New Year’s is a time when we look back fondly on the last year while looking forward to the next one, and that’s what this episode of Aria really does. As another mostly original episode, the freedom is available to look back on what’s happened this season, and the show manages to do that without coming across as a recap or filler episode. This episode manages to serve as an excellent ending while still leaving ample room for more of the series, room which is, of course, quickly filled.
The main feature of this episode, and the thing that separates it from the chapter it adapts, is the presence of Ai-chan. Ordinarily something like that wouldn’t have a major impact on the way the chapter turns out, as we’ll see in some future episodes, but she really dominates the episode here, so her presence is a major change.
The episode focuses mostly on looking back on what’s occurred so far, over the course of the series and over the course of Akari’s time on Aqua. We start by meeting all of the serious main characters, as Ai-chan meets many of them for the first time. Unlike in the first episode she is not our viewpoint here, and in fact she is ahead of us. Much like us she only knows these people through stories, but she’s given the ability to truly meet them here, something we obviously can’t do.
We’re then treated to something that simply couldn’t happen in the manga. As President Aria runs off, Ai-chan and Akari chase him, and come upon the old Aqua we saw in Episode 4 and Episode 12. Ai-chan takes this as a sign that Aqua itself is accepting her, and this isn’t hard to believe. Akari is able to see all of the planet’s magical things because of her pure-hearted for the planet, and after all things Ai-chan has said throughout the show by now, I’m sure she feels the same way towards Neo-Venezia and the planet as a whole.
After this they return to St. Marco’s Square, in order to actually celebrate the New Year, and we get another great moment. Akari thinks back to all the wonderful things that happened in the previous year, just before the year actually ends. During this time we have a chance to think about all the show’s many wonderful moments ourselves, savoring the brilliance that the show has presented us with already.
Akari expresses a bit of hesitance to part with the year, displaying that feeling of mono-no-aware that the show so consistently nails. The impermanence of the year is once again a slightly sad thing here, but it’s not so sad as to actually make someone feel bad. It’s sad because of all the beauty that came with it, and so when it inevitably has to go away it can be fairly emotional, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worthwhile to savor the year in the first place.
The episode ends by wishing everyone a happy new year, and making it clear that the quality of the coming year can be determined by the people living within it. Aria always centers people as the driving force between happiness, and it does so well here, using the feeling of the new year’s first sunrise in order to drive home the warmth within the hearts of all who live in Neo-Venezia.
And so, we come to a close. This episode’s a fantastic finale, managing to look back on the series while still tackling the show’s themes in a new way. It provides ample hope for the future, and also manages to organically bring in all the series’ characters we would care about at this point(and Al who’s shown up like 3 times with no actual introduction yet.)
Of course, this isn’t the true finale. We have plenty more of Aria to go: 43 episodes in fact. Within those 43 episodes are plenty of episodes that blow The Animation out of the water. The Animation is a very good series, and I’d probably give it a 10 even if it was the only part of the series that existed. But it isn’t and it works even better as the first chapter in a longer work. Aria gains strength from its length and the time you spend with the characters, and The Animation plays a crucial role in setting everything up for the rest of the series. I’m eager to get into the rest, because it’s got some of the best episodes in anime as a whole.