Review of Aria: The Animation (2005)

Moving picture, 5.0 hours

Seen in 2019.

This review refers to the original run of 13 episodes. As of 2019, IMDb incorporates the sequel, Aria: The Natural (2006), as later seasons.

Cute girls whose names begin with the letter A act as gondolier tour guides in a future city on Mars, patterned after old Venice. Its people lead unhurried lives appreciating beauty. Cats appear to have human-level intelligence. Mysteriously, the main character sometimes flashes back to the colonial past, but there is no reason to be concerned about that or anything else.

Utopian SF. Earth is called “Manhome”, which I assume is a clouded reference to Cordwainer Smith’s Instrumentality of Mankind, rather than Lord Foul’s Bane (1977) or the mythological Manheim, another name for Midgård. Mars is called “Aqua” following 150 years of terraformation, but this is nothing like the hard science fiction of Red Mars (1992).

According to episode 5, the oceans on Earth are not fit to swim, but there are no details on this apparently enormous environmental problem. Instead, the show’s vision of the future is extremely optimistic and brimming with nostalgia. The setting is “Neo-Venezia” by the “Neo-Adriatic” sea. Its colonial governor’s palace is patterned after the 15th-century Doge’s palace of Venice and has been converted to the Marco Polo International Spaceport, implying that romantic Eurocentric historiography and cultural artifacts are still de rigueur. It is a deeply conservative vision, nuanced only by the slight eeriness of ruins and flashbacks, which is also romantic. By implication, if there was some kind of apocalypse on Earth that poisoned its oceans, it must have been a romantic apocalypse. Aria very rarely hits the same notes as Yokohama Kaidashi Kikō (1994), which is closer to its apocalypse, closer to nature, and less obsessed with moe.

The craftsmanship is nothing special. The animation is particularly cheap, using coasting gondolas and blimps to keep the cel count low. There’s a shot in the first episode’s opening credits sequence where even the people moving on the dockside are literally single frames of single lines, drawn for CRT TV, moved on linear vectors. The show is as unexciting as it is relaxing.

moving picture Japanese production animation fiction series