Anime Review - ARIA the Animation

ARIA the Animation is a strange beast. It is very much a series with a cult status while still exhibiting many hallmarks of a mainstream title. So what is it about this series specifically that makes it so appealing?

"In the early 24th century, Mars has been terraformed by mankind into a sparkling planet covered in water...

Akari Mizunashi, at the age of 15, has left everything behind to travel to that reborn world, now known as Aqua.

More than anything, Akari wants to be an "undine" - a female gondolier who navigates the canals of the Aquan city of Neo-Venezia

As she begins her training with the prestigious Aria Company, will she be up to the challenges that await her on the path to achieve her dream?"

The most difficult thing for me to come to terms with was the storyline. I simply couldn't comprehend how a series about a bunch of girls rowing gondolas could make as much of a splash (pun entirely intended) as this series has.

I'm not entirely sure that I understood the storyline of ARIA. I think I did but I found myself second guessing it, thinking that there must be more to it. The actual storyline may seem somewhat thin but I couldn't help but feel that this is a conscious decision so as to allow the characters shine in their own right. The characters are all beautifully designed and wonderfully executed, each developing from their very first introduction. Neo-Venezia is, in itself, a character in the story and possibly the most important one. Each and every one of the cast are inextricably linked to this beautiful town of waterways and gondolas. At times when watching ARIA, I found myself thinking of Honey and Clover, another beautiful "slice of life" series which was equally as beautiful although set in a much more realistic time, date and place.

The visuals in ARIA, produced by Hal Film Maker, are pretty hit-and-miss but for the most part they are nothing if not pleasing to the eye. The overall aesthetic of the series is beautiful in its use of a palette which is flooded with pastel colours which perfectly compliments the scenery which is reminiscent of the Venetian canals. It would have been great if this was where I could end this sentence but sadly the visuals seem to falter, especially in the second half of the series. The overall animation quality seems to waver and the use of CGI is entirely out of place. Thankfully the overall design, particularly character design, is beautiful and is the perfect match for the series' setting.

An area of anime production which is all to often overlooked is the score but in this case the nail was firmly hit on the head. A mix of piano and soft jazz are all timed to perfection and play off the storyline, even the opening and closing themes are integrated into the episode proper. Siren's release only contains the original Japanese audio track with no English dub. Thankfully, the Japanese cast are EXCEPTIONAL! Each characters personality is perfectly encapsulated in their vocal interpretation. Not only do the voice actors excel in the personification of their respective characters, but they also manage to inject a healthy dose of comedy into a good chunk of each episode. Like pretty much everything in ARIA, even the comedy is subtle instead of corny and in your face.

ARIA the Animation is a series that is easy on the eyes, although wavers in quality at times. ARIA is a very easy series to watch, a graceful series full of beauty and heart may not be to everybodys liking but it is a lovely series about life, love and friendship.

ARIA the Animation is available on DVD now from Siren.


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