Twelve Moments in Anime 2007 - #1: AIR 12

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The "12 Days of Christmas" series is a joint feature by some members of the Anime Blogging Collective recognizing twelve moments, twelve series, or just twelve things about anime that we've enjoyed over the past year, that really make us enjoy loving what we do, and that is being an anime fan. Feel free to join in the list-making fun too if you wish. We hope you enjoy this feature.

It's been one heck of a year of anime watching; especially for my first real year of true fandom.

There were the funny moments, the head-chopping ad infinitum, the gung-ho bread ladies.

There were the dramatic moments, the silence against a sky background, the stunning developments at the school festival, the climatic battle in school at night.

There were the sweet moments, the happy ending for a magical girl and her lover.

There were the touching moments, the feelings of a cat-eared maid, the romantic epiphanies of a god princess.

There were the stunning moments, the battle between two data entities, the revelations of a spurned lover on her hospital bed, the story of the girl in the cage.

But there were two emotions I can say that I never really felt this year in regards to anime.

The first would be a sense of wasted time. Yes, it would be too optomistic, even for me, to say that all the anime this year were equally great. Clearly there were some that stood above the others, and for those shows to do that, they had to be standing on the shoulders of the lesser.

But the worst it ever got in a show was not anger, but merely dissapointment. Dissapointment that a show didn't live up to its full potential. Every show had a moment, had a scene, had a fleeting period where it, too, was a great. Where it was at its finest. It was longer for some shows than others, yes, but when picking out one moment for each show, I had no trouble at least picking one spot where I can genuinely say I smiled or laughed.

The other emotion would be true sadness, and that's something, in my near-masochistic manner, that distresses me a bit more. I've watched many a sad show, seen many a tearful moment, in this year.

Yet most of the time, it only warranted a deep sigh. Perhaps a melancholy introspective, an uncomfortable glance away from the screen, maybe watery eyes like I had just yawned.

In thirty-plus anime this year, I cried once.

AIR 12.

12 Moments of Anime 2007
#1 AIR - 12

By whether I cried Manly Tears or not for a show seems a strange measure of its worth.

Certainly there are better things to judge an anime by; an anime that can get me enraptured or enraged can be every bit as good, since either way it's just toying with one emotion or another.

And AIR has a bit of an unfair advantage, in that being the first truly serious anime I watched, it caught me off-guard in comparison. Like what was said yesterday by Mike at Anime Diet, the first time is always the strongest.

Not to mention, AIR wasn't exactly the strongest of the 'sad girls in X' genre. Crammed into just 12 episodes, the storyline was cut pretty hard, with girls getting fed through the revolving door at mach speed, and the summer arc condensed to just two episodes (not counting the OVAs).

The final arc, Misuzu's, wasn't one to catch people off guard either. It was choreographed pretty well in advance. And it was pretty dramatized too - the rivers that Haruko unleashed post-moment were almost of hilarious proportion.

So, why AIR? Why AIR 12?

Simply because, it was the first, the beginning of everything in so many ways, and the power of sentimental memories still trumps all.

As mentioned, it was the first anime with true, emotional plot that I saw, prior viewing being TokiMemo, DNAngel, and Cardcaptor Sakura.

There had been plenty for the show to build off of itself; Kano's arc may have been a sort of soft intro, but Minagi and Michiru's story hammered home hard. I have no real reason to relate to it, but the goodbye season was a powerful moment just the same. Having an important character dissapear like this, For Good, was something surprising, and the storyline played it perfectly to hit every sad cue in the book.

The summer arc was much the same - a mix of both humor and emotion. The happy times that Ryuuya, Uraha, and Kanna shared weren't meant to last for long, as we experienced the loss of Kanna's mother, and the eventual separation of Kanna from everyone she loved. The futile, repetitive struggle of her story, as we returned to the present, was one that touched the heartstrings, for the only thing worse than a sad story is one with (seemingly) no way out.

And then came Misuzu.

Anyone with a bit of common sense would figure that her number was up. That she was destined to be sacrificed, in a sense, for the greater good. But, as a greenhorn to anime, it seemed impossible to 'kill off' the two main characters of a show at the end, no matter what the outcome.

