Aria, Episode-by-Episode: The Animation, Episode 11

During my first watch of this show, I already liked it by this point. The world and characters were all enchanting, and as someone who was already a fan of slice of life series, I thought Aria was great. It was this episode that really made me fall in love with it though, and it’s due to deeply personal reasons.

I watched Aria at a time when I was finally making friends that I not only liked being around at school, but actually cared about. I’d spent a few years making friends who I only cared about insofar as they kept me from being bored in class, but during 9th grade I finally started to make friends who actually made me feel better as a person. Aria meant a lot to me in general during this period, as it was a major part of my shift to being a happier and more optimistic person, but this episode’s focus on the endurance of friendship meant a lot to me back then.

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It means even more to me now. Since 9th grade I’ve made a lot more friends who I truly care about. Aria helped make me a better person, and because of that it only effects me more deeply. As I learned with my K-On and Hidamari Sketch rewatches, themes about friendship and separation mean a lot to me now, and Aria really delivered on that front in this episode.

This is an episode which primarily focuses on the relationship between Alicia, Akira, and Athena. Much like Akari, Aika, and Alice, the three of them used to practice together before they became Primas. For the most part their flashbacks are designed to emphasize the idea that they were much like our current generation, and it does a good job at that. Aika and Akira clearly are more similar than either of them would like to admit, and some of Athena’s weird quirks are similar to Alice. Alicia and Akari are, of course, both happy with everything.

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Those days didn’t last forever though. They loved spending their time together, but as they became Primas they got busy, only rarely getting to spend time together. Alice remarks that the same will happen to her, Akari, and Aika one day, causing things to become slightly sad for a moment. The Three Fairies are quick to point out that this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They love their current lives even if they’re not able to meet with each other as often now, and those times left behind precious memories. With work, they’ve been able to preserve their friendships. Our current generation may not always be together as often as they are now, but they shouldn’t be unable to see each other.

Even after being reassured that they’ll stay friends even after they become Primas, Akari remains somewhat worried. Now, I’m going to posit a theory here which has only scant evidence in the main text. I don’t believe that Akari had many friends on Manhome. Akari is excellent at finding joy in everything and being friendly with everyone, but that’s possible for her in Neo-Venezia. It’s possible that on Manhome people did not appreciate her attitude. Manhome isn’t a totally awful place, but there’s a distinct feeling that it’s not in a great place right now, and Akari never shows any indication of wanting to go back. It’s possible that Aika and Alice are the closest friends she’s ever had, and she doesn’t want to leave them.

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As she sees Aika and Alice off, the show enters one of its most memorable moments, and one of my absolute favorites in the entire show. Makino Yui’s Symphony starts playing as Akari watches them go, and she decides to call out to them, making sure that they’ll meet again tomorrow. This moment is incredibly powerful, because it shows just how good Akari is at dealing with her emotions.

Akari does have flaws even if it doesn’t seem like it at times. She’s afraid of being alone, and yet she’s able to muster up the courage to call out to them in this moment, despite not wanting to look like a scaredy-cat. Akari almost always knows what she needs to do in order to reassure others, and in this case that made it clear what she needed to do for herself.

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This episode just provides another example of how the show uses mono-no-aware. Last episode focused on Akari leaving behind a snowfly, but this episode makes it far more serious as it focuses on the separation of human friends. However it maintains that the time spent with others is worth it, and that beauty can be found in anything. The Three Water Fairies love being Primas and wouldn’t go back, even if it would allow them to spend more time together. Everything in life has a trade off, everything is transient, and yet it is all so beautiful.

As the episode draws to a close, Ai-chan tells Akari she wants to come see her, setting up for her next visit. This episode has a lot of foreshadowing in general, making it very clear what the series’ endgame is going to be. We have a long way to get there, but this episode did a truly perfect job at establishing the feelings and themes we’re going to experience as we continue. I understand why this episode made me fall in love with the show, because it’s absolutely excellent.

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