It’s kinda hard to make an opinion when there are two versions of the same anime. Air, originally from a bishoujo game by Key, was to be made into two separate anime. One is a TV series, and the other is a movie. They have the same storyline to render, which is from the game. The TV version did a very straightforward approach, following the events of the game rather faithfully. This movie version took a different step, and in my opinion, it is a step that may have alienated the fans of the game.
Since a movie can only have extremely limited playtime as opposed to a television series, I guess the producers of the movie have some big problems to contend with. First and foremost, how can you compress an entire visual novel game into less than two hours of movie playtime? A daunting task. As a result, many stories were not told. Characters were also not used. Another problem, cutting corners will make the whole thing less cohesive, meaning that the material may not be as strong as it were before. So I think many themes were changed as well.
Specifically, secondary characters like Kano, Minagi and Michiru were not used, and were only seen in cameos. The story deviated a bit from their original source material, in terms of focusing more on the relationship of Yukito and Misuzu, rather than the mother-child theme of Misuzu and Haruko. This love relationship is mirrored by the ancient tale of Ryuuya and Kanna. The result is a movie that delivers a parallelism of the present events to past events. On that note, I think it did well overall.
However, the little things did annoy me a lot in this movie. First of all, it tries to be funny when it’s not supposed to be. I’m quite surprised everytime SD (superdeformed) style animation appears out of the blue. This takes away the general feel of the movie. It is supposed to be a mix of drama and comedy, but I didn’t think they did mix it well. Even near the climax, where it was supposed to be serious, they showed a short comedic scene… why?
Another gripe is the random animation styles. They tried to make this similar to an art film. Radical cinematography, watercolor painted scenes, random fading, multiple camera angles, and a whole lot of other effects which I may have missed. Frankly, they are there to annoy rather than to complement the contents of the movie.
Despite my annoyances, the movie is rather good overall. Animation is excellent in average. The backgrounds are drawn with artistic value. The music are remixed versions of the great Air soundtrack. And the voice actors delivered nice performances. The flow of the story, taking away the comedic parts that don’t fit, is endearing, mostly because the parallelism of the present and past stories blend well.
Maybe I’m disappointed with this movie because of the excellence that the TV series has brought to us. So I think we have to give credit to the producers of the movie who tried their best despite having the odds against them. I don’t know about making anime, but to make it basic, how do you fit a novel into a movie anyway? Even movie critics and fans complain when some novel is being made into a movie.