This is a review I wrote for Aria the Animation on August 27 of 2018, on the website called MyAnimeList. This is the one review I am most proud of writing, and it is also my most personal one as Aria the Animation is one of my favorite anime of all time. This review encapsulates the reasons why I hold the show so dear to my heart.
“Lots of things change with the flow of time. But there are things that never change. Things that are precious because they change, and things that are precious because they don’t change… Both are precious. Don’t you feel the same?”
I watch anime to enjoy myself. Every fan does. I have horrible days, awesome ones, but always after, I find myself opening up my Laptop and watching some good ol’ anime. You see, there’s a special charm to the medium. A unique aspect that distinguishes it above all the rest. Whether it be its exclusiveness to its respective origin country, or just the shows in general that can only be made from the minds of the Japanese, I always find myself appreciating the wonderful world that anime has given me. I haven’t watched enough shows for my opinion to matter, if I’m being completely honest, due to time constraints and a filled-up schedule but whenever I come across an anime that I love, I obsess over it for days, weeks, even months. With this obsession comes my desire to write a review that expresses my thoughts and why I cherish the said anime with all my heart. And it seems Aria the Animation is one of the few that have rekindled this feeling.
Enter the beautiful world of Neo Venezia, the city of a now-populated, man-made planet named Aqua, which to no surprise to its name, is filled mostly with water. A Utopian wonderland filled with the bustling life of citizens and tourists alike, Neo Venezia is also the setting of which we meet our main protagonist for the first time, Mizunashi, Akari. Akari is a bright and cheerful girl, always optimistic in the face of conflict. Due to her positive mindset in life, she is constantly greeted with many characters who all come to be drawn into Akari’s liveliness. Among them are Aika and Alice, two other trainees who share the same goal as Akari. To not just be a Prima, but to also surpass their seniors. In the show, Prima’s are basically tour guides who introduce newcomers to the wonderful city of Neo Venezia in their gondolas. In reality, Neo Venezia could very well be Venice, located in Italy, with most of its area being filled with water and the presence of gondolas being felt everywhere. Think of Neo Venezia as the future of Venice.
Through Akari and her friends’ desires, they come across many kinds of obstacles but always overcome them in one way or another. They help each other as friends should and trud through it all no matter how tough the going gets. Yet, the problem that matters most is not about achieving their goal and becoming a Prima, it’s when their expedition ends and they are forced to part ways due to the fact they’re all in their respective rival companies. An internal conflict that lingers in the mind. What happens when they become Primas? Will they be able to maintain their friendship? Will reaching their destination bring more hardships? Questions like these are addressed in the anime in a way that stirs up drama genuinely, not with any half-assed melodramatic exaggeration and tons of crying, but with actual sincere emotion that is believable and convincing.
Each episode begins with an opening monologue that leads to the pleasant and calming Opening, Undine, a song so beautiful, you could end up trying to sing along with it (at least that’s what I did). Each episode is devoted to fulfilling its role as individual short stories, every detail matters and every bit of character interaction helps in developing the characters, making them realistic and authentic. The main appeal from Aria the Animation lies in its overall message. Every episode contains a neat little adventure that almost always gives us a reason to appreciate whatever we have in life. Not just that, but the Ending song perfectly wraps the story without leaving any bitter aftertaste. Aria is not merely just an (extremely) well-done Slice-of-Life. It’s an entire experience. The city of Neo Venezia is brought to life with the help of Akari and her friends. Every character has a purpose, each and every one of them all have one unique facet to their personality that is needed for the show to thrive. It is solely dependent on its characters, and while each individual story that Aria carries around with it is certainly intriguing and required some actual thought, it’s the characters that bring this anime to the pedestal that it is now standing at. They are the reason the community praises the Aria franchise to be the truest to the Slife-of-Life genre. That is the core of Aria.
Unlike many other SoL’s, it does not rely on any sub-genres or anything exciting for that matter. There is nothing spectacular, nothing that makes you leap off of your couch. Due to this, when reading the premise of Aria, the show can come off as “lackluster” or “uneventful”. It’s common to think that there isn’t anything really special about Aria, that it’s wholly plain and not worth your time. But if you’re willing to embrace this show for what it is, for what it wants to offer us, the audience, that’s when you can fully understand why it’s repeatedly regarded as the best SoL to exist. Period. In Aria the Animation, you come to appreciate the little details, the tiny things that may have just been forgotten, all these little aspects that surround the anime are all connected and realised in some way. It persuades us to appreciate life, OUR lives, for what it is and what it could be. Aria inspires us to be able to reach for what we initially thought was impossible. And that was what drew me into embracing Aria and fully loving what it’s all about. I’ll be honest. It does take a while, I admit the first few episodes seem like a slow trip, you might even want to stop watching as it doesn’t look like it’ll go anywhere, but trust me. You’re about to be in for a sweet ride. The show takes its time and it does so for good reason. Every episode matters, no matter how unimportant it may seem while watching, as the show begins to come to an end, everything will fall into place and you’ll come to realise that every single element ties itself together forming a united whole.
And that’s not all. Aria doesn’t just give us compelling and wonderful characters, it goes above and beyond with its animation and soundtrack. Aria the Animation makes good use of its animation and despite it being old and outdated, it still accomplishes its purpose. Every beautiful scene is dazzling and alluring, showing that even an anime that’s more than ten years old can still hold up against shows such as Violet Evergarden and Koe no Katachi, known for its beautiful exterior. The same can be said about the anime’s music and sound design. The songs are attractive and easy to listen to. The sound is the backbone that supports the show and brings the emotions to its full scope. Consisting of piano melodies and string instruments, each minute of music causes Aria to be 5 times as elegant as it already is.
Aria the Animation is an overall endearing, soothing ride that casts a net of serenity on the viewer, utilizing its animation to its full extent and incorporating a soundtrack that can only be described as perfect, with a graceful Opening and a lovely Ending that surround the show. Because of its calming nature, there’s a certain way of watching the anime for you to fully enjoy it. First, take a shower, grab a cup of coffee, and press play on your Laptop. There needs to be no distraction. Nothing else needs to be in your mind. With that, you can truly acknowledge this masterpiece. I can understand why it might be easy to dismiss Aria completely. Some people just can’t get into it no matter how much they’re persuaded. Others just don’t like Slice-of-Life. Every person’s taste is different. Anime, like all other mediums, is subjective. It’s art that can be interpreted in many ways. But if you’re a fairly new anime fan or just someone who wants to get into the genre of Slice-of-Life, then Aria the Animation is the perfect introductory piece. This anime will remain as one of my all-time favorites and I’m eager to watch the two next seasons of the franchise. To put it simply, Aria the Animation is gorgeous.