Aria: The Origination
The conclusion to the Aria series is an ever so subtle departure from the previous two, however there is a very good reason why this is the case. As many people have already stated, in order to fully appreciate Origination, one should really watch The Animation and The Natural first (and preferably in that order as well). What people don’t really go into is why this should be the case with what is purely an episodic, slice-of-life series (I’ll get to this in a bit though).
The story continues in much the same fashion as the first two series, dealing as it does with the daily lives of Akari, Aika and Alice and their efforts to become Prima Undines, however the biggest difference is that the characters are not only developed more in Origination, but developed well.
One of the main strengths of the Aria series as a whole is the effortless manner in which it tells its various stories, and Origination is the pinnacle of this. The plot in each episode is far more fluid than in the previous two series, and as the show progresses the story moves into a barely unnoticeable higher gear as the bittersweet climax approaches.
There are two things which make the story in Origination noticeably different from the first two series. The first, and most obvious difference, is the fact that Origination has a goal in mind, and unlike the previous two offerings, doesn’t simply peter out towards the end but actually gains momentum. The second difference is surprisingly (and somewhat unfortunately), unrealised by many, however it is key to appreciating the franchise in its entirety.
As I stated in my review of the second series, The Animation was simply an introduction to the characters and Neo Venezia, whilst The Natural was an introduction to the world of Aqua. This is important to know as many people misjudge the first two series and believe they have no real focus. In fact they do, and without that focus Origination would never have been as good as it is. If one keeps in mind that the whole point of The Animation is not to develop the characters, but simply to introduce them, then it makes things a little clearer as to why it was structured in such a way. The same goes for The Natural, as the focus there was to familiarise the viewer with the world of Aqua, and its wonders and oddities. The characters receive some measure of development in the second series, however this is not the main focus of the show, as it is essential for the viewer, when watching the final series, to have more than a passing familiarity with the characters and their environs.
This is where Origination steps in. From the outset the assumption is that one is familiar with the characters, Neo Venezia, and the world of Aqua, and because of this Origination can proceed with the story proper without the need for introductions, supernatural events, exploration, etc. Everything up until that point was simply preparation, which at first may seem wasteful, but watching the first and second season is a pleasant experience so one could fairly state that the effort was justified to a degree.
The art and animation in Origination is much the same as the first two outings. There isn’t any real change to the design of the characters, or to Neo Venezia and Aqua, although it should be pointed out that Origination has more in common with the first season in terms of art and backgrounds as it is mainly centred in Neo Venezia as well. The quality of animation remains superb, with no real noticeable flaws, whilst the level of detail in both the animation and the artwork is once again excellent.
One of the strongest areas for the series as a whole is in the quality of its sound and music, and whilst the first two series were excellent in this department, Origination represents a step up. The subtlety and detail of some of the effects are truly phenomenal, and although the thematic music may be the same as the previous two series, the score actually feels fresh in Origination (more on this in a bit). The voice actors are, once more, excellent, however there is a very subtle difference with their portrayals in Origination in that the characters seem more self-assured than in either of the previous two series.
Characters are as adorable as ever, but once again there is a difference to them. The feeling of self assurance one receives from the voice actors is carried through with the actions of the characters themselves, and this is one of the ways in which they receive some of their phenomenal development. This doesn’t simply apply to Akari, Aika and Alice either, but is also extended to Alicia, Akira, Athena, Akatsuki, Al, and even Grandma Akino.
The surprising thing about Origination’s characters is that, in comparison to The Natural, they possess and air that is fresh and new. This feeling is also inherent in the score (as I mentioned earlier), in the settings, and in the voices too. There is a very simple reason for this though. Whilst it may (or may not), be true that the viewers are already familiar with the series before watching Origination, it is a certainty that everyone who has worked on it will know the characters, Neo Venezia and Aqua, pretty much inside out. This, together with the fact that Origination actually has a focus and a definite end, means that everything was already defined before the series even began. It is because of this that Origination is able to achieve its remarkable feat of plot and character development, something it could never have done had everything been told over the course of one season.
In terms of enjoyment, Origination is something I would recommend to everyone, however it should be remembered that the first two series should be watched prior to this. The show is as relaxing as The Animation, whilst retaining the same adventurous quality of The Natural. The characters actually become more endearing as the show progresses, especially if one has watched seasons 1 and 2, and whilst the format may still be episodic, it doesn’t suffer from the same ambiguity that affected the previous two series.
Origination is an excellent show that successfully retains the essence of the series whilst at the same time developing the characters and advancing the plot. Because of the definite focus of the show, things that may have seemed stale in The Natural have been given a new lease of life and, whilst this may not seem like a difficult thing to achieve, it is actually one of the hardest things to do in any medium.