Air Gear volumes 4 and 5 land from the skies, and whilst the theme doesn't change, the tone does.
Air Gear always rides a thin line between comedy and downright bad taste, and it's the same here. It's definitely one for the lads, as we're treated to yet more gratuitous female nudity, another, more direct depiction of rape and some very unwelcome male nudity with some defecation thrown in for good measure - Holy hell!
One of the things that always struck me about Air Gear is that, in any other series, Itsuki and his gang would be the villains of the piece. Few of them have any redeeming characteristics - they're either gluttons, killers, lechers or thugs, but they have a sort of gangster charm that people seem to respond to, and that's the foundation for the book. It would only take one wrong move on the writers part to remove any sympathy for the lead characters and the whole thing would fall apart. So far, Mr Great has managed to keep things just barely the right side of the line, but he's severely testing the limits. But then, isn't that what being "edgy" is all about?
Despite the woman-beating and raping (not, incidentally, carried out by Itsuki and his gang) the girls in Air Gear are no pushovers. Itsuki's guardians, the 4 Noyamano sisters are tough and usually hand out the beatings, whilst the leader of a rival skate gang positively abuses her feminine wiles during races. Oh! Great doesn't make all his ladies victims, but it's still hard to read at times.
That said, it's still a great read. Itsuki's battle to reach the top has begun, with his first team formed and competition fierce, he also has to watch out for those that fear his almost mythical ascension, and the background politics provide much of the pull for this series.
Whilst I could have done without seeing Itsuki park his breakfast in public, and I can't understand what the hell any woman, let alone the intelligent Ringo, would see in him, I'll still be picking up a copy of the next few volumes to see how he fares.