Review for Aria the Natural Season 2 - Part 2
Years ago, when I first heard a Feeder song on the radio, I was instantly determined to get the CD single (years and years ago, actually), but I didn’t know the name of the band. I actually went into a shop, and went through all the singles in the chart that week, as well as the new releases, and bought all the bands and artists that I had never heard of, in the hope of getting the Feeder song as well. Turns out I had to wait until I heard the song again on the radio, until I realised. But you can imagine my disappointment, as I not only didn’t have the song, but by some miracle of chance, all the singles I had bought, weren’t at all to my taste. That provoked the thought in me that suppose you wanted Aria the Animation, Natural, or Origination and wound up carelessly getting Aria the Scarlet Ammo instead. That thought doesn’t bear further scrutiny, and you can calm your traumatised heart by watching Aria the Natural Part 2 instead, the quintessential feelgood anime.
Akari Mizunashi is living her dream. She’s always wanted to be an Undine, and went as far as leaving her home world of Manhome and moving to the water planet Aqua. An Undine is a gondolier who takes passengers on gondola rides around the sleepy water city of Neo Venezia. After a year, Akari is still in training with the Aria Company. Aria the Animation follows the adventures of Akari and her fellow and rival trainees, Aika and Alice in and around Neo Venezia.
13 episodes of Aria the Natural are presented across three Blu-rays from MVM.
14. That Newest Memory...
15. The Center of That Large Circle...
16. Parting With That Gondola...
17. After That Rainy Night...
18. That New Me...
19. That Crybaby.../That Young Girl’s Heart...
20. That Shadowless Invitation...
21. The Night of the Galaxy Express...
22. That Mysterious World.../That Guardian of Aqua...
23. That Sea, Love and Heart...
24. Those Undines of Tomorrow...
25. The Fruits of That Encounter...
26. That White, Kind City...
Aria the Natural gets a 1.33:1 pillarboxed 1080i transfer, a 60 Hz interlaced upscale of the SD source. I haven’t seen the original DVD release to compare, but what we have here on this Blu-ray release matches the better anime DVDs of the mid-2000s. The image is clear and sharp, line detail is good, and colours are consistent, and the show gets nice, smooth animation. Aria is a vintage show from early on in the digipaint era, and what we get here is an example of effective simplicity. The character designs are cute, yet memorable, and prone to drop into super-deformed mode when they do something goofy. The world design, heavily influenced by Venice offers an appealing sense of architecture without being overly detailed. This is a reflective and atmospheric show that has a whole lot of sunsets and colourful skies, yet there is an artfulness with which it uses a limited palette. This is a show that can establish much with just four or five shades on screen. I did notice some banding on occasional scene transitions this time around.
Aria the Natural comes with the option of PCM 5.1 Surround English, and PCM 2.0 Stereo English and Japanese with the choice of subtitles and a signs only track. And get this; you have the choice between white and yellow subtitles. No one can be as fickle as an anime fan, and in one fell swoop, this release removes one point of contention. If only more distributors did this, the yellow vs. white anime subtitle flame wars would end. Facetiousness aside, the audio presentation on this release is as you would hope for, at least when it comes to the Japanese audio (with yellow subtitles). The dialogue is clear, you get a decent level of stereo separation, and the show’s mellow soundtrack comes across to excellent effect. The subtitles are accurately timed and free of typos, except for one in episode 15.
The discs boot to animated menus. This time the extras are distributed across all three discs. Each disc ends with a translated English credit scroll for that particular set of episodes.
Episode commentary on episode 13 with ADR director Joe DiGiorgi, and Michelle Knotz (Athena Glory)
ARIA Company Roundtable Discussion (14:37)
Himeya Roundtable Discussion (17:21)
Orange Planet Roundtable Discussion (17:18)
Cast Reflections on Aria the Natural Part 1 (18:26)
Cast Reflections on Aria the Natural Part 2 (27:25)
Director Discussion on Aria the Natural (35:24)
Clean Ending 2 [Versions A&B] (2:42)
US Trailer (1:41)
One thing that I am loath to write as a reviewer is “more of the same”. It’s trite, succinct maybe, but it doesn’t really add anything to the conversation. But sometimes, “more of the same” is all that you really want from a subsequent instalment of a series; it is the best possible outcome for audiences. So when I say that if you saw Aria the Animation, and most especially Aria the Natural: Part 1, then you’ll be over the moon to read “more of the same” in any review. It is after all, the ideal, slice of life show, seasoned with a sci-fi setting, and just enough in the way of magic to make it a truly charming experience.
Once again, I also found it so laid back and relaxing that I could really only just take it in one episode chunks. This is not the kind of show to binge watch by any means. And overdosing on Aria would just be a waste anyway. As mentioned in the previous review, Aria the Natural follows the trainee Undines over the period of a year, and this Part 2 release takes them from the height of summer to mid-winter. In a slice of life show like Aria, which would normally feel like an episodic or even sketch show format, the progression of the seasons adds to the continuity.
That also means that there is a surprising amount of growth and character development for a show of this genre, as time does actually pass in this world. The three young Undines are in training to be gondoliers in Neo Venezia, and it would be unrealistic if things didn’t happen on that journey. The thrust of the show is still devoted to exploring the appealing trivialities of this future world, the charming blend of sci-fi and magic. But gradually the girls are taking on more responsibilities as they come closer to completing their training.
There’s also a tad more emotion than we have seen before in the story, certainly more drama than you usually get in slice of life shows. The first melancholy comes when Akari has to retire her gondola, which is past its prime, and we get to see the emotional connection between the girl and the boat that she has been training with since she started her journey. In the last collection, I noted than one of the mentors, Aika’s mentor Akira didn’t have a lot of screen time, and that is remedied in this collection, as she gets a lot more in the way of development. Akira’s a tomboy, who Aika really respects, but who isn’t seen in quite the same way by the rest of their company. There is also room for a ghost story, a whimsical what-if episode and plenty of seasonal festivals to explore.
Aria is an odd show for me. Were it any other title, that was so effective at putting me to sleep, I would be complaining about it. I’d be throwing around words like ‘boredom’ and ‘tedium’ and ‘tiresome’. But Aria is supposed to be a relaxing show, it’s supposed to make you feel good, and I’ve described it before as a massage for the mind. This is what it’s supposed to do, and it just happens to be very good at it. I just have to keep reminding myself to watch it in small instalments, and preferably during daylight hours, fortified by coffee.
Aria the Natural Part 2 can be purchased direct from MVM at Anime Online, from UP1, and from all the usual mainstream e-tailers.
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