Mania Grade: A-
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- Art Rating: A
- Packaging Rating: B
- Text/Translatin Rating: B
- Age Rating: 13 & Up
- Released By: TOKYOPOP
- MSRP: 9.99
- Pages: 192
- ISBN: Alethea & Athena Nibley
- Size: B6
- Orientation: Right to Left
- Series: AQUA
Aqua Vol. #01
By Erin Jones
June 09, 2008
Release Date: October 09, 2007
Translated by:Alethea & Athena Nibley
Adapted by:Barbara Randall KeselWhat They Say
After 150 years of terraforming, Aqua, the planet formerly known as Mars, now has over 90% of its surface now covered by water. A young girl named Akari Mizunashi arrives at the city of Neo-Venezia, an exact replica of the old Italian city of Venice, hoping to become an Undine, the most coveted job on Aqua. Follow Akari's adventures as she discovers the wonders of Aria in this prequel to the Aria anime and manga series.The ReviewArt:
Kozue Amano's artwork is strikingly beautiful on all fronts. Character designs are all appealing and consistent throughout, and the fairly regular use of SD in comedic scenes is charming rather than grating. Even more impressive is the background art, which gives a real sense of place to the story. Every piece of architecture is different from the next, and each is given some sense of detail, whether it be brickwork revealed from crumbling sheetrock, peeling paint, or side-by-side arched windows with lattices. The more natural surroundings also get their due; skies, in particular, seem to stretch on forever.
As the volume has almost no action to speak of, it instead keeps the reader interested in the art through the use of various angles and page layouts. One of the most striking moments in the entire volume, for me, occurs when Aika and Akari are in an abandoned building, and we see them through a multi-paned set of windows. Although taking up only a little more than half of the page, it places the attention on the peeling paint of the window frame as much as it does the two girls inside. Two-page spreads are given heavy detail and command attention when they appear, especially the ones displaying Neo Venezia's architecture. A spread will sometimes be utilized only on the bottom or top half of the pages, while the other half will be split; nevertheless, the layout is never confusing or difficult to follow.Packaging:
The front cover is a nice piece of Akari against a background of windmills, the appropriateness of which is revealed only after completing the volume. The colors are nice and vibrant, aided by the emphasis on the pink of Akari's hair, the blue of her undine outfit and of the sky, and the white of the clouds and windmills. The pink series logo is not the original, but the color does tie it in with the rest of the cover. The back cover has a water-patterned background of light blue and white, as well as the same pink logo on the top. A somewhat convoluted summary is printed on the left-hand side, while the right has a picture of Aria Company, complete with President Aria sitting on the roof. The summary itself has a few problems; the first paragraph's sentences are too complex, whereas the latter seems to claim that the name of the planet is Aria, not Aqua. Aqua is also not a prequel to Aria; Aria is instead the continuation of Aqua, given a different name when its serialization switched to a second magazine. Tokyopop's expected "leading the manga revolution" logo is present, in blue, below the picture; the bottom features the rating, genre classification, and barcode.
As per Tokyopop's usual, there are no color plates, which is a real shame. Much of the detail of the original colored illustrations has been lost in the transition to grayscale, leaving them looking murky. Other than that, the printing quality is quite good, although not excellent. "Extras" consist wholly of a brief summary of the second volume and a few pages for other Tokyopop manga.Text/Translation:
The translation is solid throughout; Akari's sentimental musings do manage to sound appropriately "sappy," as Aika would put it, without being turned into a cloying mess. Fans of the original printing by ADV Manga may be a little disappointed though, as Aika's catchphrase has become "no sappy remarks allowed!" Presentation of sound effects varies throughout. Some, generally consisting of sounds concerning President Aria, are given subtitled translations; everything else is left wholly untouched. Honorifics, on the other hand, are left in their original forms without any sort of glossary or note to explain their meanings.Content:
Considered to be the ultimate slice-of-life manga by many of its fans, Aqua gets off to a solid start within the first volume. Teenaged Akari Mizuhashi arrives on the terraformed planet of Aqua, formerly known as Mars, with a job as an apprentice undine already lined up. After a few mishaps involving a lost cat and a ride from a mailman who lets her practice rowing his "mail gondola," she arrives at Aria Company and learns the cat's true identity by the end of the first chapter. In essence, it takes an entire forty pages for our main character to make it from point A to point B--and those two points aren't a huge geographical distance apart, nor is the space between them filled with some kind of monster that must be overcome. There is little to hook the average reader with that kind of summary, which is one of the problems with the Aqua series. Things do happen, but they happen so slowly that many readers may just be bored.
The following chapters continue the same trend; in the second chapter, Akari realizes that this rowing business is perhaps more difficult than she had originally realized, and befriends fellow apprentice Aika, whose determination to become an undine seems to have a little more edge than Akari's. Other experiences include what is almost an environmental phenomenon for the non-native Akari, an adventure involving a mythical cat meeting, and finally, the tests for both Akari and Aika to take the next step in their careers as undines.
Again, although events do progress in a slow, relaxing manner, four of the five chapters seem to accomplish something in terms of creating a larger storyline. Yet it is the third chapter, in which little of consequence happens, which is the most charming one. Akari's wonder at her new surroundings is in full force in this chapter, as she expresses her amazement at the flooded streets of the city and the beauty of Neo-Venezia. Having already read the three volumes of Aria put out years ago by ADV, I can safely say that things like this are the heart of the series. The lead character's appreciation of the beauty around her, which others seem to appreciate less as they have grown up on Aqua and seen them all before, is infectious. Aika's strong-willed determination to become an undine and Alicia's kind, watchful manner make them both very likable characters. However, it is Akari's ability to find joy in the smallest of things that makes Aqua such a delightful read for those who enjoy their manga calm and relaxing.