In 2004, TBS’s producer Nakayama decided to create an adaptation of a popular visual novel to run on TBS’s broadcast satellite channel BS-i. He chose to collaborate with Pony Canyon, Movic, and a studio which had aired its first TV animation production the year prior, Kyoto Animation. The adaptation of the novel began in January 2005 and ran until March 2005 with DVDs releasing throughout 2005 including a bonus OVA disc containing two special episodes in October 2005. In early 2006, TBS and Pony Canyon began promoting it as one of the first anime Blu-ray releases before delays pushed it back to a December 2006 release time. This is a review of that Blu-ray Box for the series AIR.
I’ve recently commented on the series itself, so I’ll link that post here for my thoughts on AIR the series and devote this to a review of the Blu-ray Box itself. AIR was one of TBS’s first Blu-ray releases, and so they chose to package it in a 4 disc stack case on a digipak inserted into a carrier box. With AIR obviously focusing on the skies, the producers went with a sky-blue theme for both the outer case and the newly drawn illustration from anime character designer Tomoe Aratani on the digipak. The inside has new illustrations for each of the 3 main “heroines” and the main female lead from “Summer” on the discs and left digipak side. Other characters not on the discs are on the right side of the digipak. The cases are arranged flimsily with the size being much smaller than the digipak and allowing it to move around. My digipak also likes to creak when it’s being opened more than 90 degrees.
There are 4 discs for this box, three discs containing the 14 feature episodes and a bonus disc containing the special features. Discs 1 & 2 have 5 episodes each while disc 3 has 4.
The image quality is one of the first things that would be noticed. The upscaling process for AIR took the image and did a blanket upscale on the video causing the line art to become jagged. Contrastingly, this did not affect the backgrounds or the color of the images. When I viewed the episodes from a decent distance away, I could not see the jaggies on the line art. As this was new technology, Pony Canyon encoded the video using the MPEG-2 codec commonly used on DVDs, which meant episodes took up more space than they had to. They also encoded the episodes at 1080i at 30 fps. Most animation is performed at 24 fps, but the use of 30 fps helped the CGI look good for most scenes. There’s some moments where the camera pans with the backgrounds moving much faster than the characters are moving, which creates a huge contrast. I’d love for TBS and Pony to re-visit this and do another pass with newer upscale technology from Sony PCL, but that’s unlikely to happen. It is what it is and I got to a point where it didn’t bother me.
TBS hired Ted Jensen to re-master the audio into 5.1 surround sound, which was provided in both lossless Linear PCM and lossy Dolby Digital formats. The audio is quite nice with the 5.1 surround providing a good experience for the opening song “Tora no Uta.” Excluding that, it’s not used to huge effect. Two stereo tracks, also in Linear PCM and Dolby Digital, are also included.
The bonus disc contains three bonus features. The first is an illustration gallery of promotional art in magazines and key visuals for the show. Unlike later galleries on Kanon and Clannad, illustrations for the DVD covers were not included. The second bonus feature is a newly created long (3 minutes) opening animation for the show featuring scenes from the novel that were not animated in the adaptation. It’s provided in two forms, one with the three heroines silhouettes effects added and one without. Finally, the main feature from the “Memories” DVD, a 2 hour long cast interview session, is provided. The audio commentary tracks, textless opening and ending, promotional clips, staff appearances on shows, and the recap episode (along with special openings/endings) are not kept from the DVDs. It’s quite bare. Japanese subtitles are provided for everything though.
And so that is the AIR BD-Box. It’s a relic of its time for BD production, so it doesn’t compare to newer releases/upscales, but it’s what the technology was at that time. The show itself is a mixed bag, but I enjoyed my re-viewing of it. TBS’s Key policy of not including extras really bugs me as there’s a lot I wish I could see, but at least I only have to find 2 DVDs rather than an entire set. I honestly can’t say this set is worth it in 2015 unless you’re a huge fan of the show (in which case you likely bought it sometime in the past 9 years). I’d say pass for most people.