Aria the OAV ~Arietta~
One night, Mizunashi Akari had a dream where she had become the prima of Aria Company. President Aria was there. Ai-chan was there, and she even had a new trainee. But.... Alicia wasn't there anymore.
After waking up, Akari decides to ask Alicia about it. Experiencing a bout of insecurity due to the fact that Aria Company itself was both created by Grandma, and then later spearheaded by one of the three water fairies, one question stood out more than any other concerns Akari might've had: "Why did you choose me?"
Dreams are kind of funny. In them, you're usually feeling like your normal self, even as the world around you goes completely crazy. Akari's dream has always been to become a prima, but her first taste of that experience still haunted her as the dream came to an end, in a way that even her ghostly experience in Aria the Natural couldn't compare to.
That feeling of change and, for Aria Company, impending separation is weighing heavily on Akari's heart, mostly because she isn't confident in her abilities as an undine as of yet. And much like the last episode of Aria the Natural, Arietta chose to punctuate its beginning with a very, very melancholy and lonely-sounding song by Sonorous.
The Aria anime has had filler episodes before, and Aria the OAV ~Arietta~ is also completely original material, although given how closely Kozue Amano worked with Junichi Sato, it's still a bit hard to tell how much she had to do with its story. Given how nicely the dialogue flows in this one, I suspect she did. Akari has never been a slouch in the "finding the right words" department, but as Arietta shows us, Alicia is no newbie either. While the earlier seasons -- the Animation in particular -- could get a bit infodumpy, the dialogue in this OAV really shines. From Akari's dream proclamation that Alicia won't return anymore now that she's a prima, to Akatsuki's slight altering of his typical swagger to try to cheer up a downcast Akari.
And I'm incredibly thankful for the fact that this extends to the dub as well. I know I've had some (relatively minor) complaints about the dub cast before, and I was also a bit worried about a certain exchange at the end of Arietta, but the dub cast really knocked it out of the park here, and served as another example of how not having to read the dialogue makes it hit that much harder when you can more easily take it in with the visuals.
Part of the appeal of Arietta is that it serves as the first time in the anime where we get a bigger insight into Alicia's insecurities and what else might be going on inside that otherwise perfect front of hers, even back when she was a newly appointed prima. While the others do indeed show up in Arietta, this episode is Akari and Alicia's more than anyone else's, and through its deeply melancholy beginnings and emotional upswing, the OAV serves as an excellent stepping stone in preparation of its final run towards the finish line. Both Origination and especially Avvenire would go back to this as well, which does a good job at taking Alicia off her pedestal and humanizing her a bit more, and this is where it started.
I've said before that I'm not too bothered by the fact that Aria's animation hasn't always been the best, but I probably have to at least partially eat those words, because there's something to be said about how much more expressive the characters are in Arietta. Especially how it lends a little bit of energy to the proceedings, even in one of the gentler episodes in an already gentle show. The shifts between the characters' facial expressions can be felt more keenly when they don't just click in place, but rather change and shift, and that's not even going into the weirdly action-filled sequence when President Aria, in his rare moment of heroism, saves a rambunctious child from falling into the water by both literally and metaphorically taking the fall himself. I guess if you have only one episode to do, you can afford putting in that extra effort, and I'm glad Arietta chose to do this. It's also the first part of Aria to be presented in widescreen, which better suits a show that depends so much on its scenery to capture the audience eye. The scenery was always beautiful from day one, but, as my recent rewatch of Avvenire would show me, it really gets better and better through each season.
In many ways, Arietta is like any other episode of Aria, and being what basically constitues a filler episode leaves little in the way of talking about how it compares to a manga original. Just as episode 12 of the Animation served as a bridge to the past, Arietta is the same, albeit more metaphorically, for the future of Aria's main cast. As much as Arietta feels like any other episode, it is perhaps the first moment where you more keenly feel the shift that marks Aria's final stretch, and the strength of the writing -- especially its dialogue -- is particularly good, even for an Aria episode. The subject of most of the conversions is centered around what it means to have a mentor, what makes someone a good mentor for someone else, and eventually what it means to be a mentor, even a good one. A bit lack in subtlety, perhaps, as the character -- especially past Alicia and Akira -- talking about passing on not only their knowledge, but also their love for Neo Venezia and planet Aqua, with the campanile making up the centerpiece of this OAV. ("Campanile" being the Italian word for "clock tower".) In the end, Arietta's main message seems to be something along the lines of "don't be afraid of the future and whatever change it brings", even if it -- as episode 11 of the Animation mentioned -- might seem cruel and sad on the surface.
In the end, Arietta is a lovely little interlude to the Aria franchise as a whole. Despite clocking in at one single episode, it's no less a part of the whole picture than anything else, but since it counts as a part of the release of Origination in the first place, that's also nothing you need to worry about missing out of in the grand sceme of things if you have already travelled with us this far.
A single episode of Aria at its best. Immerse yourselves in it. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Once again, I can't point out a single thing about this franchise that would make it inappropriate viewing for anyone, since whether one finds Aria interesting or not isn't the main contention when it comes to appropriateness.
Version(s) Viewed: Region A Bluray, Bilingual.
Review Status: Full (1/1)
Aria the OAV ~Arietta~ © 2007 Amano Kozue / Mag Garden / Aria Company
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