It's surprising how a single OVA from a well known series can actually serve to improve the entire show and, whilst this is still very much a rarity for most anime, the Aria franchise is, happily, an exception to that rule.
The main reason for this is because episodic shows like Aria have an advantage over other series with continuous plots in that OVAs never seem out of place. However, whilst this may help additional special episodes be accepted as part of the greater story, it does not automatically mean that the OVA will actually be any good. Once more though, Aria delivers in it's own
pleasantly inimicable manner.
Arietta is essentially a story about Alicia, rather than Akari, and shows how she came to terms with being left alone with Aria Company after Grandmother Akino retired. Now, the story may seem at first to be an attempt at fleshing out Alicia's character, however it also serves a deeper purpose by reminding the viewer that this situation is also something that Akari will eventually have to face as well.
The artwork, design and animation is exactly what one would expect from Aria, and it's pleasing to see that the studio took the same care and effort with the OVA as they did with the main series.
Sound is also excellent, and whilst the OVA may not be as "busy" as the main series, it still possesses that clean quality that is representative of Aria, and the music is just as soothing as ever.
Character-wise, there isn't really much to go into. The OVA does show that Akari and Alicia may be more alike than Akari first believes, and it also serves to strip away some of the "idol worship" view that Akari has of Alicia. As a stand alone episode it's okay in terms of development, but when included as part of the main series it really shows how different it was from either of the first two series, and gives a hint as to what one can expect from Origination.
I thoroughly enjoyed this addition to the show, and I would advise any fan of the series to watch this (if they haven't already) - you're missing out otherwise.
When I think of the "Aria" series as a whole (Animation, Natural, and Origination), there are certain things I've come to expect:
1. Outstanding Animation with scenes that take your breath away.
2. Memorable and quotable characters that you can't help but root for and can easily relate to.
3. A story that both entertains and satisfies the viewer without leaving a "what the heck" aftertaste in my mouth.
"Arietta" meets all these expectations and then some.
1. The animation as a whole was both familiar and shocking to me. The viewer is still treated to the outstanding visuals that have remained consistent throughout the whole series,
with rich textures and attention to detail, but Arietta turned it up to 11, showing much MORE detail than even "Origination". I would be remiss if I didn't mention two particular scenes that took my breath away. The first was the opening sequence over the song "Nanairo no Sora o". The rich colors, the use of light and shadow, and the view of the buildings leading up to Aria Company was something that I can safely say I've NEVER seen in any anime of this genre. The second scene is during the practice session between Akari, Alice and Aika (A scene I will discuss later when I talk about the characters). While the previous three seasons did an outstanding job showing the rustic beauty of this city, the OVA once again outdid itself and made Neo-Venezia shine even brighter. Every single detail from the cracks in the building to the downright gorgeous reflections in the canal water make this particular scene one of my favorites. The attention to details with regard to shadows and shading also deserves special mention. Character designs remained pretty consistent and true to the earlier seasons, with subtle changes to Akari and Alicia.
2. While it's true that the story of "Arietta" mostly revolves around the relationship between Akari and Alicia, “Arietta” does an outstanding job of integrating the other characters that we’ve come to know and love. All the characters, even those that don’t have a lot of screen time, shine as brightly as they did during the series and pickup right where they left off. I have to admit, after watching the conclusion of “Aria: The Origination”, it was really heartwarming to see our three gondoliers-in-training practicing on the waters of Neo-Venezia again in that black gondola; Aika forbidding any and all sappy comments, Alice offering her cool commentary on the topic at hand, and President Aria…well…doing what he does best; laying around letting others cuddle him. It’s this, plus the earlier mentioned animation that makes this one of my favorite scenes in this episode with the Campanile scene at the end a very close second. Additionally, the flashback sequence, where we see Alicia, Akira and Athena as new young Primas was a very surprising and well done scene. Overall, it was as though the last couple episodes of “Origination” never happened, and this is just another heart-warming episode.
3. If there’s one thing “Aria” is good at, it’s weaving a good story that leaves the viewer satisfied; “Arietta” is no exception. The story is basically one of self-doubt, knowing when to hold on, when to let go, and finding the strength to carry on. It compliments the ending of “Origination” perfectly. I especially love how every character is integrated into the story, without taking away from the principal characters. Just like the planet Aqua, everyone is connected in some way, shape or form.
In conclusion, "Aria The OVA: Arietta" is the perfect companion to the "Aria" series, combining great visuals, the same interesting and intriguing characters, and a story that leaves you feeling satisfied.
Compared to the usual stuff from the series, this episode is more relevant to the characters themselves, namely Alicia and Akari, and reveals that Alicia does have her weaknesses (who'd have guessed).
It also hints at what is to eventually come.
For a 30-minute OVA I had the impression it was longer. Not that it's bad - moar Aria is never bad - in fact, it only made the enjoyable experience longer.
The background, CG and animation were just about perfect, but I can't bring myself to like the different drawing style of the character's faces compared to the TV series. The cheeks are
too thin, and the eyes a touch too big, making the faces rather...disproportionate. A contant distraction.
On par at least with what we've been getting from the franchise. The OP takes some getting used to, but I liked it; it fit very well with the overall tone.
With the dearth of development for the sempais for the TV series, a huge dose of delicious jailbait Alicia backstory is just what the doctor ordered.
As relaxing and uplifting, with a touch of melancholy. Though as mentioned above the faces were a constant distraction.
Still can't get over the drawing style, but otherwise a great OVA.
I am so thankful for this OVA. While the last episode of Origination was utterly fantastic and had me on the brink of tears, this truly helped give me closure from the depression I felt immediately after finishing this incredible series – an extreme feeling of loss. I think one of the only problems I had with Aria as a series (and trust me when I say, it’s a very small problem) it’s that Alicia seemed TOO perfect, to the point where she was almost detached from everyone else.
In every episode, she never showed fear or anxiety, anger or pain. And
near the end of the series, when she dropped the bomb she was getting married, it seemed almost illogical, because if she was so close to Akari, why didn’t she ever tell her she was seeing someone? It’s funny, because I often wondered how it was possible guys never seemed to approach her. Then all of a sudden near the end, she’s not only been seeing someone, but she was ready to marry him! Why wasn’t he even mentioned? He should have played some part or at least been mentioned in my mind.
That’s the only qualm I’ve ever had with this series: that Alicia didn’t seem to have full humanity – she was basically a goddess. But this OVA, I think, was meant to address this issue. She was sad when Grandma left and she was apprehensive about taking a student but she fell in love with Akari - truly in love as a sister - rather than as a watchful protector. And when you see this episode, you really feel a lot more strength when you think of the last episode of Origination, when Alicia visits Akari after retiring. Before, it felt like that visit would be one of just a handful and Alicia was gone pretty much for good, much like Grandma’s first student, who also married and moved away. But, with this episode, it was more and it really gave a finishing touch to Aria. You know that Alicia won’t be at Aria Company anymore, but she will always be nearby and Alicia and Akari will forever be the best of sisters and friends.
This was fantastic and I would even go so far as to say it is impossible to appreciate the full breadth of this anime series without this last episode.