Since the Aria anime has just started, there’s a fair amount of interest in this series now, so I thought a review of the manga was appropriate.
The first 6 volumes are sweet, pleasant and not particularly melodramatic slices-of-life about the adventures of Akari, a gondolier in training on Neo-Venezia. If there’s any weakness in this series it is that we don’t go very deep into any of the character’s, well…character.
Volume 7 remedies this.
Our journey this time begins with a story about vanity. Aika, Akari’s fellow trainee and rich girl heiress, has always prided herself on her beautiful long hair, so when it is accidentally burned and has to be cut, she has to face her own self-image – and her dreams about what she wants to be when she grows up. To bring her to the realization that she has to strive to be herself, her mentor Akira has to resort to some tough love.
The rest of the book follows this lead – spending more time on the trainees (Akari, Aika and Alice of the Aria, Hime and Orange companies, respectively) and their relationships with their sempai; Alicia, Akira and Athena. It’s a nice glimpse a little further beneath the surface of the trainees’ endless admiration for the older women. It’s especially nice to get some extended time seeing Alice grow into more of a person. (To her benefit, she is considerably younger than Akari and Aika and we are apt to forget that in the face of her extraordinary skill as an undine. This time we can see Alice the young woman, instead of Alice the trainee. Trust me – it works.)
Alice and Aika spend some quality time together, as well – yet another angle on the kids. We’re so used to Akari’s outlook, that it’s refreshing to see Akari from the outside, and learn a little bit more about all three in the process.
The final chapter does something new yet again – we get a chapter from inside Aika’s head. And her point of view is significantly different from Akari’s. In fact, for once we get to see Akari through her eyes, which is rather amusing. We end as we began – with Aika’s hair. Only this time, it’s all complicated by love. Because although the other women think her new hairdo is spiffy….there’s Al, who hasn’t seen it yet. Of course, he loves it. ^_^ (But then, he thinks the cat looks spiffy too in her clothes…)
We finsh up with a side story about Akatsuki which shows him at 6 – all very funny if I though kids, or cats, were cute. Which I don’t.
In any case, this volume is, by far and away, the *strongest* volume so far for this enjoyable series. It gives me hope that we’ll get the same treatment for the older undines – more exploration of their pasts, their hopes, dreams and the relationships they have with each other.
Art – 9
Characters – 9
Story – 8
Yuri – 3 (Aika still has that lingering akogare for Alicia, and the way Akira talks about her….I got give it a few points!)
Overall – 8
A really fine story in the tradition of Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Great characters, fun times that make you smile. A win all the way around.