Aria v5 by Kozue Amano

Amano, Kozue. Aria v.5. Tokyopop, 2009. ISBN: 9781427805140.

This just arrived the other day, and I read it straight through that same night. Light fare, yet refreshing. I can’t think of another comic that is so resolutely non-dramatic and non-comedic while maintaining a fairly standard narrative setting. It is a narrative without any guile. I feel no suspense for what will happen, no sense of dramatic tension, no sense of open plot threads that need resolution. As an example, I will note a chapter in this volume primarily about Akari, the protagonist, waiting at a cafe. The whole chapter is about waiting and how she likes waiting, having “spare time.” This waiting is not, as it might be in other more dramatic narratives, about some impending event or a source of worry or tension. No, Akari has chosen to sit and wait for her boss who has to go to a meeting nearby.

I’ve written about previous volumes and the prequel series already, so you might read what I had to say in the past. It took awhile but Tokyopop finally got around to new volumes (4 and now 5, hopefully with the remaining 6 volumes to follow).

The longer the series goes on the more characters Amano introduces, and the more she draws their personalities out. Logically, this makes sense. With the premise of following a character new to place, it would make sense that the character first learns about the place and slowly gathers friends and acquaintances over time. I can’t help noting how all the main, repeating characters in the series are women/girls. All the male characters in the series are either really odd (a few recurring characters) or kindly old men. The recurring men/boys we see are all part of different classes (?) of people who work special jobs underground or in machines in the sky (that control the environment/weather). They are all clearly coded as others (and look it too). Amano avoids any romantic plots (except the non-sexualized feelings one of the Akari’s friend’s has for her boss), only hinting in the slightest way at some kind of attraction between Akari’s friend and one of those odd boys. I almost believe that romance is avoided because it would introduce drama, tension, and a sense of time with a destination. As it is, this story moves through seasons (always clearly marked and duly noted), with the only endpoint in site being Akari and her friends promotion to full undine (gondolier) status. Maybe that’s where the series ends?

I’m noticing the detailed setting more and more, which is apparently fairly faithful to Venice itself. If I understood one section of this volume correctly, part of the science fictional setting is that the real Venice on Earth sunk below the water, and some of it was shipped to the planet this story takes place on (terraformed Mars). For a science fiction manga, the science is downplayed about as much as one could without it completely disappearing. One of the chapters in this volume even focuses on a mailman who delivers real letters despite the existence of email. With a small lesson on the material pleasures of getting a real letter (I do miss getting real letters sometimes).

One thing I am baffled about is Tokyopop’s rating of this book as “Older Teen 16+” for “Non-sexual nondescript nudity, mild fanservice, alcohol use”. Seriously? The rating description itself is a little absurd (what is “nondescript” nudity), but it is even more so if you’ve read this volume, or the previous four, or most of the following. Thanks to the wonders of scanlations, I’ve actually read the whole series except volume 6, and I haven’t seen any of these things except maybe some alcohol use (maybe volume 6 is a wild one). The rating seems to be a weird way to turn away readers who might really enjoy this series. I’d consider it all ages, though perhaps it would be boring to many.

I’m still enjoying this series for the sheer interest of its difference. Looks like volume 6 is out in June. I look forward to it.

[This is part 9 of a 30 part series where I am writing daily reviews for the month of December.]