One of the most difficult things I have found in my short time as an anime fan, contributing to anime forums, etc., and blogging is beginning to give an overview or an introduction to a series that means a lot to you – and in this case not simply “a lot”, but one of the three most moving franchises I have ever seen … perhaps even my favorite anime ever created (it battles with the Clannad / Clannad: After Story series and the Kemono no Souja Erin adaptation).
With regards to introducing the series on the whole, here is a summary of the Aria anime’s seasons that took place before these Avvenire OVAs take place: “On the planet Aqua lies the watery city of Neo Venezia, a tourist hub in which people travel around in gondolas. Professional gondoliers known as Undines are well-revered as they act as tour guides for the people. Akari Mizunashi is a gondolier in training and also an employee of Aria Company. She gets to meet all sorts of people as she takes them on the gondola rides, from friendly mentors to special individuals, all this amidst the beautiful scenic backdrop of the entire city.“
Currently BD versions of the three seasons of Aria (named “Aria the Animation”, “Aria the Natural” and “Aria the Origination”) are being released in Japan in honor of the 10th anniversary since the anime’s first season aired, and there will be one Avvenire OVA per box release.
A bit more summary wise: “The anime [OVAs] will consist of three episodes: the first episode is titled “Sono Aitakatta Anata ni…” (To You, Who I Wanted to Meet…), the second episode is titled “Sono Atataka na Sayonara wa…” (That Warm Goodbye…), and the third episode is titled “Sono Harukanaru Mirai e…” (To That Far Away Future…). The first two episodes are two stories from the original manga that were not previously adapted into anime. The first episode’s story starts with Ai practicing on the gondola with Akari. As they travel through a canal, they meet Aika and Alice. All three have not had much time to meet since becoming Prima Undines. Considering even the little time they spend together a “miracle,” Akari remembers a certain incident and relates it to Ai.”
Akari’s now retired mentor, Alicia, had been one of the elite of the Undines of her time, known as the “water fairies”, alongside her close friends Akira and Athena. Just as Akari was Alicia’s student, so Akira and Athena had their students, named Aika and Alice, respectively, who are now also full-fledged Undines and have their own disciples. Just as Akari has Ai, Aika has Azusa and Alice has Anya. (And yes, though I do not know why, the mangaka seems to insist that almost all the characters (and especially the Undines) in her story have names that begin with the letter A for some reason!)
The OVAs begin with Akari already having become a full-fledged Undine, having succeeded Alicia Florence as the head of Aria Company, and having herself become a mentor to her own student – Ai, who appeared at the end of the final Aria season as a beginner just starting out (known as a “pair”), and who appears at the beginning of the first OVA as a “single”. The theme of this episode undoubtedly focus around the bonds of the Undines throughout the generations. The bonds of Alicia, Akira and Athena in the past, the bonds of Akari, Aika and Alice in the present, and the bonds that will be forming between Ai, Azusa and Anya in the future.
The theme of Akari, Aika and Alice being unable to meet much now that all three of them are full fledged Undines is not a new one to the Aria series – it was touched on especially in the third season after Alice was promoted first amongst the three of them to the rank of Undine. Towards the end it was stated that Alice would deliberately go out of her way to find time when the three of them could visit with one another. This difficulty was not something new to them either. In the first season Alicia, Akira and Athena also had a very difficult time meeting up and spending time together, and interestingly amongst their number it was Akira who was most active in arranging these things.
In a similar way in this OVA, while Ai is out practicing with Akari they just happen to come across Aika (sporting a hair style like Akari did when she first came to Aqua to become an Undine) and Azusa and Alice (who has a huge mane of braided hair now) and Anya, with all three of them crossing paths unexpectedly at the same moment and share a smile with one another, yes, but fittingly Aika and Alice turn both to Akari. In so many ways Akari is the heart at the center of all three generations.
This was even touched upon in the second season of Aria … but with Akari it goes beyond that. Akari is a character unlike any other I have met in either manga or anime mediums, and unsurprisingly perhaps my favorite I have ever come across. For to me Akari is in many ways … well … a bit of a poetic soul, yes, but she is also a bit of a mystic. Her simplicity (in the best sense of the word), childlikeness and her consistent integrity (she absolutely says what she thinks) is unmatched anywhere else I have come across. And the interesting thing is that it is not just other people who realize this, other characters in the story. It is also creatures who are not human. Who are perhaps something similar to what we would call faeries, but faeries in the old sense of the word – creatures who are long lived, wise, capable of being extremely dangerous, and who are somehow more directly tied to the visible world through the invisible world. Akari has been regarded as one who has literally met the heart of the planet, and one whom the heart of the planet itself wishes to interact with.
The reminiscence of the OVA on Akari’s behalf to Ai recalls the time she helped Akira meet up with Alicia to deliver a present for her “mirrored birthday” (watch the OVA to understand what that is) and how Akari and Akira unexpectedly encountered both Alicia and Athena at the same time along the canals of Neo-Venezia, to everyone’s surprise and delight.
And in this tiny moment of the first generation of Neo-Venezia’s “Water Fairies” unexpectedly meeting one another like this one not only sees a glimpse into the beauty of their closeness and camraderie and real love for one another, but one also is given a glimpse into the beauty that is both in Akari’s heart and that spills out onto other people around her and even dyes the city and the planet itself (if I may make such a grand, poetic statement).
The stage for the OVAs has been set in a lovely and even piercingly moving way, and no doubt the next OVA will touch upon the foundations being laid for the third generation of Neo Venezia’s Water Fairies, as Ai, Azusa and Anya meet up with one another for the first time and we are shown the outlines of where the tale will continue on….
As a final thought, I felt I should add that the OVA has a new ED, and it was sung to several screenshots from memorable places Akari visited throughout the three seasons, but the OP itself is the OP from the first season of the series, appropriately named “Undine”. It was absolutely melancholy to hear it once again. Here are the lyrics:
The tender breeze that gently grazes my cheek
is gently lulled by the sound of waves.
Within me, something is unravelling.
I close my eyes, and it becomes visible:
the path along which the wind goes.
Come, let us row towards the shimmering waves,
our smiles will soon overflow.
Hey, let us impart the feelings of our beating hearts.
Riding the wind, I will return to you
as an Undine.
Many other diehard fans of the Aria franchise who have seen this OVA have had the same responses as I have – literally tearing up or weeping when the first generation of the Water Fairies were able to meet. Aching in their hearts as it experiences the waters of the storyline of Aria slowly fills up its chambers once again (often inspiring a rewatch of the franchise, which I am currently in the midst of), and breathing feelings and thoughts of gratitude for being able to have the opportunity to visit this world and it’s characters once again. I am looking forward to the other Avvenire OVAs with great anticipation, and will see you again as they become available!
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