This is my first review; and what better series to review than the glorious Aria the Origination.
This is what I've been looking for all along. This is the reason why I have been spending countless hours experiencing many different stories, encompassing so many different themes while simultaneously being sucked into an abundance of worlds. There is a saying that goes as such: "A good life is a collection of happy moments". This is exactly what this anime was to me. It taught me, along with many others, to appreciate life, and how incredible it truly is.
The third and final season of Aria didn't try to impress its audience from the get-go. Instead it allowed the viewers to try and envision what the outcome might be, however obvious it was from early on in the franchise. I even found myself in the first couple of episodes of this season scratching my head, wondering why people were giving the show as much praise as it frequently gets; as the opening episodes were not as flashy as I expected them to be. I almost got the impression that I was re-watching the first season: Aria the Animation. I felt as if this season was a bit of a back-step; lowering itself in terms of storytelling from the brilliant Aria the Natural. Don't be afraid, however, if you find yourself feeling the same way after watching the first couple episodes. It is certainly not like that the whole through. I can assure you. Don't get me wrong, the first two or three episodes were still pretty good, just not as 'special' as I thought they would be.
Origination focuses much more purely in being a undine in Aqua. Unlike Natural, which focuses more in the city of Neo Venezia, and all the supernatural beings which inhabit it, the final season shines its spotlight on the act of being a gondolier. We see more prospect in how our three young undines go by their day-to-day life, rowing their gondola, and their struggles and efforts to finally becoming a prima. Earlier on I mentioned that it is quite evident what will happen by the end of the series, and by that I meant that it will end with Akari, Alice, and Aika being prima undines. If this was to end otherwise, it would be unsatisfactory, and almost a dreadful 'read the manga' ending, that would ultimately be a massive spit in the face to the viewer. Heck there are even pictures of the show, which illustrate our three undines, without their signature gloves: this obviously meaning that they have become primas. Regardless, I assure you that the show ends almost perfectly, as it left a wide, almost creepy smile across my face, for the entirety of the final several episodes. Aria the origination was brilliantly directed, as we dive into the fantastical world that is Aqua, in all its glory.
The pacing of the show is as well truly extraordinary. There is a very correct balance between comical moments, and more heart-tugging moments, with each individual episode ending with Ai-chan's unbearably cute voice. Of course the setting is still on-point, as Neo Venezia is almost as if its an exact replica of Venice. Each building feels real, the sea and the chilling breeze when a character stares into the ocean, reaches the viewer, as I often felt chills down my spine. Thus the city is given life, just like how Akari explains almost every episode.
I have not once been left disappointed by the fluidity, background depth and detail, character designs and color palette, but instead I am left in awe by how brilliantly done they all are. The final season of Aria, as expected, does not disappoint. In matter of fact, it is even more spectacular. There were times that I felt as if I as watching a movie by the sheer magnificence of the show visually. One aspect of the art that really surprised my how by the use of 3D in this season. You can tell just how much effort was put into this anime! Another example of how much the animation/art quality improved in this season, was the detail of each character's faces, or more specifically their eyes. Any scene which took place on the Hope Hill (the green hill with all the wind turbines), looked almost godly. The only minor irritation I had with this aspect was that there were a few too many (albeit hilarious) chibi scenes. Although these helped tone down the show, I feel as if it would have been better without as many as there were. The reason why I included that comment in this section, is since such scenes tended to be more lackluster in animation (as one would expect). Overall, however, I am utterly pleased with this aspect of the show.
