This is a episode commentary. It is intended for someone who has seen this episode, and will contain episode spoilers.

Aria the Animation: Episode 1

That Wonderful Miracle...

DVD 1 menu.

DVD thinpack covers? Beautiful. DVD faces using same artworks as covers? Absolutely gorgeous. It’s nice to see DVDs that look so beautiful. And that’s before the DVD even reaches the DVD player. Once in the player, the DVD menu uses the same artwork. Wonderfully consistent.

It’s a bit sad to see no English dub available. Seeing the first episode, I feel this is a series that would translate well into an English dub. It’s probably things like the name “Alicia”, as well as “Aqua” and “Neo-Venezia” which give that feeling.

An interesting thing is the lack of an option to turn off the English subtitles. Turning them off should be easy enough with DVD player controls, and probably most every person who buys this thinpack will want the subtitles to be on. RightStuf! knows who their buyer will be, although I do wonder if it’s the right choice to not add a menu option for it. Then again, seeing as DVD player controls can easily toggle subtitles on and off, maybe it should be considered unnecessary to include in the DVD menu?

I like the idea of English and romaji subtitles for song subtitles, rather than switching back and forth between them from one episode to the next. Having a separate ending portion for the US credits is another interesting inclusion. I imagine it saved time and money simply adding in an extra ending segment with basic animation as the background and showing English credits at the timesetter’s pace, rather than the pace and text positioning of the original ending theme’s Japanese credits. The opening theme includes a portion of dialogue, giving the impression that each episode will have its own “opening” segment as the opening song plays.

Voices are more-or-less fitting for the characters. I’ll have to adjust to Akari’s voice, but it’s different from any voice I can recall hearing before, so it should be nice. As a character, Akari seems easygoing enough to watch. She’s independent, but still kind and playful at heart.

The voice for Ai felt off initially, but fit nicely after realizing her situation as someone trying to like a place she disliked, and more so someone who was bored, disinterested with her surroundings. After she came to see Neo-Venezia for its good qualities, her voice lifts from bored to cheerful by the episode’s end. As a plus, Ai uses simple Japanese, and she speaks it slowly. This makes for easy-to-understand words, which is useful for me as a listener.

Exaggerated expressions.

The different expressions the characters get don’t seem to fit. Maybe they will after I’ve seen a few more episodes, but after only the first, the exaggerated expressions are out of place to me. My first thought is that I’m used to seeing such expressions only on very young characters, but even Ai’s exaggerated expressions feel off somehow.

I’m not yet sure what to think of the cat-thing, er, “Mr. President”. (Are those eyebrows on his forehead?) Mostly, it seems to be there as something to look at moving. Granted, there is a use for Mr. President as a member of the Aria company (helping Akari practice on not rocking the gondola), and he did help move the episode’s story along by showing Ai Akari’s back-peddling, and introducing Alicia to Ai.

Neo-Venezia scenery.

There are a lot of scenes showing off the scenery of town. It’s a good way to keep the pace slow, and when the material is based on real locations, it’s probably easy to create a lot of background material.

The show sets a nice atmosphere. Even though it’s set in the future, the general make of Neo-Venezia (and possibly all of Aqua) give a (Western-style) “old fashioned” feel. There are no cars. There are no processed foods waiting to be bought and eaten. Boxed foods await their preparation in the hands of the buyer. People walk from home to work to store to back home again. Maybe there are bikes, maybe not. Technology is basic, simple. Computers are available for communication purposes, but items such as television are not shown within the Aria company building/home. Telephones use video technology, but still use a handheld piece for…well, I’m not sure what it’s for, really. Maybe it’s style, looks?

Introducing the concept of Aqua and Neo-Venezia as a tour guide’s speech as well as Akari realizing she’s reaching her one year (24 month) anniversary on Aqua work out well. The speech felt like an info-dump, but that’s kind of what tour a guide gives, making its presentation acceptable. I imagine the focus of the series will never be on the history of Aqua, so they got the explanation out of the way upfront. I am curious as to why Earth has been renamed to Manhome.

Looking at the events of the episode, only a single event stands out as lacking to me, and the way things were done may have been a design decision. When the airship began to land in the water, my first thought was, “Where did that come from, suddenly at the worst possible moment?” If the airship was seen in the background even for just a moment in one of the scenes before its landing, it would have felt less like something appeared only to be an obstruction to the cast’s efforts to rescue Mr. President. (There are airship seen flying around early in the episode, however.)

One thing that ever ceases to amaze me is how artists are able to come up with new hairstyles not used before, without resorting to styles that are impossible due to the laws of gravity. Aria‘s characters have simple hairstyles, very fitting for the world they live within. (I’m excepting the part where Akari has pink hair.) And then, there are the outfits.

Aria and Himeya company uniforms.

Both the Aria Company (Alicia and Akari) and the Himeya Company (Aika) have similar uniforms, probably based on a base “gondola uniform” design. The base is a long dress with a short sailor-uniform style shirt worn over. Add in shoes, and accessories including a bow, a glove for the rowing hand, and a hat, and the outfit is almost finished. Add in company logos, such as the “A☱” for Aria, optionally add stripes to the shirt’s collar and the dress’s trim, and include a design on the front and/or back of the dress (Aria matches a “≡” on the dress and the shirt shoulder, and Himeya uses a “≫” design on the shoulder and back), and the look is complete.

Considering Akari and Aika work for different companies, why does Akari feel the need to so strongly defend herself as giving a ride to a friend–not a customer–when she encounters Aika?

Ai's outfit.

Ai’s outfit has a formal style to it. The tie and the hair ribbon help pull the look together, but it’s the arm pieces with the cufflinks that finish the formal style. How are those worn, anyway? Elastic in the upper arm area? Why doesn’t the sleeve slide down the arm a little when Ai lifts the oar up to Akari while lying on her back?

What’s with the English credits listing so few characters? Akari, Alicia, Ai, and Mr. President are listed, but Aika isn’t. Akatsuki isn’t listed, either.

Looking at the cast list, Akari’s voice actress, Erino Hazuki, is familiar to me as Seven of Seven‘s Erino Kogarashi and Princess Tutu‘s Uzura. The voice for Ai is Kaori Mizuhashi, also Pepper from A Little Snow Fairy Sugar. Aside from a number of anime works she’s done, Mizuhashi is also the fairies Navi and Ciela from The Legend of Zelda games. Alicia is voiced by Sayaka Ohara. Aika is Chiwa Saitoh. Mr. President’s voice is done by Chinami Nishimura (Greta in A Little Snow Fairy Sugar). Finally, the voice for Akatsuki is Hirofumi Nojima.

I had to watch this episode three times (over three days) before I started to appreciate it. In those re-watches, I adjusted what I expected the show to be. After the first watching, I was unsatisfied, but after a fourth, I’ve found I enjoy the episode very much. I expect going into episode two, I’ll enjoy the material more than if I had moved on after only a single watching of this first episode.

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