I am fond of the Air Movie. It rises above the limitations of the source material in a way that the TV series does not. At the same time, it achieves a status as a family friendly film. It chronicles the story of a young man who is still following his mothers mission: to find the “girl in the sky”. He soon finds a maiden at a small coastal town, and the story continues from there. As the relationship deepens, he soon finds himself close to completing his mission and saving her. The production values were excellent, and there were many good artistic decisions made when creating the film. Watercolor artwork and drawings based on traditional Japanese illustrations were used in scenes illustrating the origins of this 1000 year old quest to save a girls soul. The director successfully fused the separate elements together to create something quite arguably better than the source material.
The Air movie and the Air TV series are both based on the original Visual Novel, a work that may be good in many respects, but that I only know through the TV series. Air TV is certainly a watchable series, and is a good in many respects but it suffers from one issue: the large amount of fan pandering that remains within it. It has a certain tendency of reducing the series to the level of a guilty pleasure. Cute animals who make funny noises, a little girl who say “indirect kissing is gross” when the protagonist share his drink with her, etc. Things that the intended audience will squeal in delight over are needlessly shoehorned in. The Air movie avoids these things, and focuses on the central plot. As a result it excludes the other girls besides the heroine, Misuzu, but that helps it to become more focused.
The movie has been criticized for overemphasizing the relationship between Yukito and Misuzu to the neglect of Misuzu’s relationship with her mother. This may be a fair criticism, but to me it is more than made up for by the attention and respect for the larger theme: the tragic nature of the world. Misuzu suffers for something that was no crime, and at the end of the film it is implied that she will continue to suffer, perhaps for eternity. The theme of tragedy is for me the most important aspect, and the film certainly retains and emphasizes that. Time limitations are it’s only real fault, and that leads to a natural emphasis on the two main characters, Misuzu and Yukito.
I would recommend the Air movie. It is a film that both animation aficionados and mainstream audiences of all ages will respect and enjoy.