Aria the Origination
It's been quite some time since Mizunashi Akari joined Aria Company, and she -- as well as her friends Aika and Alice -- starts to realize the day when they reach their goal to become Prima is getting ever closer.
Much like our favorite undine girls, Aria has come a long way over the last couple of years since its beginning as an anime series at the end of 2005. To think that a small leap of faith on an almost ridiculously underappreciated manga released in a severe state of incompletion would lead to this.
Ok, sure, it's just a 13 episode season this time, but that doesn't change the fact that Aria -- OAV included -- ended up with an episode count of 53. That's fifty-three episodes of quiet, reflective gentleness, of friendship, discovery and introspection and most of all, a joyful love of a simple life and its mixture of modernism and nostalgia.
The show has probably never looked better either. A few animation nitpicks aside, the character designs seems to have settled at a midpoint between the slightly more mature designs of the first season and the more rounded, cuter look of the second. The line art is crisp and clear, and the animation is also nearly constantly top-notch for a TV show. Hell, the characters are even more expressionate than ever, especially as the show rounds the last turn to the finishing line. Whatever misgivings I had about the animation quality and the somewhat fluxuating art is now gone. And, again, some of the background works are just breathtaking, especially near the end of the show.
Even better, the music is still provided by Choro Club, rounding up enough new and excellent material for yet another soundtrack CD (which I naturally got), plus the return of the gentle voice of Makino Yui for yet another of her intro themes that suits the show so well somehow.
This season picks up almost immediately where it left off on Aria the Natural, introducing everyone of particular importance right off the bat. As it should be, they do a quick reflection of past events and our young apprentices once again reaffirms their resolve, with the episode setting the mood for things to come. It's one of the things I've always loved about Aria; the humble, yet unrelentingly optimistic approach, with a love for just about anything. And for the first half, that's the route we take. It's a character portrait, a city portrait and a mirror to the real-life Venice whom this futuristic-yet-not image has been based upon.
One of the greater boons about Aria has always been that its observations about itself are always full of wonder, but never really goes completely overboard with its romanticism. This has been true for the most part, but if I was asked to pick one flaw in this season, then that would be the third episode, where they kind of did. See, the review for Aria the Origination was originally meant to be a collaboration between me and Bradley Meek. In the end, though, we couldn't come to an agreement about it; he basically felt that said episode ruined a lot of the goodwill he had towards the show, and while I don't exactly agree with that, I think I can understand him a little. But then, I thought the show more than made up for it with the rest of the episodes anyway, by keeping up a steady -- not to mention impressive -- pace for the rest of its runtime.
Indeed, as the show passes the halfway mark, there is a certain sense of impending closure. It's actually the most serious Aria has ever been, and even though it's hardly jarring, it's certainly noticeable as Aria cranks up the emotional levels considerably. The threads from earlier episodes in the first seasons come together to weave themselves into the various episodes leading up to the finale, because this is where Aria comes to a complete end.
And such an end, too. Much like when I finished the Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou manga, the ending of Aria fills me with a certain sense of melancholia as much as happiness over having been given the chance to view it in its entirety. It's a fine closure to one of my definitive favorites, and it addressed the faith I had in it by not having it let me down, so I would not betray that faith by considering it any less than top rate material.
The final season, ending off -- as I hoped it would -- on the best note imaginable. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Third season and still nothing objectionable to point out, save for some drama that will go over the heads of the children.
Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subs only
Review Status: Full (14/14)
Aria the Origination © 2008 Kozue Amano / Mag Garden / Aria Company
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