Aria was previously partially released by Tokyopop, and, now that they’ve gotten back to publishing manga, this title has been resurrected from license limbo and is being released again in fancy, new, two-in-one omnibus editions. I never picked up the original release, but I recalled hearing good things about it, so I decided to dip my toes in and see if this series is truly worthy of being called a Masterpiece.
In the far-flung future, Mars has been terraformed into a water covered planet and renamed Aqua. Akari Mizunashi travels to the canal-filled colony of Neo-Venezia, a town modeled after the Earth city of Venice, to pursue her dream of becoming an Undine: a gondolier who leads tours around the city. Akari begins her training and hones her skills while making new friends and discovering more about the beautiful city she now calls home.
If I were to describe this manga in one word it would be: atmospheric. The plot meanders gently, like a boat gliding down twisting waterways, as we slowly explore the world of Neo-Venezia along with bright-eyed Akari. The chapters tell episodic stories and we learn about the city’s history and culture as Akari participates in festivals, experiences the changing seasons and traverses the labyrinthine canals in search of a legendary cat kingdom. There’s no drama or action to really speak of in the story, rather, this is a pleasant read that pulls you in through its masterful world-building. I was quickly absorbed by the lovingly detailed depictions of the city and the ethereal quality of the writing. Our heroine is plucky and likeable, if a touch generic, and through her we experience the quiet beauty of Neo-Venezia and I’m looking forward to seeing more of her journey to perfect her skills and become a full-fledged Undine.
If you bought Tokyopop’s previous editions of this manga and are debating picking up this new version, I can assure you that this is a gorgeous looking book. The larger trim size allows the art to shine and Tokyopop really pulled out all the stops to make this feel like a special release, with shiny gold lettering on the cover and spine and several lovely colour pages included within. In my opinion, it’s definitely worth re-buying.
This slice-of-life, sci-fi manga about gondoliers on Mars proved to be a real charmer and I can see why it was so popular. I glad this manga has made a return so that I could experience its quiet magic for myself.
Final Score: 8 out of 10.
For more information on Aria The Masterpiece, visit Tokyopop’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Did you buy the original release or are you reading it for the first time? What do you think of the anime adaptation? Let me know in the comments.