One of my more happy finds in Tokyo was the last three collected volumes of Aria, this quiet, pleasant side-trip into the quiet, pleasant life of an undine (aka gondolier) on Neo Venesia (New Venice). It is a manga of simple pleasures – a lesson I now and again need to relearn. :-)
I reviewed volumes 1,2 and 3 in February and, as you may remember, in English. Since ADV has not yet released the next three volumes, I was glad to find them in K-Books. (K-Books’ used manga store is one of the many reasons I love Ikebukuro so much. lol)
The story is not much different in the final three volumes than in the first three, but there *is* some character development. Alice, the slightly snotty young trainee does loosen up, by the end of Volume 6 quite considerably, in fact. Enough to admit that she wants to be the best undine ever, and that she has a long way to go.
Aika turns out to be a damn fine person and an excellent undine. When she first showed, I was convinced she was to be the “hated rival”, mostly because she was dark-haired, but she has consistently been a funny and enjoyable character. For the record, she *does* say, “Embarrasing words prohibited!” which ADV translates slightly differently, but well enough. ^_^
Akari doesn’t change much over the final three volumes but, as she’s one of those sweet and lovable types, there’s really nowhere for her to go. Her adventures remain whimsical and fun, with pretty much no emotional baggage, ever. For this reason alone, Aria is a welcome respite for all the crap that passes as published works these days. Between the lovely art and the lovely characters, unless you crave angst and hate anyone being happy while you yourself suffer so, there’s really nothing to hate in this manga!
There’s no obvious Yuri, either. However, after reading these three volumes, I am convinced, with an unshakable conviction, that Alicia and Akira (Akari’s and Aika’s sempai, respectively) are lovers. They are just always together. They act like lovers in subtle but distinct ways. The Yuri goggle setting for Akira and Alicia is pretty much the exact same one used for Torako and Asagi in Yostubato. Seriously. I am 100% convinced that they are “together’ and Akari will one day be somewhat surprised to find them in bed together. Alicia will smile and explain that they develop a bond as undine this way and encourage Akari to do the same with Alice (as her kouhai) and send Akari off with a nod of encouragement. ^_^
Art – 9
Characters – 7 (pleasant, but a bit shallow)
Story – 8
Yuri – 3
Overall – 8, because I find a few moments of quiet joy, gorgeous art and simple pleasures to be something really worth experiencing.