What makes an ideal life? That question has been wandering in my mind for a while.
Is it one where I can get anything I want without being bothered by the wallet's limit?
Is it one where I can have lots of friends to party all day long and pay no heed to the daily chore and my parent's rants?
Is it one where I can lead lots of people and have their respect?
Honestly, they all seem too abstract for me. I want something more tangible, achievable through a simple method yet coupled with a handful of effort.
Story & World-Building
When it comes to slice-of-life anime, many people will usually downright assume that the story is shallow or having poor pacing, .etc.
While I’m not going to argue with that overstatement, Aria is definitely not a mere slice of life show.
It can indeed get super slow at some point, but overall, there is narration and directing to make up for it, leaving the viewers tempted at the highlight moments of a particular episode.
Influenced by Venice's culture, the author did a splendid job creating the post-modern "replica" called Neo-Venezia, "sprinkled" with some fancy sci-fi elements to spice it up a bit with a futuristic vibe mixing surrealism.
The story isn't just about a group of "cute girls doing cute things" like many other slice-of-life series entail, but also about finding the meaning and value of little things that we usually take for granted in our everyday life.
Not to mention, the anime itself has a goal, a final destination to conclude the journey, and this 3rd season, namely Origination, carried out that role perfectly.
Despite being a manga adaptation (yes, I read the manga first), the anime did not fail to surprise me in many ways.
To put this into perspective, the producer had managed to create a parallel universe to the manga, making the anime feels more original, as the title suggests.
At the same time, they had also preserved the core value of Aria, which is a remarkable feat given the ill reputation of anime adaptation as a whole.
The episodic format ensures that everything happening within one episode would conclude neatly, leaving barely any lingering mysteries or unanswered problems.
Meanwhile, the narration often comes from a particular “main” character of their own arc, which gives you a chance to see more refreshing sides of Aria as a whole.
Pacing-wise, it is simply magnificent. Though I admit it can get stupid slow at some point, that doesn’t make the anime boring. On the contrary, it attributes indirectly to one of the show’s advantages and is, in my opinion, one of the most iconic features when one speaks of Aria.
Apologize for the impending geezer mode, but sometimes, life can be pretty much like a “fast-lane” where we are persistently bothered by all kinds of un-called problems or ordeals.
To name a few, deadlines, family affairs, assignments, work, some shocking scandal that affects your country, some outrageous crime news that can’t help but make you feel distraught about humanity as a whole, .etc.
However, that doesn’t mean you should leave it like that.
If anything, it would not hurt if you sit back, relax, and take it a bit slow once in a while and think back on what we have achieved, what motivated us to reach this far, etc.
In the same vein, Aria takes its slow pacing as a stepping stone to weaving a unique atmosphere, freezing time to deliver the “feels” to the audience.
One of the best things that Aria has at its disposal is the elegantly crafted cast who all serve their part well without being left behind.
As mentioned above, the girls, or Undine, are on a "mission" to unravel the essence of things surrounding them. It goes without saying, Hal Film Maker had succeeded in portraying the life of 3 young girls and their respective seniors in a futuristic yet classic setting.
Each has her catch-phrase that never grows boring me. Apart from that, the daily activities are depicted in such a refined way that I can pretty much relate to them.
While there is Akari who acts as the protagonist of the show, the other "main" characters also got their fair share amount of screen time. What's more, occasionally, they even have the opportunity to "steal" the protagonist's narrating role, helping to widen the series's scale and diversity.
What I also really like about the characters is their “natural” development, which doesn’t feel forced one bit.
I mean, when an episode reached its climax, everything would play out smoothly. The execution felt quick yet decisive, thus delivered a tremendous impact on me.
Not to mention, the interactions between the girls are surprisingly a refreshing sight to witness. To be more specific, I never thought that “A would get along with B since they never talked to each other much” or of the sort.
My favorite character of the anime is the arrogant and juvenile yet realistic Alice Carroll, not just because of her personality but also how I can relate with her. Lastly, she has arguably the most exotic and distinct development of all the characters, so yeah, that's a big win for me.
In terms of animation/presentation, I find this the finest asset that the anime has in store.
The art style is very “frugal” yet fastidiously drawn, not without its uniqueness that never ceases to amaze me.
On top of that, the character design is also a plus for this one.
Oft-times the only thing I care about in this regard is the characters’ faces alone, nothing else. However, I must give the outfit design a medal for being so majestic and pure.
