I’ve seen a number of posts by Jeff Lawson at Hop Step Jump about the Aria animated series. It’s always praise, but as I’ve never seen the series, I never paid much attention to it. I did check if there was a region one thinpack a while back, only to find it didn’t have a region one release. That’s changing now that RightStuf! has announced the first series, Aria the Animation, available for pre-order.

I checked Wikipedia to see what I could find about the series, without spoiling anything. It’s listed as being in the genres of drama, science fiction, and slice-of-life. RightStuf!’s web site lists it as science fiction and adventure, and I’m curious as to why they’d leave out slice-of-life. RightStuf! also lists the release as being for ages 13+, so hopefully that won’t be a strike against it for me.

A couple of things stood out to me on the Wikipedia article for Aria. First is the series director, Jun’ichi Satou. Save for some Studio Ghibli films, I basically “grew up” on the first meta-series of Sailormoon, and the “Doom Tree” series, both directed by Satou. I won’t hold that against him, though. A lot of the mistakes in the Sailormoon animation (such as repeated “monster of the day” episodes with no care to character development or plot) were not made in Ojamajo Doremi, which Jun’ichi directed every meta-series of. On top of that, Satou directed Princess Tutu, which achieves him the God status. (This status also applies to every other staff member who worked on Princess Tutu, inclusive right down to the janitors who kept the office trash bins empty each morning). Considering Aria the Animation‘s release followed a few years after Princess Tutu, consider Aria comic base, and considering that all artwork I’ve seen for Aria has been beautiful, I can’t see Satou’s direction going wrong.

With my avoidance of reading about the series on Wikipedia’s article, I’m going to blindly assume the very first character listed in the characters section Akari, is the main character of the series. Her voice actress is Erino Hazuki, whose roles include Erino Kogarashi (Ko-chan) in Seven of Seven, and the little child Uzura in Princess Tutu. It should be interesting to hear her in a different kind of role, especially one I assume to be an older character that the two roles I’m familiar with.

The price of a DVD release is the number one factor in whether I’ll buy DVDs separately or wait for a thinpack release. The reason I bought Princess Tutu as separate DVDs is because I was able to get the DVDs on sale for a super-low price. The eventual thinpack release brought the whole series, with all bonus features kept in place, for less than the price of two of the individual DVDs at retail price. I realize that dubbing is expensive enough to warrant the higher cost, and even then the price is cheaper than a lot of Japan’s releases, but every dollar I save on the American releases helps supplement the cost of an eventual Japanese release purchase. The other factor in buying DVDs in a thinpack is the possibility a series will be dropped, leaving the region one release incomplete. I’m sure there’s not much worse than paying $100 over a year to buy four DVDs only to find the last two in the series will never be licensed for a subtitle (and maybe dub) release.

Just as one of the reasons I buy thinpacks is to avoid collecting a series only to have it dropped, I also usually wait for all meta-series within a series to be released. I’m still waiting for Taiwan’s release of the third series of Ojamajo Doremi, but a solid example would be SuperGALS!. I didn’t know there was a second series until after I watched the final episode of the first series, and found a “preview of the next episode” at the end. Thankfully, the second series had been released with subtitles by then, but if I was watching the first series as it came out one DVD at a time, I would have faced long waits for ADVFilm to continue the series. Thankfully, as well, RightStuf! released the second series, meaning I didn’t have to resort to fansubs or Japanese imports to find out what happened next. It’s because of this release by RightStuf! that I feel confident in pre-ordering Aria the Animation. Even if RightStuf! doesn’t release the following series, I imagine the Aria line to be along the lines of Sailormoon and Ojamajo Doremi in that you can generally pick up any of the meta-series and enjoy it fully from beginning to end without watching any of the other metas in the series.

I’m hoping I’ll enjoy Aria the Animation. I’m hoping RightStuf! licenses and releases Aria the Natural, the OVA, and Aria the Origination. Aria the Animation is priced on RightStuf!’s web site at $37.49 (plus shipping) for a 13 episode series ($2.90 an episode), with a retail price of $50.00 ($3.85 per episode). I would expect a price closer to $30.00 ($2.39) as a retail price for a 13 episode series, as the listed price suggests the 26 episode series will retail for at least $80. Considering RightStuf! isn’t releasing the series as individual DVDs, three months apart between DVD release, at the price of $25 per DVD for a four DVD release, the price is easily justifiable.

I’m taking two gambles in pre-ordering this series. The first gamble is that I’ll enjoy a series praised so highly from Jeff Lawson. If Lawson had said, “Such-and-such is the greatest mobile suit mecha battling series,” I’d pass over it, as that kind of series doesn’t interest me. If he praised a series as a wonderful science fiction, romance, fighting series, I’d pass over it. I wouldn’t even check into it, wouldn’t even consider it. Slice-of-life is another matter altogether, so I’m giving it a try. It’s no different from my raving about Princess Tutu to anyone who’s a fan of stories, of fairy tales, or of magical girl stories, and wants something with deep plot and solid character development. The second gamble is that RightStuf! will release the following series on DVD next year, and considering this is a slice-of-life meta-series, it’s an easy gamble to take. If they don’t release the following series, I don’t expect to be missing out on any cliffhangers, or potential plot and character development.

With a release date of September 30th, 2008, I have plenty of time to order and read the original comics if I wanted to. Although ADV picked up then dropped the comic, TokyoPop picked it up from the beginning, and I believe finished the translation. I don’t know if I’d be interested in a non-comedy slice-of-life comic, though. Animation allows using colors, movements, timing, voices, sound effects, and music to set the mood and pace the series. (As well, reading through the comics for Sailormoon, Saint Tail, Cardcaptor Sakura, Azumanga Daioh, and others after seeing episodes of the animated releases gave me fitting voices to give the characters in my mind.) Can the Aqua and Aria comics compare to an animated release? Has TokyoPop improved in their translation quality since their early days? Maybe it’s something to look into. I may find myself pleasantly surprised.

Jeff Lawson wrote:

There’s an Aria fan born every minute.

Come October, we’ll see. If there’s one born here at that time, it’ll be because of Lawson’s posts about the series.

I’ve gotta’ post about Princess Tutu more often…

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