Note: This is written by SupremeTentacle, not me. I’m just posting it.
As the translator for Astral Air, I’d like to offer my opinion on the work in hopes that it’ll convince you to read it. But first, I hope that you don’t mind me taking a little bit of your time to provide an introduction, as well as a little bit of a backstory. To be honest, I never finished Astral Air before embarking on the translation project. In fact, I probably only completed something around a third of it, then threw it in a corner and left it to rot for a good year or so. At this point, a lot of you are probably scratching your heads and wondering why I’d ever commit myself to translating it. I would be too, if I was in your position.
Astral Air isn’t exactly perfect; there are many scenes that drag on for way too long, and offer complicated, long winded explanations for things that you’ll probably never care about. The visual novel contains a large number of scenes that only seem to be present in order to increase the overall line count. It looks generic, like your typical moege, and has a boring protagonist that has very few distinguishing features.
But, you see, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Favorite is a company deserving of your trust. Time and time again, it’s taken what others have perceived as mere rocks and polished them until they shone like brilliant diamonds. All of their recent works have simple been outstanding, with Hoshimemo and Iroseka both offering complex themes, a lovable cast. The company has built up a reputation as one that provides the industry with nothing but solid gold. There’s no way that Astral Air is any different, right? So, with those thoughts in mind, I set out on a journey to test my mettle and provide western audiences with yet another shot of meteorite fueled fun.
And boy, did I strike it rich.
Astral Air is, without a doubt, one of best visual novels I have read to this day.
Quick Plot Summary and Discussion of Themes
At first glance, Astral Air is a story about family and the connections thereof. The main character never had a family; he was raised in an orphanage stationed in northern Japan, where he somehow managed to develop a strange set of psychic abilities, or runes, as the game calls them. So, somewhere down the line, an organization decides to take the kid in, trains him and has him work as one of their agents. Now, skip forward a few years, and we arrive at the game’s starting point. Haruna Riku, the protagonist, is sent back to his hometown of Tsukigasaki in order to protect it from the abnormal weather that seems to be popping up all over the town.
Riku had always remembered the town as a kingdom of ice and snow, a place where you’d even have to shovel the roof, if you didn’t want to collapse. When he returned, he found out that the town was still a winter wonderland, but not the kind he expected. Something had happened to Tsukigasaki’s snow. It had not only stopped building up, but also started falling when the sky was clear. What’s more was that the snow would even fall during what should’ve been the summer. In the midst of one such snowstorm, Riku reunites with a girl that he had been friends with since his days at the orphanage, only to find out that she hadn’t changed even the slightest bit. Her appearance, manner of speech and personality were all exactly as he had remembered them.
I’d love to go into more details and quickly summarize each of Riku’s misadventures, but I don’t want to ruin the plot. Besides, the best part of Astral Air isn’t what’s written down, but rather, what lies inbetween the lines: the themes. As I mentioned earlier, the story seems to focus on the theme of family… at first glance. That theme is but a mere distraction, something that misleads you from the overaching tale that the visual novel wishes to tell. If you dig a little bit deeper, you’ll find that Astral Air isn’t just about the ties of blood, it’s about the connections between individuals, and learning to understand each other, and, above all else, it’s about giving up everything you have for the sake of another.
Even though Astral Air’s lore states that the characters are able to communicate through some sort of bizarre telepathic ability that allows them to share their thoughts and feelings, it’s still just a visual novel. It can only present that to the reader through nothing but flawed words.
Yet, despite that, it’s able to embed those words with incredible, rich emotions that pierce right through the most sensitive part of your mind’s inner recesses. It’s a story that slowly defrosts your heart, teaching you the unconditional warmth and kindness that comes with love, a story about reaching beyond your own frozen shell and finally finding the affection you’d always been wishing for – no matter what you have to sacrifice. It’s a story that truly embodies the aspirations we share as human beings.
This is probably not something you’d understand until you’ve finished the true route, which pulls everything together in manner that not only fills your heart with love for the main heroine, but your eyes with tears as well.
Oh, and it’s also about swans that look like snow bunnies.
Yup, that’s right.
Snow bunny swans.
Anyways, that’s about enough rambling from me. In my opinion, the plot deserves a 9/10 – all things said and done.
The supporting cast in Astral Air is very vivid and defined. Every single character has a unique, clear, and intriguing personality that adds to the story. Some characters even serve to foreshadow future events and make references to Hoshimemo. Despite the fact that many of these characters don’t have a large number of lines, it’s very obvious to the reader that the writers have gone the whole mile, and developed each of these characters beyond what you see on the surface. The one problem I have with this is the extent to which the supporting cast is neglected outside of the common route, but, unfortunately that’s fairly standard practice in and of itself. 9/10
Favorite is never going to give you up.
Favorite is never going to let you down.
Favorite is never going to turn around and hurt you.
There are literally no complaints here. The voices often draw out subtle emotions that aren’t present in the text, or even its connotations. They assist the reader in understanding the mood, and encourage a deeper, more immersive experience. Furthermore, all of the voices, including those that are a part of the supporting cast, match their characters perfectly; nothing ever seems out of place when it comes to this game’s voiced lines.
Naturally, this deserves a 10/10.
CG, Sprites and Direction
As you’d expect, Favorite has a very talented art team. They’re able to bring the characters to life with an abundant number of expressive emotions. The background contrasts with the characters due to the colours used, but the result of that contrast is that it blends into the game and brings your focus right to the sprites. Direction is employed in an excellent manner, as characters often display their reactions with a simple sprite change, eliminating the need for an additional descriptive line. The Favorite View Point system, or FVP for short, allows for even more control over direction, as it allows for zooming and camera control, which subtly informs the reader of the main character’s thoughts, feelings and focal points. My one complaint with their use of direction is that characters may sometimes react at the beginning of a line instead of the end. For example, they’ll jump in shock even though the thing that’s supposed to have shocked them hasn’t completely displayed on the screen yet. Furthermore, the use of the sky as a background is a little bit excessive, as it is always brought up when the main character is in thought.
Another issue I have with the CG is that some of the characters look a bit weird, which led to me deducting a few points. That said, it still sits at a solid 8/10.
Honestly, there’s nothing special here. Although some H-scenes contributed to the plot, most of them just made me end up sitting there with a bored look on my face, and, unfortunately, both hands on the keyboard.
Note that this rating does not take the voice or CG quality into account, as those are evaluated separately. It represents the quality of the text and descriptions, as well as the overall ability for these scenes to retain reader ‘interest’.
I’d love to rate my own translation, but I won’t. This section mostly serves as something that allows me, as the translator, to communicate with you, the reader.
At first, my translations were a bit literal; I tried to stick to the original script as hard as I could. But hey, I’d assume that lots of new translators tend to make that kind of mistake. As time passed, I began realizing that the correctness of the words used in the translation was less important than the correctness of the meanings they carried. In other words, I came to learn that connotations were more important. So, for the latter half of the translation, I focused more so on the flow and mood.
I’ll be going back doing a quick pass so that the translation seems more consistent – though I think Chuee, the editor, probably has already fixed quite a bit of it already.
I hope that the quality of this translation will be high enough for people to be able to enjoy it, at least as much as I did.
Astral Air is a wonderful visual novel that often ends up getting underrated by critics, possibly because the nature of the work dictates that users would most enjoy it if they were to read it in small chunks, as opposed to all at once. The art and music is nothing short of excellent, and the characters are wonderfully well developed. Despite the fact that it has mediocre H-scenes, Astral Air deserves no less than a 9/10.