After 150 years of Terraforming, Aqua, the planet formerly known as Mars, now has more than 90 percent of its surface covered in water. A young girl named Akari Mizunashi arrives at the city of Neo-Venezia, an exact replica of the old Italian city of Venice, hoping to become an Undine, the most coveted job on Aqua.
Volume 2: Othello Game (Ebony & Ivory)
Aqua is one of those manga that is very calming and relaxing to read, and could be categorized as "slice-of-life", as the story is mostly just Akari living her life and trying to become a full-fledged undine.
Though too much isn't going on in the plot, and may I say action-lovers would be quite let down, Aqua gives a very charming story. The pace is very slow, and allows you to really get into the world of Aqua. Aqua is the planet Mars after terraforming, and the city we mostly see is nearly a repicla of Venice. Akari, our main character and narrator of the
series, finds things in life that could be boring to others quite fascinating, which is illustrated often in the series by the pace and the nostalgic feeling. Love the simple things in life, is the message, perhaps.
This is one of the major points of Aqua. The art is simply beautiful. Each panel is illustrated with such detail, and movements are so fluid. I love the setting, this Venice-type city on a planet covered in water, and it's illustrated so amazingly that one could feel so much for it. The characters are nicely drawn, but it is the backgrounds in this story that shine.
There is no character in this series that I dislike. Though there aren't many main characters, the ones the story mainly centers around are Akari, the ever-optomistic and eager undine apprentice; Alicia, Akari's mentor and a talented undine, the most popular in the entire city; Aika the blunt and orderly undine of a rival company and friend to Alicia and Akari; and then President Aria, who is, obviously, the president of Aria company. He's not exactly your typical president though, considering he is a cat. He is a Mars cat, intelligent as a human but unable to speak, and is the company's mascot. Each character is well-developed throught, though it is short.
It is very enjoyable of a series. I had heard of it, so I decided to buy it partially on a whim, though usually I'm a fan of slow-pacing slice-of-life series. This was something amazing to find, though. It's a beautiful manga and highly reccomended. Now I'm eager to start on Aria, Aqua's sequal.
Serialized in: Comic Blade (Mag Garden) & Stencil (Square Enix)
Genre: Sci-fi, Slice-of-life, Drama, Comedy
Rating: T (13+)
Akari Mizunashi is traveling to Aqua (Mars) from Manhome (Earth) to become an undine, one of the famous female gondoliers of Neo-Venezia (a replica of Venice). Akari knows nothing about Mars, which is now called Aqua since terraforming released tremendous amounts of water that now cover 90% of the surface. She also knows next to nothing about undines, only that she wants to be one. Slowly, day by day, she meets all kinds of new people and practices hard to become a good undine and adapts to the slow
pace of life on Aqua.
Akari is our main character and often narrator, since she frequently writes to a mysterious someone back on Manhome. Her total innocence reflects the reader’s and she encounters new things in the same way that we do, making her reactions to them our guide to this futuristic world. I say “futuristic”, but in fact there’s a delightful mix of sci-fi, ‘magic’ and nostalgic old ways in this story. For instance, despite the availability of computers, people on Aqua prefer to send letters, which are collected by a mailman in a gondola, no less. We are never shown Manhome, but Akari refers often to how the weather is regulated and everything is “convenient” there — in contrast to Aqua where it’s not as convenient to have to go out to shop, or to travel in boats to do anything. An undine, by the way, is a water-spirit, an elemental, as recorded by Paracelcus.
