Well, that was unexpected. For one thing, they've totally recombined and messed up the storyline. Not that it's necessarily a bad thing, but I certainly never saw it coming.
The first episode was all over the place:
- Scull Saders storyline was moved from place to place (some of it is actually done in flashback)
- Introduction of the sisters, Ikki and Simca
- Ikki learns that Noyamano sisters do Air Trek, so gets into it himself.
- Ikki gets to a meeting place where stormriders meet
- We get to see... wow... Spitfire (this early on?)... Kaito and Agito (what the hell are they doing here this early in the game?)
- Then it goes straight into the Sleeping Forest and Ikki vs. Scull Saders.
As you can see, the anime doesn't follow the manga to the letter. Even much less so than Tenjou Tenge, which had it's own share of rearrangements. But it actually feels fresh and interesting this way and we get straight into action, instead of just messing around with introductions.
What they did right?
- Air Trek! Animation isn't so good in general, but they did get AT right almost from start to finish. Seeming it animated, even if not great, is still very nice. They didn't put sky high production values in it, but they got the spirit and the idea right.
- The humor. It's unbelievable funny. Even funnier that the original in some respect. The fanservice shots were pure gold.
- Ringo, Mikan and Ume are spot on, especially Ringo, who just shines as the perfect meganekko girl-next-door.
- Ikki is the correct mixture of annoying, stupid, cocky and adorable. Same thing goes for Kazu and Onigiri. Kazu is almost a copy of Oh! great's art. Onigiri is even uglier, which is hard to believe.
- Simca is just perfect. Tanaka Rie just nails that one, from the flirting to the surprise at Ikki's daring. She then leads him on like a baby.
- There was very little of the Wanijima brothers, but it did seem like Agito and Kaito were done right.
- Music is great. It's different stuff, ranging from rap, techno, house, nu-metal, funk, ska, other stuff, but the show is peppered with "cool" tunes. Nothing less to be expected from Avex Mode, I guess. It's very fitting to the whole extreme rollerblading theme of the show.
What's not so good?
- Character design and animation is rather sloppy at several points. It felt like is was subcontracted to some weird douga studio that got some of the stuff right on target, but just doesn't have the skillz to make a polished gem. It just looks sometwhat B-class, even though it's a very nice B-class
- Spitfire. OMFG!!!! Spitfire is supposed to be blond, not a flaming red-head. And when I say "red-head", I mean RED! He just looks hilariously wrong.
- Rika. She looks nothing like her manga counterpart. Not that she is all that bad (there's very little of her), but she doesn't feel like Rika at all. But then again, we aren't going to see the Real Rika for some time, if it goes according to the manga.
Is it worth watching? For the fans of the manga, a resolute yes. For all others? Well, maybe not, but see if you are interested and decide on your own.
It's definitely not a 5-star show, but it's hilarious and it looks like a nice distraction from the "heavy" shows this season.
I used to absolutely hate Air Gear because of how non-sensical and plotless it was, but turned to appreciate that very nature of the manga. It's just a thing to relax, something just to enjoy briefly for the humor and the T&A and then forget it.