Based on the manga series by Kozue Amano, Aria: The Animation is a thirteen episode series that blends some very interesting ideas into a science fiction setting. Who knew that one could be captivated and amused by a show about women pushing gondola’s around a water world in some far future. This first season was originally broadcast back in 2005 with direction by Junichi Sato, a man who has directed some of my favorite series such as Pretear and Princess Tutu, but who is likely better known for his involvement in Sailor Moon. With animation by Hal Film Maker, which incidentally was used in the two series just mentioned, Aria: The Animation has a very distinct clean look to it that captures the flow and movement of the water on this world quite well.
With only one episode to this sampler, we’re obviously not going to get too much of an idea as to what the series is about. That the first season ran for thirteen episodes and the second one for twenty-six certainly paints a positive picture about it since many thirteen episode series never make it past that with another season. Toss in an OVA and a third season and it gives one all the more reason to take pause and pay closer attention to it. This is made even more evident when you sample this first episode and take in its very laid back nature, the way it seemingly glides through what it wants to tell and introduces you to a number of the basic but important concepts.
Aria: The Animation takes place on the world of Aqua and specifically in the city of Neo Venezia. It’s been some one hundred and fifty years since the planet was terraformed and essentially was turned into a world of water where hardly any land mass can be found. The people who came to live here took Venice as its model and have carved out a very ancient looking city but one that is brimming with life and character. People who live here from birth are obviously quite adjusted to it, with its lack of roads and mainland transportation, and find moving about its small streets and using gondolas as something that is extremely nature. For those who come from Manhome, and interesting naming convention for Earth apparently, it’s often quite jarring for them and it turns into a love it or hate it kind of relationship depending on the person.
Into this world we come to know the characters rather quickly as we’re introduced to Akari who is being trained to operate the gondolas for the Aria Company. With her level of skill since coming here from Manhome, she’s not able to take customers out on her own yet. The company, owned by an amusing little dog-like creature named Aria, is quite popular because of Alicia, an attractive and highly skilled gondola operater, or undine. Both girls have a very laid back personality from what we see of them and the opening episode is very pleasant in that Akari takes on a “friend” during a practice run and through her we get to see the basics of the city and life as an undine-in-training. That includes her meeting up with Aika, another undine in training who works for the Himeya Company.
Within this first episode, we get some of the basics as to what the nature of the show is like and the core cast of characters, assuming by the title of the series that the Aria Company and those within it will be the central focus. Visually, there is a whole lot to like about this show if it keeps up with this kind of style and pacing. It’s very laid back, much like many representations of Venice life is like. I’ve long adored water based series and I’ll even admit to liking Waterworld, even as bad as that film is. Aria is obviously nothing like that but they take the concept of a water filled world and give it a very rich and classic feel to it. With the mild science fiction aspects given in to it to help explain some of the origins and backgrounds of it, as well as why people view the world they way they do, it opens up a large realm of possible stories to tell.
As of this writing, there are fifty three episodes across three seasons and an OVA produced. Obviously very little can be told about all of that from this first episode. Yet there is plenty that can be told from it if you look closely. The animation isn’t top tier but it’s solid and it’s filled with designs that take familiar things and tweaks them nicely. That Akari and Aika wear sailor uniforms would be a problem if they were kept normal, but here they’re elongated in an elegant way and given more formality and beauty to them. The pacing of the series in general is likely to mirror what is shown here since you tend to lead with stories and characters that will define a show. And the animation is solid throughout with a few really nice mild amusement aspects placed here and there, notably surrounding Aria himself. What this first episode does for me is to say, “Yes, you’re going to like this. Come and explore more of Neo Venezia.” Thankfully Nozomi Entertainment will be releasing this in chunks so the exploration can be well documented.