Aria the Avvenire OVA 1

This was a miracle.

Impression

I tried my best not to cry.

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I failed. I cried like a little girl, starting from when Athena started singing Barcarolle. If you’ve gotten as far as watching Avvenire, you’d better damn well have been crying like a little girl at some point. I was already choking up during the surprise rendition of Undine, and I honestly don’t know how I’m going to react if they play Euforia next episode. In fact, I’ve cried to Aria an unhealthy amount of times, and that montage of locations at the end reminded me of all the wonderful memories I have of the series. I recognize most of them, even the less memorable episodes like that time Akari found ‘Neverland’ on the beach, and that run-down building covered with fog – which reminds me of both the cat kingdom’s endless corridors episode with Aika and the time Akari almost got spirited away and had to be saved by Cait Sith. Not sure which one of the two it was supposed to be. Of course, I remember all the scenes I cried to, including the winter bridge scene in S1E11 where Akari waves goodbye to Aika and Alice with Symphony used as an insert song. And the shot of that empty water canal when Akari time-travelled to the past reminded me of the Lumis Eterne episode in S3E9. I had a really good cry over that one. And then the second glove came off.

I absolutely revere this series. The nostalgia is amazing, I feel like watching all my favourite episodes again. Many moons ago, if someone asked me what my favourite anime was, I would reply that there were too many to pick a single favourite from. After watching Aria, I now reply Aria. To be honest, I didn’t actually watch the final episode of Origination until about two years ago, because I didn’t want it to end that badly. I’m serious. I just stopped at S3E11 and just left it for years, because I couldn’t bear to see it go. I know it’s not for everyone, but whenever I hear someone dismiss it because it’s allegedly boring and because nothing happens, I can’t help but feel that they’ve missed the entire point of the series and everything it stands for. In simpler terms, you’re not suteki enough. I also get very pissed off whenever someone mistakes it for Hidan no Aria. Please never mix up a mediocre school battle harem with something as deep and insightful as this.

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Avvenire 1 Img031Aria is about a lot of things. It is about finding happiness where you might least expect it. It is about optimism. It is about appreciating the beauty in life, and recognizing small miracles for what they are. As its colleague Yotsubato! would say, ‘today is always the most enjoyable day’. But underneath it all, it’s also about change, and this is where it distinguishes itself from many other iyashikei series. We’re taught that change is inevitable, and that one day, Akari, Aika and Alice will see the end of their miraculous days together. In other words, it’s about growing up, and Aria never denies that this can be painful and lonely – Alice was very lonely when she first started as a Prima. And it can hurt for the ones being left behind too, like in S3E5 where Akira despairs over her lack of a special talent, represented by her inability to find a four-leaf clover. I cried here, too – loli Aika plucks a three-leaf clover and adds a rose petal to it, telling Akira that all she has to do is to make up for it through hard work and determination. But as Alicia tells Akari in her parting message, it’s not right to look upon change as something negative. Instead of thinking that ‘that time was fun’, it’s much better to think that ‘that time was also fun’. Through a character as cheerful and optimistic as Akari, Aria is trying to teach its viewers to cope with the ups and downs of life, as harsh as reality may sometimes be. It’s a damn high standard to set, given that real life isn’t a utopia like it is on Neo-Venezia, but they’re ideals worth striving for, and this series pours its heart and soul into imparting them.

Avvenire 1 Img026It was much of the same in this short first episode. S1E11 was such a precious time for Alicia, Akira and Athena because they could no longer meet up as easily as they did when they were Singles. Even handing a small gift to Alicia in person is difficult to achieve (I wanted her to gracefully catch the box on the end of her oar, like she did for someone’s hat in that one episode when it was blown away by the wind). It’s a reality that Akari’s generation is now experiencing, and it’s something Ai-chan will have to face one day too. Although (if you’ll forgive me for digressing into bitter reality for a moment) even on Neo-Venezia the job market is still as relentless as ever, if the S3E4 traghetto episode is telling us anything. Not everyone has the skills to become a Prima, and with larger businesses like Himeya or Orange Planet they must quite strictly regulate how their employees get promoted to prevent too much of an imbalance. On that note, how is Aria Company even making a profit? Even assuming they have no mortgage to pay off, it’s still practically Alicia-san by herself since Akari isn’t exactly a rainmaker (yet). If Alicia didn’t get married and Akari became a Prima, would she still be an employee or does she get some equity in the company? Sorry. I’m thinking too deeply into this, I know.

Avvenire 1 Img029Anyway. The 1080p HD quality was wonderful. I didn’t even care that the gondolas became CG, everything looks so crisp and clear. This is the quality the series deserves. Animation and Natural were good enough to the point that I easily overlooked the animation (and for the mid 2000s, some of the watercolour backgrounds back then were fantastic in their own right) but Avvenire is on a whole new level from even Origination. It’s such a pity this isn’t longer than it is. I know Origination ended perfectly, and one of the reasons it’s so acclaimed is precisely because the series no longer needs any new episodes as a result of how neatly it ended, but I can’t help but want more even years down the line.

