*Aria Book 4 — Best of 2008

After some trouble, I finally found a copy of the latest chapter of this gorgeous series.

Aria Book 4 cover
Aria Book 4
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As this volume begins, it’s summer on Aqua, and Akari and her fellow gondolier trainees Aika and Alice vacation on a small island. Yes, it’s a bathing suit chapter, but the clothes are reasonable, and instead of body parts, the emphasis is on the fun and relaxation of the beach. The younger girls have never swum in an ocean before, and their feelings of joy and discovery are apparent in the art.

The key message of the series is spelled out here, too. Akari enjoys life so much because she chooses to be happy. It’s that simple … and a wonderful reminder to the reader of how to stop and relax.

The second story may be a hazy dream, about Akari and the cat President Aria wandering through hot summer streets. Amano plays with mirage and illusion as Akari encounters a hidden cool place populated by cats, in a mystical story that reminds me of some of the early tales in the series.

The book also includes a chapter introducing the fourth type of fairy. The gondoliers are undines; the heat engineers salamanders; and the gravity controllers gnomes. What about air spirits? Akari meets a sylph, a delivery person on an airbike. Another story takes the girls on vacation to meet the legendary best undine of all, who’s now a grandmotherly type living in the country. While Aika keeps fooling herself, seeking training, the real lesson is again the need for fun and enjoyment. (When this story was made into an episode of the anime, strangely, they set it in fall instead of summer.)

This entry in the series has it all: the quiet wonder that’s the bedrock appeal of the books; exploration of the world’s mythology; fantasy, action, humor, astounding art. The only thing I’m left wondering is why every character’s name begins with an A.

Here’s hoping that Tokyopop continues the series. But even if they don’t, the last story, featuring all the characters celebrating a fireworks festival on a riverboat, is a lovely note to end on. Everyone’s happy in the best vacation ever.


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