I picked up Aria, Volume 11 while in Tokyo, and along with it, a copy of the Aria the Natural Vocal Song Collection. If you are already a fan of the series, I recommend the Vocal Collection highly. It’s is a lovely way to be reminded of random scenes and moments, and especially fabulous bits of scenery, while somewhere not near a TV or computer screen. There’s nothing wrong with having Athena singing in your ear, let me tell you. ;-)
Every single scene in Volume 11 is an indication that the series is drawing to a close. This was obvious even in Volume 10 and, more recently, news that the series is ending was released officially. But really, if you’ve been paying attention, it comes as no surprise at all.
Our young undine-in-training, Aika, Akari and Alice are all thinking about the inevitable day when they will face their examinations for Prima rank. Aika, particularly, is stressing out over her comparative lack of exceptional skills. Alice is clearly superior to her sempai in boatcraft, and Akari has brilliant people skills. Aika can’t imagine that she brings anything to the mix. When she arrives back home at Hime-ya, she finds Akira in the middle of cleaning. Akira recognizes pre-exam jitters when she sees them, and tells the story of when she was suffering from the exact same crisis of identity Aika is now undergoing. Her story involved a plot complication I usually find tedious – that of one character being given a flower by another when they were both younger – but in this case alone, it actually works. Since Akira was training at Hime-ya, it stands to reason that she would run into lil’ Aika from time to time. This once, I will allow it. ^_^
There is a lovely chapter where we revisit the “Wedding of the Sea” ritual, with full-blown scenery porn, and what would make a spectacular poster of the three Fairies of the Water, should it ever be reproduced in color.
The end chapters follow Alice as she graduates from middle school. At last, we arrive at the incredibly thin slice of Yuri I mentioned! On her way out of the school gates for the last time, Alice is approached by a underclassman who has apparently always admired her, and is asked for the second button of her school blazer. Let me point out that this is a co-ed school, so perhaps it is unusual to ask that favor from a female upperclassman, perhaps it is not. (You know that one, right? You ask for the button as a memento from an upperclassman that you like. In a sense, it’s admitting that you had a crush.) But the girl does get all squeal-y and loved-dovey happy when she receives the button, so it’s at least a solid expression of crushiness. That’s pretty much it, but it was a sweet little moment.
To congratulate Alice on her graduation, Athena takes her on a picnic, but asks Alice to steer. We treated to more scenery porn and, if we’ve been paying any kind of attention at all, we recognize the places they visit.
I don’t want to spoil the end of the volume. Therefore, if you know what follows smile knowingly, but do *not* type it in the comments field. I am choosing to not spoil on purpose. If you do not know what happened and want to, feel free to buy the volume and find out (don’t forget the Vocal Collection, too) – it’s *totally* worth it! One of the finest moments in the whole series to date. ^_^
Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 2
Service – 3 (some Akari sleepwear and skin and the usual bishoujo stuff)
Overall – 8
Of course I’m sad that the series is coming to an end, but I’m also glad to see it doing so with such dignity and joy.