Aria, Episode-by-Episode: The Natural, Episode 2

If I were to describe the seasons of Aria I would do it like so. The Animation is the introduction, and it primarily focuses on getting us used to the characters. The Natural on the other hand has introduced all of the important characters, and so it focuses on expanding the world. Lastly, the Origination focuses mainly on wrapping up the show’s themes and character arcs. The Animation’s decision to focus mainly on characters was smart, but it left Aqua itself underdeveloped, and considering how important the planet is to the show’s tone, it was something that needed to be rectified.

This episode is a good first step in that direction. While doing their daily training, Akari, Alice, and Aika find a treasure box with a treasure map in it, which takes them on a trip throughout the city in search of treasure.

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The actual concrete details of what happened don’t matter that much. They searched a lot, finding all kinds of places within the city. One such place was the cafe in San Marco Square, where Akari happened to meet a nice man and discover new things about the square itself. This holds true for the whole episode. Despite seeming like a wild goose chase, the sense of mystery and fun lead the three to keep searching, and in doing so they find many of the beauties hiding with the city.

Neo-Venezia is a replica of Venice, and Venice isn’t a small city. Over 250,000 people live in it right now, and it’s always been prominent, so no matter what era they modeled it after, it’s sure to be large. Because of this there are many things in the city which people just won’t know about. This was demonstrated in Episode 7 of The Animation with the tourists, but it’s shown even better here.

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Aika is initially resistant to a treasure hunt which appears pointless, but she too is quickly swept up in the city’s magic. There’s no way not to be charmed by a city so beautiful, so full of life. Akari is always in love with it, but the others who live there have a great fondness for it as well. It’s truly a place where everyone is happy.

When the three finally find the treasure it’s clear that there is no hidden material item, but what they’ve gained is far more valuable: a beautiful outlook and a greater appreciation for Neo-Venezia. This is another example of how cheesy and saccharine Aria would feel if it didn’t have the magical, surreal feeling to it. This kind of blatant moral is often considered off-putting, and yet Aria manages to do it while putting a smile on my face and bringing a tear to my eye.

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The writing on the wall is even more sickeningly sweet, saying that the treasure is now in their hearts, but I can’t stop myself from loving it. The show manages to blatantly tell you its morals and messages without an ounce of subtlety, but they’re presented with such sincerity and magic that it avoids ever feeling preachy.

The episode also touches on the goodness of others, with it being made clear that all who have found this treasure before have put everything back where they began, allowing others to embark on the same journey. It’s a sign of the fact that all in Neo-Venezia truly appreciate it, and they all want others to do so as well. Our three main characters are quick to do the same thing before settling down for the day.

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Before our episode ends, we’re greeted to some slight commentary on Akari’s appreciate of the “experts” who helped them throughout the day. The one who designed the treasure hunt is said to be an expert of Neo-Venezia, and the nice man(actually the cafe manager) is an expert of enjoying San Marco Square. After Akari expresses appreciation to them, the manager responds that much of the enjoyment came from Akari herself, as she’s an expert at happiness.

Akari continues to practice Aria Company’s ethos. Always enjoying herself and everything around her, she never fails to be happy. Ai-chan wishes to be an expert of something as well one day, but if she follows the rest of Aria Company, it won’t be hard.

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