The young man is a traveler. He has two companions. One is a very old doll that walks without a hand touching it. The other is an ancient promise passed on to him by someone with great power.
So begins AIR, an H-Game by Key/Visual Arts with a clean version that spawned two anime, a movie by Toei Animation and a TV series by Kyoto Animation. (It was actually the first of three Key games that were animated separately by these two studios, although the Toei version of came out first.) It is seen as and marketed as a companion to Kanon; both deal with a young man with little to go on who arrives in a new town, begins living with a girl upon arrival, and meets various other girls while sorting out the supernatural mystery of the town. The themes of fate and miracles also run deeply through both series.Kunisaki Yukito is a traveler running low on money who lives day-to-day by performing a telekinetic puppet show. His travels, however, have a deeper meaning, one he's been trying to push away: for a thousand years now, his family has been searching for a girl with a curse upon her. A series of girls in town - cute, immature Misuzu; sly, friendly Kano; and quiet, serene Minagi - present themselves as possible candidates to be this "girl in the sky", as they all have mysterious dreams of flying and connections to the spirit world that unfold along with their problems in the present day. If the girl isn't found and somehow saved, once she reaches a certain age or finds someone dear to her heart, she will become very ill, lose her memories, and die...Not to be confused with the French electronica duo, , or the stuff you're breathing.
Achey Scars: Yukito was born with a scar that suddenly relives the time that his past life received the same scar, causing Yukito to collapse to the floor. His past life was the victim of a curse for being too close to Kanna, resulting in the wound not healing properly. Yukito began to suffer it because was likewise getting too close to Kanna's own reincarnation of that time period, Misuzu.
Adult Fear: A particularly detailed and heart-wrenching example of the pain a parent feels caring for a terminally ill child, being unable to ease their suffering and ultimately having to watch them die.
Against the Setting Sun: Several scenes take place by the sea, against a sundown scenario. Especially relevant is the scene in which Misuzu calls out to Haruko, accepting her as her mother, and the two embrace as the waves crash against them.
All There in the Manual: Due to time constraints, the explanation of Yukito's past exists only in the game, and much of the medieval journey is relegated to an OVA. Also, the conditions of breaking Misuzu's curse are stated in the game and implied in the anime, making the ending more positive if you paid attention).
Bittersweet Ending: Finding true happiness breaks the curse that the Buddhist monks laid on Kannabi no Mikoto, allowing the next life to freely pursue happiness. So, although Misuzu dies in this lifetime, her next life will be a happy one, giving the ending a heartwarming undercurrent of hope.
Bleached Underpants: The original game was an H-game, but the anime adaptation and PS2 port have the sex scenes removed.
But Now I Must Go: Michiru after she's helped Minagi reconcile with her mother.
Call Back: In, Yuuichi narrates something only to have Kaori point out that he was saying it out loud. The same thing happens in Kano's route in AIR, where Yukito's "inner monologue" turns out to insult Hijiri to her face.
Chekhov's Gun: Sora is really Yukito. Especially well done since he's given exclusive screentime hiding in the background throughout the whole series.
Children Raise You: Played with in Haruko's subplot — she's an immature and irresponsible woman raising her dead sister's child, but she behaves the way she does for a good reason. She does become a loving and responsible mother figure at the end, though.
Continuity Cameo: Kano, Minagi and Michiru briefly appear as background characters in the movie. Also, Ayu, Nayuki and Makoto of Kanon appear at Misuzu's school in the anime series, taking the place of Kano's unseen friends in the VN.
Decoy Protagonist: In the anime, at least, you could be forgiven for thinking that this is Yukito's story. Then he's excised from the plot via reincarnation as a crow, and the conflict between Haruko and Misuzu takes center stage.
Deus Sex Machina: Kano believes that "becoming an adult" will give her magical powers. Unfortunately, she was misled. No wonder Hijiri's so overprotective of her.
Died in Your Arms Tonight: Oh, Misuzu...
Disproportionate Retribution: Note to any winged beings: leaving the temple, even if it's just to see your mother, will result in you being hunted, cursed, and killed by Buddhist monks and other peoples under orders of the emperor. Said curse will haunt you and all your reincarnations. The curse? Die when you fall in love. And that means feeling any sort of love too, including if that love is familial, or even platonic, like friendship.
Doomed Protagonist: Misuzu. With her illness, what would you expect?
Dropped a Bridge on Him: Yukito. He doesn't die, but as a crow, he has near to no relevance to the plot anymore.
Precious Puppies: Potato. To quote JesuOtaku's Red Snark Titles, "Cutest fuzzy tuber ever!^_^".
Festival Episode: Kano's troubles began when Hijiri took her to a town festival after their father died. Later in the series, we see the preparations for the same festival in the present day.
Fond Memories That Could Have Been: Played painfully straight with Haruko imagining all the time she could have spent with Misuzu as she died in her arms.
Good Scars, Evil Scars: Yukito's scar, connecting him to his past life.
Identical Descendant: A thousand years and lord knows how many generations later, and Yukito's mom still looks like Uraha with brown hair and Yukito himself like Ryuuya without long or pulled-back hair.
Important Haircut: Haruko cuts Misuzu's hair, accidentally cutting it much shorter than intended, thus giving her a more childish look that foreshadows later events.
Jacob and Esau: Minagi was a Daddy's Girl, and her mother was hoping that the new child would be closer to her. When she miscarried, she lost her sanity.
Karma Houdini: Unless Nobunaga was around to raid the temple (which he was not, as he wasn't even born at that time), the Buddist Monks, who are responsible for the deaths of Misuzu, Kanna, and God knows how many countless incarnations, get away scot free.
Ryuuya gets ready to kill as many of them as he can, but Uraha forces him to stop; saying that Kanna wouldn't want Ryuuya to go back to being a killer. They weren't worth it.