If you go ask anyone who has watched the entirety of Aria, what their favorite aspect of the show was, 9/10 times it would be the soundtrack.Why, do you ask? Well it was through this show that I found out that one could orgasm through longitudinal waves! (nerdy joke) But on a more serious note; the mixture between orchestra, piano, and violin was masterful, and each track was played at the perfect moment! If this aspect was not how it was, the ending result would be no where near as impactful as it is. This might be an obvious statement, but Aria the Origination heavily relied on its soundtrack to guide the tone of the show. And without guidance, you have a badly paced series. Something I should truly praise the show for is its seiyuu performances. Each and every seiyuu was perfect: especially Akari's voice actress: she reflected Akari's character flawlessly, as being a constantly happy and optimistic girl; a role which I believe to be exceedingly difficult to master. The ending song was one of the greatest things I have ever experienced: both visually, and sound-wise. It fat the tone of the show quintessentially! The opening was as well great, although not as memorable.There's not much I can say to bash this section, as the show did almost everything right, in my opinion.
A problem that I tend to have with shows that have a very limited cast, is that there is not enough variety through their emotions, in order to truly satisfy my needs as a viewer. However, Aria is a show that turns this speculation upside down. Each and every character is fully developed, three-dimensional, and human. They are realistic, and although they are happy most of the times, there is more behind that smile than one would think. Akari Mizunashi is a great example of this. She is described as a quote on quote "Eternal optimist" or "Miss expect of happiness" and there is a valid reason for this. It is rare to see this character feeling down or depressed. At first I found this trope pretty unrealistic, but especially with Origination I was proven very wrong. She expresses so much emotion just by her intelligent analogies and 'speeches' about how important life is to those who respect their lives. She is very important to the story, as her character makes the entire city feel happy and content. She helps her friends when they feel down, and she even tries her utmost when she herself feels as if she cannot mirror her title. Alicia Florence is another fantastic character: she does not go about explaining her reasoning like any other human. Instead, she will go about her explanation in a very peculiar way. She might start rolling a snowball out of nowhere just to prove a point! I realise that this sounds silly, but I was utterly amused by how accurate those actions were to help explain her points. She, like Akari, is more often than not, always wearing a smile. This helps Akari keep her own smile, so that she could be able to illustrate her talent as an undine.
Alice Carroll is my personal favorite character ( plus my new waifu but that's besides the point). The reason why this is so, is since she is probably the most logical, intelligent, and talented undine out of all the cast, at such a young age. She is almost inspiring as a character: not only to those in the anime, but to the viewer him/herself. I particularly love how she has an O.C.D, as she has to, for example, kick a stone all the way home one day, or another she will have to walk backwards, or walk only in shadows. This makes her character more realistic, as it demonstrates her more childish side, since shes only 14. *Small Spoiler* She also has an impeccable singing voice which came to my surprise.
The rest if the cast, which I could talk about for eternities, is all fully fledged out, and as i mentioned before, realistic. The only issue I had is that I wanted a bit more backstory for other characters, but that's only a small problem, which wouldn't really affect the show too much. An honorable mention is Grandma, who had a brilliant backstory, and was a fantastic addition to the cast, even though it was seldom that she appeared in the show. But I digress, since the characters were all pretty much perfect; even the secondary characters such as the Patissiere and Akatsuki.
I don't think there is any other slice of life series that could provide as much enjoyment as this one did. Almost every single episode left me teary-eyed. Episode 9 was one of the greatest episodes I have seen in a LONG time. It was surprising, beautiful and incredibly well animated. That is not to say that it was miles ahead of any other episode, as they were all important to the story, which ultimately lead to the magnificent and conclusive ending, which could not have satisfied me more than it did. All I can say is Bravo! What an accomplishment this show truly was.
If only this series gained more mainstream recognition. It truly, truly deserves a wider audience, even though it is not, of course, perfect. But then again, no show ever is. Sayonara Akari, Alice, Alicia, Aika, Athena, Akira, and Aria. It was a fantastic run. Cheers!
Story - [Score: 9]
Characters - [Score: 9]
Art/Animation - [Score: 9]
Sound - [Score: 10]
Enjoyment - [Score: 9]
[Final Score: 9.4/10]
Final Comment: A legendary slice of life series, that should be enjoyed by many, if not all anime fans.