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Japanese DVD cover of Air Master volume 1
|Genre||Action, Comedy, Martial Arts|
|Written by||Yokusaru Shibata|
|Original run||1997 – 2006|
|Anime television series|
|Directed by||Daisuke Nishio|
|Produced by||Atsushi Kido|
|Written by||Michiko Yokote|
|Music by||Yoshihisa Hirano|
|Original network||Nippon Television|
|Original run||April 1, 2003 – September 30, 2003|
Air Master (エアマスター Ea Masutā) is a seinen manga written and illustrated by Yokusaru Shibata. The story focuses on Maki Aikawa, an ex-gymnast turned street fighter. The manga was serialized in the Hakusensha magazine Young Animal from 1997 to 2006 and has been collected into 28 tankōbon (bound volumes).
A 27-episode anime adaptation was produced by Toei Animation and originally aired on Japan's Nippon Television from April 1 to September 23, 2003. The anime was licensed in North America through a partnership between Toei and Geneon USA. However, only a few episodes of the series were released in the region before the cancellation of the deal, which was due to the poor quality and large number of DVD returns to Geneon.
Behind the scenes of the hustle and bustle of everyday life in Tokyo, there exist many people who strive to become stronger by competing against each other in street fights. The main protagonist is Maki Aikawa, a 16-year-old high school student. A former gymnast, Maki adapts her skills to a different way of life — street fighting. The only thing that truly makes her feel alive is the rush and pressure experienced while fighting. With amazing power and grace, she fights opponent after opponent, repeatedly demonstrating the gymnastic talent that earns her her street name, "Airmaster". Eventually, Maki is exposed to a fighting league of sorts, known as the Fukamichi Rankings.
The Fukamichi Rankings consist of the world's greatest street fighters and martial artists. The Fukamichi Ranking fights are held for various reasons. Firstly, many fighters wish to test themselves, achieving the highest rank possible and stretching themselves to their physical limits. However, there is also a corporate side to the Fukamichi rankings, with many viewers around the world eager to watch the brutal yet awe-inspiring showdowns. Each Fukamichi ranker is paid a respective amount for winning within their fight. Maki, seeking to quench her thirst for that pressure or buzz she experiences only through fighting and to find her place within this world, scales the Fukamichi Rankings, clashing with the world's greatest fighting prodigies.
- Maki Aikawa (相川 摩季 Aikawa Maki) Formerly a gymnast who trained under her now-deceased mother, Maki uses her acrobatic skill in her fighting style to increase freedom of movement. Her attacks combine vertiginous leaps and somersaults with the fearsome, furious power of her kicks and throws. Maki has the ability to replicate most nearly any move she gets hit with or sees, and when in combat possesses an awe-inspiring resilience, presence, and strength of will. Since her relationship with her father is conflicted, she lives alone. Maki seems to enjoy street fighting for the 'rush' rather than any sense of revenge or honor. When not fighting, Maki tends to stick out in a crowd due to her unusual height (6 feet, which is very tall for a Japanese girl) and appearance, preferring to follow her quartet of friends quietly. Her younger sister comments that Maki is somewhat simpleminded. Maki is reluctant to deal with several people obsessed with her. She becomes vulnerable to attack, for a moment, when she gets approached in any romantic way, especially with Julietta Sakamoto. Her signature moves are the "Air Spin Driver" and later, the " Air Cutter"; she is later shown to master the art of Air Flow. Maki is voiced by Romi Paku.
- Yuu Takigawa (滝川 ユウ Takigawa Yū) Yuu is a friend of Maki and shares some of the same interest as Renge. She is a fan of the singer Uzumi Mika. She is taking karate lessons and also has a crush on Shinnosuke, and sometimes she fights with Michiru about Shinnosuke. Yuu is voiced by Mariko Suzuki.
- Michiru Kawamoto (川本 みちる Kawamoto Michiru) Michiru is a friend of Maki. She also has a crush on Shinnosuke, but becomes upset when he admits his love for Maki. She is a fan of the model Nono Rakuko. Yuu and Michiru make a great duo and are seldom seen apart. Michiru is voiced by Masumi Asano.
