This was a miracle.
I tried my best not to cry.
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.
Aria 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.
It 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.
Anyway. 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.
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!