Aria Manga, Volume 4 (English)

October 4th, 2009

Let’s talk akogare.

Akogare is a verb in Japanese that can mean anything from straight out admiration to a full-blown crush. It’s considered normal, even helpful, for a young person to akogare an older role model…an intrinsic part of the mentor/protégé relationship. Akogare means you will do your best to learn and replicate those qualities which make the older and more experienced person so “cool.”

Akogare is a space, like shinyuu, that is very open to misinterpretation by people who like to read into vaguely defined spaces. It is these two words that allow so *much* Yuri-service, precisely because they are not as easy to label for westerners. In reality, we do have these spaces but, because we have no words for them, they still are often instantly turned into slash relationships by fans. Some people simply find it hard to believe that two people of any sex, gender or sexuality, can be close physically and emotionally, but not involved sexually.

In many anime and manga, this gray-space-ness of akogare and of shinyuu is played for service. As much as some fans would prefer labels be solidly applied on anime/manga couples (are they together or not, ARGH!) this will not happen. Ambiguity sells to a larger audience than specificity. The larger the audience, the more possible sales. The producers are not going to alienate the Nanoha x Yuuno ‘shippers by making the “Fate and Nanoha get married” episode, because those people buy stuff too. :-)

In Aria, Volume 4, we have several examples of akogare. First, let’s look at Aika. Her admiration for Alicia borders right on the line of “having a crush on.” This is interesting because it’s damped down from the beginning of the series when it was very crushy. The reason for the change? Al. All akogare is assumed to be a phase. Whether it’s same or opposite sex crush, everyone understands that it is an expression of immaturity, a part of growth. That’s why it’s cute when a teenager likes a pop idol to the point of lining up for goods and appearances…and kind of creepy when an adult does. ;-) Aika clearly admires and kind of sort of desires Alicia. Her growing interest in Al will temper that to a more adult admiration.

Akari’s admiration of Alicia is – in my opinion – totally without desire. She admires Alicia’s skills, her grace, her personality. To the point of idolization. What we *never* see is any sign of Alicia being moody, or in fact, human at all. She remains from beginning to end, a Fairy. (Unlike Akira who is snappy and Athena who is clumsy.)

Volume 4 is a chance for us to watch as the mentors actually force the shift away from them to their protégé’s own skills. It’s an interesting perspective, because the idolized seniors start to push the chicks to venture out of the nest, knowing that this will make them, as role models, less necessary. As well as being perfect at their jobs, they are the perfect sempai.

So, no, no “Yuri” as such in Volume 4, but a chance to watch a similar, but not the same, series of relationships between women develop.

And more time spent in the company of the Undines of Neo-Venezia, which is never a bad thing. ^_^

Ratings:

Art – 8
Story – 7
Characters – 8
Yuri – 0
Service – 3 (bathing suits, fine, but seriously, that level of anatomical detail is creepy.)

Overall – 8

It is my sincere pleasure to thank Okazu Hero Frederick D. for sponsoring today’s review! You are our hero. ^_^

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13 Responses

  1. BruceMcF says:

    In the anime, Aria the Natural (somewhere in the ep14-17 volume), we do see a brief glimpse of a not entirely graceful Alicia … when Alicia is recalling being an apprentice first learning to handle the gondola, and how she made one of the marks on the aging gondola Akira has been using, that is now ready for retirement from passenger service.

    Mind, that is shared with Akari, not Aika.

  2. @Bruce McF – Quite right. Thanks for the reminder! :-)

  3. Jarlath says:

    Funny thing is, Volume 5 was supposed to be out in June… then TokyoPop decided to overlicense new titles and pushed this back to 2010, if they’re going to publish it at all.

