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R1 DVD Reviews
Friday, 01 April 2011 00:00
ARIA the ORIGINATIONARIA gets its third and final season (complete with a pack-in OVA episode), and I'm a little sad that this is the last I'll be seeing of Neo Venezia. I feel another visit to the real thing coming on to compensate. The days of training for Akari, Aika and Alice are coming to an end, and some of the three water-fairies are looking to the future - meaning that it's all change for some...

I have loved ARIA since I saw the first episode, probably about 5 years or so ago now. Sure, it's one of those shows where for most of the series nothing really happens, but it's the setting (which combines with my own love of the real Venice to quite potent effect), the characters, and the laid-back atmosphere that makes it what it is. This season follows the pattern of the previous two, so if you enjoyed the first two you're not going to be let down here, but after the half-way mark there's a noticeable change in tone as things in Neo Venezia begin to change.

The trigger for that is that the girls have completed their training and, beginning with Alice (in the second-most-touching episode of the entire series) it's time for them to take their Prima exams and achieve their goals. It's what they've been after all this time, what they've trained for several years now to achieve, and as they each achieve that goal you would have to be completely heartless not to get a little emotional yourself. I do feel a little cheated that, in Aika's case, you don't actually get to see her take the exam - she simply meets up with Akari one morning, with the absence of her glove being the only clue of what's happened - but for Alice and Akari, full episodes are devoted to the exam and the resulting removal of their gloves, signifying their promotion. Excuse me while I wipe a little tear from my eye at the memory.

Moving quickly onwards. The rest of the season is filled with the same sort of standalone stories that ARIA is best known for, each taking a day in the girls' lives and following them working, training, having fun and meeting people - perfectly ordinary lives, just in a rather extraordinary setting. Some of the more supernatural stories that we saw in previous seasons are missing this time around - which means no Cait Sith, or trips into Neo Venezia's past - but I can't say that I really missed them. Instead, there's a slight focus on the Aria Company itself, and the Undines who worked for it in the past, before Alicia and Akari - building up the ethos of those people and setting the scene for Akari to take over the reigns, something that she ends up doing sooner than she expected when Alicia announces her own retirement.

I'd love to give ARIA a long review, but there's really not that much to write about it. It's very simple in premise and execution: "healing anime", a taste of something good that, once you've watched an episode or two, will clear away the cares of the day and leave you feeling a little better about yourself and the world after seeing perfection in the lives and world of its cast. The simple ideas are often the ones that work the best, and that's certainly the case with ARIA - unless you're a complete action junkie and can't handle the idea of 25 minutes of peace and relaxation, the simple feel-good factor that Akari and her friends (or perhaps I should use their new aliases, Aquamarine, Rozen Queen and Orange Princess) leave in their wake is enough to make watching the series more than worthwhile. An easy recommendation.

Rating - ***