A bittersweet ending to a beautiful series.
What They Say:
As winter melts into spring, Akari, Aika, and Alice continue to work hard on becoming Neo-Venezia’s top gondoliers. Aika starts to take on more responsibility around Himeya, Alice travels up the challenging canal near Hope Hill; even Akari spends a day working on a huge gondola called a traghetto! But there’s still so much to learn… and the final test to become a Prima, which once seemed so far off in the future, might not be so far off anymore.
Contains all 13 episodes of Aria The Origination plus bonus episode 5.5 as well as the the ~Arietta~ OVA.
There is no dub track for this release, so I watched this in the Japanese 2.0 track. The sound was clean with no distortions or dropouts. As always, a 5.1 mix would be appreciated, but as this title is so dialogue based, it’s not a big deal. The dialogue did stay centered, though there was some directionality in the sound effects. The subtitles were easy to see, mostly in bright yellow, but some white when multiple people were talking at once.
This release is offered in its original 16:9 widescreen aspect ratioThere were no technical issues that I noticed in the transfer, though the colors came across as pretty muted. I could not tell if that was an artistic choice or just a case of needing remastering. I do know it was disappointing, though, as I love the art in this, and there were some pretty impressive visuals. Brighter and bolder colors really could have made it pop.
This is a litebox release; all five discs are in a single-wide amaray case with two spindles on each side to hold the discs. As suck, the discs overlap somewhat meaning that you have to remove the disc on top to get to the one underneath. I always find that a bit annoying, but I’m willing to accept the inconvenience for the compact packaging. The front has a picture of three apprentices standing on a dock overlooking the ocean. Interestingly, the image is placed in landscape format, so it is sideways when the case stands up. The back has another shot of Akari with the series summary, some screen shots, and the technical details. My only real complaint with the packaging is that the disc number on each disc blends in fairly well with the picture on the disc, making it difficult to see what disc you have in your hand unless you know exactly what you are looking for.
The menu is basic, but functional. The top two-thirds of the screen is taken up by one of the main characters, with the selections for Play All, Episodes, and Bonus Features aligned along the bottom. The cursor is a big circle that sits to the left of each selection. While on the main menu, the OP plays in the background on a pretty long loop, so it won’t get old if you sit on the menu for a while.
There are quite a few extras for this release, some of which are spread among the TV series discs and the rest given their own disc. There is a clean version of the ED and a bunch of trailers. There are also a few discussions and a new segment of “SATOJUN’s Venice I’m Sorry!” initially seen in the first season. Finally, there are seven “Picture Dramas.” These are cute, 5-10 minute short stories that are told with still images. These were a lot of fun to watch.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having absorbed the first two seasons of Aria these past few months, I was glad to get my hands on this final season. This set includes the 13 TV episodes, a bonus episode (which is placed as episode 5.5), and an OVA titled “Arietta.” As beautiful as this season has been through the first 39 episodes, these last 15 are just a beautiful but also bittersweet in their beauty.
With their continual training and pushing each other to keep improving, it is suddenly time for Akari, Aika, and Alice to start thinking about their futures. Akari and Aika are both getting close to their Prima exams, and Alice’s impending middle school graduation will place her in line for her Singles exam. They are excited for the possibilities, but as more responsibility is piled upon them, they find their lives changing in ways they are not prepared to accept as they realize that they are starting to put their childhoods behind them.
What I enjoyed most about this season of Aria is that through those first 39 episodes, we got to see the journeys of the three apprentices, starting from inexperienced youngsters and watching them grow into the roles they will play as adults. When Aria: The Animation started, the three of them were bumbling, confused, and while the aptitude was there, the skill and experience wasn’t. Their growth as undines was never really a focal point of the series, but it still quietly happened until all of a sudden, they were ready for that next challenge when Aria: The Origination decided to put it to them. It’s understated, but it is all the more wonderful for its understatedness.
An unexpected side effect of their growing up, though, was just how bittersweet a turn this series takes as they take those next steps. Everything up to this point has been about the friendship of the three apprentices and their relationships with their mentors, and there’s been a quiet beauty to the way it has built all of those relationships and friendships up. But their various promotions also mean that they have less time to spend with each other; they also have less reliance on their mentors as they are ready to fly (or row) on their own. It means that the beautiful balance that this series has rested upon makes a logical evolution when all is said and done. It is both fantastic to finally see Akari and her friends achieve their dreams, but it is also sad that such a wonderful time in their lives has come to an end and they need to move forward. It’s both uplifting and heart-breaking at the same time.
As good as the first two Aria series have been, I do feel like I enjoyed this one the most. The long journeys of Akari and her friends finally come to their inevitable conclusions, and it’s all done as wonderfully as everything up to this point. But at the same time, there is some real sadness in the way it all ends as everybody ends up in a position where they need to move on with their lives. Yet, as bittersweet as it was, it was the perfect ending to a gorgeous series. Highly recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Picture Dramas 1-7, Clean Closing, U.S. Trailer, Cast Discussion, Director Discussion, “Venice, I’m Sorry!” Returns 1-2, Previews.
Content Grade: A
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: A
Released By: Nozomi Entertainment
Release Date: May 6, 2014
Running Time: 380 minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Magnavox 37MF337B 37” LCD HDTV, Sony PS3 w/HDMI Connection, Durabrand HT3916 5.1 Surround Sound System