Drift peacefully into Neo Venezia, a city on the planet Aqua (formerly known as Mars). By the 24th century, humans have found a way to colonize the previously uninhabitable planet. As futuristic as that sounds, Neo Venezia is still teeming with rustic beauty; gondolas on wide canals and waterways are the main mode of transportation. The city itself is a faithful replication of Manhome's (the planet formerly known as Earth) Venice.
To make sure that residents and tourists alike get the most from Neo Venezia's many wonders, companies offering guided tours via gondola were formed, one of which is named Aria Company.
This is the workplace of Akari Mizunashi, a free spirited teenager from Manhome who is now a novice Undine (the title given to tour guides). Join Akari as she becomes intimately acquainted with other Undine, tourists, Neo Venezia's residents, and even the city itself, learning many valuable life lessons along the way, such as the wonderful truth that there are such things as manmade miracles.
I'm quite surprised that no one's actually written a review for this yet.
I have to admit that I wasn't sure what to expect from this show. The synopsis didn't really give any clues as to what I should expect, and that is probably the best thing about it - it isn't quite what you expect.
The story takes place on what used to be Mars (the first thing I didn't expect), in a place called Neo-Venzia (New Venice), and is about a girl training to be an Undine (the story uses the term to refer to a female gondolier rather than a water spirit). The
story itself isn't linear in any way, as each episode is a story in it's own right. Normally this is a recipe for disaster in the anime world, but it works in this show - I'll explain why in a bit.
The art and animation are of a very high standard, and the city and it's surroundings are beautifully rendered - and you will see a lot of the city in this show. The characters are very well depicted, even when they show their chibi side, and the best bit is there's not a panty shot in sight - hooray!
The sound is one area where this show excels. Everything is there if you listen, from the sound of the waves to the hubbub of of a crowd. The music is ideally suited to the show and, unlike many anime, actually heightens the viewing experience.
The characters are extremely well realised. I can't think of one character I actually disliked in the entire show. One of the things I liked about the show was how each character actually fits into the story, and the world in which they exist - even the cats have a purpose. One of the other things I liked was the use of fairytale and mythological creatures in the show. The females gondoliers are referred to as Undines, with the top three being called the Great Fairies. The weather is controlled by salamanders, the gravity is controlled by gnomes, etc. One thing that puzzled me was why the female characters names begin with A (except Grandma, however her real name is Akino), but that's by-the-by.
So the important question is: Will you enjoy the show?
If you're an action junkie, or into horror or angst, then this is not the show for you (although it never hurts to give it a try). This show is funny and quirky in many ways, without going over the top, but the one word I would use to describe the show is RELAX. It took me two weeks to finish this show and it's sequel (which is a long time for me by the way), and this is because this show is so relaxing that I was falling asleep whilst watching it. Normally it takes a lot for me to fall asleep, and even boredom doesn't work, but somehow this show just relaxes you to the point where you just drift off to dreamland without a second thought, and never once was I bored with this show.
Overall this is a show that deserves to be watched, as it has a unique appeal that the like's of Sketchbook ~full colour'S~ and Kokoro Toshokan just can't quite match up to. The reason why the non-linear story works well in this show is because it's so relaxing that you honestly just don't care about the fact there's no real plot - which is a rather refreshing perspective to have.
The best way to watch the show? Have a shower, have a good meal, get comfortable, and relax...
I stumbled upon Aria years ago when reading a review about the manga and made a mental note to check it out later. Positively drawn in by Kozue Amano's original work, I soon picked up the anime as well. For a reason I still can't recall I dropped the show nearly three years ago, and it wasn't until just recently that I finished what I started back then. And though not much had changed for either better or worse from what I remembered, I'm glad I did so.
Aria the Animation is not for you, who prefers a clear cut and classically constructed storyline that moves
from point A to point B with some key events in between. Aria the Animation is not for you, who requires relentless action and constant fast-paced happenings from their anime. And most certainly Aria the Animation is not for you, who finds little to no enjoyment in just sitting back and watching as a close-knit group of girls, not in their bra and panties with guns ablaze, but with their gondolas and oars go through ordinary day-to-day activities instead of epic adventures and intense situations.
But on the good chance you are the type to approach your anime with an open mind and the patience to watch and see the magic in the moment, you are likely to find the company of Akari, Aika, Alice, and the rest of the undines and undines-in-training much to your liking. Because that's what Aria the Animation is ultimately about: a journey to uncover the joy of the obvious, the excitement behind the mundane, and the possibilities underneath the sorrows.
These scenarios are played out to us by a cast of characters who depict a variety of different personalities. Akari is the naive amateur who treats all she experiences with childlike wonder; through her most of the show's message is brought across to the viewer. . Aika is her best friend and almost her exact opposite: no-nonsense and feet firmly on the ground-kind of girl who constantly berates Akari for her dreamy ways. And Alicia is their mentor and the big sister-type of character, who's there to provide insight and help the juniors along the way. They're surrounded by a pack of friends who similarly have their quirks and qualities defining them and making their role contributing to what the creator is trying to tell us.