By the way, Aika and Alice looked fabulous! I actually preferred Aika’s short haircut, but Alice looks dekkai cute no matter how she wears her hair, and I will support her taste in fashion wholeheartedly. ALICE IS CUTE. DEKKAI CUTE.

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I think that’s all I wanted to say. Aria is as close to perfection as any anime will ever get, and to be granted a precious new adaptation eight years after Origination ended is a miracle in itself. If you’ve made it this far without actually watching it, please do. I love it for all the right reasons. Watch an episode every night before bed, and you’ll catch up well in time for the next Avvenire OVA in March. Your quality of life will be noticeably enriched. I’d also like to quickly plug the upcoming anime adaptation of Amanchu!, an slice-of-life manga about diving written by the same mangaka who drew Aria, Amano Kozue. It’s very good, I encourage you all to read or watch it when it airs in Summer 2016 – you may be alarmed by how it’s J.C. Staff and not Dogakobo or TYO Animations producing, but it’s being directed by Sato Junichi and so all is well. It’s not Aria-level, but then again, what is? Except maybe YKK

Finally, happy new year! This will be my last post for 2015, and I’m very glad it’s Aria. May 2016 be blessed with miracles and beauty, and I’ll see you in March for a Cait Sith episode!

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12 Responses

  1. Nostalgia :’v (y)

    • Vantage says:

      I’m going to fire up my favourite episodes over the next few nights and watch them again! I’m so excited!

  2. Wanderer says:

    This is out somewhere at last?! I’ve been searching and looking and waiting for it!

    • Vantage says:

      I have too, ever since Christmas Eve! It’s not Vivid, but Shimakaze (apparently Mezashite under a different name) have released a patch for the subs to be used with the raws by UCCUSS. I considered watching those raws, but concluded that it wouldn’t be the perfect experience without subs.

  3. littleshogun says:

    About Aria, well to be honest didn’t know much except this anime was old iyakishei series (New one was Kinmoza and Gochiusa), but from the picture and the info that I read, looks like it involve a city with many water and canal system like Venice. Well, the setting was named Neo-Venice and located in Mars. I’ll check this anime sometimes in 2016.

    Anyway, I want to use this chance to said Merry Christmas for all of this site blogger, even if it’s very late. And of course Happy New Year 2016 too, for all blogger here as well. Hope all of you do well in 2016.

    • Vantage says:

      Aria is old, yeah… it feels weird calling it old, but it’s been a decade since the first season after all. It’s actually quite interesting to see how iyashikei anime has changed since then. Kinmoza and Gochiusa are both definitely modern iyashikei series, but their focus on cute girls doing cute things with a hint of yuri is very much due to the influence of how the anime industry has developed since the ancient era of 2005. I blame K-ON!, it’s pretty much entirely their fault. Aria is technically CGDCT, but it’s not focused on moe, fanservice and cute character interaction – men do appear occasionally (gasp, can you imagine?!) and it’s more about how everyone interacts with the world around them. The closest modern example of this sub-set of iyashikei is probably Non Non Biyori. It’s like Neo-Venezia itself is a character in the series, and that’s part of what makes Aria such a wonderful miracle.

      A belated Merry Christmas to you too, and Happy New Year! It may already be 2016 where you are!

      • Wanderer says:

        Aria, I would say, is one of the foundational iyashikei anime. It and Hidamari Sketch may well have triggered the modern swell of slice of life and “cute girls doing cute things” series.

        I have seen a lot of these series since Aria first got me into them, and I love many of them. After watching many of those shows, and then going back and re-watching Aria, I can still say that no matter how good the new ones are (and they are very good, make no mistake) they are all still just trying to reach the place where Aria has been all along. When it comes down to a show that can heal the soul, soothe away the stresses and troubles that have been plaguing you, and just help you relax and be able to take delight in what you’re seeing, no other series has done it as well as Aria.

        As a point to emphasize this, one of the things Vantage noted was a bit of melancholy in some episodes, particularly noticible as you get later into the third season, about how as the girls grow up and their lives progress, they are no longer able to spend their days together the way they do throughout most of the series, because they are becoming adults, with adult responsibilities, which can mean things like friends not being able to spend anywhere near as much time together as they once could. It’s sort of the Japanese concept of “mono no aware,” which focuses on the transience of things. Frankly, I usually do not like that sort of thing at all. If I discover a series focuses on that sort of concept I will flee from it, because it touches too close to real life for me, and it is too easy for me to end up becoming very depressed.

        THAT DID NOT HAPPEN with this series. It should have: I’d followed these girls for three seasons, two OVAs, several DVD specials, and all the manga volumes that were released in the US before whoever had the manga license decided to drop it. Seeing these girls growing up and apart due to circumstance, even with the generally positive bent that the series put on it and the understanding that they were unquestionably still the best of friends, should have made me a wreck. It did not. I still love this series. I still recommend this series. I still WATCh this series, periodically, from beginning to end, and it is still wonderful all the way through.

