“Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.” —Marianne Williamson
While contemplating a promotion to be more helpful towards Alicia, Akari runs into Akira, who’s looking to deliver a mirror-birthday gift to Alicia (owing to Mars’ orbit, one Mars year is roughly 1.88 Earth years, so Birthdays are celebrated twice a year). However, because Alicia’s busy, Akira decides to take up Akari’s offer on taking a gondola ride around Neo-Venezia. As the day comes to an end, Akari and Akira run into Alicia and Athena. Seizing the moment, Akira delivers the gift to Alicia, and Akari remarks that it must’ve been a miracle that they would run into one another. While speaking with Akari later, Ai wishes that some day, she’ll likewise have friends with such a connection; Akari reassures her that it will be likely, since Mars (known as Aqua now) is a planet of miracles. This is my first exposure with the Aria franchise, which has long been held to be the single most remarkable anime that falls under the slice-of-life category, for being able to craft a fantastical, detailed world that permits the series’ protagonist, Akari, to explore their world in a laid-back manner. Paired with that’s said to be some of the best artwork around, Neo-Venezia feels like a living, breathing entity that forms the perfect backdrop for Akari’s everyday adventures as she strives to become undine, a gondolier who acts as a tour guide, with the Aria company. Aria the Avvenire is the fourth instalment in Aria (there are three seasons and one OVA prior to its release), which means that I will need to go back and watch everything before I can begin considering any sort of discussion on what Aria the Avvenire‘s overall contribution to Aria are.
At present, I cannot fairly offer insights into Aria the Avvenire‘s place in the sun: having not seen the three seasons in full, I cannot even guess where the OVAs fit in with the other instalments. With that being said, I can comment on various aspects of the OVA itself. This first episode follows a seemingly-unremarkable story: because Alice is so busy with her duties as a full-fledged undine of the Aria company, Akira is unable to deliver her birthday gift in person and initially asks Akari to do so. However, while the base narrative seems quite ordinary, the execution is outstanding: subtle details in Neo-Venezia are presented lovingly, and aural elements are utilised to bring this fictional world to life. Masterful use of lighting and angles contribute substantially towards conveying a particular scene’s atmosphere to the viewers, and coupled with the character’s dialogue, it is quite plain that Neo-Venezia is a peaceful world whose inhabitants go about their lives at a much calmer pace than seen in reality. When Akira and Akari encounter Alicia and Athena later, the combination of lighting and sound means it truly does feel like fate has crafted this one moment for three friends. I imagine that this is the magic of Aria, to meticulously create moments that inspire audiences to be more appreciative of the smaller, subtle things in their own lives.
Screenshots and Commentary
- This is my first-ever Aria review of all time, which means that with so much to explore, it was quite the feat to pick the twenty best screenshots and moments to discuss. From the looks of things, Neo-Venezia is a carbon copy of modern-day Venice, and is so well-replicated that it feels as though events from Strike Witches The Movie could happen here.
- Unlike James Bond’s gondola of Moonraker, which was touted as one of the most nonsensical vehicles of all time after Bond converts it from a water-borne vessel into a parade float, the gondolas of Neo-Venezia are just gondolas, and the Aria Company is one of the most well-renowned organisations on Mars that offers tours.
- Ever the stickler for detail, the English translation of this OVA’s title is grammatically incorrect: it should read as “To you, whom I wanted to meet”. “Who” is a subjective pronoun, meaning that it refers to the subject of a sentence and performs the action of a verb (e.g. he, she, you, we), whereas “whom” is an objective pronoun and refers to an object that something is being done to (e.g. him, her, you, us).
- While regarded as a difficult point in English even for accomplished writers, there is a simple test for deciding when to pick “whom” or “who”. If the pronoun can be replaced by “he”, “she” or a subjective pronoun, then “who” is appropriate. If the pronoun can be replaced by “him”, “her” or other objective pronouns, then “whom” is correct. In this case, we can ask: “who is [Akira] wanting to meet?”. The answer is “her [Alice]”, so “whom” is the appropriate title.
- However, for the purpose of this review, to make it easier to find, I’ll leave the grammatical mistake in place. Returning to Aria, I introduce Akari Mizunashi, an optimistic and cheerful girl who is Earth-born. Though she’s not quite as skillful as a gondola operator or knowledgeable about Neo-Venezia’s history, her strongest point is her friendliness and from an external point of view (i.e. mine), she’s the face of Aria.
- I’m guessing that chibi-like deformations are also a feature in Aria, seen here after Akari notices Akira outside. One of the best undines in the business, bearing much semblence to Sora no Woto‘s Rio Kazumiya in manner and physical appearance: both are characterised by a strong sense of discipline and a forward personality.
- It’s been two weeks since I actually watched this OVA for myself: it was a sunny day, and I had gone in to the lab to resuscitate my desktop, which had suffered a catastrophic failure the day before when the registry became corrupted. The failure was so severe that the OS would not recognise the display or wireless drivers, and further to this, all my restore points were lost. I decided to go in and repair Windows on the weekend, and by the time noon hour came, the machine was largely back on its feet.
