First a little history lesson before I begin my review proper. The title more commonly known as Aria started as Aqua in Monthly Stencil. When the title was moved to Comic Blade the title was changed to Aria but the story of Aria picks up seamlessly from where it ended in Aqua. When the anime was made this series it kept the title of Aria all the way through. You can think of Aria as the sequel to Aqua but it’s really more of one continuous story.
There are some titles that just have this hardcore fan following you can never understand until you have experienced the work itself. Sometimes you totally understand what everyone is talking about and other times even then the appeal is lost on those who cannot connect to the vibe the series puts out. Kozue Amano’s Aria is just one of series. I have always known people who will go on and on about how they love the Aria anime and manga as one of their favorite series ever. It’s not a huge number of people but those people who feel that way feel very strongly. After reading this manga I can’t say I feel as strong as the die-hard fans but I at least understand why they feel the way they do about this series.
Aqua starts in 2301 the planet of Mars and been completely terraformed into an inhabitable planet and renamed Aqua due to the fact that the surface of the planet is now 90% water. Akari Mizunashi comes from Earth to be a gondolier on the canals of Mars. She soon joins the Aria company as an apprentice in hops of becoming a full-fledged gondolier. Every day is Akari learning about Aqua, her fellow gondoliers, and her customers.
Akari is a pleasant character but somewhat goofy character. She is hardworking and kind but clumsy and a bit scatterbrained. She is sort of the mellowest version of the shonen protagonist ever. Alicia Florence is the senior member of the Aria company and Akari’s mentor. She is a graceful and patient woman who always seems to have a pleasant smile on her face. She gently guides Akari towards being the best gondolier she can be. Akari is befriended by another gondolier named Aika S. Granzchesta. Although she works for another company Aika has a major crush on Alicia for her grace and skill. She unlike the other two main characters seems to have a bit of edge to her which is a pleasant contrast. Rounding out the main cast is the most unusual character of them all. The President of the Aria company, Aria Pokoteng is an odd looking overweight Aqua cat. It turns out that cats on Aqua cannot speak human languages but are of human intelligence. The President is mostly a comic relief character as a kindly but rather buffoonish boss. He is bizarre enough to make the manga worth checking out to see how they execute his character.
There is a genre of manga called healing manga. The idea of a healing manga is that after a long day of stressful work you sit down with a healing manga and its pleasant heartwarming story dissolves all your stress and heals your soul. Everything in Aria is designed to facilitate this feeling of healing. All the characters are pleasant and cheerful. All the stories are soothing and have a feel good message. There are no major conflicts or trauma. It is a soothing story that infuses the reader with the same tranquil feeling that the whole world of Aqua has. Even the sarcastic Aika has a soft and warm feeling to her.
More than anything else it is the art that instills this utter feeling of serenity and warmth into the manga. The character designs are bright and soothing while having a sense of playful cuteness. The city of Neo-Venezia is a character in itself. I would go as far as to say we see more of the character of Neo-Venezia than we do any of the human characters. Every scene where there is a background shot of the city, which is almost every page, instill within the reader a sense of magnificent serenity. The art reinforces and synergies with the plot to create a stronger healing effect that neither could do as well on its own.
This is a manga that will either click with you or utterly bore you. There is no action and there is not excitement. Aqua is about imparting a feeling of calmness and tranquility into the reader as they lose themselves in the grandeur of a water planet. If you need your manga to have conflict and action then you will find yourself drifting off to sleep as you read this. But if you need something that is just soothing to read then you will be hard pressed to find anything better on the market. If you like what you read you can also continue the journey in Aria.