Aria is one of those series that, despite logic and the evidence of our eyes, there’s a general sense of “Yuri” about it. Of course the fact that the main characters are all women helps, and the fact that Yuri fans often wear finely honed Yuri goggles set on high adds something to the mix. The inability of the average fan to see two or more women together and not assume a lesbian pile-up pretty much guarantees this series is a fixture on Yuri lists…even when there’s no actual “proof.” (By which I mean Alicia never reaches over and say, kisses Akira, much as I’d like to see that.)
Nevertheless, I, like so many other loser fans, read this series as totally Yuri. ^_^ Volume 9 kicks that teeny little niggling sense of Yuri-ness into what, for this series, is high gear.
For readers unfamiliar with Aria, the story follows three gondoliers-in-training on a terraformed Mars, now known as Aqua, in a recreated New Venice. (Unlike the real Venice in which only men can become gondoliers, in this Neo Venezia, the large majority are women.) Aria follows, in particular, Mizunashi Akari who is an immigrant from Earth, as she trains to become a skilled “undine.” If you dig around here on Okazu, you’ll turn up reviews of both seasons of the Aria anime, and several reviews of earlier volumes of the manga.
Volume 9 has had several chapters turned into anime for the second series, Aria the Natural. They are as cute, delightful, fun, etc, etc, as the manga, only I always prefer the manga. Why is that, I wonder?
Because the chapters in Volume 9 are one-shot stories, not part of a continuous narrative, I’ll focus on the two that are more Yuri.
The second chapter features popular couple Alice and her doofy sempai Athena (Pronounced Ah-teh-na). Alice, who is still in middle school and therefore quite young to be a undine-in-training, is walking home from school in a manner popular with children throughout history- she’s keeping to shadows only. ^_^ She almost blows it, only to be saved timely from falling out of the safety of a shadow by Athena-sempai. Alice reacts with her natural cute tsundere grumpiness, but when faced with an extremely long stretch of sun, gives in and uses Athena’s shadow to continue the game. This brings their faces very close. Alice reacts to this, and Athena’s affirmation that she is Alice’s ally with embarrassment.
Now, this may not seem like much, but the desperate Alice x Athena fans will point to this scene and with shrill voice say, “See? See?” Others, less obsessed with the need to pair them up will simply shrug and say “cute.” You decide which it is for yourself.
More interesting to me was the revelation that Akira *does* have an inner butch, something we Yuri fans (particularly those of us who are butches) knew right off. In the very next chapter we (and Akari) learn that Akira, Alicia, Al, Akatsuki and Woody have known each other since childhood. In the course of a flashback that shows us that none of them have changed much at all since then, we get to see little Akira in shorts, boy’s shirt and the obligatory sideways baseball cap, accompanied by uber-femme Alicia. Encouraged by Alicia, Akira out-boys the boys, but is a gracious victor. Do they look like a typical little kid babydyke couple? Yes, yes they do. And we know that Akira’s still a favorite with the ladies, so apparently, you can’t take the butch out of the girl, no matter how long she grows her hair.
While we’re dealing with sempai/kouhai relationships, there’s also a really nice chapter where Aika has to deal with the fact that someone in their company is trash-talking about Akira. As one of the three most popular and famous undine, Akira explains, it’s something that she just has to deal with. But it was awfully sweet of Aika to get so upset – and a nice view of Aika and Akari’s relationship when they aren’t banging heads.
Also notable, although not at all Yuri, we learn how Alicia met the cat that became Aria-shachou and how she joined Aria.
As is usual in Aria, the stories are slice-of-life moments, no earth-shattering drama, but quiet sweet moments to be savored slowly and in a relaxed manner…much like the espresso on San Marco plaza. ^_^
Art – 8
Character – 8
Story – 8
Yuri – 4
Service – 1
Overall – 8
Despite the fact that Alicia will never lean over and kiss Akira, Aria remains a genuine pleasure. ^_^