I’m describing all this because in a slice-of-life story, this is a staple of its charm. It’s nostalgic for slower, simpler times or at least it is a reaction against the insane, dehumanizing pace of modern living. There are often panels showing little more than scenery and setting, showing tiny moments of time that have little to do with hurrying the plot along. In this way, Amano is in strict control of the pace of the story and the reader can find him/herself skipping panels to get to the “happenings”. This is a mistake, however — the reader ought to let Amano have her pacing. (Which I was finally able to do after the third reading ^^;;; )
Fans of the series in both its forms might be surprised how few characters there are in this first volume. Akari meets President Aria, a “Martian cat” who is as smart as a human and very large too, but can’t talk. He’s a fatty, and the hardest thing to get used to in this manga. My own reaction to him was, “that blob is supposed to be a cat??” Alicia is Akari’s boss, mentor and idol all in one. She is very kind and gentle and takes an immediate liking to Akari, not really affectionate, but mothering her nevertheless. Aria Company is very small, only Alicia and Akari for employees, but she’s nevertheless famous and highly-sought as an undine. Aika is another trainee from a rival company, an abrupt, totally practical girl, who is constantly bringing the dreamy Akari down to earth and completely idolizes Alicia for some reason. She and Akari strike up an immediate friendship and often practice together .
Some of Amano-sensei’s earlier works were pretty bland and mediocre (Crescent Noise, Ohi-sama Egao). With this series, she is breaking free of shoujo or shounen standard style, although she brings some of those details with her, too. The style is very clean and graphical, with little sketch-like approach at all. And although the characters are well-drawn and likeable, it’s the backgrounds that are breathtakingly spectacular. It’s pretty clear that Amano traveled to Venice at some point, and probably took hundreds of pictures for reference, or at least is using photos from somewhere. On nearly every page, there’s something that is quite clearly drawn “from life”, whether it’s famous St. Mark’s Square or just a dilapidated building, losing its plaster over the bricks.
This manga, whatever other charms it has (and it has a lot), is a love letter to Venice. And the famous landmarks are not highlighted in such a way as to make one think that they’re the point. No, they’re simply there, in the background, like the little throwaway details that Sudio Ghibli animates in their films, as Ebert noted in his Totoro review. Akari struggles to control her gondola…under the Bridge of Sighs or through the Grand Canal, without calling attention to it. It’s fabulous. I have to admit that it’s a little “orientalist” too. A futuristic, sci-fi setting and it’s in a replica of Venice down to the last brick? It’s as if Amano is saying that Venice is so weird, it might as well be the moon — or, well, mars. But of course, it allows her to do what she wishes with the story, make it as lovely as Venice should be, not to mention have gondoliers who are beautiful girls, not sweaty, hairy men.
Many of you already know that ADV, for reasons that pass understanding, already started to publish this series, but skipping to the sequel, Aria. The license was acquired by Tokyopop and they’re starting from the beginning this time. Aqua is only two volumes, and Aria is on it’s 11th volume and still continuing in Japan, so I’m hoping Tokyopop stays with it. Tokyopop is doing their usual job on this manga; the printing is consistent, very little of the tops and bottoms of pages are cut off (none of the dialogue or art is lost, don’t worry), and the translation is, so far as I checked, fairly good. They have not “localized” it too much, as they euphemize the horrible treatments publishers give some manga. However, I have to take exception to the cover. Why change the stately, widely-spaced roman title from the Japanese version to this logo-ed, sci-fi title font? Nitpicky, I know, but this shows the level of regard TP has for this manga, I think. They took the time to redesign a title, but for no good reason. Also, as usual, there are no colour pages in the interior at all. I used to dismiss this as cost-saving, since colour printing is prohibitive and would likely make manga jump from $10 to $12. However, Infinity manages to do it. They also manage to have dust covers, like the Japanese tankoubon have.
In the interest of full disclosure, yes: I am a fanboy of this series in all its forms. But I have to say that it took me FOUR tries to like it. I didn’t at first. But I would say that it’s well worth trying out. It’s hard to say who would like this manga, it’s so outside of the usual thing. Give it a go.
Aqua is one of those manga that can be read without worrying about having violence or anything creepy in it. It's a very slow-paced, relaxing manga to read. If anyone is into action or fast-paced manga, then Aqua will not be your type of manga, and you’ll more likely going to drop it once you begin to read this short manga. Compare to the anime, there are indeed some differences. But the relaxing feeling is still mostly the same.
