On the planet Aqua (formerly known as Mars), female gondoliers known as undines ply their trade along the canals of Neo Venezia, a recreation of the city of Venice back on Earth. Fuelled by their dreams of becoming full-fledged undines themselves, Akari Mizunashi and her friends Aika and Alice train hard for their respective companies, all the while taking the time to stop and appreciate the many wonderful sights and sounds of Neo Venezia.
It should come as no surprise by now that I absolutely love Aria, and after I had hungrily devoured the thirteen episodes of the first series, I desperately wanted more. Luckily, a second season was on hand with a full twenty-six episodes to satisfy the cravings, and although it took a while to be subbed, almost every episode was most definitely worth the wait.
To those not already under Aria’s spell, it might be natural to wonder just what the fuss is all about; there’s no plot to speak of, and nothing momentous ever happens. Of course, in the case of slice-of-life, that is exactly the point; the series isn’t aiming to be packed to the brim with action or a twistingly complex story- instead, it takes simple, low key events and invests them with a simple magic and charm that is nigh irresistible. From discovering a new view of the city to the simple pouring of a drink, everything in the Aria universe is infused with a sense of wonder to the extent that you actually want to be there. Yes, there are one or two occasions when the sentiments become just a little bit too cloying and sickly, but for the most part the spell remains delightfully unbroken.
Of course, such scenes could not be brought to life without a strong cast, and so it is that Aria presents us with a range of delightful characters, from optimistic and sentimental Akari (kept in check by the more pragmatic Aika with the help of the catchphrase “embarrassing phrases are prohibited”) all the way through to cute and cuddly fat cat President Aria. On their own, each character may not be the most complex of personalities, but as a group they perfectly complement each other to form a group whose interactions are always interesting to watch.
Visually, Aria combines aesthetically pleasing character designs with beautiful settings and backdrops, ensuring that viewers are further drawn into the world of the series. Background music is slow and gentle; it may not be the sort of thing you’d want to listen to on its own, but it fits the tone of the series.
When it comes to Aria, all I can do is praise it wholeheartedly, for this is a series that makes want to move to Neo Venezia straightaway as I become caught up in the lives and emotions of the characters during their adventures in the city. Whatever your anime plans were before, put them aside to try out Aria as soon as possible.