The Air visual novel is divided into three segments—Dream, Summer, and Air—which serve as different phases in the overall story. The Summer segment is made accessible by completing the three good endings in the Dream arc, while Air is made accessible by completing the Summer arc. In the Dream arc, the player assumes the role of Yukito who meets three girls—Misuzu Kamio, Kano Kirishima, and Minagi Tohno—one by one. As the game progresses, the player interacts with the girls and other characters, effectively learning the stories of the three girls, depending on the choices made. The Summer arc is a linear novel arc in which no choices are presented to the player, and is narrated by Ryūya. The Air arc, which centers on Misuzu, is the finale of the game. The player assumes the role of Sora, a crow Misuzu befriends and brings home.
Air’s gameplay requires little interaction from the player as most of the game’s duration is spent reading the text that appears on the game screen, which represents either dialogue between the various characters or the inner thoughts of the protagonist. After progressing through the text, the player will come to a “decision point” where he or she must choose from multiple options. The time between these decision points varies. Gameplay pauses at these points and depending on which choice the player makes, the plot will progress in a specific direction. With the consumer ports, if an undesired choice was selected, there would be an option to rewind the story to correct the mistake. However, if the player reaches a bad end to a storyline, the player does not have this option and must reload the game at the last saved point.
There are three main plot lines the player experiences—one for each heroine. The player must replay the game multiple times and make different choices during decision points to view all three plot lines. Despite the multiple endings, the individual stories are all related and serve as a way to further the main story (involving Misuzu) towards a conclusion. One of the goals of the original version’s gameplay is for the player to enable the viewing of adult scenes depicting Yukito and one of the three heroines having sexual intercourse. Later, Key released an edition of Air without the erotic content.
 Setting and themes
Air takes place in a town modeled on Kami, Japan.
There are important locations featured in Air that are based on places in the city Kami in Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. Air is set in the Kasumi district of Kami; during the course of the series’ creation, Kasumi was an individual town that has since merged with two others to form the city of Kami. Many of the locales in Air, such as the seawall, the train station, the shrine, and the school are based on real places. As Air is set in the middle of summer, the season offers bright, sunny skies for the town during the day. In the manga adaptation, the town is described as a “quiet town with few people…with nothing but beaches and countryside.” Scenario assistant Yūichi Suzumoto has commented that his impression of Air is similar to that of a folk song due to the rural setting and heartwarming story progression.
As indicated by the title, air, skies and wings are important themes: Yukito is searching for the “girl in the sky”, and Misuzu believes her other self is flying in the sky above her. Other characters show a similar relationship to the sky, such as Minagi who is a member of the astronomy club, and Michiru who has a fondness for bubbles that float in the air. Kano wants wings to fly, and Kanna already has them. Misuzu names a crow she finds Sora (空?)—Japanese for sky. Another major theme is the maternal bond, as the four heroines’ stories, as well as Yukito’s, revolve around their mothers, either biological or adoptive. Main scenario writer Jun Maeda commented that he prefers to include mothers in games if given the choice between only include a mother and father, as is what happened with Air, though he backs this up by noting that in bishōjo games, women are the main focus anyway. Complicated relationships involving family members and friends play a key part throughout the story. One of the sub-themes in the story is magic. Uraha, Yukito’s mother, and Yukito himself have the ability to use magic, though Yukito is the least skilled among them. Kano was told by her sister that when she grows up and takes off her yellow ribbon, she will gain the power to do magic.
 Main characters
Main article: List of Air characters
The player assumes the role of Yukito Kunisaki, the protagonist of Air. He lives a poor life going from town to town with little money, and is not trusting of people he first meets. Despite being older than the three heroines, Yukito sometimes acts childishly if provoked. Yukito tends to be helpful to those around him, and does his best to look after Misuzu in the Dream arc. Misuzu Kamio, the main heroine of Air, is a cheerful, slightly clumsy high school girl, and often utters the pseudo-dinosauric phrase gao when she feels troubled. This habit she retained from childhood is one aspect which makes her seem very immature for her age as a second year high school student. Other examples include Misuzu having poor social skills, and being entertained by simplistic things. Misuzu has a great love of dinosaurs, finding the story of their glory and extinction “romantic”. The second of the three heroines Yukito meets after Misuzu is Kano Kirishima, a girl attending the same school as Misuzu. She is usually energetic, playful, and often says strange, nonsensical things. Kano is friends with a strange stray dog named Potato that follows her around and is able to communicate in his strange manner of speech. Kano, like Misuzu, exhibits an immature personality, and still believes in things she was told by her older sister Hijiri as a child. The third and final heroine Yukito meets is a girl in Misuzu’s class at school named Minagi Tohno, a top student in the school who is very shy and quiet, which isolates her from others. Until she met Yukito, her only friend was Michiru, with whom she often blows bubbles at the abandoned train station in town.
