Disclaimer: This review is about all 3 seasons of Aria. The scores correspond to the franchise as a whole.
There seems to be a prevalent idea among reviewers of this anime that Aria is an anime about nothing. In fact, sothis said in her recommendation for Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou that Aria was a show about “absolutely nothing” and said you'd like it if you like “series where nothing happens.” I will respectfully say to the owner of this website that I cannot possibly disagree more.
Aria is not an anime about nothing. No one would put effort into creating a piece of entertainment if it were about nothing. Aria is about the little things in life that often go overlooked, in particular, the small things in life that make it worth living and, taken together, can help us find happiness. The author of the series said in his own words “I wrote this Aqua to let you all find that small "happiness" and to make you think. After you've read my work, if there are people who were able to find that "happiness", it would make me the happiest person out there.” In my opinion, there's no better way to summarize the franchise than that.
Figure 1: Let's begin
The idea that Aria is about nothing comes from the structure of the anime and its genre of storytelling. The anime is mostly episodic, in which each episode deals with a new challenge facing our main characters. Usually they aren't monumental challenges; often they're frivolous things such as treasure hunts or stargazing, things that are done by ordinary kids on ordinary days. The idea of an anime about ordinary things isn't particularly unique either (see: Nichijou, literally “my ordinary life”). What sets Aria apart is that it isn't really a comedy (such as Nichijou or Lucky Star) or a drama (such as Clannad or Kanon). It's really just a portrayal of life without an overarching narrative. In a way, it's like K-on or So-Ra-No-Wo-To, but with a much different setting and different character archetypes.
The combination of the setting and the storytelling is really what sets this anime apart. Aria takes place in a nearly utopian future on Mars which has been terraformed to become a replica of the city of Venice, Italy. On the one hand, this setting allows the anime to show the beauty of the city and a nostalgic look at a simpler life. On the other hand, setting the anime in the future on another planet allows for a fresh start, the building of a society without having to worry about what already exists on earth. The way the animation portrays this setting is timeless. The lighter, almost watercolor-esque tones may not be as good as the ones in the manga, but they compliment the setting in its own right. The vast sweeping landscapes when they show full shots of the city are the definition of “scenery porn.”
Figure 2: Scenery porn
Of course, you can create the perfect setting, but the anime wouldn't be worth watching without a strong set of core characters. Aria delivers with not just one, but two of my all time favorite sets of anime trios. The first trio is the main cast, Akari, Aika, and Alice, the friend, the hardworker, and the genius. They all have their strengths and weaknesses and therefore face different challenges on their quest to becoming Primas, masters of their tour guide trade. The second trio are their mentors, Alicia, Aikira, and Athena, the mother figure, the strict teacher, and the ditz with a heart of gold. Each character provides their own perspective on how a problem should be faced, but in the end what the characters, and the viewer, learn are valuable life lessons that go beyond the specific skills they need to learn for their work. The anime can be Aesopic at times in this regard, but usually its mature about it (not as many preachy “Dear Princess Celestia” speeches).
Finally, what makes this anime work is the overall mood it sets when you watch it. This is an anime that should be used to treat high blood pressure and hypertension because it is just that relaxing. When I watch it it's like listening to one of those meditation music tracks where your heart rate slows down and you feel like you're wrapped in a warm blanket of calmness. The music underscores this mood, which was composed with the intention of conveying abstract ideas rather than specific plot points. Therefore the music works well with the anime or on its own and has created one of my all time favorite original soundtracks.
I'd recommend that everyone watch this anime. Yes, everyone. I don't care if all you watch are Michael Bay action movies; this anime will change your perspective on life. The optimistic worldview of this anime will make even the greatest cynic rethink whether or not the world is truly doomed. After all, if someone can dream that humanity can reach these heights, then the only thing left is having people actually do it! I'm not audacious enough to say everyone will like the anime, but at the very least it'll lower your stress level while you're watching it and maybe extend your life by a few minutes as a result.
