Aria, Episode-by-Episode: The Animation, Episode 5

The truly supernatural elements from episode 4 aren’t present here, but this is still a magical episode. I think I’m safe in saying that all of the main elements of the series were put in place by the end of episode 4, and here onwards the show plays with them in various ways. There will be new elements, but for the most part it’s going to be new messages told through previously introduced elements, and this episode serves as the first example of that.

As this episode makes clear, Neverland isn’t a real place, and Akari is aware of that. She became aware at some point that Neverland was a fantasy, though she doesn’t remember when. However she’s still totally capable of seeing the magic in real places. After spending her entire life on Manhome, Akari sees all of Aqua as a sort of Neverland, as she points out.

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There’s an interesting dichotomy here, between the human-built world of nature in Aqua, and the naturally occurring world of technology and pollution in Manhome. Details about either planet are few and far between, but they make it pretty clear that Akari loves Aqua because of how natural it is. The show’s embrace of an unnatural nature is interesting, because it avoids the common idea that humankind should avoid meddling with nature. Aria seems fine with that, so long as it’s done with human benefit in mind.

Aqua is presented here as a planet of miracles and is that fantastical, magical Neverland, but the episode does more than that. Following last episode’s ultimately sad conclusion, we’re treated to a conclusion which is ultimately happy, and it comes from a focus on memories.

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Aria is a series which values experiences, and the enjoyment of those experiences whenever possible. The series, and Akari, see no experience as ultimately useless or negative, with the right mindset. It’s a given then, that memories are something the series values highly. As Alicia says this episode, even forgotten memories aren’t thrown away, because you can’t throw away what’s important, and memories collect everything we value as important.

This is presented from the beginning of the episode. We initially get a brief glimpse at Akari as a child, presumably reading a picture book version of Peter Pan. This show goes into very little detail on Akari’s backstory, but this small scene sets the tone for an episode on memories.

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From here, the episode focuses on building memories, primarily through Akari enjoying the island with her Alice and Aika. Over the course of this she loses her ribbon and recalls a time when the same thing happened at a pool as a child. What’s key here is that she forgets what she did with the ribbon she didn’t lose.

As the episode wraps up and Alicia tells Akari that she can’t throw away what’s precious to her, she finds her missing ribbon on the beach. This completes the idea that’s been floating the whole episode by bringing back what’s precious to her. She felt as if she had accidentally thrown away her ribbon by losing it, but as Alicia said that wans’t possible.

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This is enough to lead Akari to totally conclude that Aqua is the real Neverland. The entire episode had a magical feeling, and that was the clear conclusion, but the actual statement of it is important. Akari here proves that she is aware that she can see the magical things in the world. She has access to the world of the truly magical because she sees everything else as magical and wonderful already. If she can see the world as magical, then the truly magical won’t stand out. This isn’t an episode which focuses on magical realism, it’s one which focuses on the emotions of memories, but simply by portraying the world and Akari’s reaction to it we get a little taste of magic ourselves.

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