[Synopsis]: In the city of Neo-Venezia on the planet Aqua, once known as Mars before being terraformed, Mizunashi Akari (Hazuki, Erino) works as an Undine under the Aria Company – a professional gondolier who ferries the citizens of Neo-Venezia as well as tourists through the city’s many waterways. Though only a fledgling Undine, Akari and her friends Aika (Saito, Chiwa) and Alice (Hirohashi, Ryou) have high aspirations of one day becoming as accomplished as their respective teachers, known as the Three Water Fairies of Neo-Venezia. Aria follows Akari and her friend’s progress as Undines and their heartfelt interactions with the people of Aqua.
Mizunashi Akari, the protagonist of the show, through her characterization sets the tone for Aria quite well. She’s highly optimistic, friendly, and cheerful all of which go closely hand-in-hand with attitude of the show. Her ability to find joy in the mundane speaks most chiefly to one of Aria’s primary messages as well as the show’s laid back, slice of life nature. Akari’s correspondence with her friend Ai back on Manhome, previously known as Earth, serves as a useful framework to deliver thematic sentiments at the beginning and end of each episode as well as allow the show to clue in the viewer to certain jargon and in-world terms such as Sylphs, Gnomes, and Salamanders without addressing them directly, allowing the information to present itself naturally within the dialogue of the show. Akari’s sentimental and caring nature makes her the perfect character with which to explore the world of Aqua as her own personality and thoughts reflect so closely to what the show tries to accomplish.
Granzchesta Aika, an Undine employed under the Himeya company and Akari’s close friend, serves a few purposes within the show. Her catchphrases and sharp remarks are the source of a good deal of the show’s comedy as well as Akari’s comical reactions. Additionally, Aika, similar to Alice, is perhaps the more passionate of the three in regards to her job as an Undine – though they all aspire to one day be like their teachers, Aika vocally strives to be the best Undine possible though her work ethic and overall attitude may not reflect this trait. As opposed to Akari she felt somewhat under-investigated as as character with only a handful of notable traits and so I can only imagine she will be fleshed out in the future.
The last of the main trio of apprentice Undines is Carroll Alice. Though she starts with a slight complication concerning her attitude I found that it was dismissed incredibly quickly rather than serving as a source of development for her and while I enjoyed Alice is a character more than most others, I felt that this aspect of her character was mishandled. Despite liking the character as much as I did, I felt she too was a little under-explored and while complex characters are not a necessity within a slice of life setting, due to the calm and relaxed nature of Aria, these elements would help keep ones attention all the better.
One of the important things concerning the characters that I think the show did well was in how it portrayed the relationship between the three apprenticed Undines and their mentors. The three main characters very straightforwardly mirror their seniors however I liked the fact that each characters personality felt influenced in some way by their teacher. This made the relationships feel more genuine and moreover, the fact that they were not perfect copies of each other helped reinforce their individuality as characters.
The animation felt fairly par for the course and while it was not flashy in its presentation it was not lacking either. The true success within this section stems from the show’s setting which was executed fantastically. The setting of a Venetian city on a distant planet is presented excellently and while the city itself does not feel extensively explored, the colors and serene atmosphere of the city support the tone of the show wonderfully. Furthermore, the countryside settings lined with wind turbines and the intermittent tree-covered mountaintops add diversity to the water-dominant environment but also display a great marriage between the show’s anachronistic setting and its sci-fi premise in an aesthetically pleasing way. The art of the show is certainly a point of triumph for Aria.
As Aria The Animation is one of the premiere slice of life shows, the story is both laid back in demeanor and episodic in nature. The events of each episode succeed in presenting a relaxing mood through the interactions between Akari, her friends, and the people of Aqua and while there are the occasional obstacles and problems that arise they are resolved by the end of the episode and punctuated by a tooth-achingly sweet, optimistic observation that closes out the theme of what transpired.
As the characters and the world serve as the two primary points of interest in the show due to its reliance on them rather over a more traditional story I was surprised how little the city felt fleshed out and how underrepresented its populace was. The city setting is portrayed fantastically and the bustling of the crowds and of people nearby is ever present within the background of the show however its main characters only actually interact with a small handful of people throughout the 13 episodes which somewhat contradicts the show’s premise and best interest. The city itself was featured in an aesthetic way on plenty of levels however I feel that the inclusion of more people would have gone a long way in presenting a slightly more lively and believable atmosphere. For this reason, it felt to me like Aria The Animation is mostly a source of groundwork being laid for future exchanges and interactions while harboring a somewhat wanting number of these things within itself. That being said, the exchanges that do take place are sincere and heartwarming and I think the show has great potential in this regard to both develop its characters and create more meaningful interactions between them.
When I think about the music of Aria I am reminded of how the art of the show supported it as I think a very similar thing takes place in this category. The music, while not necessarily iconic, blends together with the aesthetic and tone of the show in amazing ways and while no individual song sticks out in my mind, the effect of the music on the show was one of the more memorable elements of Aria.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Aria The Animation was a show with a decent number of triumphs concerning its overall presentation and attempted tone however a fair number of shortcomings in the form of lack of characterization and a more extensive cast. The show is certainly worth a watch and while the show may not be amazing it certainly lays a good groundwork for what could become an even more interesting setting with a larger and more in-depth cast.
I gave Aria The Animation a 6 because it was overall a decent show however it was significantly held back in a variety of ways mostly in relation to its entertainment value. Because of the slow and serene tone of the show I will look next to the characters in order to compensate for the slice of life elements of the show in order to keep my attention and make me invested in the events of each episode however as the cast is relatively small and the main characters with the exception of Akari lacking significantly in character depth and traits my attention falters and I am left with a great atmosphere wherein nothing of real note or concern takes place. The pros outweigh the cons here and the atmosphere of the show really is executed beautifully but these lackluster elements hold the show back from climbing any higher.
Aria The Animation is slice of life at its most pure and for this reason I would highly recommend it to any fans of the genre as it does a great job in many regards. At the same time, the show somewhat requires of the viewer very much what it preaches over several episodes – that one must be capable of finding enjoyment in the mundane. Other slice of life shows will often bolster their content with either comedy or certain other story elements and while these things are present in small doses in Aria it is most primarily concerned with the somewhat trivial events that take place and in this way demand a little extra from the viewer. The comedy of the show is highly reliant on the catchphrase interactions between the main characters however there are a handful of stand alone jokes though I would not recommend Aria as a comedy to someone anything less than enthralled with the other elements of the show to begin with. One final thing I will say is that the world of Aria is an interesting one that speaks to both fantasy and sci-fi simultaneously though, like the comedy of the show, I would not recommend it solely for these reasons as they are not the central point of the show even though their execution is quite great.