Warning: This review contains minor spoilers. First impressions: When first hearing about Air Gear I immediately thought the premise sounds really cool despite the fact that Im not the biggest fan of sports series. Fortunately Air Gears one of the few exceptions to the rule due to how successfully it jumps the shark pun intended in taking the idea of competitive roller skating and elevating it with the addition of an increasingly more insane superpowered battleshounen dimension. Story: 6/10 Air Gear goes from 0 to 100 extremely quickly with the first chapters up until around chapter 80 probably being the seriess peak. They not only do a great job of portraying the urban street punk nature of the setting but theyre also when the series is at its most grounded and creative in how Ikki and his team strategize and employ different tactics in order to prevail in competitive matches against other storm riders. If you like high octane street fights you may want to take note of this series. Now where things start to take a nosedive is after Ikki and crew start making a reputation for themselves despite not actually having done much by that point or even being that skilled. Its then that people in the local storm rider community start to think that Ikkis destined to eventually become whats called the sky king the hero that will become the most powerful storm rider that ever lived and give humanity wings. At this point in the story were also introduced to a rider team known as Genesis. Genesis being a conglomeration of numerous teams that have all united under one banner resulting in the largest strongest storm rider team in history. So to make a not so long story even less long these people decide to go under Ikki and his crew making Ikki their leader. And just like that he gains a small army under him who are committed to helping him in his rise to glory with the provison that he will help them achieve their goal of defeating the team known as Sleeping Forest. Its then that we also learn more about the setting and way in which the storm rider community is structured letting the full premise of the series be revealed. Turns out Sleeping Forests mission is to protect the mythicized Trophaeum Tower the location which practically all other storm riders aim to climb making them enemies. Additionally Genesiss second goal is also introduced which is to collect all the regalias a series of special ATs that grant their users incredible but ridiculous powers the strongest of which is housed in Trophaeum Tower as Sleeping Forests true target of protection known as the sky regalia. It then springboards into what can only be described as a clusterfuck. It decides to add and just keep on adding things to the plot that just dont fit including but not limited to a group of genetically altered at birth air treck master superbeings a cheaper corresponding group with the formers personalities and memories copypasted into them a years long conspiracy of one mans dream of ruling the world tons of people getting killed an aircraft carrier containing Obama a zerog battle in space and the list goes on and on. It attempts to make the plot more interesting but just completely loses focus adding and compounding layers upon layers of nonsense spoiling the simple if not bizarre but in reason story it had originally. It needed not add anymore. Its like having the perfect sandwich made only for some asshole to come in and add unnecessary shit for the sake of doing so in the process ruining what was there in the first place. If Air Gear could be described using the phrase roller skating on crack well then the amount of crack Oh Great was on when writing must have been awe inspiring to say the least. In fact Im surprised that the series had at least some level of story consistency to begin with considering. Even still it manages to be a high octane action series with some nice themes even without counting friendship as one of them. One of the core themes of Air Gear is freedom and what freedom means to each individual. For one person freedom could mean doing whatever you want whenever you want while to another it could mean being free of toxic relationships or situations. Maybe even realizing that worrying about things that are out of your control is unhealthy and letting loose. Whatever flavor you want. Now as far as this themes exploration goes its concise and to the point. We should be on the positive side of freedom that encourages peoples lives to change not only for the betterment of themselves but also for that of those around them as opposed to the negative side represented by the main villain that uses their freedom as an excuse to commit morally deplorable acts in the pursuit of their dream. Characters: 6/10 So this series has a lot of characters but for the sake of brevity Ill just talk about a few of the ones that tie more into the seriess themes. And what better way to start than with the one that expresses said themes the most. Enter the main character Ikki. While at first glance he may come across as this nogood street punk that just likes to brawl and get into trouble hes a lot more than that. Hes pretty much the perfect representation of the wind. Freedom in the purest sense of the world. Ikkis a very special kind of individual. One that