- Mina Nakanotani (中ノ谷 美奈 Nakanotani Mina) One of Maki's shier friends, she goes to a presumably rich, private school. Mina has ridiculously exaggerated breasts used normally as a source of humor rather than fan-service, and she is extremely self-conscious about it. Thanks to her large breasts, she is extremely popular with many males characters in the series. In addition to this, Mina is hopelessly in love with Maki but she constantly denies this because her friends take it out of context. (who is not sure how to handle the matter), making this the main reason her friends make fun of her. Mina is voiced by Yukana.
- Renge Inui (乾 蓮華 Inui Renge) The group's extremely short friend. Renge has a penchant for eating obsessively, yet she is always thin (sometimes when she eats a lot, she is shown to have a belly). Renge is the stereotypical overexcited kid with a tendency to whine, but she serves as a cheering squad. She later acquires a kitten that she carries with her most of the time. She also has "psychic" powers. Her character was not well received by fans because of her annoying voice. Renge is voiced by Tomoko Kaneda.
- Shiro Saeki (佐伯 四郎 Saeki Shiro) Maki's estranged father. Maki was born when he was 15, which would make him around 31 years old. He's a four-time pro-fighting champion. He runs a dojo and raises Maki's half-sister, Miori. He gets beaten by Sakamoto, but they become friends later on. Shiro is voiced by Toshio Furukawa.
- Miori Saeki (佐伯 みおり Saeki Miori) Maki's somewhat bratty younger half-sister. Her martial-artist father is the same as Maki's, so she shares some of her older sister's fighting ability, but none of her gravity-defying gymnastic skill, which Maki evidently got from her mother. In her first appearance, she suddenly attacks Maki. She is about the same height as Renge, though she is younger. She decides to move in with Maki. She later idolizes Sanpagita Kai. Miori is voiced by Yukiko Hirotsu.
- Kaori Sakiyama (崎山 香織 Sakiyama Kaori) A wanna-be future model (later a female wrestler) with an obsessive one-sided rivalry with Maki. She later becomes a moderately good fighter, and accomplishes things by sheer force of will and determination. She is loud and over-dramatic, and during extended fights is essentially a Berserker powered by her own rage, and she will not admit defeat unless violently knocked out. A running gag in the show is how most characters refer to her by her full name in a dramatic fashion, probably due to her tendency to do the same. When enraged, her appearance has been compared to the Devilman. Due to a childhood "accident" (really an assault by a high school rival), she is deaf in her right ear. Kaori is voiced by Mika Doi.
- Julietta Sakamoto (坂本 ジュリエッタ Sakamoto Jurietta) A scruffy but handsome ghost writer who becomes obsessed with Maki, while the latter is totally uninterested in him and finds his behavior very creepy. He is a smooth talker but prone to overly aggressive declarations of love, sometimes bordering on assault, towards Maki, who he calls "My Jenny" after a woman whose picture he was obsessed with as a child. He tends to always kiss her and declare his love for her when they're together, even during their fights, throwing her off balance. This is usually done for comedic effect. He has three women who are head over heels for him: Uzumi Mika (a famous singer), Nono Rakuko (a famous model), and Nanjou Remon (a famous novelist). He ignores them all since he's fixed on marrying Maki and making her move in with him. Maki is physically capable of beating him down in his insane-like "distracted" state of mind ; however, she did have a hard time with him at first. He can take a huge beating and still be able to fight. In a fight with another opponent he once had both his legs and one of his arms broken but he was still able to fight. Sakamoto usually only fights with extremely fast and devastating kicks. He usually leaves his hands in his pockets while fighting even though he has a powerful punch. It's said his strength is legendary on the street. He becomes rank seven in the Fukamichi Rankings after defeating Nobuhiko Fukamichi in a single kick. Julietta is voiced by Kenyu Horiuchi.
