Tuesday, March 25 2008

Aria: The Kid Gloves Come Off

Aria: the Origination, Episode 9, "Enveloped in that Orange Wind..." should be studied as a textbook example of anime storytelling done right.  It both builds off the history of the series and adds enough new material to build something incredibly special.

I've always liked Akira's character because we've seen enough of her past in flashbacks during the series that we can see how she's grown.  It's been subtle, but Alice has grown as well, and this series brings it all together to see at once.  Akira's changes are obvious due to the presentation of her history as flashbacks, so we can immediately compare Akira as she was with Akira as she is.  Alice's changes have been subtle, stretched across almost 45 episodes in three incarnations of the series, such that you don't notice them until you look back.

When we first are introduced to Alice Carroll, in Episode 3 of Aria: the Animation, we see Alice's schoolmates idolize her because of her stardom as a rookie Undine recruit by Orange Planet.  Alice doesn't react well to the sudden interest, and awkwardly drives away a few that try to ask for an autograph.  This episode, then, opens with Alice's graduation from school, and we see Alice reacting rather graciously to the attention of her fellow students.

We then see Alice's journey home from school.  Alice has a habit of adopting silly challenges on her route home from school, such as trying only to step on shadows, or (in this case) doing the route backwards.  In previous episodes, she learned to accept Athena's kindness and help, and we see in this episode that she now is willing to treat Athena as a special friend.

But that's incidental to the meat of the story.  Once in her room, by the orange light of the setting sun, Athena asks Alice if she'd like to go for a picnic the next day, and Alice accepts.

The journey starts in earnest the next morning.  Athena asks if Alice wouldn't mind pretending that she was Alice's customer for the trip.  We catch Athena complementing Alice on her smile, for which Alice credits Akari's tutelage.  After all, that's why Alice sought out Akari in the first place, to learn how the perennially good-natured Akari could smile so naturally.  Alice is also complimented on her skills as a guide, to which she credits a strict senior that can only be Aika.  The journey itself is long and beautiful.  Towards the end, ascending one of the canal locks, Athena drops out of customer mode and gets Alice to admit that the one thing she is still unsure of is her singing ability, to which Athena applies some sage wisdom.  Finally, free of the lock, the pair round the canal bend to find a party waiting for them under the setting orange sunlight.

Aika, Akari, President Aria, the lock operator (actually a repeating character in the series), two gentlemen from the gondola association and the head of Orange Planet wait on the canal bank under the windmills.

This is one last joke on Alice, as Athena asks her for a final song.  But, miraculously, after crediting her tutelage from the legendary Undine known as the Siren (Athena herself), Alice sings.

There's a reaction that the animators use in Episode 11 of the original series during a flashback when Akira and Alicia first hear Athena sing.  Time slows down.  The surroundings, the people in them, everything just stops and listens to the song of the Undine eventually to be known as the Siren.  That reaction is repeated here, but instead of Akira and Alicia with the startled reactions, it's Akari and Aika.  And me.  And one more reaction...
With that expression, Alice wins.  The student has surpassed (or at least surprised) the master.

In the series so far, only Athena has actually sung on camera.  Singing (Canzone) is supposed to be a skill all Undines are trained in, but we've never actually see anyone but Athena actually sing until now.  I don't know if this is the actual voice actress or a stunt voice, but it's an excellent job.  The cuts between Alice, the reactions of the onlookers, and some brief flashbacks to important moments for Alice in the series, all serve to draw the whole thing together.

At this point, Athena congratulates Alice on behalf of the company, says that they've been waiting until she had finished school, and then gives us what we have been waiting for...http://dorkside.mee.nu/images/ariae6e7/Ep908.jpg
...She removes Alice's glove.   And then, on behalf of the Gondola Association...
...removes Alice's other glove.

Alice is now officially a Prima, and is the first Undine to be promoted to Prima directly from Pair.  Her honorific title is Orange Princess, after the orange glow traditionally associated with the Martian sky, and hence the source of the name Orange Planet. (I thought Mars was the red planet?  Shhh... you're ruining the mood!)

Congratulations to Alice Carroll, the Orange Princess!

Of course, not to be outdone, Maa takes this opportunity to strike at his hated foe...

Random thoughts after the break.

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Monday, March 17 2008

Aria: The Undine Suspects

Now that the convention is finished, I've finished my post on Aria: Episode 8 "Within that precious person's memories...".  I've also managed to hold off watching Episode 9 until after I get this finished.

