Review by: Sophie Stevens
Publisher: Nozomi Entertainment/Right Stuf
MSRP: $49.99 US
Running Time: 325 minutes
Release Date: Available Now
Sometimes dreams really do come true.
Anyone who has opened a volume of Kozue Amano’s manga or watched an episode or more of Sailor Moon will probably tell you what to expect from Aria: The Animation. They’ll probably throw around words like “beautiful” or “classic” until you finally cave in and pick up the box set of this first season and suddenly you see why this series has so many fans who simply adore it. Aria is just that good and if you think it’s just another anime about cute girls doing cute thing then you’re right but there’s a deeper meaning to this story that makes it a human story you will certainly come to love.
In the distant future, Mars has been colonized and has been terraformed in a way that it was transformed into a habitable water planet called Aqua. Somewhere in Aqua is a city called Neo-Venezia that is an exact duplicate of Venice, Italy complete with beautiful architecture, canals and even gondolas. Instead of burly men rowing said gondolas, however, there are young women called Undines who are your guides to Neo-Venezia.
One of the Undines is a trainee named Akari Mizunashi who works for the Aria Company (complete with a cute chubby cat called President Aria) in the Journeyman level. Akari dreams of being a Prima like Aria Company’s own “Great Water Fairy” named Alicia. One day, however, Akari gets her first customer that comes in the form of a little girl named Ai who wants to experience a gondola ride her older sister has been excited about since her honeymoon.
It is this one ride that changes everything for Akari as she meets a low-level Undine (from a rival company) that goes by the name of Aika. While their companies are rivals, Akari and Aika begin a friendship as the two begin to train together while putting up with strange weather phenomenon like Acqua Alta (when the water rises) as well as Aika’s annoyance with her superior named Akira who is one of the Three Great Water Fairies just like Alicia.
Things get interesting when they meet a younger Undine named Alice who seems distant at first and slowly comes to befriend both Akari and Aika. The trio not only start training together despite the fact that they all represent different companies but a true friendship is born as all three vow to become just as good as their predecessors. Despite their differing opinions and personalities, all three girls learn much about themselves.
While the series flows at a slow and very dream-like pace, that doesn’t mean the series is low on substance and the stories aren’t without their truly emotional moments. In one episode, President Aria leads Akari into an alley where she discovers a little girl who is desperate for somebody to deliver a letter to somebody she loves far from Neo-Venezia so off Akari goes with Woody the mail delivery guy to the locale only to make an interesting discovery. In another episode, the three girls and Akira take a young couple on their first gondola ride only to find themselves in a difficult position that inevitably teaches the girls a lesson.
The series is also fun with episodes that range from a cute look at what President Aria does all day to trip to the beach that turns out to become a training exercise concocted by Akira and Alicia. Of course, what anime isn’t complete without a day at the hot springs, right? There’s also the episode that introduces us to Athena Glory, Alice’s roommate and the last member of the Three Great Water Fairies, and an episode where the girls meet Aria Company’s founder and the best Prima Undine in the history of the profession.
And yes, the final three episodes did bring tears to my eyes as the series closed its chapter on a touching last note. By the last episode you will want to jump right to Season 2 of this series. I should note that Right Stuf/Nozomi Entertainment packaged this one just right with more than enough features (and a Guidebook) and extras to make this set feel complete.
A beautifully crafted story that is nearly perfect in every aspect, Aria is what you get when you mix genuine emotions, great characters and world that is like a waking dream. It’s also funny, cute and conveys the dreams and longing to become better as these girls go about their daily lives as Undines in a gorgeous world of water. Really, anime this good doesn’t come along very often so buying this set is very highly recommended.
DVD REVIEW BREAKDOWN
What was once known as Mars, the water planet of Aqua holds many wonders that include the city of Neo-Venezia where a group of girls called Prima Undine are your gondola guides to the city. We meet three young trainees from different companies that not only find friendship but learn a lot about themselves.
VIDEO QUALITY: A
The series looks really good on DVD and that is very good news seeing as this series has great animation that is colorful and nicely detailed … especially in its recreation of Venice. There’s a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance of Sergeant Keroro of Sgt. Frog as a puppet.
AUDIO QUALITY: A
The original score is beautiful and fit’s the series perfectly and you just have to love the opening and closing theme songs like “Undine” by Yui Makino. The voice acting is amazing as well thanks to some great performances by Erino Hazuki (Akari) and Junko Minagawa (Akira).
This is everything you can ask for in a collection seeing as each disc contains some great special features such as Apprentice Undines and Primas Interviews with the cast that makes for some fun conversations with the voice actors. On top of that there’s a video diary trip to Venice, Italy that Director Junichi Sato (Satojun) took for research. There are also plenty of trailers on each disc, clean opening and closing credits as well as commercials for the series. Oh, the 40-page Guidebook included is a great collectible.
Aria: The Animation is simply one of the most heartwarming and endearing anime series to come along and with a cast of delightful characters and a meaningful story you cannot go wrong with Aria. This 13-episode series is short but sweet enough that you will be quickly hooked on this endearing and unforgettable series.
Review copy provided by Nozomi Entertainment/Right Stuf