Nozomi Entertainment/Right Stuf is still uploading more and more of their shows onto youtube for limited streaming and the latest title to catch my eye was the first in the Aria series. Years ago I read the two volume prequel to Aria, called Aqua (the new name for Mars which the series is set on) and a few volumes of the series itself but it was too slow moving for my taste. So I was hoping that approaching the series from a different angle, watching one episode a week and having it on in the background as I worked on knitting or other crafty endeavors.
Aria the Animation
Summary: Aqua, formerly known as Mars, has been terraformed so that the majority of the planet is covered in water so that in many places, including the city of Neo-Venezia, boats are required to get around. Akari is a trainee gondolier who will one day show clients all around the charming city but for now she's still learning about the city herself.
The Good: There's a very small sub-genre in anime of "healing shows," ones that are so simple and charming that you feel better merely for watching them (and the director is almost always the same as this one, Junichi Sato) and that description fits Aria to a T. You can watch it to cheer up or to relax, with it's simple and charming stories it doesn't demand a lot of it's watchers and lets you settle into the mood.
The Bad: The show doesn't start with the material from the Aqua prequel and assumes that you are already familiar with some of the characters, which I was, so fans who are completely new to the series might want to give the wikipedia page a quick glance over when new characters appear. The other real issue with this show is not that it's slow paced but rather that not much actually happens. I can enjoy a plot light show if the character grow and develop but there's very little of that actually going on here, only one side character got development and that was simply to make her a bit less shy. I generally don't enjoy shows where you can watch the episodes in any order and honestly there is so little change in the show that you could do that fairly easily.
The Audio: The show doesn't have a set opening sequence but has a rather lovely song that gets played over the first few minutes and the sound is well-mixed too, the character's dialogue and the song never compete with each other and generally the first few minutes are set up so that nothing on screen competes with the song as well. The ending song is less memorable but still fits the mood well. This series does not have an English dub but the Japanese voices work well enough that it doesn't seem like a big loss.
The Visuals: The show doesn't need to have spectacular visuals to make the series work but it does have some rather nice ones. The backgrounds look lovely, and make Neo-Venezia's connection to the original Venice more aparent, and I've heard a story of how the production team went to Venice, realized they had animated all the sculling the gondoliers were doing backwards and reanimated all the scenes they had already done to fix it. Everything looks nice and clean and it does help add overall to the feeling.
So, not the show for me but, since I don't hate it, I think I will continue watching it. Nozomi is currently streaming the first couple of episodes and has started streaming the sequel, Aria the Natural, and I'd recommend people checking this out, you can probably start watching with the Natural and not miss tons of stuff.