All things eventually have to come to an end, especially with series that have left a mark on many people. One series that has cemented itself as the king of accomplishing this for many is the Aria series. What many consider to be the series’s magnum opus, Aria the Origination is the last chapter in the anime adaptation of the beloved manga. As you might figure out, it is just about as glamoured with gorgeous music, cheerful characters, and melodramatic optimism as one can handle. Despite all of the beautiful aspects of this show, and the series as a whole, there’s still that one question that has always bugged me with each season: Why am I not smiling?
Before I start voicing my criticism on these issues, I’d like to explain the positive aspects of Origination that leave it off from being just a "decent" show and try to describe it without trying to compare it to previous seasons. To put it into perspective, Origination is supposed to be the accumulation of everything that the series was building up to. As we see the characters grow from their past experiences, it is inevitable that they want to make it into a big emotional climax to end it all. To which I can concur it is a satisfying conclusion to the series.
Since Origination is focused on the character development, this is where Origination truly shines that tries to develop them little by little. Because we have followed three of these girls and their elder undines for so long, their complex relationships have been built up for the inevitable climax that shows them growing into leaving their profession as full-time undines. Its slow pacing is why it works as lovely character development because there are no awkward transitions between episodes that feel problematic to the characters growth.
Of course, you can’t talk about a season of Aria without ever mentioning its musical composition. It is no secret that the series is known for its beautiful and memorable score and Origination does not fail on this aspect. Although I would consider this to be the weakest of the series, there is no reason to suggest that the instrumentation of the songs in Origination still keeps the spirit of the series going. The music involves a lot of Celtic guitar instrumentation that feels fitting with the setting and atmosphere. Vocals are exceptionally graceful and give an excellent introduction to the show as the opening guides us into a new kind of adventure with each episode.
As the series progressed, the animation and art got better and better as their budget had increased by the time they started with Animation. Origination’s celebrated blend of colors and misty backdrops gives the show a dreamy atmosphere with transparent white overtones of the environments and characters. Character designs are neatly colored with nice clean looks to their facial features and their expressions, especially when they are in chibi form whenever a comedic moment happens. It creates a decent flow of showing a new dimension to the show by not just being a somber slice of life, but also a comedy with zany edges to it. They are not what you would call hilarious or hysterical by any means, but they are funny tidbits that have a nice spark of humor to Origination.
Now, what many might conceive as one of the best facets of Aria is the atmosphere. It is often praised for being very relaxing and brings feelings happy emotions to the audience from the artistic aspects to the character interactions that follow it. It cannot be denied that the features that inhabit it do not exist in some form, but for all intents and purposes, for me, that sort of ethereal atmosphere only does very little to make the series impacting. To put my criticisms into perspective, an atmosphere that wants to make the audience feel any emotion needs to have some semblance of a structure that makes it feel natural and effective. With the case of Aria, it feels as though it just wants to be a relaxing atmospheric show just for the sake of being one and nothing else.
Another troubling aspect of the atmosphere that doesn’t make for a worthwhile experience is the fact that it is always the same impending tone. It is true that there are some moments where we are given a slightly different shift in tone to a more somber, depressing one, but those are very few and far in-between. Because of this, the whole atmosphere feels extremely fake and alienating for someone like me who does not feel the need to take the atmosphere for granted. The atmosphere is entirely stagnant and makes Origination a rather dense slice of life show that seems to think that life is always this happy-go-lucky experience with halfhearted expectations of things getting better.
In conjunction with the atmosphere, the characters that inhabit Aria are not necessarily the most magnificent cast of characters that you might’ve been told so. Now like I’ve said before, all of their developments are great and make them standout. You can’t make bland characters any better by just making them developed to excuse all the yawning. Besides their development, what other characteristics do they have that make them any more significant? Is it the fact that they continuously throw in monotonous catchphrases to try to make them not dull? The fact that they all have similar optimistic outlooks that hardly make them any more distinct from any other character? Or that they constantly throw in pointless poetic dialogue to somehow make them seem more insightful than what they are?
I can appreciate some of the quirkiness that is thrown out here and there from the characters, but that is not enough to think of any of them as inspired characters. Once in a while, I can chuckle at the catchphrases, but it is quickly forgotten due to the uninspired way they implement it into the show. There are even some character side stories that don’t go anywhere that can be construed as the show cutting some things off of the manga, like the awkwardly written romance between Aika and Albert. What it all comes down to is that none of the characters have anything to offer in terms of creativity or intrigue other than their development, which is two completely different things in character writing.
Despite all of the negatives, I pointed out in this point of the series, Origination is not something that I would consider terrible or bad for that matter. It is decent for what it is, which I would say is a positive overall evaluation for the series as a whole. Origination is not the remarkable life-changing show that many like to make it up to be in my opinion, but it is not the polar opposite to that effect. There are plenty of qualities that can be looked upon with fresh eyes. All that is left to do is to pinpoint what stands out for them as an experience worth going through.