- Kinjiro Kitaeda (北枝 金次郎 Kitaeda Kinjirō) Leader of the League of Black-suited Gentlemen. He claims to hate women yet he likes Maki because he thinks she's different. He's a good fighter and has great punching power. He once took down a bear with one punch. He has a technique where he can create an afterimage of himself attacking so the opponent will be fooled into acting prematurely. He had his first kiss stolen by one of his male subordinates, Nagato the Long Fist, while Nagato was fighting Fukamichi. Kinjiro is ranked ninth within the Fukamichi rankings. Kinjiro is voiced by Kentaro Ito.
- Kai Sanpagita (サンパギータ・カイ Sanpagīta Kai) Though she is not initially involved in the street-fighting tournament Maki joins, Sampaguita Kai was one of her most difficult opponents. Using a similar fighting style to Maki, Kai faces her in a tag-team match during a women's wrestling tournament. She becomes obsessed, like a number of Maki's earlier opponents, with beating Maki. She's the younger sister of Lucha Master, who taught her how to fight ever since she was young. Kai gained the ninth rank within the Fukamichi Rankings after beating Shun Yashiki, however she is narrowly defeated by Kinjiro Kitaeda, which leaves her ranked ten. Kai's signature moves are the "Izakaya Bomber" and the "Ultimate Sky Screwbomb", the first involves a clothesline takedown and the other is a brainbuster into a spinning sitout powerbomb; she learns the former from her former mentor/wrestling partner Hayase Mio and the latter is of her own creation. Kai is voiced by Michie Ishizuka.
- Shinnosuke Tokita (時田 伸之助 Tokita Shinnosuke) A guy who challenges Maki early on, but later temporarily joins the group. He seems to have a crush on Maki. He fights with a long staff that can separate into three parts connected with a chain, he has been training with since age of five, he later gets into a fight with Reiichi and getting the upperhand on him until Tsukio saves Reiichi but Tsukio overwhelms him with his Jack Hammer punch. He seems to know kungfu but his style was not specified in the anime. Voiced by Tomokazu Seki.
- Lucha Master (ルチャマスター Rucha Masutā?) Lucha Master is, as the name implies, a masterful wrestler, styled after Mexican Luchadores. He always wears a mask, and he is the first major challenge Maki faces. He is one of only three characters who can use a similar sort of aerial combat to Maki. He is the older brother of Sanpaguita Kai, another character with a similar fighting style. Lucha Master is ranked twenty-first within the Fukamichi Rankings. Lucha Master is voiced by Unshō Ishizuka.
- Tsukio Taketsugu (武 月雄 Taketsugu Tsukio?) Another early opponent. He is a construction worker who has a furious punch similar to a jackhammer, but is not as fast as some of the other street fighters. Maki often overlooks him, especially since, after his first appearance, Lucha Master quickly showed up, and this makes him furious. Tsukio is ranked twenty-second within the Fukamichi rankings. Tsukio is voiced by Kihachiro Uemura.
- Reiichi Mishima (三島麗一 Mishima Reiichi) A sort of hanger-on to Tsukio Taketsugu, Reiichi is sometimes a coward and a klutz. Though he could only fight well with a bike, using it like it's part of his own body, he's still only a moderately skilled street fighter. He also has a crush on Mina Nakanotani and often fantasizes about being her hero; when faced with the actual necessity of saving her from Kinjiro's mob he fights bravely but is eventually overwhelmed and is forced to yield leadership to stronger fighters. Reiichi is voiced by Daisuke Sakaguchi
- Fukamichi (深道 Fukamichi) The man who runs the street fighting tournament, and who gave his name to the ranking system (Fukamichi Rankings). He decides who is qualified to be in the Tournament rankings. He watches the fights and has videos of them streamed to his laptop, which he then broadcasts all over the world on the internet. He does not participate in the fights, but he's been shown to be extremely strong and fast. He has a younger brother (Nobuhiko Fukamichi), who participates in the competition using weaponized fireworks. He has a hobby of critiquing restaurants and posting the results on the internet. In the final episode, Fukamichi reveals that he created the ranks to gather warriors who could defeat Eternal, the 1st ranked fighter. Voiced by Takehito Koyasu.
