My first exposure to AIR was in the 2005 Anime series by Kyoto Animation. I don’t know why, but my memory of watching it was very foggy. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mindset to watch it and fully absorb it after marathoning a bunch of other Key Anime. Maybe the step back in quality compared to Key’s other Anime hindered my enjoyment, or maybe it had something to do with the limited episode count. At any rate, AIR didn’t leave much of an impact on me after my first viewing.
That’s why with the AIR Bookclub, I was very eager to step back and take the time to fully appreciate what the story had to offer, and I wasn’t disappointed. AIR might not be perfect, what with its unusual route structure and disappointing Kano route, but overall I found it to be an amazing experience. Misuzu’s story is one the most well-crafted stories of any Key work, and I can now fully understand why it’s help in such high regard by the Japanese fans. It’s a story about weighing up the pursuit of one’s own happiness against making others happy. It’s a question Yukito is faced with throughout the entire Visual Novel, first presented to him by his mother and later confronted with as he decides what to do with his life in the Dream arc. And it’s a question every rebirth of Kanna is faced with as they decide on whether they should endure isolation in order to keep everyone else safe, or pursue relationships with others despite the pain it will cause. In the true ending, Yukito ultimately dedicates his life to making Misuzu smile, culminating in his final sacrifice at the end of Misuzu’s route. And Misuzu ultimately decides to pursue her own happiness in the time she has left, in order to make the sacrifices everyone has made for her mean something.
Ultimately, I think that’s the biggest message I received from AIR. Throughout all the routes, there are those dedicated to helping others find happiness, and those seeking their own happiness with the help of others. I feel that it’s very important that those who are choosing whether or not to pursue their own happiness carefully consider the sacrifices others have made in order for them to achieve their own happiness. Whether it be thanking your mother for giving birth to you despite dying shortly after as was the case with Kano, or Minagi choosing to awaken from her dream thanks to Michiru’s wishes, or fighting for your own happiness for the sake of everyone who fought to see your smile in the end, as was the case with Misuzu. AIR teaches us the importance of pursuing one’s own happiness, not only for oneself but for the sake of everyone who’s sacrificed something in order for that happiness to be realised. While sacrificing one’s own needs for the sake of others is important at times, it’s just as important to know when to be selfish and accept the kindness of others, so that their sacrifices won’t be in vain.
But that’s just one of the many messages I received from AIR. There aren’t many absolutes with AIR, which may be frustrating to some readers, but it’s also liberating in a way, as it allows readers to form their own unique interpretations of the story. I can certainly respect that openness of the narrative, and I’m sure there are as many messages to receive from AIR as there are people to read it.
At the very least, it’s my hope that the AIR Bookclub has helped people consider AIR in a new light than they otherwise would have had they read the visual novel alone. To all who have contributed to the AIR Bookclub in some way, thank you from the bottom of my heart. The Bookclub is the culmination of the efforts of all of the Kazamatsuri.org community, and it wouldn’t have been the amazing experience it was without each of your own unique contributions, so thank you! I look forward to working together with you all once again for the CLANNAD Bookclub in a few months’ time. To the end of infinity!