So after eleven days of unsatisfyingly building up to it, the day of reckoning has finally arrived. On this day, the last 12 Days posting day, only one idea came to mind as far as post ideas go: My greatest anime discovery of the year that I found through sheer luck. But really, this is a vain attempt to differentiate myself from Marower, who had the sheer audacity to steal my post idea before it even crossed my mind. So yes, that clumsy preface is my short way of saying that Aria is one of the best series I’ve ever watched, and definitely the best thing that I’ve discovered all year. And this is going to be a post on that.
Aria is a slice of life unlike any other slice of life. Its unique way of emphasizing the wonders of ordinary occurrences isn’t shared amongst its ilk, making this one of the most irritatingly optimistic series of its kind, and easily one of the best to get lost in. It also helps that it follows three gondolier friends and their mentors, who work for three different companies on terraformed Mars. It manages to make even that seem absolutely pedestrian yet wondrous through a clever mix of genuinely good character development, mostly with the savant-like Alice and the insecure Aika, and amazing atmosphere that practically puts the viewer into a coma with its soothing aura.
However, it manages the daunting task of keeping this up for fifty-two episodes and one OAV, divided over the course of three series. It’s this division that lets Aria play up its strengths while firmly ignoring what few weaknesses the show has.
The first in line is Aria the Animation, probably the weakest of the trilogy. It’s hardly weak in the traditional sense, since even its meager offerings are pretty strong in contrast with many other shows. If taken on its own, it’d be a damn good series, but when compared to its successors, it’s incredibly shallow. Yet, it’s required viewing to continue onward.
Aria the Natural, possibly my favorite of the trilogy, follows on the footsteps of the Animation. While the Animation seeks to establish the world of Neo Venezia and our cast of gondoliers, the Natural takes its ample twenty-six episode runtime to flesh out the world and occasionally delve into the supernatural involving Cait Sith, the cat that rules over the rest of the city’s cats. These episodes serve as fever dream-like diversions when compared with the show’s ordinary fare, but they give the world a more mysterious undercurrent that’s not hard to enjoy. This is the point that I went from just thinking it was a neat series to knowing that this is the best thing that I’ve watched all year… yes, even better than Penguindrum.
Finally comes everyone else’s favorite, the Origination. While the other two series give the world of Aqua and Neo Venezia personality of its own, this final series focuses solely on our three gondoliers and their bid to become full-fledged tour guides. It provided an unexpected conclusion to a series that would have easily gotten by without it, a conclusion that I never felt very welcoming toward. But, as has been stated many times before, all good things must come to an end; even the great. What keeps the Origination from being my favorite of the three is that sense of finality. There’s still that undeniable charm and peacefully positive energy of the first two entries, but that looming finish line makes crossing it a bittersweet moment.
If it felt like I’m all over the place here, it’s because it’s so dreadfully painful to review something that you either love or hate. You’ll know whether you like it or not based on the first episode and nothing will every sway you from feeling that way. Personally, I fell in love with Aria. So much so that I think my friends must have figured that my brain had permanently melted into a grey paste by the end of the series. I still have the soundtracks to all three series on constant rotation and paid handsomely for a sketch of Akari.
I really don’t know why I like this show so damn much. Maybe it’s that wonderful atmosphere, but something has sunk its hooks into me. Hell, I’m fairly convinced that if put in the right hands, Aria as a whole could make a fairly successful, nonviolent religious cult based around it. What strikes me as odd is that despite absolutely adoring it, each individual element really isn’t that great. Looking at the story, the characters, the animation… pretty much everything but the sound from a critical standpoint is next to impossible without noticing some seriously lacking elements. Okay, not the story, since this is slice of life. I guess that excludes it from needing story criteria.
Aria is far and away the most engrossing, engaging, downright emotionally manipulative series I think I’ve ever come across, and it doesn’t even have to put in much effort to manage that. It isn’t without its flaws, and I’m pretty sure that it makes everybody who enjoys it into this much of an incomprehensible mess when talking about it, but Aria really is like nothing else you’ll ever see in anime. It doesn’t exist to gather ratings, sell merchandise, or deliver an intense plot; Aria simply is.
And now, I do think it’s time to watch this show again, see if I can remember why it’s so damn wonderful. Long story short, if you haven’t seen it yet and can stand a show with glacial pacing that nonetheless draws you in, Aria’s perfect. If not, then nothing will change your mind and you should look elsewhere for your kicks, like Mawaru Penguindrum.
Well readers, it’s been a blast writing these posts for the past twelve days. To those who have read all of them, I wish you the best. To those who read less than all twelve, I wish you slightly less than the best, but a wonderful time nonetheless. And to everyone regardless of whether they’ve read this or not (And disregarding their inability to see this then), I wish you a merry Christmas.