- So, I watched the Aria OVA on my laptop while sitting down to a Korean-BBQ lunch: the day had been quite stressful, and watching Aria did seem to help. Once I had finished, I put all of the necessary software back on the machine, and began working on a BOIDs implementation in Unity. Met with failure after failure at the lab and quite jittery from the cappuccino I had downed earlier, I decided to call it quits and went home. Curiously enough, I was able to solve the implementation once I actually arrived back home and decided to give it one more shot.
- Thus, when evening came, I was able to put a few hours into playing through the Tom Clancy’s The Division beta. This moment exemplifies the sort of lighting effects that make Aria the Avvenire a joy to watch: the water effects are among the best I’ve seen in an anime, rivaling the water seen in some of P.A. Works’ titles (such as Tari Tari and Nagi no Asukara) and Makoto Shinkai’s films.
- Akira, Alice and Athena are known as the “Three Water Fairies”, the greatest of the Undine and share a particularly strong friendship with one another. Hence, when Akira realises that Alice is busy, she’s somewhat disheartened that she was unable to give her the birthday gift in person.
- I am fully aware that the older seasons date back to 2005-2006 and as such, the artistic quality in these early episodes might not be comparable to those seen in Aria the Avvenire. However, as important as graphics are in creating a credible environment, the absence of top-tier graphics may not be detrimental provided that other elements are at their best (especially with respect to sound and music).
- The OVA’s first episode reaches its climax as the three friends encounter one another at an intersection in the canals. From the looks of things, miracles are a central theme throughout all of Aria: objectively defined as events whose occurrence cannot be readily accounted for by scientific means, anime tend to view miracle as statistically-improbable events that are wondrous in nature.
- One would never do so on Earth on account of the gravity: Akria decides to throw the gift to Alice, and because the acceleration due to gravity on Mars is roughly thirty eight percent of Earth’s (3.711 m/s² compared to Earth’s 9.807 m/s²) , objects would correspondingly stay in the air for around 2.64 times longer.
- Alice looks at the gift in amazement as the gondolas begin to separate. In-universe, Mars has been fully terraformed and has been christened “Aqua” for its surface water: Mars once possessed liquid water at its surface, although its small size meant it became tectonically inactive much sooner: a cooling interior resulted in a weakening magnetic field, and in time, Mars lost much of its atmosphere.
- While daunting, experts suggest that technology available in the future may allow for Mars to be terraformed without an unacceptable economic or resource cost. However, even if an atmosphere can be created in a relatively short time, Mars’ weak gravity and lack of a magnetic field will make it difficult to retain said atmosphere.
- The surface of the water shimmers with golds, oranges and reds under an evening sun as Akari and Akira share a moment together. A vast majority of the characters in Aria have names whose first character is “A”, the planet itself named Aqua, an there’s a company called Aria. This was probably a deliberate choice on the author’s part, to emphasise that miracles bringing people together do exist.
- Unlike other reviewers out there, who enter the OVA armed with their incredibly vast knowledge of the series’ earlier incarnations, I have no prior experience with those. I will be making my way through those in the near future so that I can return to make a superior post that covers the OVAs in better detail than is possible at present.
- This lack of experience is partially why the figure captions detail everything from grammar to remarks on terraforming. I go off-mission one final time to explain what Avvenire is, given that no other discussion has done so yet: it is Italian for “to occur”, which fits in so far with what was seen in the first OVA.
- Ai befriends Akari early on in the anime and becomes her pen-pal, later taking on a position at Aria. A relative newcomer, she envies Akari for having people precious to her, to which Akari responds that because Aqua is a planet of miracles, Ai is sure to befriend more people later on.
- Readers are probably wondering whiskey tango foxtrot I’m doing, reviewing an OVA for an anime that I’ve no background in. Perhaps they’d like to tell me, “get good scrub, you have no idea what you’re talking about”. To that, I reply that this OVA is something I enjoyed enough to serve as the motivation I need to watch Aria for real, and that I will be doing talks for each of the OVAs in due course.
Given that the second Aria the Avvenire OVA is set for release later this month, and the final of the OVAs will be releasing in June, I project that there should be sufficient time for me to catch up on all three seasons, just in time to write a proper discussion on the OVAs’ contributions to Aria as a whole: I’ve been meaning to watch Aria for quite some time to see whether or not it lives up to the praise that even the toughest critics are willing to offer (these are the folks who argue that anime like K-On! are intrinsically without value and will dismiss anime on the sole virtue that they are considered slice-of-life). This is a pretty high bar, and I am quite familiar with the slice-of-life genre. From what I’ve seen thus far, Aria appears to be designed to evoke a similar feeling as Tamayura rather than something like Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?; rather than setting up ridiculous situations to drive humour, emphasis is placed in presenting even the most mundane occurrences as being worthy of treasuring as a memory. So, there is no doubt that I will enjoy Aria; the first OVA might be a rather curious point of entry into this slice-of-life anime, but now that I’ve entered, I’ve got an iron-clad reason to actually go back and watch the entirety of this anime.