Air’s story revolves around three girls whose lives are connected to the same man. In the first story arc, Dream, Yukito Kunisaki is a showman traveling across Japan, continuing his late mother’s search for the “girl in the sky”. The story opens on Monday July 17, 2000 when Yukito comes across a small seaside town where the story takes place. On his first day in town, Yukito tries to earn money by putting on a mysterious puppet show where he manipulates a doll magically without strings for a small audience of kids passing by. Yukito is unsuccessful in gaining the children’s favor, and the children leave without paying him for his performance. That night, Yukito sleeps on the town’s seawall by the beach. Yukito collapses from heat stroke the next day and is taken to a nearby fisherman’s guild; after he awakens, they feed him, and give him some very large rice balls to take with him as he is leaving. As he sits on the town’s seawall eating one of the rice balls, he notices a young girl beside him who introduces herself as Misuzu Kamio—a sincere yet clumsy girl who is eager to become friends with him. Misuzu persistently attempts to play with him, while Yukito tries to refuse her efforts. He eventually follows her home lured by the chance to eat. After Haruko, Misuzu’s aunt and foster mother, is persuaded, it is decided that he will stay with them for the time being.
The next day, Yukito meets girl named Kano Kirishima and a stray dog named Potato; Kano and Misuzu go to the same high school. Later that day, Yukito meets a third girl named Minagi Tohno, Misuzu’s classmate, and her friend Michiru. Like Misuzu, both Kano and Minagi have strange personalities connected with mysterious pasts. Before long, a legend of “one thousand summers” begins to unfold where the mysteries of the past are framed primarily by the relationship between Yukito and Misuzu. The cursed “girl in the sky” Yukito has been searching for turns out to be Misuzu. By the time he figures this out, she has already grown to love him and has passed her fifteenth birthday. Once these things have come to pass, the “girl in the sky” is cursed to die. The remainder of this arc is dedicated to Yukito’s attempt to save her, trying to effectively break the curse.
The next arc, Summer, reveals events that occurred in the summer of one thousand years before the Dream arc, taking place in the Heian period. Kannabi no mikoto, or Kanna, is one of the last winged beings in Air’s fictional setting and is held as a prisoner in her own castle. Since she bears wings on her back, she is not permitted to leave the castle walls or see her mother, who is in a similar situation elsewhere. With Ryūya, a member of her samurai guard, and Uraha, a fledgling telekinetic, Kanna escapes and traverses feudal Japan to find her mother. However, the rest of the guard and a sect of Buddhist monks follow them. After catching up, they place a curse on Kanna where she must endure constant reincarnation and death whenever she finds love; Misuzu is one such reincarnation.
In the last arc, Air, Yukito’s final wish to save Misuzu’s life is heard. The story starts over from the Dream arc, although it is seen through the view point of a crow Misuzu finds and names Sora. New things are revealed that were not seen following Yukito in the Dream arc. After Misuzu finds Sora and brings him back home, her condition worsens and eventually she forgets even who Haruko is. Misuzu’s father shows up during this arc wanting to take Misuzu back to his home, but Haruko pleads with him to grant her more time, and they agree on extending the time for three more days. After the three days pass, Misuzu’s father comes back and sees the love between Misuzu and Haruko; he decides to let them stay together. The remainder of this arc has Misuzu and Haruko spending time together like mother and daughter, culminating in Misuzu’s death.