And so I held on to that faint thought, that slight chance that Misuzu might pull a deux ex - any deux ex - and pull through, even as the writing on the wall became more and more apparent.

Then came that final walk.

It's probably my fault that I ended up in Haruko's shoes at the end. That I believed, up until the end, that she would be able to spend the rest of her days with Misuzu. That I got stuck in that state between belief and disbelief, between dreams and reality.

And there was Aozora. Oh my God, Aozora.

Like yesterday, it's proof that music transcends all. Aozora is a powerful song like no other. Maybe that's the fault of it being linked with this scene. Maybe it's the song; the trance-inducingly slow, slightly mournful, yet still hopeful lyrics, the piano backing.

But it's a spellbinding song. It will wreck thought trains. If you stop thinking, it will enrapture you. I listened to the song to research again while writing this post.

I got 40 seconds before nearly getting overcome.

Above all, the one thing that really gets to me about this moment is that, like all 'sad' moments, it's not a truly depressing one. It's meant to be one that's bittersweet, one that mixes elatement and sorrow.

It's not just that Misuzu dies, it's that she's freed from her worldly bonds, it's that Kanna's curse is broken. It's that despite her illness, her death, she was truly happy.

It's tear-inducing simply because it's something that's incomprehensible by narrow-minded humans like me. It's something that I can't understand, how Misuzu in the end, enjoyed her life and passed on smiling. I can't understand how Haruko can accept it, how Yukito sacrificed himself to further his search for the girl in the sky.

It's something beyond the span of a single human life, a single mind. I know it's not sad, but that's why it's sad. I cried the tears not just for the sad ending but for the happy ending, that feeling that, despite it all, it's all right.

Maybe this moment blew by those who can watch their anime a little more detached. If you look at it objectively, it's overblown, overdramatic, and unrealistic.

But as one who lives with the show, who connects with characters, who wants to feel the joy, the tension, the emotion, AIR 12 will always stand above all other.

Maybe there have been equally emotional moments since then - Kanon and Clannad are what they are, Da Capo's Yoriko came close, even Shuffle! and sola might be considered - but my first encounter with truly powerful emotion induced from anime came here, and it's been something that still hasn't been matched.

It's been a ride through these twelve days and this year, but these emotions, with the sadness, the anger, and the happiness combined, are something that I don't regret a minute of feeling. I can only hope that my passion for anime is not a fleeting one, and that I get to experience this sort of connection again for many years to come.

(It still doesn't explain why I am a bit of a cynic; Makoto and Fuuko's arcs make me feel like a heartless bastard in comparison to Misuzu.)

~Merry Christmas, everyone, it continues tommorow~


To my readers: Thanks for all the comments on the 12 Days posts so far - I haven't been able to respond to a lot of them yet, but I plan to once all the real-world holiday business is taken care of.

Thanks for reading, and happy holidays to all of you. ^^

While I can't claim to be a big AIR fan, nevertheless well done with this 12 Days feature, and thanks for inspiring the rest of us with your idea! It looks like it was a ton of fun all around; a good way to celebrate the holidays by reminiscing.

And Merry Christmas! :D

Goal. :(

Yay, it's finally over. The 12 days had been slightly hectic, but fun nonetheless.

Somehow after reading your post, I feel a strong urge to go out and look for AIR. In fact, I think I'll do it right now :D

Merry Christmas!

Belated Christmas wishes to everyone again. ^^

Orion: Anytime, I'm glad to have seen so many enthusiastic efforts around the community as well.

To be honest, it was really hard to start all these posts (you'll note that I try to sound all deep and stuff), but once I got into the crazed fanboy raving, it was all good.

nekonron: From your blog, it sounds like you liked Clannad. That's probably give you the green light for liking AIR as well, considering they're by the same people.

AIR doesn't have as much comedy, and it could probably be considered the weakest of the Key trio, but that's due more to its length than anything else. It's a solid watch, and has some really killer emotional moments.

I myself prefer AIR above Kanon/Clannad, just because there is less humor. The focus is on drama and that is one thing it does good. I'm a dramaslut, I watch humor like an addict, but Kanon and Clannad so far don't grab to me as a whole, as it was meant to be, as I hear others talk about it. For me, humor and drama don't mix. Keep them apart, and I'll love 'em till death.

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