Thursday, February 28 2008

Aria: Ice Cream and History

I had intended to do a separate post for each additional Aria episode, but family emergencies and computer accidents have conspired to force me to summarize episodes 6 and 7 of Aria: the Origination in a single post.

Episode Six, "In that Wonderful Extracurricular Lesson...", follows the pattern of episodes four and five in spotlighting particular characters, in this case the unlikely pairing of Alicia and Alice.

The plot of this episode is rather forgettable and seems very contrived.  It opens with Alice and Athena running in to Akari and Aika in the market, with Alice herding Athena to offset Athena's natural clumsiness and absent-mindedness.  Afterwards, Alice buys Athena ice cream, which Athena proceeds to drop on the ground.  To cheer up her mentor, Alice then buys Athena a slice of pizza.  The story then cuts to Alice, Akari and Aika practicing.  Alice, curious to know about what kind of a mentor Alicia is, asks Akari how much Alicia scolds her when she makes a mistake.  Akari replies that Alicia never does scold her.  So Alice is determined to watch Akari and see if Alicia ever scolds Akari, and we are treated to a couple scenes of Alice getting caught spying on the two Aria Company Undines.  Alice, a bit put out at being unable to catch Alicia getting angry, is then seen pondering how to proceed, even to the point of considering sabotaging Akari in the hopes of having Alicia react.  To this end, Alice stops at a cafe and purchases a sundae.  But when she looks up...
...Alicia is there, and joins Alice at her table.  (I don't know what's up with President Aria's outfits this episode.  I'm not sure I want to know...)

After an awkward (for Alice) series of greetings, Alicia gets to the point.  She's noticed that Alice is spying on her, and wants to know what the young Undine wants.  Alice confesses, and Alicia explains that she prefers to use positive reinforcement as a motivational tool, and uses President Aria (struck dumb by his headgear) to demonstrate.  After a long and somewhat awkward conversation, Alice has some understanding as to the way Alicia thinks its best to motivate people (and cats).

The problem is that the whole sequence seems out of place.  Alicia trains all three trainee Undines, and so Alice has first hand experience with her teaching style.  Alice should know that Alicia has no reason to be a strict instructor when she has the Demon Instructor, Akira, to play "Bad Prima" to her "Good Prima".

The episode does, however, shed some new light on Alicia and Alice, which was the whole point, but the conclusion leaves me wondering whether that light is entirely good.  Alicia's positive training method puts her "Sweetness and Light" quotient to the point where it's giving me cavities.  However, her showing up out of the blue to question Alice and the sheer mental anguish she puts Alice through before she asks about the recent spying indicates not only that she has some intelligence under the "My, my..." facade but suggests some degree of cunning.  She doesn't need to scold Alice;  her mere presence does it for her.

While Alice learns the value of kindness and positive reinforcement, her more glaring character flaw is highlighted and left unresolved this episode.  It seems natural to Alice that Alicia should scold Akari when she makes a mistake, after all, Akira scolds Aika and she (Alice) scolds Athena.  Of course, Alicia and Akira are Prima Undines, and as such are supposed to be the trainers (whatever method of training they use) but Athena is also a Prima, and Alice is supposed to be the trainee.  Alice, technically, isn't even a Single, she's still in the lowest level, that of the Pair.  And there's the crux of the problem;  Alice is a naturally gifted gondoleer.  She's significantly better than Akari or Aika, and we've seen in episode four that other Singles on the verge of becoming Prima regard Akari as highly skilled.  Her low status is probably a combination of her age, status as a school student, and the fact that her mentor is absent minded.  (And Athena is still incredibly absent minded;  if Alicia is probably a direct descendant of Belldandy, Athena is probably a direct descendant of Ayumu Kasuga.  Athena needs someone with some skill at day to day living to keep her on track.)  Alice's personality has warmed up some over the course of the series, but she still needs to learn a little humility.

Episode six is pretty high quality, graphics-wise.  The crowd scenes in the beginning in the marketplace have more depth of motion than most of the previous episodes, and the buildings all throughout this episode look pretty good.  Due to the lack of action, however, there are few good screenshots.

Episode seven, "During that Slow Moving Time..." has probably been the best episode of the series so far, and is a special treat for fans of the series.  The colors are often lush and vibrant, and the world is full of little details to discover.

We open with Akari and Alicia going to visit a retired Aria Undine that was once a mentor to Alicia.  She fell in love with a fisherman she met as a tour guide and married him, moved away from Neo-Venezia and had a son.

Anna, shown here with her son Ahito, spends some time reminiscing about her time as an Undine (her husband's name is Albert, in keeping with the theme).  Anna isn't the only Undine we are introduced to this episode.  After a surprise encounter, we are introduced via a flashback to Akino.

Akino was a popular but overworked Himeya Undine who learned a lesson about patience and the need for a new look at life from a stray cat.

This encounter caused her to step back a bit and make a decision which has ended up forming the basis for the world we see in the series.

As one can probably guess, we've seen Akino before.  Here's how she looks in the present of the series:

She's referred to in the series as Grandmother, the legendary Undine that founded Aria company.  The Undines in episode four compliment Akari by saying "I guess we can't expect anything less from an employee of the Aria Company that Grandmother founded."
The scenes showing the founding of Aria company are a treat, but leave a few questions unanswered.  Akino encounters the young President Aria sitting along an empty stretch of wharf, staring out at the empty sea, day after day.  The big question is, what exactly was he staring out after?
The Undines of Aria company: Anna, Akino, Alicia and Akari.

Posted by: Civilis at 08: 52 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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