Aria is an anime with a very calming, laid-back atmosphere. It's soothing and relaxing to watch, but not something to marathon. Aria is the type of anime where you watch only two or three episodes at a time or else that calming, slow pace may come back to bite you in the ass as you will assuredly start to fidget ... wanting a faster pace. I, personally, enjoyed the slower tempo. I took my time with it and enjoyed the growing friendship between Akari, Aika, and Alice as they worked towards becoming Prima's and ultimately well known Undine's.
The plot, while episodic, was tied together by the overall main story. I enjoyed each and every episode ... from the carefree ones, to the sad ones, to the mysterious ones, to the ones that deepened the friendship between the girls, etc. The animation, while slightly outdated, was still very lovely and fit Aria admirably. The soundtrack though was absolutely gorgeous! I loved the soft, soothing, breathtakingly lovely OST. It was wonderful! The characters were very endearing! You had the bubbly, slightly clutsy Akari, the very talented but rather blunt and shy Alice who could also be sweet and was definitely adorable, and the upfront, somewhat abrasive, incredibly lively Aika. There were also the Presidents of each company; Presidents Aria, Hime, and Maa whose added warmth and comedy never failed to make me smile. Alicia, Akira, and Athena were the girls wonderful teachers who each had a different style of teaching. Alicia had a very sweet and calming personality and tended to just go with the flow of what was happening around her. Akira was very hands on, strict, brash, and slightly abrasive ... but her heart was in the right place and really only wanted what was best for the girls. Athena was a bit of an airhead who did everything at her own pace, but she had a sweet personality and an incredible singing voice ... the voice of an angel, really. All in all, a wonderful cast of characters.
Overall, I had a great time watching Aria. While the slow pace makes it an anime that wouldn't suit everyone ... I, personally, found it suited my taste rather well.
Due to my inability to write more than a few sentences in one go for the past week and a half, I’ll be doing this review a little different from my usual “full length” reviews. I’ll first briefly go over the separate components of the anime, followed by a small section in which I’ll try to explain the different aspects to this show using pictures.
This, along with Bartender, is the best stress relieving anime I have ever seen. Creating a peaceful, idyllic and beautiful city full of canals, Aria the Animation created a city identical to my glorified fantasy of Venice (Italy) I used to have back when I was little, yes, it is that good.
I’ll say the same thing here as I said in my Bartender review: this is an anime to watch at the right time, as it is a rare case of a tranquil, slow paced, non plot driven show that is fully enjoyable from start to finish.
The series takes place on Aqua, the now inhabited planet formerly known as Mars, in the city of Neo-Venezia, a place full of easy-going people. It follows a small group of undines, tour guides who navigate their gondolas through the many canals the city has. Akari, who is a trainee undine herself, is the main character of the series and is someone who basically loves everything. She’s someone with an extremely positive attitude towards everything, but for once isn’t one of those hyperactive meddlers we have all seen so many times before, quite the opposite, she’s just like nearly everyone in this anime, very laid back and calm. The show follows Akari and her friends around as they go on their little explorations through Neo-Venezia, between getting scolded by Akira-sensei or going for some hot choc with Aria.
If it comes to comedy in this show, you could say that it falls a bit on its face. The comedy isn’t really funny, and there are a LOT of lines and gimmicks used in this show that are trying to be. On the other hand, it didn’t bother me at all, but it might for some. The “failed” attempts at comedy weren’t actually painful to watch but were rather soothing. During the 13 episodes there was only one time that I disliked the way they presented their funnies. Somewhere in the middle of this show, there is a whole episode dedicated to the presidents’ adventures, one of the "comic" relief characters. Also huge compliments to the seiyuu's, not once did I find the cheesy, repetitive lines like “Embarrassing remarks not allowed!”, “Heeeh?” annoying. Everyone’s and especially Akari’s seiyuu did a perfect job.
The animation used is, while not from extraordinary quality, great. From the architecture to the skies, the clothing and character designs, the light tones and just the whole surroundings, it creates the perfect setting for what this anime is trying to make: an idyllic city with easy-going people.