    Also, BruceMcF, they do cover that story in the manga as well, IIRC – and Alicia’s ‘perfection’ is commented on later in Volume 10, Chapter 50.. an episode which was also covered by the show, although I believe that took place in The Origination. Alicia comments that she definitely isn’t perfect, and that her apparent lack of anger when Akari screws up is due to a philosophy where she looks at the mistakes of the student as being due to the mistakes in instruction made by the instructor.

    Plus, the whole ‘perfect Alicia’ viewpoint ignores things such as when she looks quietly sad when her old gondola is being taken away by Akari on a farewell trip before its retirement, or other moments where she confesses to unease or uncertainty, as she mentions offhand that she herself is a normal girl with normal worries, during the chapter when Athena has amnesia.

  4. BruceMcF says:

    Thanks, Jarlath, for teasing me with things that are not only not now in print in English but which, by your account, will take forever to see print in English.

    Rrrrrrrrrrr

    Heck, I’m slowly slogging through Aria series on N*tfl*x, because I can’t yet afford to buy it, and to punish me for my sin, N*tfl*x keeps listing it as “short wait” and doling it out at a snail’s pace, so I haven’t even finished Aria the Natural yet (why Apprentice Alicia was fresh in my mind).

    Ah, well, its Aria. Getting aggro about it seems somehow incongruous. d^_^b

  5. David says:

    Okay, I’ll admit that westerners don’t really have words for akogare or shinyuu, but I’ve seen all those Aria doujinshi: you can’t put all the blame on cultural differences.

  6. BruceMcF says:

    David said… “Okay, I’ll admit that westerners don’t really have words for akogare or shinyuu, but I’ve seen all those Aria doujinshi: you can’t put all the blame on cultural differences.

    Precisely as implied by the paragraph starting: “In many anime and manga, this gray-space-ness of akogare and of shinyuu is played for service. As much as some fans would prefer labels be solidly applied on anime/manga couples … this will not happen. Ambiguity sells to a larger audience than specificity.

    The primary markets in mind when leaving things ambiguous are of course in Japan.

    And ambiguity as a business strategy by Japanese entertainment creators should not be surprising – as they say in Int’l Business, Japanese is a language with few ways to say yes or no, and a thousand ways to say maybe.

  7. @David – Bruce has nailed it. When I’m talking about “fandom” I am talking about Japanese fandom. Western fandom counts for such a small portion of sales that Japanese companies rarely think about them at all, except as an after-market.

    The ambiguity is exactly why those doujinshi can exist. If the creators made it *irrefutable* that two characters are a couple, then all that other stuff would be that much less plausible…or fun for the fans.

  8. ArcaJ says:

    It certainly is taking Tokyopop a while to release new volumes.

    But, on to the Yuri! Being a rabid Yuri fan I am prone to a bit of self-delusion. My rational mind knows nothing is going to happen between Alicia and Akari. However the fangirl within refuses this reality and sustitutes her own. (in which they are married in a lavish ceremony before the campanile. :P)

    So please forgive me if I continue indulge my Aria-Yuri delusion in the form of fan art, fiction and sappy AMVs to music by The Fray. ^_^;

    ::HUGS::

    Arca Jeth

  9. BruceMcF says:

    So please forgive me if I continue indulge my Aria-Yuri delusion in the form of fan art, fiction and sappy AMVs to music by The Fray. ^_^;

    d-_-b … huh, what, you mean like that? (but the preview is a bit of a shock – bumping from an Aria space to the over the top quality of Ms. Haruhi)

  10. Jarlath says:

    FINALLY. ARIA Volume 5 has been announced for a November release date. As in November this year… after almost 6 months delay.

  11. Jarlath says:

    Also, one other thing to note is this: Kozue Amano really admires the female form herself, given how much detail she puts into it… or for that matter, how she pays attention to drawing young female divers in Amanchu.

    As if there wasn’t enough Yuri-fodder with the relationships in the manga, she herself seems to provoke some of it herself with this sort of attention to detail… ;)

  12. Jarlath says:

    Note: Aria Volume 5 has landed on the shelves.

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