After the completion of Kanon, the Key staff started production on Air and expanded the number of people involved in this project compared to Kanon. The executive producer for Air was Takahiro Baba from Visual Art’s, the publishing company that Key is under. The planning for Air was headed by Jun Maeda who was also one of two main scenario writers, the other being Takashi Ishikawa. Scenario assistance was provided by four more people: Kazuki Fujii, Kai, Tōya Okano, and Yūichi Suzumoto. Art direction was headed by Key’s well-known artist Itaru Hinoue who worked on the character design. Further computer graphics were split between three people—Miracle Mikipon, Na-Ga, and Shinory—and background art was provided by Din and Torino. The music in the game was composed primarily by Shinji Orito, and Magome Togoshi, who had started working with Key since Air. After the completion of Air, two of the staff—Kazuki Fujii, and Takashi Ishikawa—left Key.
Jun Maeda, the main scenario writer of Air, commented that in the early stages of Air’s production, it was already decided that it was to be an adult game, and he further assumes that if it was not at least first released with adult content, that it would not have been as commercially successful. Maeda also commented that he wanted to write Air to give players the chance to experience the entire story as a whole rather than just a sum of differing parts as typical bishōjo games do, including Kanon. While attempting to do this, Maeda also tried to simultaneously make it seem similar to typical visual novels in the same genre as Air to give the game appeal to the players who often play such games. As such, while the game incorporates stories from several characters, they are all of varying lengths.
 Release history
Air was released on September 8, 2000, playable only for the PC as a limited edition package containing two CD-ROMs for the game, and the music album Ornithopter. The next year it was followed by three separate releases: a regular edition of the original PC game released on July 19, 2001; an all-ages version released on July 27, 2001; and the first consumer console port of the game for the Dreamcast on September 20, 2001. The DC version also included new scenes not viewable in the original release.
The second consumer port for the PlayStation 2 (PS2) was released on August 8, 2002. After the PS2 game sold enough units, three years later on September 1, 2005, a cheaper version for the PS2 also known as the “Best Version” went on sale for about half the price as the first PS2 release. To compensate for the lack of erotic content in the consumer ports, extra scenes were added. The original PC release was without voice acting, though this was later changed for the Dreamcast, which except for the protagonist included full voice acting, and the PS2, with full voice acting. The PS2 Best Version was bundled in a “Key 3-Part Work Premium Box” package together with the PS2 Best Versions of Kanon and Clannad released on July 30, 2009.
The Air Standard Edition was released on April 8, 2005 with added support for Windows 2000/XP as a DVD-ROM. Only this version, the original limited edition release, and the regular edition release contained pornographic scenes. Portable versions playable on the PlayStation Portable (PSP) and the SoftBank 3G cell phone were published by Prototype. The SoftBank 3G version was released on May 1, 2007, and the PSP version was released on November 22, 2007. Air was again released by Prototype on mobile phones as a VGA edition playable on FOMA phones produced by NTT DoCoMo. The version for the FOMA phones was split into two separate files: the Dream story arc comprised the first file, and the remaining Summer and Air arcs comprised the second file. An updated version of Air compatible for Windows Vista PCs was released by Key on July 31, 2009 in a box set containing five other Key visual novels called Key 10th Memorial Box; this version, like the other PC releases, contains no voice acting and was rated for all ages. Another updated version compatible for Windows 7 PCs called Air Memorial Edition was released on May 28, 2010 rated for all ages.
An Air manga was serialized in the Japanese computer game magazine Comptiq between August 10, 2004 and February 10, 2006. The individual chapters were later collected into two separate volumes published by Kadokawa Shoten. The story was adapted from the visual novel version that preceded it, and was illustrated by Japanese artist Yukimaru Katsura. Between the two volumes, there are fifteen main chapters (nine in volume one and six in volume two), and two bonus chapters included at the end of each volume. The manga version goes through the Dream and Air arcs in detail while the Summer arc is only touched upon briefly throughout the manga. The main focus is on Misuzu’s story with Kano and Minagi serving as minor characters in comparison. However, Minagi’s story is explained in the bonus installment at the end of volume two.
