After revisiting Aria the Animation with my anime club, I’ve come to realise why I think of it so highly.
Aria the Animation is one of those shows people use as a gateway iyashikei and/or slice of life and I was one of those people, although I did bingewatch it and so I forgot some of the details along the way. However, once I revisited its first episode with my anime club, a lot of the elements that built the relaxing atmosphere became more obvious.
The music is one of the first things that establishes the calming atmosphere in Aria the Animation. It’s full of Spanish guitars, lots of fretting, pianos and violins. The guitars in particular are able to convey a lot of emotions, from panic to relaxation, and there’s something about a perfectly-timed, slowly plinking piano that makes a person feel at ease. Vocals are used sparingly in Aria, despite the name, but tend to be of the female variety to match with its Undines.
Furthermore, the conflicts in the entire series are easily resolved. Even if one can’t see what the solution is right away, over the course of 24 minutes, the solution will be revealed to the viewer, like a mystery. Sometimes, there isn’t any conflict at all and it’s just staring out at pretty watercolour backgrounds, and a lot of adventures are only had in Aria to gain moral lessons from them.
Akari’s unrelentless optimism could also be said to be a driving force of Aria the Animation. After all, we keep wandering through Aqua through her worldview, and with wonder around every corner for her, so to does the audience discover the wonder in the world in the little things and in the natural world around them. More specifically unique to Aria itself is the way the sci-fi elements’ juxtaposition is balanced out with the scenes of Aqua, a feat which is only similarly achieved by Angelic Layer (sci-fi doll battles vs. human relationships). Maybe it’s Akari’s inability to worry about the world around her, despite all the things that could potentially go wrong on a terraformed Mars (if Terraformars is anything to go by), that makes the show such a relaxing watch in the first place.
Sidebar: Speaking of juxtaposition, the name “Mizunashi” literally means “without water”, which is kinda funny regardless of whether Akari’s on Manhome or Aqua…
I realised after detemining what these factors were that a lot of them were inherently built into the slice of life genre, because I could also find them in YuruCamp without much thought. It’s just that hindsight is 20/20, and this post was just a relaxation/nostalgia trip for my mind…