“Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.” —Jon Bon Jovi
After Ai recounts a story to Akari, where she had experienced a miracle of sorts while practising her craft as an undine: she catches a glimpse of the elusive Cait Sith, Aqua’s spiritual guardian who takes the form of a large cat. While trying to follow Cait Sith, she runs into Azusa B. McLaren and Anya Dostoyevskaya, two Single undine working for Himeya company and Orange Planet, respectively. These turns of events bring everyone together, and although they are unsuccessful in finding Cait Sith, they do become friends with one another. This reminds Akari of her own story, where she’d become disheartened to learn that after reaching a certain age, she’d no longer be able to see Cait Sith. While walking with Aika S. Granzchesta and Alice Carroll, they’d come across the Unfortunate Stone. Not convinced about its implications, Akari steps on it and is propelled into the skies above Neo-Venezia, where she shares a conversation with Cait Sith and learns that even if she never sees him, he’ll endure in her heart. Aria The Avvenire thus continues in the pattern of its predecessor, presenting a very straightforward but moving story about life in Neo-Venezia and bringing to bear the notion that miracles can take both small and large forms, whether its as familiar as making new friends or exciting as meeting Neo-Venezia’s guardian spirit one final time.
Consequently, it would appear that the general theme surrounding Aria the Avvenire is that miracles are not always exceptional events that follow the power law; instead, miracles are a matter of perspective and appreciation. This is seen in Ai’s story: pursuit of a mysterious shadow she believed to be the Cait Sith led her to make new friends and contributes to her development as an undine. Aria the Avvenire had previously brought Akira, Alicia and Athena together because Akari had decided to give Akria a ride around the canals, and this episode continues conveying that message, showing that some things can only be attributable to fate itself, happening for a reason. These events are meant to show that Aqua is a marvellous and mysterious place, and that the laid-back atmosphere in and around Neo-Venezia offer individuals a respite to appreciate the things in life that are often overlooked. Conversely, the episode’s second half, is not subtle about the notion of miracles: while contemplating their continued advancement as undines, Akari, Akia and Alice realise that they’ll have to become adults, which entails losing their children’s innocence (and correspondingly, their ability to see the Cait Sith). However, Akari’s not quite ready to move on yet, and later, while stepping on the Unfortunate Stone, through something that truly can be considered a miracle, her wish is granted. She’s left with a momento: a glittering necklace that Akari believes is a tangible representation of miracles: they’re fleeting, beautiful but also common if one takes the time to appreciate them.
Screenshots and Commentary
- It’s been a little more than a month and a half since I last did an Aria post, and last time, I noted that I would make an effort to try and actually get started, but shortly after I wrote that post, I switched gears and began working on my term project, an agent-based model of filament dynamics in the cell. This project is intended to require at least two months, but because the end of March would see me attend a conference, I resolved to finish everything I had outlined in my proposal before leaving.
- So, all of my anime-watching went out the door, and when I got back, it was the cusp of the spring season; several shows have caught my interest, and on top of that, I’ve gotten requests to watch Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso, as well. Between this and the third conference paper (which was submitted a few days ago), plus participation in multiple presentations of our lab’s research to important people, it’s actually a small miracle that I watched anime at all. Back in Aria, Ai rushes to tell Akari about a miracle she’d experienced earlier that day.
- While practising her technique on the Neo-Venezian canals, Ai encounters other townsmen and bids them good morning. Here, the water effects can be discerned and as with the first OVA, are of a high quality: there’s world reflections and surface reflections. However, what’s more impressive is that these effects are present (albeit at a lower setting) in the older episodes: while it’s the difference between medium and ultra, that the older episodes show an effort to bring Neo-Venezia to life is a solid indicator that Aria was carefully made.
- After noticing a shadow in an alley, Ai goes off-mission to chase it, acting as a segue into the opening song. Seamlessly weaved into the narrative, I immediately look a liking to the opening song, and curiously enough, because the ending song, “Piacere”, was performed by Shiena Nishizawa, it was bundled in with the Gakusen Toshi Asterisk opening song album. I’ve not seen any other intel on the other pieces of music in the OVA.
