Aria the Origination
It has long been a dream for Akari, Aika and Alice to reach the status of being a Prima, and it's that dream that has kept the trio working at it. And now that their dreams are literally within reach -- all those days and their little revelations -- it really starts to sink in what that means for everyone.
I'm pretty sure Arietta took a lot of people by surprise with its melancholic opening segment. I sat with my hands hovering over the keyboard myself, as I tried finding a good way to start this review, much like Akira did in episode 11 of Aria the Origination, pen in hand, trying to find a good name for Aika's eventual rise to Primahood. It's the mark of the last chapter, and the last gentle push the show gives its main characters towards their dreams.
Which is not to say it happens immediately. Origination spends a good deal of episodes spinning the old Aria magic, and it does so in the usual heartwarming ways you'd expect by this point. From an impromptou tea party to Akari getting another paying customer that requests her specifically, and even the episode where Alicia recommends Akari the Traghetto as an alternative means of training, there is something warm and familiar about the way Aria the Origination carries itself, all the way to its revelations about what's going on. For instance, the person who specifically asks for a single has the girls spinning around themselves trying to figure out why she would do that, with theories being thrown out about her being someone who loves making things difficult due to their general inexperience dealing with customers, to her being one of the famed secret inspectors with the power to demote a single back to the status of a pair. And then it turns out Akari's customer, Amarantha, is merely someone who belongs to a group of people who just love renting the gondolas of singles to see them grow, and maybe give them a little nudge if needed.
The traghetto episode even follows up on that, presenting to us three other undines who has their own trials to face, and their own ways of solving them... or avoiding them altogether. The two Orange Planet girls even has some thoughts on the subject of mentors, which Avvenire also briefly shifted the perspective on a little, putting a comforting hand on the thought of whether anyone thought that their complaints were merely excuses. Although in Atora's case, that was at least a little bit true, too.
Of course, one of the potential highlights is episode 5, where Aika has to deal with the fact that she doesn't have Alice's talent for gondola control, nor Akari's way of creating bonds with complete strangers, which is a gold mine when you work as an Undine. In her funk, she encounters Akira trying to give her room a bit of a spring cleaning between jobs and gets railroaded into helping her. While they're doing that, Aika happens upon one of Akira's photo albums, where she realizes that, out of the three water fairies, Akira was the last to reach the status of Prima. Going by the bonus material from the original DVD -- which is also included in the Bluray set -- we learn that the episode plot is actually based on a manga chapter that were created as a response of one of the original Japanese actors asking miss Amano about it, and that cooperation was what gave birth to both this episode and the manga chapter centered around it.
Now.... while the first half of Aria the Origination might feel like a return to form, by episode eight or nine, you will start feeling that shift where you realize the show is putting everything in place . Episode nine in particular has one hell of a surprise for you, just as you think you know how it'll play out. It even houses one I got when I bought the soundtrack, as it contains a song sung by Alice's Japanese voice actor, Hirohashi Ryou. It's a mildly clumsy effort, and you can tell she's not exactly a professional singer, but it's still cleanly and nicely sung, so it's not like Hirohashi Ryou is entirely without talent either. The episode itself mirrors her sentiments through that ninth episode, and from there, Origination completely upheavals itself all the way to the end, which brings about one of the nicest full-circle endings you could possibly hope for. Granted, the Japanese language song was used for the dub as well, which, alongside Athena's efforts, were not audio being replaced in said dub.
