ARIA The ANIMATION: Bringing the Manga to Life
By Lisa Marie, 2008
After catching pieces of production here and there and then enjoying the original manga by Kozue Amano so much, I was terribly curious about the ARIA anime. The manga is a series of short vignettes celebrating whimsy, nature, and life set against an incredibly lush background of waterscapes. These interludes work beautifully on paper, but would all that come across when fleshed out into a full anime series? Three fantastic seasons and an OVA later, I’d say the answer is an unqualified yes.
If you were to watch Aria without having read much of the manga first, the look and feel of the two is so similar that you’d probably think that they were identical. However, upon comparison, there are actually a remarkable number of differences to discover. The manga’s slice-of-life vignettes lend themselves particularly well to rearranging, and the animators took full advantage of that in order to introduce several popular characters in advance of when they first appeared in the manga, like Alice. You’ll also notice in the anime that some characters appear in plots they hadn’t originally been in in the manga, and that the animation team expanded upon the original stories with a few new ones.
Despite these differences, the transition from manga to anime really does work superbly, and that’s due almost entirely to the immense level of detail that the production staff put in. Atmosphere is absolutely key to Aria in any medium, and not only did director Junichi Sato and his staff maintain the style of the manga with its magnificent sweeping landscapes, but they also went to great lengths to preserve each character’s design and individual personality. Akari is always Akari, Alicia always Alicia, no matter what wonder they may be encountering in either the manga or the anime.
Junichi Sato and some of his staff even took a research trip to Venice during production to make sure they accurately captured the feel of the city. Amusingly, what was the first thing they learned upon arriving and hiring a real gondolier for a trip around the city? They’d been animating the sculling motion incorrectly, a problem that certainly never came up in the manga! Fortunately, there was still time to go back and fix the problematic scenes.
During their stay in Venice, they were able to soak in the rhythm and atmosphere of the city and infuse them into the anime. They discovered new locations and were able to develop original ideas that expanded upon the manga, such as when President Aria runs away from home. The feel of the water, so crucial in the manga, was also heavily affected by their trip. For example, it was during a gondola ride that they realized that the wake of the boat was much smaller than they had initially thought it would be. And while it was already present Kozue Amano’s story, the staff were still surprised by the population’s completely laid-back attitude, which they carefully replicated in the characters of Neo-Venezia.
Director Junichi Sato did a wonderful job bringing Kozue Amano’s art to life, and it’s been a pleasure to watch our production team put together the first season for release. Our office is always a whirl of activity, especially as release dates start to near, but an Aria episode is all it takes to conjure up the atmosphere of a relaxing sunny day spent at the beach or exploring a wondrous new city. I can’t wait for season two. :)