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.
Well I have to say the reason why I gave Aria a 5 it's mainly because I expected something way better than what I've just seen, the first episodes were slow which I thought it was cool but even at the end it was even SLOWER, i felt like it wasn't making any progress I had no initiative to continue watching, I felt like I've been wasting my time with this one.
The good things about it would be the art and sound which were outstanding but that doesn't change my view on it neither.
"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!"
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