This is a totally anime-original episode, but it’s anything but filler. This episode adds some really meaningful detail to Aqua’s past, and it’s detail that only enhances the show’s themes. The last three episodes of the Animation are its best, and Episode 12 picks up from 11 perfectly, satisfying in its worldbuilding, its emotions, its relaxation, and its thematic depth.
After a fairly long period where we encountered little in the way of magical realism, this episode delivered a quick shift back towards the world of the supernatural. As I’ve said previously, cats hold the true power in Neo-Venezia, and it is they who are behind every mystical world and experience that Akari is brought into. In this one, a walk with President Aria to the city’s oldest bridge leads her to travel over a hundred years into the past, back to the time when Aqua was not yet the planet of water as it is named.
The entire episode has a dreamlike quality, to the extent that it’s hard to tell if it’s real. I assume it is, as this is not the only time Akari is brought into a truly extraordinary scenario, and many of those situations are from the manga and absolutely occur. That said, it’s easy to see why people would question the reality of the situation. The world Akari travels to is populated by a number of people, but many of them seem to be versions of the characters we already know and love.
This dreamlike quality is only used to emphasize the idea that Aqua has always been a planet of miracles. We get a pretty clear picture from this episode’s character, Akiko, that life on Aqua at this point isn’t easy in every way. Water has to be frequently pumped in order to be used, and there aren’t a ton of people around yet. But the hope of a bright future and the joy of the people living there make it a wonderful place to live anyway.
This episode does a lot in terms of establishing the personality of Aqua itself. Aqua has always come across as blissful and truly perfect, but this episode did a lot to make it feel like a planet with persevarance and hope behind it. It took a lot of people’s hard work and wishes in order to turn Aqua into the planet which we ordinarily see in the series, and this episode makes it clear how important all that work was, and how much all those hopes mattered.
The episode does an excellent job portraying the ways in which people held hopes for Aqua. Akiko from the beginning was excited about the idea that water would finally be flowing into the city, and once everyone heads down to the waterway in order to watch, the excitement is palpable. A few are cynical and feel as if it’ll never come, but it’s clear that everyone desperately wants it.
Once it finally comes, it’s presented as a miracle in itself. One woman remarks that it’s as if humans have finally been granted permission to live on the planet, and everyone is excited to rush down and play in the water. Water brings life of course, so the arrival of water is not just important for the structure of the city and the planet as a whole, but it’s also imporant as a symbol of the extent to which humans have shaped Aqua. Aqua has been granted life by human hands, and that’s something Akari points out.
Through this episode, Akari gains even more appreciation for Aqua. She’s loved it the whole time, and she wouldn’t have abandoned her life on Manhome if she didn’t, but seeing the true feelings of all the early colonists clearly left a big impact on her. By seeing what Aqua once was, Akari becomes even more enamored with what it now is.
While this is an episode set in the past, it’s ultimately about the future. This episode is very directly about having hope in the future, and the episode presents the idea that said hope is what makes good futures possible. Aqua is a planet which exists only due to the hopes of those who decided to move to it early on. If no one had any hope it never would have been colonized, and the planet would still be a barren red rock.
At the same time, it’s an episode about appreciating the present. Akari became able to greater appreciate her own form of Aqua by seeing it in the past, and we’re supposed to do the same. Our present time was built for us by many before us, and I think that’s what the past versions of our characters show. We all rely on the past labor and hopes of others to be where we are, and we need to honor that. Aria always makes it clear that life is wonderful, and this episode makes it clear that it’s wonderful because of the past, and that we too can be looked back on with respect, if we dream of building a better future.