Doing That Wonderful Job...
Finally, an episode that doesn’t give extreme world-building or character building. Instead, what is already known about the characters is used for an easygoing episode.
This is the first episode to give me the same kind of feel that came with episode one. It’s the experiences in Neo-Venezia that make the visit something to treasure, but if your heart isn’t in it, if you’re not looking all around, if you’re not upbeat and positive, you’re going to miss out on it completely, and you’ll go home empty. Not just Neo-Venezia, but any and every excursion is the same. Be it a day at the park, or a business trip to the other side of the country, your expectations and outlook will make or break the experience for you, no matter what happens. (Cue Aika’s “No sappy lines allowed,” please.)
With the inclusion of the other cats, President Aria is beginning to feel less like something to look at and more like a cast member — albeit, a cast member who’s primarily there as something to look at during long dialogue scenes or slow scenes (where the background scenery isn’t the eye-catch). It doesn’t hurt his case any when Akari’s playing hide-and-seek with him, and when President Aria is interacting with President Himeya in various ways.
The easygoing style of this episode is along the lines of what I expected this series to be (even though the first episode bored me the first couple of times I watched it). Rather than far-off flights to deliver undeliverable letters, it’s the journey of the Undine and the building of friendships that will be certain to strengthen this series. That’s probably why the letter episode doesn’t resonate very strongly with me. It’s mostly an Akari episode. Woody hasn’t been given visible depth as a character, so he didn’t add to the character growth any. Likewise, he’s a friend of Akari’s, but Akari with Aika and Alice are more like a sorority of Undines, a trio who train together, practice together, and play together. Their bonding strengthens the series, one episode at a time. The time they spend being together, interacting with one another, helping each one, relying upon one other, these strengthen the series alongside the characters. (If Aika had any “No sappy lines allowed” in this episode, chances are I’d be using them for screenshots after each paragraph. There’s no way I can compete with Akari’s cute “Ehhhh?” response, though.)
My view of Aria the Animation has followed the same course as Ai’s view of Neo-Venezia, and to a lesser extent the view of the husband in this episode. Ai heard so many great things about Aqua, Neo-Venezia, Aria, Alicia, and when she finally experienced it, her Aria experience started out listless. Unenthused. She didn’t see what was so special about it all, even though her sister talked so highly about the place. Still, she gave it an extra effort, this time with different expectations. Akari may have played up the greatness of the baked potatoes, but by now Ai knew things weren’t as great as she’d heard. She lowered her expectations.
Saying I lowered my expectations of Aria the Animation to be able to enjoy it would be incorrect. Rather, Ai didn’t believe the potato would be any better than the ones she didn’t care for back on Manhome, so she was able to enjoy it for its own, individual goodness. Her view wasn’t tainted into thinking the potato would be the greatest thing she ever tasted. Instead, she went in thinking, “It’s supposed to be better than the ones I tried back home,” so when she took her first bite, she was in for a pleasant surprise.
For some things, you have to lower your expectations to their low level. For other things, your expectations are in the wrong place. It’s no different from the struggle the training Undines had in finding an exit. If your expectations are that you can go through any bridge, then you’ll find yourself in trouble when the tide rises. If you continue with the expectation that you’ll be able to go under a bridge, you’ll miss the true path to take you home. Lowering ones expectations of a series is one way of allowing one to step back, and see where those expectations took a wrong turn. Backtrack to a point before ones expectations went awry, and a different path can be taken, a path that turns a boring gondola ride into a meeting with an e-mail pen pal across space, a whole planet away.
Still, this doesn’t save Aria the Animation from all those info-dumps on character and world-building.