A Hidden Gem: Air Gear

Ever played the criminally underrated original Xbox title known as Jet Set Radio? Ever wondered what it would look like as an anime? Then here’s your solution, Air Gear.

Story: In the world of Air Gear, society is overrun with an extremely popular trend called “Air Trecks” (ATs for short), motorized inline skates worn by “Storm Riders”. The show’s main protagonist Ikki Minami, a highly conceited, yet determined teenager with his heart in the right place and leader of a local street gang called “East Side Gunz”, is dead set on becoming the best Storm Rider in Japan and rise to the top of the Trophaeum, the hierarchy and pinnacle tower of glory that only the A-list supreme of Storm Riders can hope to reach. Ikki, at first, disregards ATs, showing no sign of care for them whatsoever, but after a quick one-sided fight with a Storm Rider gang known as the “Skull Saders” beat him up, he discovers room filled with old pairs of AT skates and emblem stickers with the words “Sleeping Forest” written on it, revealing that his sisters are a retired Storm Rider team. Ikki decides to take one of the pairs of ATs for a test run and quickly becomes infatuated with the skates already showing an adequate amount of talent from just one test drive alone. During a Storm Rider meeting, Ikki challenges the Skull Saders to an AT race. Betting his adoptive sister’s emblem, which is a Storm Riders’ determinate for whether that team will remain one or disband as a result of winning or losing a AT battle, Ikki begins his first battle struggling to keep up, but his pride and determination to achieve victory allows him to keep racing and it’s not until the near the end of the race where he is introduced to the “Wing Road”, which is the best way I can describe it as the characteristic style and manifestation of his ride with ATs. After his first battle, Ikki sets out to create a Storm Rider team with his two life-long friends Kazuo Mikura and Onigiri and from there on, Ikki’s journey to become the greatest AT rider truly begins.

Why it’s a good anime: I am far from a sports anime fan as they come, but that’s how good Air Gear is. The animation gets intense and very detailed during both the funny moments and the battle scenes, especially during the battles scenes because that’s where the anime really shines. A while I’m on the topic of the battles, they really caught my eyes and had me craving for more. The level of animations and detailing made it look top notch for its time. The characters of the show and the personality development they go through is what really kept me coming back. Ikki, Kazuo, and Akito/Agito are three of my favorites, without spoiling too much, each of them go through big character developments that in my opinion, increases the show’s value. Akito/Agito especially, from my point of view, had the best and biggest development. Reason why? You’ll have to watch for yourself.

If the animation isn’t a good enough reason to keep you watching Air Gear, then the show’s soundtrack would like to have a word with your ears. The soundtrack is neck and neck with the animation in terms of quality. The opening theme song “Chain” performed by Back-On is not only just the intro, but it’s included in many of the episodes as different unforgettable remixes to add more euphoric effect to the show, but to bless your ears even further, most of the show’s music includes tracks composed by legendary video game music composer Hideki Naganuma, a.k.a. Skankfunk, who is most commonly known for creating dope tracks for SEGA titles such as: Jet Set Radio, Jet Set Radio Future, Ollie King, Sonic, etc.

Overall: Air Gear is a very well made anime with that deserves more respect than it originally received. Unfortunately, there is only 1 season with 25 episodes and 2 OVAs, and as sad as it is that there are no current plans for a second season, Air Gear as it is, is just fine with me. This anime is a one that defines early 2000s anime with a good story, animation, and catchy soundtrack. It’s certainly an anime that appeals to both fans of sports and shonen fans, some of which who don’t even for sports type anime at all, (Those specific fans being me). So my final verdict is a solid A. Do yourself a good service and don’t sleep on this anime, it’s a great experience with some good re-watch value. The animation and soundtrack is very enticing and characters are very memorable. I can safely say that Air Gear is a beautiful hidden gem. A solid 7/10.