doesnt change and doesnt need to change but rather just needs to and succeeded in coming into his own as his awareness grew and his inhibitions were removed allowing him to become as he was ultimately destined to be. This is an arc that Air Gear accomplishes really well. He just flows past all the barriers around him momentarily obstructed but never stopped. Its also because of this trait of his to persevere and live freely that his characters so great in context. The way that through his actions he acts as a catalyst for other characters to find their way and develop as people as any good battle shounen protagonist should. Another character of note is Kazuma Mikaru nicknamed Kazu Ikkis second in command. He was originally introduced as an introverted and underconfident character partially due to his proximity to a character as capable and proactive as Ikki. This in turn causes him to feel inadequate like hes slowing the team down and isnt worthy of the hopes that people place in him. His struggle to become stronger and create a sense of selfworth for himself is very compelling to watch play out especially considering the length that the series has to develop and resolve it. Not only that but the progression of his character arc of coming into his own and becoming a more confident person is handled very nicely. Generally speaking most of Air Gears characters go through something similar to either Ikki or Kazu and even if they dont have a full arc they at least grow a bit. This holds especially true for most of the members of Ikkis team and some supporting characters. What development they get is simple and to the point and considering how off the rails the story ended up going its quite shocking that the series accomplished doing at least that right. Although in the grand scheme of things most of the characters in the series range from interesting to rather cookie cutter. Fortunately most of them still manage to be likable and entertaining and at the end of the day thats all that was both expected and needed from a series like this. Art: 7/10 One thing I must give praise to is the art. Its amazing or its style is anyway. The quality and detail of the artwork over time dipped from good to average with some of the fight scenes looking a little blurry at times not to mention clunky with little sense of flow from one action to the next. This ends up hurting the series a lot considering what a fundamental aspect of it the action is. Another aspect that shows a rather poor attention to detail is the backgrounds that often times arent given as much detail as they should. While as the series progresses the art does eventually start to consistently get better it ends up being too little too late. I mean for crying out loud many other mangaka can and have improved by leaps and bounds in far fewer chapters so why not this one? However as stated previously for as many negative things as there are about the art the amount of style and personality that that art radiates more than makes up for them. It just has this incredibly intense street punk vibe to it. Another thing that deserves a thumbs up as far as art goes is the character designs. All the characters with few exceptions in the series look so unique and interesting something which is a true achievement considering the sheer volume of them. Although some of the characters are more titillating than others wink wink nudge nudge. Not surprising considering that Oh Great was originally a hentai artist. And on that note good to see hes still got it. Enjoyment 6/10 Air Gears a series that I found to be very enjoyable. Theres action cool characters fanserive sex jokes romance and comedy. The reason I enjoy the series is just so intrinsic what with it having everything that appeals to me specifically for better or for worse. What really hit me though was all the crazy shit that happens over its course and honesty I just really enjoy it when a series embraces the insanity. I mean its a story where roller staking can give you superpowers to the point where there are scenes in which characters practically summon stands. Its because of those to say the least bizarre elements that I enjoy it as much as I do. Overall 6/10 Air Gear is what Id call a product of its time. The early 2000s were a period full of series that were really out there and so over the top that they couldnt possibly be mistaken as being from any other time period. Its very hard to describe why that is in words but theres just this feeling. I was to try and put my finger on it Id say its because from what Ive seen a noticeable amount of series from that period were really trying to mix it up by taking a bit from everything so far as genres are concerned. In the end that resulted in some interesting series as far as the meta goes for better or for worse. So if I were to recommend Air Gear to someone Id do so with the caveat that theyd have to go in with an open mind thats able to embrace the insanity. If you dont youre going to find it a chore to get through and I feel that the intent of Air Gear was for the reader to simply enjoy the spectacle anyway. But if youre not into series that are kinda out there fucking crazy even then Air Gears sadly not for you. Special thanks to my pain in YuGiOh cards editor Lonecrit.