You're right if you argue that the story is boring and seemingly pointless at times. Saying the characters being archetypes of their respective personalities (and almost exclusively female as well!) is cliche and overused is valid. Complaining that having cats as business company presidents is just plain stupid and ridiculous is justified.
But as one who no doubt has already seen quite a bit of anime in their life, you have for sure come across these common failings before. And in case you've reached the point of having made peace with them, or feel like challenging yourself to do so, Aria the Animation may prove to be an eye-opening experience for you that anime can be good even if no heavens are pierced.
"May this town's kindness reach the hearts of many people..."
From what I saw, I'm sure it will.
The first idea I wanted to share in this review is that Aria is a series that speaks for itself. What I'm doing here is merely trying to explain a complex story within a few lines. I would never be able to summarize all the pros/cons of Aria, first because each person will see it in a deferent way, and second because you would need to watch it in order to understand all the comparisons, metaphores and symbolism I would mention.
That said, I'm reviewing it with the
sole purpose of bringing more viewers for this amazing chronicle and hopefully introduce more and more people to Aqua and its habitants.
Aria is an anime that everybody should watch, still, it's not an anime that will work for everybody. Whether or not you will enjoy it, is up to you, your personal interpretation and the mood of the moment. I would say that what matters the most is the timing. If you watch it while in the mood for a thriller, you'll drop it even before understanding the idea of the story.
"Now, please take my hand"
Is what you would heard from a radiant Undiine while boarding her gondola. With a gentle smile she would gracefully ask you where to and start conducing you trought Neo-Venezia, a city modeled after Venezia in Man-Home (Earth). She would show you turistic spots and you'd start to notice that even being in 2053 the city moves slowly, without traffic jams, rush hour, polution, cellphones, noise pollution... The only evidences that you are really in the XXII century would be the spaceships that are continually transporting passangers from one planet to another. This relaxed athmosphere would start to embrace you while the Undiine continue to show you wonders and misteries from this planet that were once dry and empty and is now filled with water and life.
It's impossible to not enjoy such cozy enviroment.
Every episode is a kind of fairy tale, filled with cultural values and a sense of friendship, always coming up with a poetic moral in the end. Aria stands out from the average and prove us that the essence of the Slice-Of-Life is not dead. Characters can be lovely and elegant without being "moe". All the great stories in human history never needed movies or TV series to be remembered, they passed from generation to generation depending only in the power of words and its storyteller. Aria didn't have a high budget, neither big sponsors, so the quality of the animation could never be compared to a "top" studio, even though, the artwork values itself from this modest simplicity, that even with a medium quality, brings you gorgeous scenarios and handsome characters.
At this point you probably already noticed that Aria raise some questions a regular slice-of-life doesn't. This is only possible because of two main reasons: The already mentioned storyline progression, that works with a character-driven story and a "not-so-linear" time progression, and the well said characters.
Usually what you see is a cast made of a group of high schoolers in a school enviroment, 99% of the slice-of-life stories are like this. Not saying they are bad, but it only provides a unilateral point of view from a given subject. Of course each character, if well planned, will have a difference in personality and see things in a different way, otherwise it would get boring to watch. Aria on the other hand change things in a "macro" way, and brings a entire community as characters. Works with different generations and people with the most different styles of life and personality traces, bringing to you a much more rich story that resemble our lifes.
It stays apparent whenever or not a studio made an effort to create something special when one of the basic points of a series steals the show. Financial issues or other external factors can put a "barrier" to graphics, effects, art, post-production development, but sound is relatively free from it. Music can be made by anyone, anywhere. Anonymous people can create masterpieces, and some kid can be playing right now a perfect cover of Beethoven. Why am I saying this?
Because Aria's music deserve to be praised. Wonderful acoustic pieces by Choro Club and Senoo was the perfect match for the enviroment of the series. The entire OST is performed with string instruments (even a rhodes) without any kind of pop song or eletronic. The songs are slow paced, almost hitting a andante and sometimes a vivace, while the vocal collection are mostly ballads. It's undoubtedly the best choice of OST for a story with the values of Aria.
Can you fell the nostalgia already?
Aria made something special here.
I wish not enter in the merit of originality but it is perceptible that after its publication, lots of other franchises started producing series which bended more to this side of a philosophical slice-of-life with tones of self-discovery on it. One could say the strenght of this series lies into two major standards. The fact that we all wish for hapiness and a calm life, and the philosophic notion that this happiness and this ability to see the wonder in things is already inside of us. You just need to find it.
Being honest, I don't really mind that Aria is little of a underrated series. If it's like this, the amount of haters are minimal, there's no controversy around it, neither people arguing to see "which is the best character". The way it is, Aria will continue to be slowly recommended from friends to friends, just like in the pace of the anime itself.
As for enjoyment, it sure hits the maximum score. Without any action scene or a suddenly twists in the plot, Aria still managed to amuse me every single episode. There's no way I would watch one episode and don't feel refreshed, all warm and fuzzy inside. Meaning-of-life anime? This is definitely one.
