Title: Aria the Origination, 2008
Episode count: 13
Original Language: Japanese (Subtitled, English)
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-fi, Slice of Life
Prequels: Aria the Animation, Aria the Natural
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Draped in the Gothic, quintessential architecture of old-Venice, coiled within softly-lit canals, uplifted by angelic undulations that resonate throughout the serene waters—there’s something innately magical about the setting of Aria that grabs one’s heart and enraptures one’s mind—and one cannot help but dissolve into a state of absolute euphoria. This town, with its mystic properties, and more importantly its assemblage of characters, invites you to enter your dreams and revel in the simple pleasures of life.
Welcome to Neo-Venezia: a grand utopia on planet Mars.
Aria as a franchise, albeit being defined heavily by its slice-of-life components, manages to create one of the most satisfying and evocative journeys that has graced this medium. Holding true to its core, the last season of Aria or “the Origination” is what I’d like to call the idyllic payoff. It is the ultimate culmination of everything that precedes it and does not hesitate to reveal itself as such. With that being said, to fully appreciate what Aria offers, it is highly suggested that the franchise be watched in proper order (“Animation”, “Natural”, and “Origination”).
The third installment of Aria or “Origination” continues to illustrate the ongoing lives of the main characters who are aiming to become primas, or professional gondoliers while endearing the viewers with their daily revelations about life, friendship, dreams, and themselves. Where this season detaches itself from its predecessors is its ability to develop its characters in a way that is completely engrossing, and the feeling of their journey arriving at its final destination often leaves the viewer in a nostalgic stupor. Origination completely capitalizes on the developments of the previous seasons and uses that to delve deep into the hearts of the viewer–who are innocently dwelling in their awe–unprepared for the bittersweet serendipity that awaits them at the end of their ride. A part of the reason that Origination is so effective is because of how well the franchise as a whole is able to remain true to its self and thereby producing a genuine feel in everything it shows, from the world to the characters.
The characterization is done extremely well in “Origination”. The subtle finesse with which each character’s portrait is finished is nothing less than an artist’s dream. The evolution of the characters–from the clumsy but passionate Akari, to the introverted, but intelligent Alice, to the outspoken, but insecure Aika—is crafted wonderfully through their mentors, encounters, struggles, and most importantly each other. It is hard to pinpoint these transitional changes, but that is the subtle magic of Aria’s characterization; invisible to the eye, but indefinitely captured in vestigial amounts by one’s comprehension, which is precisely the reason why the characters become so ineffably close to the viewer. Even the side characters serve a pivotal role in adding dimension to the main cast while having fairly interesting personalities themselves, which brings up the true delight of Origination’s characterization and by extension, Aria’s cast. Each and every character has her/his own distinctive personality that develops throughout the entirety of the franchise but really shines in Origination as each character is actualized. This doesn’t mean that these characters are breaking archetypes or are extremely authentic, but what they are is genuine, and maintained in a way that is nothing short of amazing.
The characterization may be the prime strength of this season, however, the most striking characteristic of Origination (and the franchise itself) is the manner in which the world and atmosphere is crafted. Combining stunning visuals filled with pizzazz and grace and an immersive soundtrack that fine-tunes the direction of the series from the beginning to the end.
Neo-Venezia is depicted with great care and detail: Elaborate backgrounds are crafted to reconstruct the look and feel of earthly Venice, with grand Gothic structures, rococo-inspired interiors, and a constructive romantic air embellishing it evenly. A balanced palette of cool and warm colors are used to paint vibrant skies stretching across hues of colors along with other natural sites such as oceans, gardens, and landscapes which are tinged with a life-like quality. The character designs are also quite appealing. Designed accordingly to the nature of the show, all of the characters have this incandescent appeal to them ascertaining that one cannot walk out of this franchise without being completely smitten by at least one of them.
The visuals work in tandem with the sound to heighten the overall impact and quality of the show. From the start of the episode, the opening functions as part of the episode, rather than a detached component. Utilizing soft vocals with a music-box-esque tune to accompany it, one is swiftly carried to Neo-Venezia from the get go. Throughout the series, the ost carries the soul of Aria with light piano compositions, classic strings, and lively guitar. Thanks to the exceptional visual and sound choices, Origination and by extension, Aria overall completely succeeds at portraying its respective world so effortlessly through the atmosphere it crafts.
As mind-numbingly sweet and wonderful this series is, there can be a few detractors arising for certain viewers that isn’t just limited to “Origination” but ubiquitous in the franchise. Aria itself is a sanguine show that blossoms with positivity. Therefore, there isn’t much to be had in terms of consequence or portraying the gravity of certain struggles and problems. Often times, the “problems” are self-induced and self-contained and resolved by the end of the episode through some epiphany or realization. The saccharine nature of the show intrinsically downplays any sort of negativity or bearing that could be felt and that isn’t necessarily a fault of the show, but for those looking for something more grounded will not find it here.There isn’t much to dislike here nor does the series take a consequential approach. This does not mean that show does not have serious moments; there is much to be loved in terms of varying situations and emotions, but the tone always remains light and inviting. Furthermore, as aforementioned, this is a slice-of-life so there isn’t a riveting plot driving the series, but a narrative that matures with its world and characters. Naturally, this means the show is slow; indulging in its own allure and giving the viewer time to soak up all of the charm that it offers. These are just potential points to take into consideration, but those that are fans of slice-of-life or those with an inkling for trying something new, should experience Neo-Venezia in all of its glory.
Conclusively, Aria is similar to other works in that it’s trying to depict something very simple: the daily lives of people trying to chase and attain a dream. However, how it shows it is infinitely different which sets it apart from the rest of the stock .
As the conclusion of a heartwarming journey approaches, one cannot help but hold their breath. It isn’t thrilling nor is it filled with plot-twists, but similar to how the waves recede into their element, the journey reaches its destination in a natural manner. With its crystal waters, its attractive primas, its sumptuous beauty, let yourself sink into the world of Neo-Venezia once more with Origination, and listen to the songs of the fairies as they take you and themselves to their final landing and watch as:
The sun sets on the cerulean waters of a distant land.