Many people have asked me “what is it about this show that deserves such praise?” It’s difficult to put into words, but Aria remains to this day my favorite anime of all time, with Legend of the Galactic Heroes close behind.
From casually watching a few episodes the immediate response people get is, “All they do is row boats all day?” This analysis isn’t completely wrong, and for the majority of the time, the show is pretty uneventful. If I had to make a criticism about the show, it wouldn’t be it’s lack of plot, since one of the driving points of Aria is there are hidden joys in even the most ordinary things. Aria drives home the idea that, “there is beauty all around us, if only we simply look around.” And there is quite a bit of thematic presence to the show that exceeds far beyond that simple motif. Each episode contains a life lesson to be had, and audiences will be surprised with the keen insights Aria can provide. Aria does tend to be almost sickeningly saccharine, but once again, Aria doesn’t just throw rose pedals in the air and make out the world to be flawless without qualifications. Aria addresses some very profound and thought provoking subject matter, and tends to pit optimism against reality. Aria simply chooses to fall onto the optimistic side of the scale simply because the perception of reality is how you choose to see it. There is good in the world, and also the bad, but you have the choice to enjoy life to the fullest even in it’s hardest moments. Aria makes a bold claim, but the show isn’t without merit. Perhaps if Aria were to balance it’s sweet nature with some more brooding material it would attract more audiences that dislike such an optimistic view on life. For me however, it detracts nothing from the show.
Aside from themes, the production value of Aria from an objective standpoint is admirable. But I have to mention the music here. The music is top notch, and arguably one of the greatest OSTs I have ever heard. It isn’t often you come across a soundtrack that can convey such strong emotions even without the context of the show. But of course, I suggest you head down to Anime Instrumentality if you really want an in-depth review on the Aria OSTs.
But above all else, there is one facet of Aria that keeps me as a dedicated fan. Aria has the innate ability to create a sense of complete and total atmospheric immersion. Aria oozes atmosphere and creates a great sense of intimacy for the audience. The world of Neo-Venezia crosses the line from fiction, to a tangible world that is created within the minds and hearts of the audience. When a show can transcend the medium of T.V. and cross into the threshold of imagination, this is where art is created. When flickering lights on a digital screen, can induce a vivid sense of wonder. When you think to yourself, “this world feels real to me, and it feels like I am a part of this world” is when atmosphere is being properly conveyed. Aria does this better than any anime I have seen. Deliberate pacing, and character driven story is the heart of Aria. The plot never moves forward arbitrarily simply because the author forces it to. The story is open and free flowing, and comes across as an organic narrative that moves forward naturally, without redundant plot twists, or nonsensical character moments. Aria feels genuine, and most importantly the characters feel genuine even in an extraordinary context. These characters keep you grounded, and help create a sense of atmosphere even more. The world of Aria is alive, and brimming with wonder and beauty. When was the last time you described an anime like that?
Aria is a daring endeavor in the industry. There are no flashy fights, no gripping narrative, and no real hook the keep the audience coming back for more. What Aria does have, is intimacy. The ability to relate with the viewers not only on an emotional or intellectual level but on a human level. The music, the writing, and the characters: the entire world of Neo-Venezia is deeply embedded into my conscious. There is still a deep sense of nostalgia rises up with in me as I carry on with my daily routine. I always remind myself, “Enjoy all things in life, even in hard times.” I have Aria to thank for that.