rape.
A friend of Maki's who fights with a three sectional staff. Has a massive crush on Maki.
The sometimes friend of Maki and co, Reiichi fights by using his bike. That's right, he fights with bike-fu. It's awesome.
The animation in Air Master can neatly be categorized under two different headings, 'fighting' and 'not fighting'.
Like Maki herself, the animation comes alive during battle. Fights are fluid, beautifully choreographed, and avoid many of the cost cutting measures seen so often in action anime. Sadly, the screencaps fail to do justice to the fights, so here's a video of one of the early fights to show you just how damn good they look;
Outside of fights however, the animation doesn't fare quite so well. While never horrible to look at, its quite clear what the animation team had to sacrifice in order to have such fantastic fights; animation outside the combat is often jerky, cheap looking and at times glaringly inconsistent. One particularly egregious example would be Renge's pet kitten, which constantly varies in size from an average kitten to that of a goldfish.
Air Master is easily one of the most enjoyable animes I've ever seen. Unlike many shows that needlessly complicate themselves with plot and depth, Air Master focuses purely on great fights and delivers in spectacular fashion.
Combat is fast, brutal and amazing to look it. One thing I particularly liked is that unlike most action girls in anime, Maki actually looks like a fighter. Whereas most shows feature tiny female fighters who can inexplicably fight people twice their height and many times their body weight, Air Master's lead character is a 6 foot tall, butch amazon who could probably snap you like a twig.
Similarly, the fighting pulls no punches just because some of the combatants are women; fists get bloodied, faces get smashed and oftentimes the loser will be lying in their own sick. Perhaps some viewers might be uncomfortable with this, but I found that in not holding back on the violence for the girls, Air Master was the most egalitarian anime I've seen in a long time.
Aside from the fights however, Air Master also delivers in the form of a wickedly devious sense of humour. On the surface, it appears to be little more then a poor pastiche of juvenile toilet humour. The true comedy however, is to be found in how ruthlessly Air Master parodies it's own genre, and anime as a whole.
Almost every character serves as a parody of some cliche or archetype. Mina, for example, is essentially the fanservice character gone too far; she has absolutely no personality and has boobs so impossibly huge that one can't help but laugh at them.
In similar fashion, the plot itself serves to lampoon the many cliches of the fighting genre. A particularly notable running gag is how needlessly violent most of the characters are. In one of the funniest scenes in the entire series, a character is approached by three prostitutes, who offer their services in exchange for him buying them jewelry. Instead of answering them, he simply kicks them, sending them flying 20 feet away.
Sadly however, despite being very popular in Japan, Air Master didn't receive much traction in the English speaking fandom. From what I've garnered by speaking to other fans, there are two primary reasons; the stupidity of the plot, and the ugliness of the characters.
In regards to the plot, it's meant to be laughable. It is, after all, a parody. Humour is meant to be found in the silliness of a story that should not, in any way, be taken seriously.
The characters however, are indeed hideous. But given how every other anime features impossibly beautiful people anyway, it can't hurt to at least watch just one show where not everyone could win a beauty pageant.
Air Master deserves a bigger English speaking fandom then it's got. As comedy, it hides a surprisingly intelligent sense of humour behind a childish facade. And yet, despite being a parody, it is also an excellent action anime, with fights that are better then most of the genre it's parodying.
In closing, you are now obligated to watch this. Take a break from whatever pedophilic moe-fluff your watching and calibrate the Manliness of Air Master. In fact, if you are male, you will no longer be allowed to call yourself a man until you watch this. Similarly, women who don't watch this shall henceforth be referred to by the lesser term of 'wo'. Besides, it can't hurt that Air Master has the coolest ending ever made;