I have to admit that I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this show. The synopsis didn’t really me any clues about the story so I, like many others, made a snap judgement about it based on little information and a few images. Oh how wrong I was, and that is probably the best thing about Aria: The Animation – 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-Venezia (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). Another thing I didn’t expect is the plot, which isn’t linear in any way, and each episode is effectively a story in its own right. Now episodic shows are most often 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. Much of the setting is based on Venice in the real world, maybe not always in terms of direct transposition, but Aria manages to capture the slightly ethereal feel of the city. The characters are very well depicted, even when they show their chibi side, and while they do fall on the side of cute, they are not tooth achingly so. Granted some may be put off by the imagery and design, but in all honesty I found the characters both whimsical and amusing in many ways, and the best bit is there’s not a panty shot in sight – hooray!
The sound is one area where this show really excels. Everything is there if you listen, from the sound of the waves to the hubbub of of a crowd. The music is surprising in that it is ideally suited to the show and, unlike many anime, actually heightens the viewing experience. The acting may not be everyone’s cup of tea though, as while the seiyuu are very good in their portrayals, some may find the constant sweet overtones to be a tad annoying.
The characters are extremely well realised, and I can’t think of one that I actually disliked in the entire show. One of the things I like about the Aria is 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 like is 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 Water Fairies. The weather is controlled by salamanders, the gravity is controlled by gnomes, etc. One thing that puzzled me was why all the female character’s 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 Aria: The Animation and its 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, if only to decide whether you can live with the sweetness and relaxing atmosphere, and 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 Aria: The Animation? Have a shower, have a good meal, get comfortable, and relax …