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Air Gear Vol. 1
Author/Artist Oh! Great
Air Gear is a manga of which I had no prior knowledge before Tanoshimi kindly popped it into my mailbox, and I have to say I've been missing out.
It's a cross between a harem comedy (our hero, Itsuki, lives with four buxom sisters) and an urban myth. With all the cool kids using Air Treck inline skates, rival gangs battle for territory, girls and honour on the streets of the city, with bloody, violent results.
Happily, despite some slapstick humour, the book grew on me quickly. Itsuki is pig-headed but not without some charm, and the girls he lives with are all suitably diverse and maintain interest, an interest which is nicely piqued by a secret revealed in the latter stages of volume one. Kuu, Itsuki's best friend, and one of the four, seems designed to appeal to the books male readership - a great figure, large breasts and glasses to make her seem attainable, she's also smart and decisive without being obnoxious. She steals almost every scene she's in, and even appears to have a secret crush on our hero.
The artwork is fantastic - crisp and attractive character designs, attention to detail and some nice screentone use, the art feels substantial without ever being confusing. The action scenes scan well across the pages, with plenty of gut-crunching detail and brutality which really makes it jump out of the page.
There are some hints at rape which make this something I'd recommend for a mature audience, but otherwise I'd recommend this without reservation, and I look forward to seeing more of it.