Given that it is Christmas time (in case you hadn’t noticed), it seems the perfect time of year to look at an anime which is itself perfect. This anime is perfect in terms of characters, music, art, and it definitely has a setting which is pure perfection – a utopia.
Aria began as a manga called Aqua in 2001, but after two volumes it switched publisher and took up the new name Aria for another 12 volumes, ending in 2008. The anime version lasted three series, called Aria the Animation, Aria the Natural and Aria the Origination respectively, with a one-off Original Video Animation (OVA) also created. There are 54 episodes in total of a series set in a futuristic, wonderful world.
Starting in 2301 AD (i.e. exactly 300 years into the future when the manga began), the story originally begins with a girl called Akari who has left Earth, now called “Manhome”, and moved to Mars, which following intensive terraforming has a surface which is 90% water and thus has appropriately been renamed “Aqua”. Akari makes herself home to the city of Neo-Venezia – New Venice, based on the long gone Manhome city of Venice. The story takes the form of an email correspondence between Akari and a younger girl on Manhome called Ai, in which Akari tells her of the idyllic life she now leads.
Akari dreams of becoming an “Undine”, a gondolier who acts as a tour guide around Neo-Venezia. She thus joins her favourite firm, Aria Company. She begins training under her mentor Alicia, one of “Three Water Fairies”, the three best Undines in the city. Other than Alicia the only other member of the company is President Aria, an intelligent Martian cat who serves as the company mascot.
As the story moves she makes friends with girls working under the other two major gondola firms in Neo-Venezia: blunt and idealistic Aika of Himeya Company, who trains under Water Fairy Akira, a great conversationalist who is strict in Aika’s training; and the unbelievably talented Alice of the biggest firm Orange Planet, trained by Water Fairy Athena, a clumsy woman with a beautiful singing voice.
The best thing about Aria is how it makes you feel when you watch it. There are plenty of TV shows, not just anime, that are designed to either make you happy, scared, educated etc. However, the feelings that result in this series is pretty unique amongst all TV. It makes you feel nice.
It is the nicest TV show in the entire world as far as I know. In this utopian world, nothing wrong seems to happen at all. There are some odd moments of slapstick (mainly involving President Aria) and there is also comic interaction between the characters in which there is a bit of bickering, but on the whole everything is just perfect.
Admittedly at first things can seem a bit odd: the fact that everyone in the series has a name beginning with the letter A (except for nicknames or other cats). But if you ignore little issues like this and just allow yourself to be swept up by the kindness and warmness of it all, you come to discover just how beautiful Aria is.
After all we live in a time where we are constantly bombarded with the idea that life is somehow terrible, whether it is the environment going belly-up, shoddy culture, news of impending doom and gloom, or bad moves by the government (an idea Aria cleverly gets around by simply not mentioning politics or how Aqua is governed). So when you see something this different, it makes for a glorious change.
All three series of Aria, including the OVA are available as a series of box-sets, which are currently only available on Region 1 DVD, released by Right Stuf.