ARIA Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Saturday, May 22, 2004
Release Date: Thursday, April 01, 2004
Translated by:Kay Bertrand
What They Say
ON THE PLANET AQUA, a world once known as Mars, Akari Mizunashi has just made her home in the town of Neo-Venezia, a futuristic imitation of the ancient city of Venice. The technology of "Man Home" (formerly Earth)
Amano Kozue's ARIA is the first title released in the ADV Manga - MagGarden partnership and it is a very good one. Sit back, relax and take in the sights, sounds and smells of Neo-Venezia presented by ARIA Company's gondaliers in this sci-fi slice-of-life drama.
ADV has done a fantastic job with this. They kept the original cover art and kept it in its original landscape format. It is a beautiful image of Neo-Venezia with Akari on her gondola on the right. This image, full of white and shades of blue, has an a late summer feel to it. Above the image ADV Manga keeps the original info that follows the spine.
Logo Check!! (2003 Megs)... ADV also kept the original logo with the word "ARIA" in blue with kana between the romaji letters.
Inside there is a color volume header and contents page. The back cover has a night version of the volume header to the right of this volume's blurb. The printing is some of the best I have seen from ADV. Tone looks solid and does not appear to be bleeding or blending to much. At the end of the GN there is an ato-gaki, The Lazy Man's Club, with Amano sharing some of her inspiration for the stories in this volume. There are a few ads as well - To Heart, NewType USA magazine, and the Anime Network.
The art is fantastic. Amano presents Neo-Venezia with wonderful architecture, lots of open water, floating islands with gondolas and airships. Mars really never looked better. In some ways it really reminded me of Europe as there were long rivers along beautiful historical architecture.
Character designs are very nice. Whether its the gals or the cool mars cats they are all done with a lot of style. A good mix of thick and thin lines give off a slightly flat feel (noses are not drawn in often, except in profiles). Costumes are very cute. Gondoliers and salamanders have to wear them and they are a mix of old and futuristic. Amano also mixes in some cute SD in this series. It can take a little time getting used to, but work perfectly in this very light, visually based title.
The layout is pretty simple but with nice art inside all those panels I really didn't think about it too much.
Presented in a tall B6 (slightly taller than the original size) ARIA is in right-to-left format. The SFX are all translated with subs. They are all done tastefully and rarely end up compromising Amano's rich art.
The translation looks really solid. It really keeps the pacing and tone of the original. ADV does not use honorifics, but they always refer to Aria Pokoteng (the Mars-cat president of ARIA Company) and Alicia as President Aria and Miss Alicia, respectively. I was really please to see ADV not Americanize some of the dialogue. Instead, they shared notes on some Japanese and Italian culture (they should do that more often).
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Continuing the episodic slice-of an undine's (gondolier) life story-telling that worked so well in Amano's [b]AQUA[/b], [b]ARIA[/b] starts off where its predecessor left off. Same characters, same setting, and just a season later. It is now autumn and Amano takes his time to introduce his version of 2301 AD to some new and readers and give an update to old. Not much has changed to these characters, really, but with this title being so visual the change of climate has made for some interesting day trips and introduced new costumes and customs to the young trainees at the ARIA and Himeya Companies.
As we saw in volume one of AQUA, Akari has passed her pair (recruit) exam and is now one step away from being a prima undine. As a single (trainee) she still has to be accompanied by a prima when she gives tours, but she does not mind as she loves Alicia's (ARIA Company's other employee and only prima) company, knowledge and ability. Possibly more importantly she wants to have fun out there on this beautiful water-world and make her boss, Aria Pokoteng (a mars-cat) proud of her. So if she can help a lost tourist, wash a gondola or assist a riverside fruit stand she will take a moment to make sure others can enjoy their experience no matter how long it may take.
With Autumn here, the skies and rivers are full of leaves and the riverside food-gondolas are now selling different dishes. Cool breezes, warm tea and smell of baked potatoes abound and riding on a gondola has to be the best way to take in all of that stimuli. The pace, the comforting motion and quite often the friendly company can make for an entertaining enjoyable time. Time often tends to slow down in moments like that and on the planet AQUA (formerly known as Mars) that is quite common, as a day is just as long as Man-Home's (Earth) but the year is 24 months long.
After a few seasonal rituals, Amano takes his readers on a tour of Neo-Venezia. First off the is a tour of the city center with Akari and her salamander (weatherman) friend Akatsuki. These two friends are both waiting for friends by the city port and will eventually take off on their own for a trek around the heart of town. Along the way Amano, through Akari's eyes, will present the real city of Venice, Italy with its architecture, history and culture. By transporting it to the Mars of the future he takes advantage of pointing out the differences between the fast pace of a technologically advanced earth and a slow but beautiful mars. These two characters after a while do not mind having to wait hours with all the stunning scenery around them. The parallels with modern times are obvious and with his second tour, to an island based on Kyoto's Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine, Amano shows off some of the quieter simple places in Japan to those who may rarely step out the hustle and bustle of their modernized homes.
Scenes like these reminds us of culture and places that are slowing being lost with the conveniences of modern society. Amano's storytelling and pacing is almost like what I would imagine a ride on a gondola would be. Its really romantic, slow and simple but I do not think anyone on one would like to have it any other way. Amano does not really have to do much more. Her characters have told us what they want to accomplish and they will get there when their time comes. Along the way Amano will have them take us on their daily routines given us a leisurely experience of Venice of modern and future times.
For those of you looking for a seinen title that develops its setting, characters and relationships pick this one up now. Right now there are only 4 real characters and they get a bit of time to grow. While they are fleshed out Amano presents her Mars (AQUA) with some great landscape and background art. The art is great and the production is really nice.
For those of you looking for something with a lot more sci-fi and less character development and mood building then pass. This story is slow. Yes its set in Mars but that?s about it for the sci-fi as the characters only send email ever so often and the rest of the time is spent on gondolas.
What ADV has done here with ARIA has to be called their best manga production yet. Wonderful packaging and printing with a solid translation made for a great read without distractions. And to do this with what is already a good product from Amano Kozue the results are only high quality. Amano uses her art to tell a romantic story of moments that most of us take for granted. By slowing things down she gives readers stimuli for the senses as well as their emotions. There are few titles out there that can do that well and ARIA (along with its predecessor AQUA) are some of the best at doing just that.
For those looking for a good action title with a good amount of humor this is one of the better ones translated. Those familiar with the anime the pacing is a little slower as this manga tends to be not as episodic, so those individual anime episodes are usually quite a few chatpers long so expect a bit more storytelling here. For those looking for more action and more romance you still cannot pass this up. This volume is too good.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Released By: ADV Manga
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left