        This series is an amazing work of art, on a level that nothing else I’ve seen has ever really been able to reach.

        I am really looking forward to Amanchu. If done well, by the right people, with the right mindset behind the adaptation, it could be one of the few things that could possibly come within reach of Aria. I want to believe that it can happen.

        • Vantage says:

          I have a confession to make. I’ve never seen Hidamari, and I’m actually now even more reluctant to in light of Matsuki Miyu’s passing. It’s the same reason why I have yet to watch Mushishi: because the scarcity of high-quality iyashikei means I’d rather wait for an appropriate time to slowly enjoy it rather than rushing through it all in one go. Not that any iyashikei series is supposed to be marathoned, that is. It’s harder to do that with currently airing series given that it’s now difficult to tell at first sight whether something is an iyashikei (as opposed to a CGDCT slice-of-life comedy like YrYr).

          To me, it’s precisely because it hits too close to home that I find it such a wonderful series. It’s really relatable, especially as I’ve recently entered that stage where I have to deal with a whole new set of adult responsibilities. It really cements the reality of how, as you grow up, you always come to appreciate the previous stage of your life more than you ever did when you were actually living it. In the AQUARIA special chapter of the manga, Akari says that the transience of things is the best proof that those things were precious – it validates that they were dear to you because you feel sad and lonely when you have to say farewell. In an industry which nowadays seems to thrive on tits, asses, tropes and self-insert main characters, something as… pure, and as heartfelt as Aria is truly an understated gem.

          I think the licenser was Tokyopop, I remember seeing their releases of Aqua somewhere. I wonder why they just stopped – was it money? Aria isn’t particularly renowned in the West, although I know it has quite a dedicated Japanese following. Them only having released half the series is why I haven’t collected any of it, because I can’t bear to only have an unfinished set of Aria. At the same time, I’m reluctant to import a raw set from Amazon.jp (which doesn’t ruin your wallet over shipping because all 12 are bundled as a single item) due to the language barrier, although I have been tempted to many times.

          Yesterday, I watched the Lumis Eterne, snowball, ‘why does Alicia-san never get angry’ and time-travel episodes. They were as amazing as I remembered. I even teared up when the first-generation Mars immigrant said goodbye to Akari by calling her ‘my Avvenire’. Watching that scene a whole ten years after it first aired, in the knowledge that the Aria series gets to where it is today (another two seasons now in remastered BD, a modern 1080p HD set of commemorative OVAs) was pretty emotional.

          • Wanderer says:

            Hidamari is a very good iyashikei series, although I will confess that I have deliberately never seen the final episodes that revolve around the two oldest characters graduating. As I said above, I don’t deal with that sort of thing well. I can also understand having more trouble with it now… I’m hesitant to go back and watch it again myself after Matsuki Miyu passed away. Yoshinoya-sensei wasn’t a main character, but she was a significant secondary character who appeared quite regularly. Honestly there are a lot of series I think I’ll have trouble going back to watch since that’s happened.

            I should say that I do NOT consider Mushishi to be iyashikei. While its pacing is fairly slow, and it can be calming at times, the situations Ginko is trying to resolve sometimes he fails, but more often then not are things that cannot be resolved in any good way for the people trapped in them. That means that those people, often (not always, but often) innocent people who have done nothing to deserve their fate, end up dying, or being driven mad, or have something else horrific happen to them. Some people who watch it say “well that’s life, bad stuff happens and you can’t always fix it” and stuff like that, but meh to that. It’s depressing to see these people who I’ve come to care about over the course of the episode die, in some cases pretty horribly. Whatever one might say about the series, I do not believe something that does that can justifiably be considered a “healing” series.

            On to happier things, remembering the time-travel episode was what allowed me to realize what “Aria: the Avvenire” meant. And because of what I know about Aria, one thing I am certain of is that, even though their time as trainees has ended, our former children; Akari, Aika, and Alice; still remain the best of friends, and they will still find ways to spend time together, even if they can’t do so as often as they did when they were younger.

            Also, I’ve kind of adored Ai-chan ever since the first episode of Aria the Animation, so I can’t begrudge having her there as part of Aria company.

  4. gorgonzola says:

    Huh it’s so weird to read so many random italian words. Neo venezia’s water is so far less green than the current one:0

    • gorgonzola says:

      Also merry new year;0

    • Vantage says:

      Happy 2016! They do use many gratuitous Italian words – in one of the episodes they described a custom whereby they drop ‘nightshine chimes’ in the sea when their lifespan expires and say ‘tante grazie’. There was even a New Years’ episode where they all said ‘Auguri, Buon Anno!’

      The water is less green probably because it’s supposed to be set in a utopia, with the original Venice having long flooded back on Earth. One of the best S1 episodes even has Akari travel back in time to when the first canal on Mars was filled with water. Or maybe it’s just another miracle of Neo-Venezia 😀

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