If Aria as a series has the lovely Akari as its main character one must always remember that the main “force” behind her slow and patient, steady formation (especially shown in such a lovely way in season three of the Aria series) is Alicia. But there is more to it – Alicia’s relationship with Akari is not as “simple” as instructor to student.
Some of this relationship is touched upon in season three of the anime series itself (that is, “Aria the Origination”) both in the episodes themselves and in the extra ep in the dvd release, but it is brought back to the forefront in this final episode of the Aria franchise, and I can only think it is very fitting. Perhaps in some ways it could be seen as one of the immediate practical “larger results” of Akari’s day to day existence changing reality around her?
The episode itself was not ONLY about Alicia, of course. There were quite a few things related to the new trio of singles in Ai, Azusa and Anya (how I would love for the Aria series to continue focusing on them!) and their involvement in activities similar to what Akari, Aika and Alice used to do with their senpai’s as well – things like arranging for them all to spend time together with “Grandma” and such.
But we also see them discussing themes which hint at the main theme of the episode itself – mainly related to what it is like at Himeya and Orange Planet with regards to the senpais one is assigned and the difficulties that can arise. (For those who remember this aspect was also touched on in season three in the episode where Akari helped out on the tragetto one day.)
Where does the combination of these two elements (Alicia herself and the state of senpai-kouhai relationships in general and particularly that we have been seeing among the characters through the seasons) contribute to this episode’s story? It dovetails into Alicia’s experience on the whole of being a mentor to Akari, being approached by the Gondola Association to retire and help to bring about some changes and then experience her mentorship with Akari, which she discovered was of benefit to her just as much as it benefited Akari. It was only when she was able to pass on the ownership of Aria Company to Akari that she was able to not only get married but also to join the Gondola Association itself.
Alicia’s work at the Gondola Association, it turns out, is related with “changing tradition”, or at least “traditions” and practices that had grown up over time and impeded with the potential development of the Undines and the gondola touristing trade in general. One of the things she has been striving to change in particular was the system of promotion.
These and other difficulties (that exist in most any organization, actually, as they are simply human problems and patterns) were in Alicia’s mind the entire time she was mentoring Akari, but while in the process of doing so she found herself benefiting from her Kouhai in completely unexpected ways – so much so that she prolonged the process as much as she could as she came to love being with, teaching and learning from the amazing human being that Akari was. In fact, it proves to be Akari herself who was to serve as the catalyst to strengthen her taking the next step she knew she must take.
It would be hard to find a more appropriate phrase to sum up the experience of this last episode of the Aria franchise than in the dialogue of Akari with Alicia they were shown to be having in this episode, the conversation that was to prove the final gentle push of clarity for Alicia. Alicia asks: “Say, Akari, what did you feel when you said good bye…?” And Akari answers: “I felt lonely. Quite lonely. Saying good bye is always lonely….I felt lonely and sad. But I think that is probably a nice thing, Alicia-san. The more lonely you feel, the more sadness swells up – I’m sure that’s proof of your deep love. It’s something you keep with yourself forever, something that sparkles forever on the beloved existence of Aqua. That’s why the feeling of sadness can also be the proof of happiness.”
It would be hard to say it any better, in my opinion. I will try and go into more of what this series means and has meant to me over the years when I do a franchise review, but for now I can only think of one phrase to add to all of the wonderful experiences and animated adaptations (and absolutely beautiful source material) over the years for the wonderful world, the wonderful story, the wonderful characters, the wonderful art, the wonderful music and all the rest, and that is: thank you. Thank you one and all. ^^
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