By now, I had almost completely gotten used to the dub actors. Of course, I've liked the English voice of Akari and Alicia from the start, and throughout Natural, I also quickly got used to just about everyone else's voices, even those whose tone and range differed from their Japanese originals. The few dub stumbles I had were Akira's strict voice, and I also wasn't entirely sure where to place Alice's either. Seeing as Akira doesn't use her strict persona all that much in this season, I had no complaints about her acting this time around, and in fact does a great job in episode 5, where we learn that Akira was actually the last of the three water fairies to reach Prima status. She does a great sheepish Akira, even when paired up with Jessica Calvello's excellent Aika. My single complaint about Tara's rendition of Alice is her crying scene at the end of episode 8, where a pushed-to-her-limits Alice finally fails to keep her emotions reigned in. Tara's crying simply doesn't really sell the scene here as well as Ryou's did. Tara otherwise nails Alice's personality, though, so feel free to consider this a nitpick. It did, however, make me a bit worried about a certain scene near the end of Origination, where Akari would be faced with her own sadness, but once again, Veronica Taylor sold the hell out of that scene. But most importantly, I am greatly relieved that the guy in episode 5.5 with the "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" guy and his mashed potato volcano were allowed to keep his crazy-ass laugh in the English dub as well. Give his voice actor a raise.
Visually, the show is maybe a bit below Arietta in animation quality, but Origination is still a very strong effort that doesn't have the visual hiccups that the Animation and the Natural tended to suffer. Sure, its main weakness is still boat movement on the water, but by and large Aria the Origination just looks so damn nice, even including a few visual treats like President Maa's acrobatic well jumps when Aika is just trying to get her out of said well. I'm also very glad they chose to stick to the widescreen mode, as the scenery is very important for Aria, and the 4:3 screen mode wasn't doing the show as big a favor as it could have.
And of course, the soundtrack is still fantastic. We get another really nice Makino Yui song in "Spirale", while Akino Arai brings a curiously bombastic song in "Kin no Nami, Sen no Nami" that still fits the song like a glove. There is also an incredibly nice insert song called "Torikago no Yume", also by Akino Arai, that were used in episode 7 during the moment when Grandma Akino relates the story about how she used to be the top undine in Himeya, but left to found Aria Company. It was a perfect song for that perfect story, and I was somewhat miffed when I realized that they also used the song in the later bonus episode 5.5, which meant that episode robbed Grandma's moment from being the song's first. As with earlier seasons, everything -- including these songs -- are still also enveloped by Choro Club's and Senoo's gentle, atmospheric instrumentals. And, of course, the aforementioned Hirohashi Ryou's "Lumis Eterne", sung half in Esperanto and the latter half in Japanese.
Everything about the Origination just made it painfully aware how much Arietta was a precursor of all the emotions you'd feel through this final season. Aria is a happy journey all the way through, certainly, but that doesn't mean watching Origination is going to be easy all the time. As Athena so rightfully pointed out in episode 11 of the Animation, time can be both kind and cruel, because it changes everything around you.
But, you know... looking back on it, I can't really think of a single moment where I didn't enjoy myself, regardless of what happened. I've already mentioned the disbelief-induced yet euphoric stupor I felt when the license was revealed, never mind when I held that first box set in my hands, but that also extends to the surprisingly steady license of the Natural and the Arietta/Origination box that almost perfectly mirrored the way the show itself was greenlighted from season to season. In fact, episode 7 of Origination's picture drama series puts Avvenire's creation in a weirdly sensible light, as it marked the ten year anniversary of when this animated adventure started. It's as if the show itself decided to drop by once again to see how we were doing. As is this new Bluray set, dub and all. Maybe more importantly, the show was put out on Kickstarter for an English release, tentatively asking us if we'd like an English dub for at least the first season, and then see where we can go from there. And the entire fandom, old and new, responded by supporting the entire show, picture dramas, "futures" and all, as if to say: "Yes, we remember you, Aria. And we are still here to support you in seeing it all the way through to the end."
Aria the Origination would eventually get a new, expanded conclusion in Avvenire, and with it, Aria and its cast and crew gets an amazing sendoff. The best you could possibly hope for. — Stig Høgset
Recommended Audience: Third season and still nothing objectionable to point out, save for some drama that will go over the heads of the children.
Version(s) Viewed: Region A Bluray, Bilingual.
Review Status: Full (14/14)
Aria the Origination © 2008 Kozue Amano / Mag Garden / Aria Company
|© 1996-2015 THEM Anime Reviews. All rights reserved.