There are also five sets of manga anthologies produced by different companies and drawn by a multitude of different artists. The first volume of the earliest anthology series, released by Ichijinsha under the title Air Comic Anthology, was released on January 25, 2001 under their DNA Media Comics label. Volumes for this series continued to be released until December 25, 2001 with the seventh volume. The second anthology,Air Anthology Comic, was released in a single volume by Softgarage on December 20, 2002. On April 17, 2004, Ohzora released an anthology composed of works based on both Kanon and Air entitled Haru Urara: Kanon & Air. Ohzora also released three other anthologies under the title Air, the last of which came out on March 24, 2005. The last manga anthology was released as a single volume on April 2, 2005 by Jive entitled Comic Anthology Air: Kimi no Iru Basho. Each of the anthology series are written and drawn by an average of twenty people per volume.
 Drama CDs
There were nine drama CDs released based on Air released by Lantis. The first three focused solely on each of the main heroines separately per CD where the cover of the album would depict which of the girls to be presented. These three albums were released on August 24, 2005. The next set of three was done the same way and released on October 21, 2005. The last three were released in one month increments after the second batch of three drama CDs went on sale. The seventh CD focused on the events of the Summer arc in the story while the last two were based on the Air arc. At least the last CD released on January 25, 2006 contained original stories in addition to the story from the visual novel.
The cover of the first DVD compilation volume for the Air anime series.
See also: List of Air episodes
On November 17, 2004, a teaser DVD named “Air prelude” was produced containing interviews with the anime’s cast, clean opening and ending theme video sequences, and promotional footage of the anime itself; it was a limited edition DVD, with only 20,000 copies produced. The anime television series is produced by Kyoto Animation, directed by Tatsuya Ishihara, written by Fumihiko Shimo, and features character design by Tomoe Aratani who based the designs on Itaru Hinoue’s original concept. Thirteen episodes were produced by Kyoto Animation: twelve regular episodes, and a final recap episode which summarizes Misuzu’s story arc. The anime also follows the game by splitting the series into three parts; Dream (episodes one through seven), Summer (episodes eight and nine), and Air (episodes ten through twelve), with the recap episode (episode thirteen) following. The episodes aired between January 6 and March 31, 2005 on the BS-i Japanese television network. The theme songs from the Air visual novel are used for the anime’s opening theme, ending theme and soundtrack. After the conclusion of the anime series, a mini-series which added to the Summer arc of the story called Air in Summer aired on August 28 and September 4, 2005 a week later on BS-i. Air in Summer consisted of two episodes and was produced by the same staff as the anime series.
A DVD released on March 31, 2005 called “Air Memories” contained promotional commercials for the series, staff commentaries, and clean ending sequences from the twelfth and thirteenth episodes, lasting ninety-two minutes in total. The episodes were released to Region 2 DVD between April 6 and September 7, 2005 by Pony Canyon in limited and regular editions containing two episodes per volume. The DVD for Air in Summer was later released on October 5, 2005 in Japan. Additionally, Air became one of the first anime series to be released in Blu-ray Disc format on December 22, 2006. A new version of the Blu-ray Disc box set was released on November 28, 2008 in Japan.
On April 27, 2007, ADV Films co-founder and executive Matt Greenfield announced the acquisition of both the anime series and the film during a panel at Anime Matsuri, South Texas’ anime convention. The twelve main episodes and two Air in Summer episodes were licensed for North American distribution by ADV Films. The episodes were released on four DVD compilations between August 14 and November 27, 2007. The second DVD volume was sold in two editions, with the difference between the two being a series box all four DVDs could fit inside. In July 2008, the license for the anime series and film was transferred to Funimation Entertainment, which continued to produce them in North America in English. Funimation released a three-disc series box set of the Air anime on April 21, 2009, which did not include the recap episode.
Main article: Air (film)
An Air animated film directed by Osamu Dezaki premiered in Japanese theaters on February 5, 2005. The film, animated by Toei Animation, is a reinterpretation of the original Air storyline which centers on the story arc of the female lead Misuzu Kamio. Yukito Kunisaki arrives in the town of Kami for a chance to earn money at the summer festival and meets Misuzu on his first day in town. They soon become friends and a story one thousand years old begins to unfold. The film was later sold on DVD and released in three editions: the Collector’s Edition, the Special Edition, and the Regular Edition on August 5, 2005. The Air film was originally released on DVD by ADV Films in North America on December 11, 2007. Funimation Entertainment continued the release of the film as of July 2008 when the license was transferred from ADV to Funimation; Funimation re-released the film on April 21, 2009.