- Ai’s pursuit leads her into the quieter corners of Neo-Venezia: as of late, I’ve been watching my way through Sora no Woto again, and this courtyard reminds me of the general atmosphere around Seize outside of the water-splashing festival. I watched Sora no Woto during the summer of 2011, and in the five years that have passed, have watched numerous anime. That Sora no Woto still stands out attests to the strength of its world-building.
- Eventually, Ai reaches a small garden of sorts, where she encounters Azusa (red hair) and Anya (white hair); the pair are looking for a cat to make president of their company, and when Ai remarks that she’s searching for Cait Sith here, the two decide to join her. Azusa’s quite enthusiastic and remarks that they had previously checked out Ai’s background; Anya decides that if Ai is unusual, she should be exiled to Siberia. Armed with my incredibly vast knowledge of the Soviet Union, the gulag in the Kolyma and Magadan region come to mind, an environment that is the polar opposite of that seen in Aria.
- Thus begins the girls’ search for Cait Sith here, allowing for some of the beautiful cityscapes around Neo-Venezia to be showcased in all of their glory. Neo-Venezia is said to be a complete transplant, brick-by-brick, of Italy’s Venice. According to NASA, it costs an average of 25000 USD to move one kilogram of stuff into Geostationary Transfer Orbit, and pushing anything into Geostationary Orbit is roughly double that. Numbers aren’t my strong suit, but using a Fermi approximation, it should become clear that at present, transporting that much stuff to Mars would be prohibitively expensive given contemporary technologies.
- However, Aria is fiction; since they’ve already succeeded in terraforming Mars and maintaining a stable biosphere, it’s easy to say that engineering and technology has progressed to accommodate economic space travel. After an exhaustive search, Ai, Azusa and Anya find themselves spent, wondering what their next move will be.
- A break is on order, and the girls sip drinks in St. Mark’s square near St. Mark’s Campanile, a 98.6-meter (323 feet) tall bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica: the original tower was built in the twelfth century but suffered several lightning strikes and fires between the 1300s and 1600s. The tower presently seen was fully restored in 1912, nearly a millennium after the original foundations were laid.
- My oral exam yesterday marks the end of all my exams: because of the number of students in my class, exams were made to be twenty minutes long, and I was tested on cellular automata, Wolfram’s rules for CA, evolutionary strategies (such as the difference between (μ + λ)-ES and (μ, λ)-ES) and particle swarm optimisations. I had been so focused on my conference publication that studying became somewhat deprioritised, forgetting during the exam about how the rule numbers are derived off the sum of final states in a 1D Ca (and so, can be used to predict how a system might behave) and that a PSO would also use the position of the current global optima (i.e. the particle with the best fitness at the current time step) in computing the velocity vectors for other particles.
- Fortunately, the other concepts were still fresh in my mind and so, I was able to adequately discuss them: the exam ended much more quickly than I thought. Today, I was in a meeting dealing with future directions and, after adding documentation for my term project, spent most of the day trying to figure out why my simulation won’t package into a standalone executable. It turns out some dependencies are missing, but upgrading all of my work from Unreal 4.8 to 4.11 should do the trick, as the latest versions of the dependencies have been improved. The food trucks were also on campus today, and so, I had the opportunity to get Wilk’s Booth’s pulled-pork poutine for lunch.
- With no Makerspace supervision, I was able to enjoy this poutine at a much slower pace than I had when I watched YuruYuri Nachuyachumi! last term: the flavours are quite distinct, whether it’s the smokiness in the large chunks of pulled pork or the rich flavours imparted by the cheese curds and gravy, and it was a thrill to eat my way through a poutine that has quality and quantity. In fact, this poutine was large enough so that I had not finished more than a third of said poutine by the episode’s halfway mark, where Akari recalls her memories of Cat Sith during a particularly quiet afternoon. The episode’s second half deals with miracles of a much greater scale than the first half.