Put bluntly, it fits the concept of Undine and the ataraxy setting flawlessly, which in turn emits a striking aura whenever I get to see them roll out.
The animation is seamlessly done, from facial gestures to the gondola movement and the background misc, .etc. In other words, it feels as though everything has become one.
With all said, there is something much more remarkable in this category, which is the sublime landscape views that compelled me to be wholly astounded whenever they emerged.
It’s not about how detailed they are drawn but more about the nostalgia they withhold within.
Though the breathtaking background is undoubtedly the anime’s primary “weapon”, to me, they only serve as a pillar to the core theme of the series or, to be more specific, a specific episode.
Moreover, the background art isn’t the only thing that was well handled, but the visual effects are also carefully done, which dramatically improves the mood at the turning point of an episode.
Thanks to the spectacular directing and execution capability, such exquisite displays of serenity were gorgeously put together.
Some episodes might feel dull and sluggish at first, yet as the moment of truth drew near, I could do nothing but embrace an indescribable force that made me feel like I've finally made it home (can't exactly explain how I feel at that moment).
The camera angle also plays a vital role in connecting the elements, as it was well-timed with the proper setup to accentuate the main object of a particular scene.
I just have to applaud the producer's hard work since everything is well planned to cater to the viewers in many ways possible.
Last but not least, although the sound is usually the one element that falls behind, or should I say, one that viewers overlook since they’re too busy paying attention to the other contents of the show, Aria doesn’t abandon it.
The OP and ED are so chill that they can not suit the show more. One charming feature about the former is that it doesn’t have a “fixed” animation sequence like many other animes and runs alongside the show (it’s more of an intro than OP), thus saving me my precious 90 seconds and extra screentime of the show.
What is also noteworthy about the music is that they don’t sound “cheesy” like many “moe” shows use to attract customers, which instantly comes to my liking. In addition, background music is played at the right moment, adding up to the atmosphere just so to create a profound impression on the audience.
Apart from that, like many other animes, Aria is backed by capable voice actors.
It’s not a stretch to call these people the “souls” of the characters and one of the many reasons the anime industry prospers. Their voice is meant for these girls, from their personalities to the scenarios that involve them.
Furthermore, this goes double when it comes to the highlight and dramatic parts, which is hard to achieve since they have to “feel” the character themselves to able able to bring about such spectacular performance.
I’m not going to spoil, but it is not my everyday life that I get to see a character sing so passionately in an anime that is not about music. For real, I was immensely moved by her song in “that” episode. Kudos to the Hal Film Maker for going all out on this one.
Watching Aria almost feels like experiencing life itself, the one life that I would strive for it. I’ve in fact traveled to a place somewhat similar to Aria’s setting and might someday move there if I ever get a chance.
To put it in another way, the anime itself is like a “tour” that I take for granted at first, but gradually, the more I emerge myself in, the more I’m attached to it and can’t help but crave for more.
This “tour” is an unforgettable ride, like a roller coaster that twists me in different shapes of mood and eventually brings me to a gratifying destination.
Some moments make me laugh, such as when the characters acted so silly and naive.
Some overwhelmed me with a strong sense of nostalgia that made me pause the show and think for a while before getting back to it.
Some make me feel very chill thanks to their awkwardly childish, innocent, yet sensible thoughts.
Some give me goosebumps even though I can’t tell how did they manage to do so.
Some make me smile inside myself due to the heart-warming atmosphere.
For me, watching Aria after a hard day from work/study is the best kind of medicine I can ever ask for without much effort, can’t explain why, but it’s just pure magic.
Initially, it might feel like nothing was happening, but in no time, I’d already found myself engulfed in an endless stream of “euphoria” and enjoyment that wiped away all the irritating matters I had encountered earlier.
I think it’s safe to say the show knows how to manipulate the viewers into its realm, making me and many other fans wish that it never end, but unfortunately, nothing lasts forever.
The bottom line is, Aria the Origination in particular and the Aria franchise, as a whole, is a very thematic series that fantastically depicts the ideal life that we should have while sustaining its top-notch production value.
To be honest, I learned quite a lot from this show, and to enjoy little things is probably the best lesson that I got. On top of that, it also serves as a memento to me that while life can be rough sometimes, never forget to pay heed to its positive side as well.
Everything comes to an end, and this is one of the most bittersweet farewells that I have to accept. Even so, the eternal light continues to illuminate upon the Orange Planet.