Main article: List of Air soundtracks
The visual novel has three main theme songs: “Bird’s Poem” (鳥の詩, Tori no Uta?), the opening theme; “Farewell song”, the ending theme; and “Blue Skies” (青空, Aozora?), the insert song. Each song is sung by Lia of I’ve Sound and the lyrics were written by Jun Maeda. Five of the characters have leitmotifs, or background music theme songs—the three heroines, Kanna, and Michiru. Misuzu’s theme is “Summer Lights” (夏影, Natsukage?); Kano’s theme is “Puddle” (水たまり, Mizutamari?); Minagi’s theme is “Rainbows” (虹, Niji?); Kanna’s theme is “Moon Child” (月童, Tsukiwarawa?); lastly, Michiru’s theme is “Ladybug” (てんとう虫, Tentōmushi?). Of the six music tracks not used in the visual novel, but of which were included on the game’s original soundtrack, the first two were failed attempts at creating a theme for Minagi.
The first album, Ornithopter, came bundled with the original release of Air in September 2000. The next album was released in August 2001 as a maxi single entitled “Natsukage / Nostalgia” containing a vocal version of “Summer Lights” (夏影, Natsukage?), and a B-side track; both songs were sung by Lia and the rest of the single was produced by Jun Maeda. The game’s original soundtrack was released in September 2002 containing two discs with thirty-one different tracks along with remix and instrumental versions of the opening and ending themes. A piano arrange album was released in December 2003 called Re-feel which contained five tracks from Air and five from Kanon. An EP containing original versions of the three theme songs and remixed versions of the opening and ending themes was released in May 2006 called Air Analog Collector’s Edition: Tori no Uta / Farewell song. Each of the albums released for the visual novel version were released on Key’s record label Key Sounds Label. The film’s original soundtrack was released in March 2005 by Frontier Works. A bonus symphony CD entitled Shinwa e no Izanai was released with the special edition Air film DVD on August 5, 2005. Overall, Air’s music has been well received, and the original soundtrack for the visual novel has met with high sales. The opening theme was involved in copyright infringement in 2005.
 Reception and sales
According to a national ranking of how well bishōjo games sold nationally in Japan, the original Air PC release premiered at number one in the rankings. Two months after the original release, the game ranked at forty-two followed by the same ranking a month later in December 2000. This game stayed on the charts for a month and a half longer, ranking in at twenty, and forty-two. The original release appeared on the charts twice more: the first in late September to early October 2001 at twenty-six, and again in the last two weeks of May 2002, ranking in at forty-three. The regular edition of the Air PC release premiered at number thirteen, ranked in at number forty-one in the following ranking, and forty-two in the ranking after that. The PC all-ages version premiered at number seven in the rankings and had a final ranking at thirty in the next ranking. The Air Standard Edition premiered at number one in the rankings. The Air Standard Edition ranked in twice more, at thirty-four and at twenty-eight in the next two rankings. Air was the highest selling game of 2000 selling 102,080 units, which was about 25,000 more units than the second highest game, Inagawa de Ikō!. The Dreamcast version sold 42,445 units in its first week, and was the fourth highest selling console game in Japan that week. The Dreamcast version ultimately sold 50,406 units and is ranked the fifty-third highest selling Japanese Dreamcast game ever, as of 2007.
“Air took the bishōjo gaming world by storm,” as states a review of the Dreamcast game by MobyGames. Air was described as a game that stands out, much like Key’s first title Kanon, due to an intricate plot that keeps the player interested, and has a good replay value as well. In an interview of Jun Maeda and Yūichi Suzumoto, they were both surprised to find out that the Japanese public (in March 2001) felt Air to be a soothing game, but Maeda and Suzumoto made it clear that this impression is completely at odds with their impression of the game, and they remark that there was not one person who worked on Air who thought that. Characters from Air have appeared in dōjin works not directly based on the Air series. Games such as Eternal Fighter Zero -Blue Sky Edition- by Twilight Frontier where most of the playable characters either came from Air or from the earlier Key games Kanon or One. In the October 2007 issue of Dengeki G’s Magazine, poll results for the fifty best bishōjo games were released. Out of 249 titles, Air ranked eighth with forty-three votes.