I figured that for the Manga Moveable Feast (if it accepts this article), which focuses on AQUA/ARIA this month of March, rather than write a general impression on the volume, I would do a quick impression for each of the chapters in this volume, and try not to spoil in the process. Granted, if you don’t know of the world of Neo Venezia in the first place, this would probably be of no help to you. But some of the articles in the main MMF link will do a good job of filling in that blank. And this blog might also have some pieces lying around that can also help. The general theme is that AQUA/ARIA is relaxing, mysterious, and enjoyable if you sit back, read the story, and just experience it all.
Navigation 26: Orange Days
Athena, one of the top undines in the city, drops by ARIA Company on a visit after Akari, Alice and Aika were practicing, which leads to reminiscing on the history of how the prima of her Orange Company first met her eventual good friends and future fellow primas from different undine companies in Akira and Alicia. It’s a brief look into the past of the mentors (along with their characteristic mannerisms and idiosyncracies) of our main trio of undines, and we get to see how things have changed and yet how things stay the same regarding the friendship shared throughout time. Not so subtle comparisons are made between the current prima trio and the hopefully future prima trio of undines in regards to this idea. And the moral of chapter could also be taken as a subtle reference to ourselves as readers, with the realization that we at least get to see what happened to Alicia, Akira and Athena, while the story will end at a point where the future adventures of Akari and friends is left to our imagination at best.
Navigation 27: Venetian Glass
In which Akari receives her first request for work from a customer, and ends up transporting containers of a very unique type of glass along with a disgruntled apprentice of the respective glassmaker and with Alicia along for the ride. Here we learn yet another aspect of the culture that Neo Venezia tries to glean from its original source in Venice, and here we also get to see Akari in her unrestrained sentimental, embarrassing-phrase-saying glory. It’s chapters like this that make me interesting in traveling to the source to see real-life examples of what’s so romanticized by Akari, and it makes me realize that even though she can get a bit too saccharine sometimes, it would only be more so if she wasn’t tempered by someone else. And having that straight man jab by Aika, Akatsuki or someone else really helps make those moments that much more special.
Navigation 28: Snow White
A chapter that focuses on the mystery that is Akari’s mentor, one of the top undines in Neo Venezia. For the most part in the manga, Alicia remains mysterious, a little untouchable, and a little ethereal with an almost constant smile on her face and always knowing how to guide and where to take Akari to make her a better undine and person in general. This impression in turn makes the moments where even she’s surprised (often by Akari having an awesome insight in her own way) rare and helpful to let us know that she’s still only human. Well, mostly so. Here, we get a clever look into how unorthodox Alicia’s teaching methods can be, as well as a look into some of her philosophy, and though she remains as a sort of ideal for Akari to aspire to, it’s hard not to be charmed by her as well.
Navigation 29: Stray Cat
A chapter that highlights the unusual relationship between Alice and Athena, her mentor in Orange Company. On the service their connection comes off more like peers helping each other learn (which is enhanced by the fact that they’re roommates at the company), unlike the relationships between Akari and Alicia at ARIA company and Aika and Akira at Himeya, which are more or less obvious junior-senior roles, respectively, to the undine training system. But this chapter, which by the title obviously focuses on a stray cat found, notes just how deep and strong that bond is nonetheless.
Navigation 30: A Night On The Galactic Railroad
Akari notices what sounds like a train running in the middle of the night in Neo Venezia. Since trains don’t run at that time, Akari starts imagining what purpose this “Galaxy Express” (referencing the famed novel) might have, and finally gets the possibility of finding out once she randomly finds a ticket for that train. Reading this chapter, I harped on one of the main thoughts that I have about the world of AQUA in that the town of Neo Venezia itself is a character in the manga. From the amount of detail shown in it’s backgrounds and listed by the characters extolling it’s virtues, there’s a lot that one can enjoy about the city.
But in Kozue Amano’s mind, that city also holds plenty of mystical secrets as well, and from the get go, it seems that Akari is someone that’s keenly attuned to those secrets. Since Akari is a very welcoming, open-minded, flighty person that enjoys exploring, that special world opens up to her more than probably anyone else in the city. As a result, she oftentimes gets to experience things that most would probably only just dream of, and steps into places that mortal beings never tread. There always seems to be a dark undercurrent that if she becomes too enamored with wonders seen and unseen of the city and the planet, than that unseen world would probably spirit her away without a trace, or that she’d be forever changed by that unseen world in a negative way. It’s always a relief when something either in the normal Neo Venezia or the secret world manages to keep her grounded and remember where she is.
Special Navigation: A Parallel World
This chapter serves probably no other purpose but to show the fun adventures of the name sake cat and President of ARIA Company. As noted in the title, President Aria somehow finds himself in an alternate universe where genders are flipped and hilarity (of the “President Aria is uncomfortable and tries to find his way back” variety). Funny enough, besides one character, everyone else genderswapped more or less looks fine changed. Though it was only a brief look into that alternate world, I’d definitely want to see more of how Akari and co. functioned different in that case.