This manga is unique in my opinion, as most other slice of life mangas I’ve heard of are mostly taking place in a setting just like in
real life. But surprisingly, this manga takes place in a planet called Aqua, which is terraformed Mars in the future. The plot is not complex. Akari Mizunashi came to Aqua all the way from Manhome (Earth) and trains to become an undine, a professional gondolier who guides tourists in the city of Neo-Venezia, which is a city based on Venice in Italy. The story may seem simple, but the unique setting and strange characters such as President Aria (a cat) makes me want to explore Aqua further and get to know how Akari was trained to become an undine. I’ve yet to read its sequel, Aria, in order to explore Aqua futher and compare it with the anime version.
The art is excellent. The characters and the setting were well drawn. The city of Neo-Venezia has a great detail and still looked great even though it’s only black and white on the manga. Though the only part that might turn people off are some of the deformed faces of certain characters, which occurs sometimes in certain situations throughout the manga. But I don't really mind about it, as the deformed faces were used to display how a person feels about something.
The characters are very likable. Each character has a different personality, which is why it made this short manga good to read. Though Alicia and Akari can be similar in some way, as both of them are easy-going and never get angry. Aika may seem a bit strict and moody sometimes, but she is also a likable character. President Aria is a cute cat which sometimes acts like a human even though it cannot speak like a human. This made President Aria a unique character, which made me fascinated.
I enjoyed this short manga very much. This is my first manga actually, as I usually watch anime instead of reading manga. But I was glad that I picked Aqua as my first manga to read, it’s very relaxing and great manga to start off for me.
Aqua is a great manga that takes place in literally a new world. It would be a good choice for people that wish to visit Italy, expecially Venice in particular.
I gave this story a 10 for a couple reasons. The first reason is because I really thought it had a unique plot. It's not often that you find a manga taking place on Mars (now called "Aqua" after 150 years of terraforming) in a city called Neo-Venezia, a replica of "Manhome's" (earth) city of Venice. It follows Akari Mizunashi, who is a teen girl coming from Manhome to find a job as an undine in
Neo-Venezia. She trains under the guidance of Alicia, a famous undine, and meets friends such as Aika. I'll discuss more about the characters later.
The story is remarkable, also, because of my love for Venice. As I said earlier, anybody with a fascination of Venice, or Italy in general, would enjoy this manga. It mixes Italian culture (such as Venetian festivals and customs) with the foods and names of Japan.
The art in this manga is amazing. The way Kozue Amano draws her characters might not be too spectacular, but the backgrounds are incredibly detailed, as if you're really seeing Venice. You can see the buildings and gondolas with detail that most manga leave out. If you're looking for a manga because of the art, this might be the one for you. However, I'm not saying the characters are bad. They aren't spectacular, but the characters are also very well drawn.
The characters in the manga are quite enjoyable. They all have unique personalities and don't share the same traits. For example, not all the characters are running around making sure the house is clean and that everyone is happy.
Akari Mizunashi is the main character, who is easy-going and likes to enjoy the gondola rather then take it too seriously. Akari often stops to help people when they need it, such as helping a lost tourist.
Next is Alicia, a famous gondolier who is training Akari. She is often helping sitting in Akari's gondola, offering her advice. Also, if Akari wants a passenger, Alicia is required to be present in the gondola, so you see a lot of Alicia during the story.
Finally is Aika, a stubborn and hot-tempered girl who can be kind at times, too. Aika works for a sister company of undines, and she meets Akari when she comes to visit Alicia, her "idol". Aika is often chastising Akari when Akari gets distracted from a task.
Overall, this manga is amazing. It might be because I dream of living in Venice someday, and that caused me to love the art even more. I think I would've still loved this manga even if I didn't like Venice so much. It's a must-read for people who like light and easy-going manga.