[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 The Origination concludes the story of Akari and her friends as their Undine training nears completion and they begin to consider what their respective futures may hold.
While the cast of the show benefited tremendously from Aria The Natural, this season brings even more to the table in the form of additional characterization of the main trio as well as their mentors and a fleshing out of the cast as a whole, creating a more believable and immersive environment than previously present in the show. This time around, the passersby, the intermittently featured stranger, and the single-episode insert characters all have far more dialogue which helps move the cast away from feeling as self-involved as it did in the past and makes the Neo-Venezia feel more like a city. Similarly, Aria The Origination features other Undines outside of Akari’s group and their mentors which, along with several other story-centric changes, makes the vocation of Undine feel more legitimized within the world and provides a greater context for what it means to become a Prima.
Lastly, in relation to the immersive changes featured in this season, there are more frequent changes in wardrobe – especially among the main cast. Seeing the characters in different attire than their work uniform made them feel more like actual people as opposed to visually static characters which, with the exception of Aika, almost all of them had felt like beforehand.
As for the main three characters, their changes present in the previous season are further elaborated on but perhaps more importantly, due to the conclusive nature of the season, we get to see each of the characters develop to an extent not present in the prior installments of the show as they mature and progress in skill to the point where the show can conclude. One particular thing this season brings to the table in respect to the apprenticed Undines is their relationships with their mentors which has been a strong character feature throughout all of Aria however is executed even better during this season and is one of the two major ‘payoffs’ of the season alongside the development of the characters themselves.
By this point in the series I think it comes as no surprise that the art and animation of Aria is highly consistent and beautiful in its support of the show’s themes and tone and Aria The Origination follows in suit in that it upholds the style and aesethtic established in the other installments while also improving upon a few things to make this season the most aesthetically pleasing of them all in my opinion. While they are infrequent, there are a handful of times an episode where the animation becomes a touch more detailed and more fluid which, while not adding anything thematically to the show, is certainly an added aesthetic bonus and makes the execution of certain scenes all the more better. Along side that addition, the close-ups and choke-shots this season looked highly detailed and conveyed the emotion of the moment phenomenally.
Between the way in which the show handles the characters and the general plot, Aria The Origination did feel like a departure from the previous seasons in a number of ways which in totality led me to believing that it was the strongest of the show’s three seasons due to its differences and improvements. In the same way that showing other Undines and having the main characters interact with them created a better and more believable atmosphere, this season’s attention to detail concerning gondoliering and the various skills required for the profession was incredibly helpful in establishing the vocation of Undine as a real job rather than something the main characters happened to be. The technical side of gondoliering is played up quite a bit in that there were shots of oar movements, how the boat maneuvered, and how the Undine affected those things. This was something I had been wanting from the show since the first season and its inclusion here was spectacular in that it set up the narrative infrastructure for much of what transpires during the season and brings the focus of the show back to the characters as Undines while the show continued to foster them as characters.
One thing to take note of in terms of how Aria The Origination differs from the previous installments is that it lacks the supernatural (cat) element that was especially played up during Aria The Natural. Though I did not enjoy its presence myself I would agree that it went well with the tone and themes of the show and that there would be plenty of people that enjoyed it. That being said, it is not just that the supernatural element is lacking but rather that it is missing entirely – seemingly dismissed entirely as it remains uninvited throughout the length of the show. This was perhaps the only crude thing I can point to within the plot of the show as an episode of departure aimed at this aspect of the show would have felt more natural compared to dropping it entirely with no mention though at the same time I cannot point to any episode I would replace and this qualm is ultimately quite minor in the face of all of the positives featured in the show.
One of the strengths of the second season I felt was in how it introduced a more diverse set of themes in comparison to the pure, sugar-sweet wonderment of Aria The Animation and while there are more than enough positive observations in this season it continues the trend of its predecessor which I definitely feel was a great decision as the diversified themes worked wonders for the show’s character development while presenting compelling episodes.
In much the same way that the previous seasons of Aria have set a strong precedent for the show’s art and animation, they have established an outstanding use of of the show’s soundtrack in order to bolster both individual scenes and the attitude of the show. Aria The Origination only improves upon these previous successes and the higher frequency of emotion-driven scenes gives some of the sentimental music even more room to shine while still providing plenty of room for the relaxed, thematic music to play out as it always has.
[Final Thoughts and Rating]:
Aria was in numerous ways a show that only got better each season and Aria The Origination upheld that standard and finished the series in strong fashion and as the best of the three seasons in my opinion. Though certain elements of the show may not have been investigated to the length I would have liked, the amount of work done by this season alone in respect to what the show was lacking beforehand was quite considerable.
I gave Aria The Origination an 8 because of how it improved upon the already extensive work done in the second season of the series. The increase in detail, the character-focus and approach, and the narrative structure of this season alongside all of the positive attributes it upheld from the previous installments were incredibly positive and were integral in the show’s ultimate success. Though this season and the prior may have branched away from the premise of finding beauty in the mundane, I think what it ended up accomplishing and developing was more interesting and definitely the right direction for the show to have taken. Aria The Origination does well as the conclusive chapter of the series and its many payoffs make great use of what was established beforehand.
To those viewers who have reached this point in the series I think its quite safe to say that this final season does nothing but good for the show and at worst successfully promotes what made the previous seasons good. While I would not have recommended Aria The Animation for the purpose of its characters, they have come a long way since then and have become far more compelling and interesting to the point where I would not only recommend this season because of its characters but claim that they along with their development were probably the single strongest element of the show. For those looking for a marriage between the heart-warming and the lighthearted then Aria as it always has features those things in excess and I would highly recommend this show to those looking for a relaxed atmosphere with an episodic approach though this season actually progresses quite linearly.