Aria Volume 5 by Kozue Amano
Reading Aria is the manga equivalent of going on a lazy exotic vacation. I previously enjoyed the first volume, but I wasn’t bowled over by the lack of plot even though the manga contains beautiful background art. I think my opinion has softened a bit, because I enjoyed reading the 5th volume very much. I haven’t picked up the intervening volumes, but Aria is so episodic that I think you could pick up a volume at random and still enjoy the stories about female gondoliers on a future version of Mars that looks like old Venice. It is fall on Neo-Venezia and Akari has been promoted to journeyman status. She’s still exploring new aspects of her adopted home.
In her first adventure she helps an elderly postman deliver the mail. Even the post office is beautifully detailed, with exquisite vaulted ceilings setting off the more prosaic sorting stations. Amano’s world building is impressive, and it was interesting seeing how the mail is delivered by boat by hoisting it up on long polls to the mail slots, requiring exact timing on the part of the mailman. Akari learns how relying on the slower, more human method of sending letters instead of e-mail expresses the character of Neo-Venezia.
Further adventures for Akari include visiting a friend from another gondola company, exploring the rooftops of the city in order to watch the falling stars, having a strict lesson from the head undine at her company, and learning the best way to relax at an outdoor cafe. The art is the best feature of Aria because it leaves the reader with a feeling of having visited another fully realized world at the end of the manga. This book is best enjoyed on its own terms as a way for the reader to relax and go with the flow just as the undines do when they pilot their gondolas through the canals of Mars.
Review copy provided by the publisher.