「その 遙かなる未来へ… / その みらくるな未来へ…」 (Sono Haruka naru Mirai e… / Sono Mirakuru na Mirai e…)
“Towards the Faraway Future… / Towards the Miraculous Future…”
This is the last of ARIA. Before actually watching this episode of The AVVENIRE I actually took some time to let that sink in. It’s a bit sad, of course, as it is whenever a quality series of anime ends. I tell myself, though, that ARIA actually ended long ago, with The ORIGINATION, and what we’re getting in The AVVENIRE is just a little bonus. While I’ve been glad for the epilogue we got, I think it’s also important that any anime series eventually finds a good place to end. ARIA has had a very good run, relatively speaking, and perhaps it’s best that we don’t overindulge. This is especially because The ORIGINATION is about endings, about goodbyes, about change, and about coping with all of those things positively. It would hardly do for ARIA to betray its own principles. And hence I’m glad to see The AVVENIRE adapting the bonus AQUARIA chapter in its final OVA. As in the rest of The AVVENIRE, Towards the Faraway is a combination of both un-adapted manga material and new, Ai generation, and this time the latter takes up the majority of the episode time. While AQUARIA was short, though, it was certainly important, for it is Alicia’s story, and she, of the entire cast, is the most hesitant to say goodbye. Not only is it inherently interesting because we never got to see much from Alicia’s point of view, invincible senpai that she was most of the time, the way she was eventually able find peace is a fine way to wrap up The ORIGINATION, and perhaps a lesson for us as well.
I’ve previously talked about the elements I think make up the soul of ARIA—nostalgia and magic—and now I’d like to add the third one: catharsis. Catharsis is from the old Greek word for ‘cleansing’, and for the purposes of drama means emotional moments. In my most bitter moments (by which I mean my most satirical moments) I sometimes do a rant about how tragedy is the only high art, for from tragedy we experience catharsis. And indeed, the two have traditionally been closely related to each other, and catharsis seen as that moment when we are frozen between pity and horror, and experience a purging of emotions. I don’t actually believe that catharsis is the sole provenance of tragedy. Release only in death? That’s way too sad. I like to think that this is how the healing anime came to be, in the belief that positive emotions can cleanse the heart too.
ARIA is, of course, not tragic in any way. As Towards the Faraway Future reminds us, Aqua was full of nothing but good people and good memories. But that is why, when it comes time to say goodbye, it is sad. What ARIA is saying, though, is that it is okay to be sad. It is healthy to be sad. Treasure that sadness. Indulge in that sadness. For that is cathartic. It is what lets us sit back, breathe out, and think, ‘Ah, that was great‘. Only then is the emotional experience complete. In that way the effect of ARIA is threefold. When we watched each episode, we delight in the wonders of Aqua. When they end, we savour the emotion of the parting. Later, we can look back on the memories and remember the good times. And perhaps a bit of the spirit of ARIA, its gentle optimism, it’s childlike joy and its inner serenity, will stay in our hearts forever.
Let’s mix things up a bit. As some of you may know, both the original seiyuu for Athena, Kawakami Tomoko and her singing voice, Kawai Eri were taken away by cancer before ARIA The AVVENIRE. There seems to have been a conscious decision not to recast Athena. I can only support the staff’s choice, but I did feel her absence sometimes. Sure, she never had the largest speaking role, but I hold every piece of ARIA precious. This was doubly exacerbated by the fact that I had read the manga, and know where she is missing. There was a hole in the cast. I must admit that part of me watched this last of The AVVENIRE thinking it wasn’t right. Surely, ARIA The AVVENIRE could not end without one last song from the Siren. Of course, Satou Junichi-sensei would never let me down. When Athena came out with own performance of Lumis Eterne I couldn’t help but smile. It was cathartic in its own way. And I thought, ah, yes, this is how it should be.
And so for the briefest of moments, the two great talents, passed before their time, came back to life. Little miracles. That’s ARIA.
ED: 「ピアチェーレ」 (Placere) by 西沢幸奏 (Nishizawa Shiena)