Aria Volume 6

Aria volume 6

During the busy year-end/new start period, sometimes all I’m looking for is a bit of escapism, a read to take me away from mundane tasks and into another world, even if as far-reaching as imagining a job as a gondolier on another planet in the future. Those kinds of stories give me a break from worries, the best kind of manga to read.

The message of Kozue Amano’s Aria, made all the more poignant by the slow release schedule of the series (one book a year for the last three years), teaches the reader patience and enjoyment of what you have when you have it.

In this volume, Aria is beginning her second winter steering boats on Neo-Venezia, the water-covered Martian city that resembles old Earth’s Venice. As she and her friends from different gondola companies are enjoying hot cocoa in front of a fire, the older girls tell them stories of their early days. The relationships among the members of the various generations are very similar. While some might think of this as repetitive plotting on the part of the author, I instead see circles of life, how friendships are more similar than different over the years.

Aria volume 6

I quite enjoy how often the characters talk over meals or snacks. Eating is such a basic human drive, and sharing food with others cements relationships. Plus, a tasty treat addresses a sense often forgotten in comics: stimulating taste buds as well as vision and imagination. The undines (gondoliers) also sing as part of their jobs; add that to imagining the feel of the boat and the smell of the sea, and everything’s covered.

While the younger girls contemplate growing up and being unable to hang out as often as they do now, one of their mentors provides some classic wisdom to them:

Time changes everything. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.
Thinking about the past is nice… but it would be a shame if it caused us to lose sight of the fun we have now.
Those days were fun. But so are these ones. It’s just a different type of fun.
Fun times … really aren’t meant to be compared. Just enjoyed.

What an excellent reminder to myself of how to maximize enjoyment. Especially when I’m feeling old.

Also in this book, Akari gets her first job on her own, carrying hand-blown glass in a story that considers the questions of craft originality. The girls also make snowmen and adopt a stray kitten. Manga fantasy fans will especially appreciate the chapter “A Night on the Galactic Railroad”, a fable about a secret night train. (Others will rue the lack of translation notes to explain the reference.) A bonus story continues the fabulous events by speculating on the alternate worlds the cat President Aria can access. This one is a parallel universe where all the characters are gender-switched (although since the “boys” are drawn in bishonen form, I had a hard time figuring that out until it was explained).

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