This episode is a bit weird, because it’s an introduction for a character who’s already shown up multiple times. By this point in the show Al is fairly well-established as part of the cast, but none of the chapters introducing him had been adapted, so while the gang knows him, we don’t really have a real gauge on his personality.
And for the most part, it turns out that didn’t matter too much. I wouldn’t call Al flat, but he isn’t the most interesting character. As Aika remarks multiple times, he’s somewhat childish and somewhat mature, but his real role is to serve as a means by which more of Aqua can be introduced, and to serve as an important character in Aika’s life, which this episode draws its themes from.
This episode does a lot to flesh out Aqua. Aqua’s been known to be a terraformed version of Mars since the show started, but a lot of the mechanics behind it haven’t been revealed. We’ve seen bits and pieces of how water was added to the planet, and the Salamanders give us a sense of how they created an atmosphere, but some of the other issues, like Mars’s very low gravity, weren’t addressed.
This episode reveals that Gnomes, a group of people who live under Aqua’s surface, regulate the planet’s anti-gravity. How this occurs isn’t given a lot of focus, but it doesn’t really need any. It’s enough to simply be aware that there are people working on maintaining the planet’s gravity. This knowledge also makes it clear why Al is so short; working under the surface has lead the somewhat increased gravity to hamper his growth.
Another thing worth pointing out is the names of the jobs in Neo-Venezia. Undines, Salamanders, Sylphs, and Gnomes. These are named after the Alchemic Elementals. This is a guess, but I’d wager that this was done in order to make it more clear that Aqua is a place of magic. Alchemy is more scientific than pure magic, but it isn’t quite science either, and that describes Aqua perfectly. Terraforming a planet isn’t impossible, but it’s clear that Aqua isn’t quite scientifically sound either, and that’s okay.
The other thing to note in this episode is the themes of attraction. The episode uses a fairly blatant metaphor connecting the attraction that is gravitational force with the attracction caused by love, romantic or otherwise.
Aika has a very obvious crush on Al, and it’s a man focus of the episode. She spends her time trying to hide it, but it’s clear to everyone but Al himself. She manages to bring him with her to a meteor shower without burning up inside, which is where the metaphor really starts.
As Al explains, the meteors that we see almost always burn up during atmospheric entry, never making it to the surface that they’re attracted to(by gravity). Aika takes this to mean that she’ll “burn up” before she’s actually able to confess to Al, and this makes her nervous, in spite of the beauty that the show contains. And it sure does contain beauty. The show can pull of some great shots of the stars, and the scene where the shower kicks into high gear looks fantastic, especially with its colors.
As Aika says in the end though, some meteors managed to make it through the atmosphere and reach the planet. This makes Aika nervous, leading to her trademark line, but at the same time she’s very happy. The real moral this episode is that you should go after what attracts you. If you burn up it could be beautiful, but there’s always a shot at reaching your target as well.