Aria, Episode-by-Episode: The Natural, Episode 4

This is another episode that focuses on Neo-Venezia, though it does so in a different way than the previous few. While past episodes focused a lot more on showing you parts of the City, thus giving you a better sense of what it’s like, this episode focuses more on the spirit of the city. It also brings back the beauty of letters, touched on in episode 4 of the Animation.

The episode begins with Mr. Mailman needing Akari to help her out delivering the mail. Alicia agrees to let him serve as her instructor for the day, allowing them to go through the city delivering mail. This does show off the city, but we don’t see anything new. The only important point we get is that mail on Neo-Venezia is still incredibly old-school. The use of paper letters delivered by gondola serve to further the idea that Neo-Venezia is a city occupied by those who don’t have much interest in using modern technology to augment their lives. It’s a somewhat harder way to live, but for those who do it, it’s much more enjoyable.

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Along the way they run across a boy who wants a letter delivered to his teacher who’s getting married. He wants to congratulate her and apologize for the way he treated her in the past, which was quite poor in spite of the fact that he liked her. Mr. Mailman and Akari are quick to agree to help, and they make sure to deliver the letter on time.

Ultimately, the boy’s feelings are able to be conveyed. His teacher understands that he was really a nice boy who acted rude out of a sense of jealousy, one common to children. The letter was able to deliver his thoughts and feelings to her, something which has shown up in the show before. Letters in Aria are powerful things, capable of carrying feeling and understanding to their recipients, and because of that they have power, including the power to cross space and time.

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After delivering the letter, it becomes clear why Mr. Mailman loves his job so much. He was given the chance to take a day off while his gondola was being prepared, but instead he took the opportunity to go out and deliver mail anyway. That may seem silly at first glance, but he treasures the ability to deliver people’s feelings, which is why he went out and got Akari to help him about his day.

Mr. Mailman makes a few salient points on why the people of Neo-Venezia are so stuck on traditional mail. They want to preserve the feeling of effort and the slowness that comes with extra letters so that their hearts have time to rest. Letters in Aria are truly a link to another person’s heart, and receiving those constantly, as occurs through technological communication, would be overwhelming. Those in Neo-Venezia want a slow life, because it’s much more calm. In this respect it reflects the series itself, which is slow and meandering in order to achieve its atmosphere.

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Akari compares Neo-Venezia itself to a letter, as you can always touch the hearts of those who built the city, and I think that in some way applies to the show/manga’s creators. Those who shaped the city with their ideas — Kozue Amano, Junichi Sato, and many more — all gave a piece of their heart to the show, and it’s something that we’ll always have access to.

Mr. Mailman ends the episode by claiming that Akari herself has been dyed the color of Neo-Venezia, which is not a shocking statement. It’s easy to forget, especially in the anime which started about a year into her training, but Akari wasn’t quite used to the slow life of Neo-Venezia at first. She was fond of it, but it was understandably a bit confusing. Over time she’s become just as much a Neo-Venezian as anyone else, and hopefully there’s been a shift towards the city’s attitude in the viewers as well.

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