- Shun Yashiki (屋敷 俊 Yashiki Shun) Tsukio's younger cousin. Originally 9th place in the Fukamichi Tournament, but after losing his rank to Kai, he decided to beat the 8th place holder. He's a ki manipulator. He has a technique where he uses his ki to create an osmotic punch, which strongly pressures the insides of an opponent's body resulting in a loss of a massive amount of liquid within their body, rendering them incapacitated. Since he uses his ki for this technique, he can only use it a certain amount of times until he rests to build up his ki again. He teaches this technique to Kaori Sakiyama. Voiced by Kazunari Tanaka.
- Yuki Minaguchi (皆口 由紀 Minaguchi Yuki) is ranked number four and has been labeled "The Strongest Woman" in the Fukamichi rankings. Her full fighting style emphasizes on counterattacks as well as cutting and stabbing techniques with her hands. She is the second person to ever beat Maki in a fight. She starts her fight as a calm and collected individual, though Maki sees through her and knows that she likes to fight. It is implied that she was killed during her fight with Eternal, as she was probably paralyzed by him slamming her into the ground and was thus incapable of escaping the building collapsing from the sheer force of Maki and Eternal's final attacks.
- Yoshinori Konishi (小西 良徳 Konishi Yoshinori) The 3rd place holder in the Fukamichi Rankings. Konishi believes he has attained perfection and specializes in grappling and submission techniques. He is shown to easily beat Shiro Saeki who is also proficient in submission techniques, and fight on par with and eventually defeat Sakamoto Julietta. Voiced by Katsuyuki Konishi
- Eternal (Eterunaru) The 1st place holder in the Fukamichi ranking, he seems to be one of many "Eternals" throughout time and is followed by an enigmatic female medium capable of contacting them. Eternal is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, fighters in the world, capable of leveling an entire building in one punch. He is defeated only by the combined efforts of Aikawa Maki and Minaguchi Yuki, both of whom he decimated in a one-on-one fight. He disappears after the building he and Maki fought in collapses, implying he was either killed by the collapse or left the building before Maki woke up.
Air Master was serialized in the Hakusensha magazine Young Animal from 1997 to 2006. The individual chapters have been collected into 28 tankōbon, which were published between July 29, 1997, to May 29, 2006.
An anime adaptation of Air Master was produced by Toei Animation, directed by Daisuke Nishio, and originally aired on Japan's Nippon Television from April 1 to September 23, 2003. The episodes were compiled onto nine separate DVDs, which were released in Japan by VAP between July 24, 2003, and March 24, 2004. Each DVD contains three episodes and a bonus yonkoma by manga author Yokusaru Shibata.
Geneon Universal Entertainment had signed an agreement with Toei to license an English-dubbed version of the anime in the United States and Canada. It was also announced that the series would air on the Canadian cable channel Razer, though it never earned a timeslot and was cancelled before broadcast. Ultimately only three DVDs of Air Master were released in North America, with the fourth and fifth being solicited but cancelled due to an abrupt termination of partnership between the two companies. Region 1 DVDs for the anime, along with two other Toei titles, received very little advertising and suffered from poor quality, resulting in dismal sales and a large number of returns to Geneon. In 2009, Funimation gained the rights to Air Master and began streaming it on the company's official website. The anime was also streamed on Joost.
|No.||Title||Original air date|
|1||"Fly! Air Master"
"飛べ! エアマスター" (Tobe! Eamasutā)
|April 1, 2003|
|2||"Howl! Kaori Sakiyama"
"吠えろ! 崎山香織!!" (Hoero! Sakiyama Kaori!!)
|April 8, 2003|
|3||"Challenge! Shinnosuke Tokita"
"挑め! 時田伸之助" (Nozome! Tokita Shinnosuke)
|April 15, 2003|
|4||"Stand Up! Tsukio and Reiichi"
"目立て! 月雄と麗一" (Medate! Tsukio to Reiichi)
|April 22, 2003|
|5||"Call Out! Julietta Sakamoto"
"唱え! 坂本ジュリエッタ" (Tonae! Sakamoto Jurietta)
|April 29, 2003|
|6||"Fly With It! Maki"
"ノってけ! 摩季" (Notteke! Maki)
|May 6, 2003|
|7||"You're Never Gonna Say That Again!"