I probably went full-philosophic in the last paragraphs, then for a closure to this review, a funny observation:
Aria is not perfect. There's something pretty annoying on it, that will chase you from the 1st episode to the last of the 3rd season (...) 99% of the characters' names and/or last names starts with "A". Aqua, Aria, Akari, Alice, Alicia, Aika, Akira, Athena, Ai, Al, Anna, Akatsuki...
It's pretty hard to memorize who is who before you get used to them!
I hope I was able to introduce at least a little bit of this great story that is Aria. Now, the rest is up to you.
"Thank you for choosing Aria Company. Have a safe trip! See you again!"
Slice of life anime are difficult to represent to audiences in an entertaining manner without being a boring spectacle; that's why most of these have dramatic or romantic elements, or a lot of fanservice in them in order to be appealing to the viewer. But then there is Aria: The Animation, a slice of life in its purest form, that proves that such type of anime doesn't need any of the above to be succesful. Having dived in without any expectations whatsoever, I was pleasantly surprised: it was proven how wonderful and relaxing such a simple anime can be.
The premise of Aria: The Animation is
of simple nature: Akari Mizunashi, a teenager who moved from Manhome to the planet Aqua (formerly known as Mars), joins the Aria Company to become a professional Undine - or a professional tour guide - in Neo Venezia, a flawless presentation of Venezia itself. This may seem as something totally uninteresting, learning how to become a undine, yet while it certainly is an aspect of importance, its main focus lies in the interactions with the people in the city, in addition to world building of the location.
Another interesting aspect is the fact that it is a planet covered in water and while it gives the impression at first of being a simplistic and somewhat regressed humanity technologically wise, it is for the matter not: it is mixed with futuristic vehicles and devices such as gigantic airships, or flying machinery, whereas everyday tools are simple, which gives the viewer a feeling of attachment to the setting itself, as this may be something that would happen in the near future. Now it must be said that not much of the world and how it came to be is revealed, which will maybe be done in the sequels.
As mentioned earlier, the story focuses on the different interactions with the people of Neo Venezia, and naturally fellow apprentice undines, as well as professional ones. It doesn't stop there: world building is done through the different, but intricate people of the city necessary to maintain a working society. Audiences may think that this anime has the approach of "cute girls doing cute things", yet with Aria it doesn't give this impression at all: they're just humans living their everyday life. These interactions are truly fascinating and heartwarming to watch, as it is in addition very relaxing as it also represents the ups and down life has.
The cast of characters in Aria: The Animation is not big, and is by no means necessary; in fact, it fits well with the story to have a better and more realistic fleshing out of a handful of characters, than to have an excess of those. It must be mentioned that the fleshing out is limited and nothing outstanding, as well as character development itself. The characters are simple and have distinct personalities, that fits well with the setting and different relationships between the characters.
What however stands out in Aria are the character interactions: these are very well presented, in a realistic and soothing manner. These are heartwarming and varied, nothing overly dramatic, which relay simple messages as enjoyment of the simple things of life, or realization of your own flaws through your environment and relationships with the characters. Which leads to other great aspect of the anime: the females are in no way sexualized, which is a huge plus to the anime.
Other aspect that was really soothing and amusing to watch were said interactions: these were often witty and funny that managed to make me smile, and sometimes even blurt out quite often, which was something unexpected. These can be in addition quite emotional as well, as viewers observe how some of the characters are affected by their environment. What also struck me was the fact that the anime didn't seem to focus on Akari, rather her friends and companions as well.
~Animation and sound~
The animation of Aria: The Animation (ha, animation) was well done, character movements being fluid, at times even being surprisingly well done. The art style itself is average, but fulfills its purpose well, having distinct character design and well drawn backgrounds that represented well the world and atmosphere the anime was trying to convey to the viewer. Another bonus is the smooth transition between the introduction and opening of the show, as well as the ending: it never felt an abrupt change.
What however really stands out is the soundtrack used: besides the wonderful opening and ending songs that matched well with the story, were the individual OST's used. These were particularly of high quality to what the show was trying to convey, in addition to not being overused throughout the show. The voice actors performed their role well, matching well with the personalities of the characters and was relaxing to listen at.
What I initially thought to be a boring show about Venezia and how to become a undine, proved to be so much more interesting and relaxing than ever expected. The narrative and interactions with the characters, the humor and wonderful OST did a fantastic job to have a wonderful experience. The fact that it was no "cute girls doing cute things" type of show, in addition to females not being sexualized in any manner, was a huge bonus to the show. It certainly lacked in character development and having any type of story which I usually am no fan of, however the story set out what it meant to do.
Some may wonder why I only gave it a score of only 8 despite all the positive things I mentioned in the review: this is mainly because nothing really happens, it is purely oriented on slice of life with no goal apparent. World building was a bit lackluster as well. I could recommend to anyone with an interest in the slice of life genre, just don't expect anything groundbreaking.
No matter how awesome an anime's opening and ending songs are, you probably start skipping them after the 2nd episode. But don't skip ahead just yet - these 11 anime openings and endings change over time. Watch closely, now!