Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Aria the Animation

Aria the Animation; animated science-fiction drama series, Japan, 2005; D: Junichi Sato, S: Erino Hazuki, Chiwa Saito, Junko Minagawa, Ryou Hirohashi

In the 24th century, Mars has been terraformed and is now filled with oceans. Akari is a young girl who recently moved from Earth to the Mars city of Neo-Venice and wants to become an undine, i.e. a gondolier. She is hired by the Aria company for training. Rowing with her boat through the coast city, Akari meets other undine's - Aika, from the Himeya company; Alice; Akira; cat Aria and others. She spends her time abstaining from technology and doing a lot of things the old fashioned way. Her friends spend the New Year's eve together at the main square of Neo-Venice.

Kozue Amano created a manga with a very unique concept - even though the story is set on terraformed Mars in the 24th century, this is not a Sci-Fi story, but a simple, humble slice-of-life story that seems as if it plays out in the world of today - yet even though hopes were up when director Junicho Sato adapted it into an anime, the first season, "Aria the Animation", did not reach the level of his all-time classic "Sailor Moon". The notion of Akari and other undines living as some sort of "Amish of the 24th century" in order to enjoy the small things in life and not alianete themselves from too much technology is wonderfully sweet and optimistic, yet the minimalist story manages to conjure up only two truly great moments: one is in episode 2, where the feisty Akira starts lamenting against Alice, complaining how she became an undine before her, has whiter skin, etc... Alice shrugs all this off by giggling and constantly repeating "My my my", causing Akira to point her index-finger and threaten her: "Giggling isn't allowed! "My my my's" aren't allowed!" Alice though just keeps repeating "My my my" and giggling, causing Akira to chase her around the building. There is also one great episode where the heroine has to deliver a letter to a "vanished" address, only to find out it disappeared after the flooding of Mars, but manages to find the grave of the recipient and play the message over its grave.

Unfortunately, except for that, little else manages to ignite some spark or keep the viewer's attention. There is simply too little in this anime to show. The plot outlines are enough to sum up entire episodes - Akari goes to the main square to spend the New Year's eve there. And that's truly all that happens. In fact, one just needs to compare to put things into perspective: in episode 9, Akari and her friends meet an older woman in a garden and go to a spa. Nothing happens. But so much happened in a spa in Sato's "Sailor Moon" SuperS episode 136 that one cannot put it into words. Also, compared to other 'slice-of-life' films, like "Kiki's Delivery Service" or "Only Yesterday", it is evident that they do not need a story either, yet their warm emotions are able to create magic you feel, and don't just pretend to feel. "Aria the Animation" seems as if the authors wanted to create a minimalist anime, but fell into the trap of an empty walk. A one so lukewarm that it almost reaches the level of "Teletubbies" at some point. In fact, nothing happens throughout, to such an extent that you wish some guy would show up and make a scene by pinching one of the girl's butt just to finally live it up a bit.


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