For those of you suffering from withdrawal after the end of Aria, relief is at hand in the form of Aria: The Origination Picture Dramas, a series of shorts that are like an anodyne for the soul.
Aria is easily one of the most popular slice of life anime to appear in recent years, so there's probably no need to talk about the story proper (not that it's relevant here and if you want to know more about the series then you can check out my reviews of the franchise). It's relaxing feel, adorable characters, and surprisingly addictive stories where nothing really happens and there's almost no drama, make it a favourite of many people - whether they admit it or not. There's many a hardened action junkie who will, when pressed, sheepishly admit that the Aria series is one of their guilty pleasures (you know who you are).
Unlike the rest of the franchise though, the picture dramas don't really make any sort of cohesive narrative. Instead they form a series of seven individual short stories that have no bearing on one another, and are only peripherally linked to the series proper. The seven stories are called:
1. Pyjama Party
2. Traghetto Epilogue
3. Aiming for that Glorious Victory
4. The Disgrace of Neo Venezia
5. Alice's Ghost Story
7. Together with Spring
Now given my penchant for all things odd, weird and strange, it should be no surprise that my favourite tale is "The Disgrace of Neo Venezia", which is a parody of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms complete with energy bolts, tea, and Alicia as a huge golden Buddha.
The animation (what little of it there is), is on a par with the rest of the franchise, and the designs are exactly what one would expect from Aria - cute, colourful characters and subtly detailed scenery. The acting is easily as good as that in the main three series, especially where episode 4 is concerned, and it seems as though the seiyuu had a lot of fun making the Picture Drama. The sound effects are actually pretty good, but they lack certain nuances which give the main three series part of their atmosphere.
There isn't really much one can say about the characters as they are pure Aria. There isn't any development in the Picture Drama as there's no need for any, and while no new characters are introduced there are parodies of existing ones. For the most part though, everyone behaves exactly as one would expect.
Given the fact that I'm a card carrying fan of Aria, it should be no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed this series (although one does have to wonder why they're called dramas as they're not very dramatic). The charm and quirky humour that is a hallmark of the Aria franchise is present throughout this series, and while it may not be as in depth a look into the world of Aqua, there is enough going on in the Picture Drama to keep even the most die hard fans of the franchise happy.
And for those of you who've never seen Aria, these 5-7 minute episodes may serve as a great taster for the show. read more