- With Aika (left) and Alice (center), Akari decide to hunt for the Cait Sith themselves after learning that Akari wishes to see the spirit once more before she is unable to do so. They come across the Unfortunate Stone, an unusually large stone making up the sidewalk and observe a couple walking around it: when Aika mentions that it was real, I decided to look around, and her story checks out; on the street leading from Campo San Canzian to Campo Santa Maria Nova in Venice, there is indeed a stone inconspicuously blending in with the others. Venetians tend to walk around it, as well, although I haven’t dug deeply enough to learn what the origins of this superstition are.
- Alice jumps onto the stone to show that nothing bad will happen, and I’m left to wonder what the remaining six wonders of Neo-Venezia are. I’ve never really been of the superstitious sort, since its basis for causality cannot be easily shown as having a positive correlation (i.e. for probabilities A and B, where 0 ≤ A ≤1 and 0 ≤ B ≤ 1, if B is positively correlated to A, then as A increases, so will B, and this is symmetric, so if B increases, so will A), or any sort of correlation to speak of, for that matter.
- I’ll take a moment to include a cityscape shot of Neo-Venezia in absentia of people, showcasing the architecture near the city’s center. A lighter-than-air vessel is also seen: because Mars has a gravity 38 percent that of Earth’s, it would be much more economical to use lighter-than-air travel, as opposed to creating all of the infrastructure needed to accommodate heavier-than-air flight. Back in Hai-Furi, it’s explicitly mentioned that heavier-than-air travel doesn’t exist, which completely blows away their need for aircraft carriers.
- I’ll talk about Hai-Furi next when the third episode comes out and return my attention to Aria, where Akari decides to step on the unfortunate stone for herself just to see what would happen. Shortly after stepping on it, the stone is activated and appears to be a portal through space and time itself: it sends her several klicks into the air, where she meets Cait Sith.
- The Cait Sith (Cat Sith in Scottish Gaelic, translating to “Cat spirit”) is a faerie from Celic mythology, as large as a dog and characterised by a jet of white fur on its chest. While mythology paints it as a malevolent spirit who would steal the souls of deceased individuals, but in Aria, the Cait Sith is a well-dressed, friendly being who acts as a benevolent guardian of Neo-Venezia. In Scottish Gaelic, sith is a spirit or faerie, but thanks to Star Wars, most people are quicker to recognise “Sith” as a practitioner of the Dark Side of the Force.
- As they fall through the skies, the Cait Sith reassures Akari that, while it’s inevitable that she’ll likely not see him again, what matters most is that he’ll continue to exist in her heart, and that’s what really counts. He gives her a physical token, a necklace with a dazzling blue stone, to remind her that he exists. All of this is done without any dialogue from Cait Sith, showing how some symbols and ideas transcend spoken language.
- Back in the present, Akari and Ai share a sunset together. With this episode over, there’s only one more OVA, and it’s set for release somewhere in June, so the next OVA I turn my eye to will be on the last of the Tamayura ~Sotsugyou Shashi~ OVAs: it’s been out since April 2, and I’ll probably get around to watching that once I finish helping grade iOS assignments.
- While things have been incredibly busy for the past while, semester’s finally winding down. A majority of May will be focused on working on my thesis paper, and for this blog, it means that I should be able to occasionally drop by: up next will be posts on Hai-Furi and Flying Witch after three episodes. Both anime have excelled at capturing my attention in their own way, and it seems that I’m in agreement with a large number of viewers in finding enjoyment in these shows.
Having taken a look at the release schedules, it appears that Aria the Avvenire OVAs are being released with the Blu-Ray releases of Aria that commemorate the anime’s ten year anniversary. This means that there is an opportunity to go through one of the most widely acclaimed slice-of-life anime in high resolution and fully enjoy the atmosphere that Aria is meant to convey. With that being said, my situation has somewhat shifted since I posted the review to the first OVA, and I do not imagine it will be feasible for me to finish all of the Aria episodes before June. With that being said, I will nonetheless complete Aria; I’ve seen a great many slice-of-life anime, and in general, this is a genre that I’ve got no problems with. Slice-of-life anime with relaxing or comedic elements help me unwind, offsetting my usually busy days. This is why every season, I’ve always got at least one slice-of-life anime in my line-up. As far as Aria the Avvenire goes, I definitely enjoyed this episode, and will swing by to write about the third and final OVA once the opportunity presents itself.