As we return to Aria for a second season, Ai-chan returns to Neo-Venezia to participate in Carnival. Carnival is a big event in Neo-Venezia, and the episode certainly knows how to use that to its advantage. This premiere focuses on re-acquainting us with the main cast while introducing one new key character: The King of the Cats, Cait Sith.
The episode begins with Akari wishing for a new encounter, while being happy with all the ones she has already made. As always Akari loves everything, and one thing she loves most about Aqua is how many friends she’s made there. Once again you get the sense that she was somewhat lonely on Man-home, but that isn’t the case here, and she hopes she gets to meet yet another friend while celebrating Carnival.
President Aria leaves early on without making it clear where he’s going, something he apparently does every Carnival. Other cats, such as President Hime leave as well, and Akari tells an old fairy tale, that they’re going to a meeting of the cats with their king, Cait Sith. This is initially passed off as just an old story, but fairy tales and magical stories can come true on Aqua, especially to those as ready to believe in the planet’s magic as Akari.
After spending some time with her friends, appreciating what the planet has given her, Akari and Ai-chan see Casanova, a mysterious, giant figure, and are left in awe. Something about him is familiar or magical to the two of them, and they’re left unable to really think of anything else until they see one of his attendants scuttling along the ground, when they decide to give chase.
Initially Akari and Ai-chan were with Alice and Aika, but they quickly lose track of them. While lost they stumble upon Casanova, and are given the chance to join in his procession, playing music while he and his attendants march. While Ai-chan is a bit hesitant, Akari is quick to accept this, displaying her strong trust of others while also making it clear that she does in fact recognize Casanova in some way.
The direction here becomes truly fantastic as they’re marching through Neo-Venezia’s alleyways the lighting makes a major shift, using almost all dark colors with a few bright ones every once in a while to punctuate the characters’ positive emotions. Things become very surreal with massive rows of masks and little tethering the locations to the real world. The shadows here are emphasized far more than usual, coming across as imposing and very clear. The style here is almost Ikuhara-esque, fitting since the director, Junichi Sato, is a close business associate of Ikuhara’s after they worked together on Sailor Moon.
After a while Casanova stops, and with him Akari and Ai-chan stop as well. Casanova makes it clear that they aren’t meant to go any further. The world they would enter if they were allowed is bright, as compared to the dark alley they were walking in, but it’s clear that this is not a space meant for them. One of the attendants reveals himself to be President Aria, something which makes it easier for Akari to accept that they aren’t meant to go any further.
As they turn around to look at Casanova one more time he reveals himself to be Cait Sith himself, standing within the Kingdom of Cats. This is a world which is made to look as if it is made of gold; it is clearly not a land in which humans are meant to roam. With this they depart, returning to the city’s main roads.
Aria reflects happily on her day, having made the new encounter she wished for. As she says, it wasn’t where she expected to find it, but it was wonderful all the same. This episode focuses heavily on the idea that courage is needed when looking for new people. Akari had to be courageous in order to go with Casanova and find out he was Cait Sith, but it payed off, and she made a new friendship because of it.
And what a new friendship it is. Without saying too much, the encounter with Cait Sith is pivotal to the series. From here on out nearly all of the supernatural episodes involve him or the Kingdom of Cats in some way, and they’re all excellent. Also Al still didn’t do anything despite being in this episode. This was a good premiere to a good season, and it’s certainly put me in the mood for more.