Episode 8 is Alice vs. Athena, as opposed to Episode 6, which was Alice vs. Alicia.  As Alicia won the last round of mind games, Alice is stuck in a battle of wits with the notoriously dopey Athena...

The episode opens with Alice discussing going on a picnic with Athena.  This gets Akari and Aika excited, as the 'picnic' excuse is normally used a cover for the promotion test to Single, which for Alice is long overdue.  The excitement of the pair fades when Alice mentions that she's the one who came up with the picnic idea.  (I'm still curious as to what code of Omerta the Undines have that the whole 'picnic on Hope Hill / single promotion test' hasn't been exposed yet.)

Alice returns to the apartment she shares with Athena at the lavish Orange Planet citadel, where she makes elaborate trip plans and prepares lunch, during which it is revealed that President Maa likes to eat bananas (see previous post).  It's a pleasure to see her genuinely happy for once, and the fun of the character is that we've seen her ability to express emotions has developed as the series has progressed.  She returns from taking the least fan-servicey bath in anime history (unless you're an ankle fetishist) to find Athena asleep.  Alice leaves a copy of her itinerary for Athena.http://dorkside.mee.nu/images/ariae6e7/Ep8-1.jpg

Alice wakes up to find Athena gone on what was supposed to be her day off.  She broods angrily in her room until Athena returns unexpectedly and out of breath.  http://dorkside.mee.nu/images/ariae6e7/Ep8-2.jpg

Athena apologizes for the sudden call to duty, and Alice makes a half-hearted attempt to accept the apology before stalking off angrily.  Athena attempts to follow, but fate... or President Maa... intervenes.http://dorkside.mee.nu/images/ariae6e7/Ep8-3.jpg



President Maa... in the Bedroom... with the Banana Peel.

A frantic call to Aria company ensues, and Akari and Alicia arrive to find a distraught Alice and a seemingly normal Athena, and not a normal-for-Athena Athena, but a coordinated, quick-witted, alert Athena.  The downside of the new Athena is that she's also lost her memory.

Athena's memory slowly returns as Alice spends the day trying to prod Athena's memory back into shape.  Athena eventually remembers everything but Alice, which saddens Alice to no end.http://dorkside.mee.nu/images/ariae6e7/Ep8-6.jpg


Athena asks Alice what kind of a mentor she had been, and a sobbing Alice is forced to admit that she likes Athena.  Then Alicia intervenes, forcing Athena to give up her trick;  she'd been faking the amnesia to get Alice to open up.


Poor Alice.  This is the second time she's been completely outwitted in the past three episodes.

The fake Amnesia plot is pretty standard fare, but Athena's ability to turn off the clumsiness and dull-wittedness she normally displays is rather impressive.  She claims that it takes most of her attention to act normal, of course, but it's tempting to compare the usual Athena to Verbal Kint, Keven Spacey's character from The Usual Suspects.

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Thursday, March 13 2008

Aria: Maa

I'm still working on the Episode 8 post for Aria.  Preparing for the second convention in as many weekends has taken a lot out of me.

While Episode 8 largely covers Athena and Alice, we do get to see a fair bit of Maa.  I'm even more convinced that Maa isn't an ordinary Earth cat.  I'm not saying he's absolutely a Mars cat, but whatever he is he has monkey and piranha genes in him.  How else can he eat five whole bananas that are larger than he is?  And whatever he is, he's smart enough to peel them first.  Perhaps President Aria is right to be scared of Maa's attempts to eat him;  one of these days Maa may very well succeed.

The image “http://dorkside.mee.nu/images/ariarandom/maa1.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.



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Monday, March 10 2008

Aria: Bonus Artwork III


Everyone's favorite Undines.

Wonderduck has a long post up which ponders the inner workings of the world of Aria.

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Wednesday, March 05 2008

Aria: Bonus Artwork II


For your viewing pleasure, another bonus Aria artwork.  This is just about the complete cast of reoccurring characters in the series at around the end of Aria: the Natural except Ai.

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Tuesday, March 04 2008

Aria: Bonus Artwork


Today's bonus Aria artwork. This is obviously an Origination promo piece, as Atora, Anzu, and Ayumi are visible off to the left. It also has Akino, the glassblower apprentice from Aria: the Natural (season 2), Ai, Akatsuki, Woody, the postman and the cafe manager. Maa-kun has acquired a small Orange Planet tie.

Look closely at the hands of the foreground Undines. Notice anything interesting?

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