The sound is, again, completely fitting for this show. While not massively inspiring or the cause of many eargasms, it’s calm, soothing and far from being bad. As I mentioned before, the seiyuu’s did a great job on the voice acting. I was constantly surprising myself for not getting agitated by the one-liners between Akari and Aika and soon grew to actually like them. There was only one time during this show that I was annoyed by the sound. During the later episodes, a new character named Athene is introduced, who is renowned for her beautiful singing voice. The song she kept singing, however, was mildly infuriating me every time I heard it. The song wasn’t good or soothing, but felt more like a singer with a, fair enough, beautiful high-pitched voice who was trying to reach the top of her scale every five notes.
I feel like I’ve been giving Aria the Animation a bit too much praise during this review, but there just wasn’t that much to rant about. The best way to judge this show while using this review would be to be expecting what I’ve said so far, but also keeping the 7.5 score I gave it in mind. Besides being soothing, creating great ambiance, being easy to watch and having such a great setting, there isn’t much extraordinary about this series. There’s little to no progression in the story and the comedy isn’t funny (although not annoying either).
tl;dr: One of the two best stress-relieving anime I’ve ever watched.
Omgs T_T It’s only now that I realize this is far from being a mini-review. Always the case with writing, it’s easy once you've made a start.
Ambiance - 8.5/10
Relaxation - 9.5/10
Funnies - 5.5/10
"No sappy lines allowed"
I have one word to say about this: Predictable
I don't get what's with everyone's hype with this anime. It's boring, unoriginal, and saccharine. If you are looking for a fast-paced, entertaining anime, then Aria the Animation is not the best choice to watch. Sure it may have a good idea but the story is boring and very slow-paced, not for those looking for action.
Too much flashbacks, expositions, and development makes this enjoyable likely for people who enjoy slow-paced slice of life anime. But I was having a hard time sitting through this as it has really bad plot issues and there's no story anyway.
The characters' interactions are pretty saccharine. I understand that the writers were trying to go for a more simple, kid-friendly series but there is little for teens to enjoy.
Ai-chan was a character that overstays her welcome to begin with. The character itself is not extremely annoying but still not my cup of tea. It would've been good for Akari to interact with her for a little while but making her a secondary character who sends her e-mails was surprisingly rushed.
The other characters are annoying stereotypes. There are tsunderes and cutesy girls which filled this anime to the point of being unbearable. This could've been done with less development and drama.
I just got finished with episode 5.
I thought it was relaxing as some people say, but after a while it got kind of boring. It got that way to me, because every other sentence is about some lovey dovey fairy tail feelings. Thats all great, but too much gets boring.
The characters are all interesting, although they take on characteristics that we are used to. Nice blonde hair woman. Loving dark haired teacher, but seemingly rough with her pupil. emotionless (not completely) girl. I think the most unique main char is the pink haired girl. As a main character i think she is good. She isnt too stupid, nor too smart. She is always happy, but not annoyingly excited/hyper all the time. She is calm. She is though.... almost too nice.
I think this is more of a little girl's anime. It doesnt have much ecchi, which is fine by me. just saying.
The scenery is nice (venice feel - water city).
Its a slow-paced anime... but I wouldnt say its bad. Its more of a relax, slice of life feel. Many people like that, and although it isnt my favorite, if done correctly its ok. I think this anime is ok, except its not intellectual enough. If it was complex and had many things to think about and examine, while it was going slow, then that would be ok.
The story/setting is unique, about water guides, that are training harder to row their boats along canals and in open water, and entertain tourist, customers. I felt though that there was something missing... like the story was unique but not exciting enough. (i know i said its a slow paced, slice of life, but in regard to that type of anime, it still isnt exciting enough to me)
I think this anime is good, but the truth is, that to me, its just too boring to keep up (not made for someone like me). Someone said, that you just have to watch it at certain times, but i dont really relate to anything special in the story = there is no time that i would especially feel like watching this.
My advice: if your like me, dont watch it. You may like it at first, but will eventually lose interest.