I’ve written quite a bit about Aria before, and I intend to write about it much more in the future. Aria’s been my favorite anime ever since watching it, but I’ve had many favorites over time. What sets Aria apart from not only other anime, but all other media for me, is my belief in its total and utter perfection.
Few things could be said to be perfect. Nearly anything you consume will have flaws, even if you consider those things to be masterpieces. Often your favorite thing will have flaws, but those flaws will be so inconsequential that they effectively don’t exist. My approach to Aria takes this one step further; not only do I ignore the flaws, I actively shape my perception of the show such that any flaws become positive purely due to the fact they are part of Aria.
This approach isn’t something I could apply to everything. It’s something that can only apply to Aria because it’s already a show that I say as incredibly close to perfect. My mind turns all things which would be considered flaws by most into positives to preserve my idea that Aria is perfect. This prevents me from being able to criticize it negatively in any way, but it’s made me learn to appreciate a lot more in the show, and those flaws I’ve come to appreciate are much less jarring when they show up in another show. Aria becoming perfect has made anime more enjoyable for me as a whole.
Now that I’ve addressed why I see it as flawless, I’d like to talk about what really matters, what draws me to Aria in particular. I like a lot of shows in a lot of genres, shows with different types of characters, different tones, and different themes, but Aria is the one which towers over all others for me.
Aria succeeds most notably in atmosphere. Aria’s relaxing atmosphere is its main selling point, and it does what it needs to as well as it can. Every second of Aria contributes to the stress-relieving mood it attempts to foster. The soft colors in the art lend to this relaxing mood, as do the generally optimistic characters.
Those characters are yet another important aspect to Aria’s brilliance. Akari is the key example, with her optimism and wonder at the world of Neo-Venezia not only reflecting the viewer’s wonder, but adding to it. The entire cast is interesting despite being fairly basic, behaving like real people who live in the world of Neo-Venezia.
Neo-Venezia itself contributes. It may just behave like Venice most of the time, but Neo-Venezia adds so many opportunities for the show, and it takes them all. Neo-Venezia is perfectly portrayed as a world that the viewer would want to live in, a world free of hatred and malice. Aria is smart not to spend too much time unnecessarily showing off all of Aqua, something not at all needed. Neo-Venezia’s success at being a warm, loving environment is the key reason it works so well, as it perfectly fits with the themes and mood of the show.
Something not talked about enough is the show’s use of fantastical elements. These appear in a few ways, but the best is most certainly the use of the “Kingdom of the Cats” and Cait Sith. The almost magical realist elements added by the inclusion of Cait Sith makes the themes even stronger; Akari already communicates to the viewer on her own how wonderful of a place the world can be, and the increase in wonder due to Cait Sith’s appearance helps drive this idea in.
One that is frequently mentioned, for very good reason, is the music. The OPs and EDs are just as calm as the show, putting the viewer in the right mood from the very start of the show, and easing them out of it at the perfect time. Every song is a masterpiece, with the OPs seamlessly working over footage of the show, often with well-matched cuts of Neo-Venezia. These are the go-to examples for how to do OPs and EDs in slice-of-life anime.
Even better is the fantastic OST. Choro Club’s music compliments the show perfectly, and is used in just the right way to fit the tone for each scene. The show is benefited so greatly by the OST that when reading the manga I do so while listening to it. With any other OST the show would be so vastly different in tone that it could not truthfully be considered the same show. The OST is vital to Aria as much as the other parts are, and the show without it would not be as good as it is.
As I already mentioned the art works just as well as the other elements. The pallet is primarily made up of softer colors, leading to an almost water-color feel, especially in the Neo-Venezia backgrounds. The characters, while less detailed than in the manga, still carry across the happy mood that they need to, being distinctive while at the same time not being over-designed. Neo-Venezia is a beautiful landscape which always manages to satisfy with the well-placed panning shots over the city.
Emotionally the show is amazing. If the rest of the show could be called only near perfect, Origination would be the true example of perfection. Nearly every episode in Origination brought me close to tears. Episode 9 of Origination is the best episode in anime, and anyone who fails to cry at Alice’s promotion is likely unable to cry to fiction at all. After spending all the time with the characters and becoming used to their day to day life, the shift to progression is sad, but the knowledge that the characters are moving forward with their lives ultimately makes it a positive experience, even if you wish you could stay with them for longer.
The themes of Aria are portrayed perfectly. The idea that you should be able to find happiness everywhere is, if a little overly optimistic, a wonderfully positive idea which only helps to spread greater joy. My approach to Aria which I detailed above comes directly from Aria’s message; I look for the good in everything when I watch the show, and because it’s so good already I can make nearly everything a positive. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Aria had a profound impact on my world view as a whole, and it serves as one of the most important things to me over the last two years. Aria is something I love very dearly, it’s something which is immeasurably close to me, and I suspect it will be for a while. I hope I’ve made it clear why I think Aria is perfect, and I plan to write more on the series, going into much more detail on what I said in this post in the future.