Aria by Kozue Amano (amazon)
I pre-ordered Aria because there seemed to be a certain amount of excitement when Tokyopop picked up the series – it had previously been licensed by ADV. In 2301 Mars has been transformed into Neo-Venezia. Young women called Undines take on the role of gondoliers, showing tourists around the watery city. Akari is a journeyman, training to become an Undine. while she works for the Aria company. Akari looks up to her senior at Aria, an Undine named Alicia. Aika is a fellow journeyman and Akari’s best friend. The girls meander around the canals of Neo-Venezia, showing tourists around, taking part in a gondola race, and visiting an island.
Plot and character development aren’t really the main focus of this manga. The art is full of painstakingly detailed backgrounds and the costumes of the gondola girls seem designed to inspire plenty of cosplay. For all of the focus on the sights of a recreated future Venice, the most visually arresting sequence of Aria occurs when Akari and Alicia visit an island that recreates a Japanese village and encounter a traditional fox spirit.
Aria is pretty, but it isn’t very substantial. It is the manga equivalent of cotton candy; colorful, sweet, and insubstantial. It does let you drop in on another world and admire the scenery, so if attractive art is a major consideration for you when you purchase manga, you might want to give it a try.