"二度と言わせるな!" (Nidoto Iwa Seru Na!)
|May 13, 2003|
|8||"Yodle! Mina Nakanotani"
"轟け! 中ノ谷美奈" (Todoroke! Nakanotani Mina)
|May 20, 2003|
|9||"Go! Black Union Of Righteousness And Sincerity"
"進め! 黒正義誠意連合" (Susume! Kuro Seigi Seii Rengō)
|May 27, 2003|
|10||"Burn! Kinjiro Kitaeda"
"燃えろ! 北枝金次郎" (Moero! Hokushi Kinjirō)
|June 3, 2003|
|11||"Overwhelm! Maki vs. Kinjiro"
"たたみこめ! 摩季対金次郎" (Tatamikome! Maki tai Kinjirō)
|June 10, 2003|
"名のれ! ファミレスラーズ" (Na Nore! Famiresurāzu)
|June 17, 2003|
|13||"Shine! Sky Star"
"輝け! スカイスター" (Kagayake! Sukaisutā)
|June 24, 2003|
|14||"Pierce Through! Kai and Maki"
"突きぬけろ! カイと摩季" (Tsukinukero! Kai to Maki)
|July 1, 2003|
|15||"Conquest! Roach Queen!"
"征服せよ! 女帝ゴキ" (Seifuku Seyo! Nyotei goki)
|July 8, 2003|
|16||"Fight! Fukamichi Ranking"
"戦え! 深道ランキング" (Tatakae! Fukamichi Rankingu)
|July 15, 2003|
|17||"Gather! Street Fighters"
"集え! ストリートファイターズ" (Tsudoe! Sutorītofaitāzu)
|July 22, 2003|
|18||"Costume Play! Shigeo Komada"
"コスプれ! 駒田シゲオ" (Kosupure! Komada Shigeo)
|July 29, 2003|
|19||"Endure! Kouji Ogata"
"忍べ! 尾形小路" (Shinobe! Ogata Kouji)
|August 5, 2003|
|20||"Collide! Kai and Kinjiro"
"ぶつかれ! カイ対金次郎" (Butsukare! Kai tai Kinjirō)
|August 12, 2003|
|21||"Make Him Talk! Fukamichi's Younger Brother"
"しゃべらせろ! 深道（弟）" (Shabera Sero! Fukamichi Otōto)
|August 19, 2003|
|22||"Shoot It Up! The Flame Ranker"
"打ち上げろ! 炎のランカー" (Uchiagero! Honō no Rankā)
|August 26, 2003|
|23||"Rip It Up! Yuki Minaguchi"
"切り裂け! 皆口由紀" (Kirisake! Minaguchi Yuki)
|September 2, 2003|
"焼け! 肉" (Yake! Niku)
|September 9, 2003|
|25||"Break! Konishi vs. Julietta"
"壊せ! 小西対ジュリエッタ" (Kowase! Konishi tai Jurietta)
|September 16, 2003|
|26||"Feel It! The Struggling Wind"
"感じろ! 闘いの風" (Kanjiro! Tatakai no Kaze)
|September 23, 2003|
|27||"Fly! Maki Aikawa"
"飛べ! 相川摩季" (Tobe! Aikawa Maki)
|September 30, 2003|
- Hakusensha staff. エアマスター 1 [Air Master 1] (in Japanese). Hakusensha. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
- Hakusensha staff. エアマスター 28 [Air Master 28] (in Japanese). Hakusensha. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
- VAP staff. "Goods" (in Japanese). VAP. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
- ANN staff (June 10, 2005). "Air Master on Canadian TV". Anime News Network. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
- ANN staff (September 18, 2006). "Toei DVDs Cancelled". Anime News Network. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
- Bertschy, Zac (January 11, 2006). "Industry - 2005 Year in Review". Anime News Network. Retrieved September 24, 2013.
- ANN staff (May 16, 2009). "Afro Samurai Sequel Sold in PS Store & Air Master Streamed Online". Anime News Network. Retrieved September 25, 2013.
- ANN staff (March 15, 2010). "Joost to Remove Last of Its Anime on March 25". Anime News Network. Retrieved September 27, 2013.