I’d been meaning to get around to Aria for a long time. I’d run into the title a few times on some of the Japanese yuri weblogs I scan, and a few people, notably Mr. Sean Gaffney, had pointed me in its general direction. But until very recently, I simply hadn’t gotten around to it. By the time I did, the first three volumes were translated by ADV Manga (here are links to Volumes 1, 2 and 3 on Amazon), so I just picked it up in English. I know it’s completely snobby-pretentious of me, but I feel like I’m cheating. ^_^
In any case, Aria is, like Yokohama Shopping Log, an “ahhh” story. The little slice-of-life scenes are pretty much all about enjoying the moment. The overall setup of the story works well to help foster this feeling.
The main character of Aria is a gondolier (undine) in training in the town of Neo Venezia. Akari is a sweet girl who appears to enjoy all seasons, and nearly anything life throws at her. She is accompanied for most of her adventures by another trainee, Aika, who in any other series would probably be her rival. Akari’s mentor is an older undine, Alicia, who Aika is crushing on pretty heavily.
In Volume 3, we are introduced to another undine-in-training, a prodigy neophyte named Alice, and she takes up the rival position…for about three seconds, until Akari’s “my pace” personality sucks the will to resist out of her. LOL
In general, the yuri is very low-key, as befits the entire series, with Aika’s schoolgirl crush on Alicia flaring every now and again into a severe case of akogare/desire. And, if we turn the yuri goggles waaaay up, (but keep those rose-colored lenses in place) you can easily see something between Alice and Akari developing. Maybe. One day. ^_^
What really makes Aria work, though, is the sense of whimsy that fills the pages. As Akari takes us on a tour of the canals of Neo Venezia, we see wonderful things and have lovely experiences – moments of magic pop up again and again as we travel along with her. From a fox’s wedding (which was bizarrely appropriate around my house right now, as “we” have acquired a sudden kitsune obsession) to a lone sakura tree illuminated with electricity in a field, every chapter is filled with some moment of life that was totally worth having been there for.
The art is easy on the eyes, the characters are all likeable…which is really creepy. Even the cats don’t bother me. The *only* problem with the book that I can think of is that all the main female characters’ names start with “A” which was moderately confusing, since I started the series with Vol. 3 and it took me sometime to sort everyone out. (Akari, Alice, Aika, Alicia, Akira….I mean really…) To make things a tad more awkward, the character designs are all similar, so Alicia and Akari look kind of alike while Aika is a sort of younger Akira. It all hurt my head, for about ten minutes until they all fell in place.
But I’m really, really stretching. For normal people who are reading these volumes in order, this won’t be a problem. ^_^
The usual rants about translating honorifics…they don’t. “-sama” becomes “Miss” and all the others disappear, which makes me sad. Most of the sound effects are added in near the original Japanese, and some of the asides as well. If it was too hard to cover over, ADV took the easy way out and just put the English close by. Cheaters. Actually, this doesn’t bother me at all, I’m just thinking of the 64,247,897 hours I spent redoing complex backgrounds on Rica ‘tte Kanji!? and I get jealous. ^_^
Art – 8
Story – 8
Characters – 8
Yuri – 4
Overall – 8
Nice art, lovely relaxing story, cute chracters, great historical atmosphere and a little light yuri, Aria gets the gold star for English manga this week.
In fact, I liked it so much, I’ll add it to the Yuricon Shop Manga page this week!
And, if you’ve read Aria and want to chat about it (which I would LOVE to do!) don’t forget to join us on the Yuricon Mailing List!