Why Venice? Why not.
|Merry Christmas! …Again. This year I’m joining in on the Secret santa run by Reverse Thieves, since the other writers seemed to have fun with it last year. They seem to be having a good run this year too, if the majority of the 2013 (+ Kyo’s 2012) reviews are anything to go by. Or maybe we’re all just optimistic people here.|
Apparently my secret santa was under the impression that I hadn’t experienced enough slice of life anime, and my choices were Aria the Animation, Kiniro Mosaic and Kamichu! (though apparently the last one is about a girl who turns into a deity, so I don’t know how slice-of-life-ish it really is).
…And after finding out that the person who gave me recommendations was kevo from Desu ex Machina, suddenly the list made so much sense. I went with Aria the Animation, since it’s been on my watch list for some time anyways. I’ve always been curious about it since it’s sequels and such are highly rated, and everyone I’ve ever seen talk about it can’t seem to shut up about how great it is. I’ll get around to Kiniro and Kamichu! eventually, but I can’t say that I regret my choice of Aria the Animation.
Aria is basically about glorified tour guides who live on the planet Aqua (aka Mars after humanity somehow got a ton of water onto it and basically turned a section of it into Venice). The tour guides are called “Undine” and being an Undine is the occupation of the main characters of the show. …They basically row boats for customers and that’s about it. Yet somehow, it’s Neo Venezia’s number 1 coveted job, there are entire magazines dedicated to it and a few of the characters are pretty famous for being really good at their jobs. Life must be pretty uneventful absolutely everywhere in this universe if people have nothing better to do than gossip about tour guides, but once you get over that fact, the anime is easy enough to understand. The plot is basically episodic too, so it’s something you can watch at your own pace and not worry about forgetting details,
which was nice for my busy schedule.
Along with accepting that, you also have to accept the fact that while characters make up the story, they’re not really dimensional at all. They’re all basically character stereotypes (Akari being the optimistic cheerful one, Alicia being the kind senpai, etc.). This manages to work well with the storyline though, because there isn’t much of a storyline in the first place. Keeping the characters simple kept the show pretty simple, and the simplicity worked well with making the show calming. Akari was a good choice for the main character too, since her constant optimism really set the tone to a lot of episodes. Admittedly though, a lot of the characters were pretty forgettable due to their one dimensional personalities. Sure, you could tell that all of them were just one big extended family to one another, and it was heart warming seeing them get along, but most of them weren’t really necessary. They were just additions placed in the plot in order to get messages across. The cats were a pretty good example for this. Aria the Animation’s namesake refers to Aria the cat (whom the Aria company that Akari works for is also named after). Apparently all of the Undine companies keep blue-eyed cats around as mascots since they’re considered to be good luck, so his presence as a character had an explanation
besides being an explanation to the random time travel. For the most part though, he was just… there. Mostly for comic relief. The characters work when you watch the show, but when you stop and thing about it, they might not really be that necessary. I was indifferent to about half of them. Maybe this is changed in the later seasons, but that’s jut the impression I got from the first one.
One of the good points IS the fact that nothing majorly eventful seems to go on though. Or at least, nothing on the scale of “oh no, the entire city is going to be destroyed” kind of eventful. People lose things, friends hang out and Akari is constantly practicing to become a full-fledged Undine with her friends, Aika and Alice. Mundane events happen. …Or at least, mundane things are what normally happen. As a bit of an odd break from all of that though, the anime does wander into the surreal at times since Akari seems to travel to Aqua’s past more than once. This is later explained by the fact that apparently cats make it happen (which both explains things and at the same time, doesn’t explain anything at all). Though in the end, Aria kind of allows this break from things being realistic all the time, since the setting itself is fantastical in the first place.
A character mentions in one of the last episodes that Aqua is a man-made paradise, and from how the show depicts daily life, it really seems to be one. Which is rather comforting, since most anime like to point out how mankind seems to ruin everything they touch. Akari even says something about Aqua being a place of miracles, since the collective dreams of people was what made the terraforming possible in the first place. This sunny outlook on humanity combined with the fact that Akari enjoys absolutely every single part of daily life and isn’t afraid to constantly monologue about it, this is one of those feel-good anime that’s really calming to watch. The other characters provide some dynamics to the show, but really, they’re just means to deliver the message that seems to be “mundane things are great; life is awesome”. Even when the show talks about slightly more depressing topics like friends becoming farther away over time, theres always manages to be a positive spin to the topic. There isn’t even a need for dialogue at points because somehow, just watching girls row boats and look at the scenery is enough. …This piece of fan art I found on pixiv describes the series better than I ever could.
That’s it. That’s the anime.
Even if it’s not quite like the picture above though, Aria is around 8 years old and it’s still somehow so damn pretty. The animation may have it’s QUALITY moments here and there with the characters, but the backgrounds are absolutely beautiful. Really, the enjoyment from this show isn’t really Akari loving absolutely everything about life in every episode (though that is part of it). The world is really serene and lovely by itself too. Neo Venezia has it’s own culture that despite being different from any kind of living that I’m used to, still felt really comfortable. With nothing really happening in the plot too, little things about daily life in Neo Venezia really shone through. The water covers the sidewalks and some of the floor level of housing occasionally due to the tide, and a year on Aqua is 24 months. They have people working underground called “Gnomes”, who regulate the planet’s gravity (who knows how, but they exist). These things probably don’t sound that interesting written here, but they were extremely fascinating little details. There was an episode with a hot springs that was in an abandoned house, and who cares what was going on plot-wise, that house looked like a spot someone would genuinely want to travel to see and vacation at. Really, that applies to the whole town, since the city itself is so scenic.
I mean, just look at where the Akari lives.
Another thing that was really nice about Aria the Animation was the OP and ED. Undine was lovely, and the way they incorporated it into each episode really set the mood for the show. Rainbow felt really nostalgic too. …Though maybe that’s because I haven’t heard Round Table since they did the ending theme to Chobits. Apparently the sound track is a big deal too, but I didn’t really notice that to be honest (minus the times when the a cappella singing was going on, which was impossible to miss).
This was really calming to watch. …Which is the point, I guess, but at least the anime does what it’s supposed to. It took about an episode for me to get into this, but once I was in, most of the details didn’t even really matter. This is probably the wrong way to explain things, but what I mean is that they don’t ever really explain the mechanics of Aqua (like how they got all of that water to the planet or how they came up with flying machines), but that doesn’t affect the anime negatively. The details on how things work isn’t as important as the fact that humanity is just enjoying the benefits now. The details that do matter is Aqua’s culture, and that part of the story is really well built. When the shows goes into fantasy elements, it still manages to feel like you’re watching the slice of life genre, since some of the fantasy things are just daily life for the characters. But that’s okay too, since the slice of life portions are all really heartwarming (or at least they end that way). I feel like I was kind of harsh on the characters in this post, since their interactions basically make up the tone of the show. There would be no anime without them, but I really can’t help but feel like they could have been replaced a bit too easily. Overall though, this was really enjoyable. I can see myself going and rewatching Aria when I have more time, since I was more concerned with finishing it than enjoying the actual episode.
At least there will always be the house.