Aria is set on a terra-formed Mars, called 'Aqua'. You see, using water-producing factories, people have flooded most of Mars with water. Akari comes from Earth ('Man-home') to train as a gondolier/guide ('undine') in Neo-Venezia, a city on Aqua. She is training with the Aria Company, a very small company consisting only of one fully qualified undine.
There are two other undines-in-training around, and Akari quickly befriends them -- they end up 'training' together a lot, and enduring the trials from their seniors together.
The pace is slow. Not much happens in an episode: most of the time Akari gets together with the two other apprentices and performs some small good deed for one of the inhabitants of Neo-Venezia. It's all quite heart-warming, and Akari learns some important life lessons -- but if you need any sort of action or excitement in your anime, it's best to steer clear of this one. If you like bishoujo series, though, this one is almost a must.
There is a modicum of plot: there is talk of how cats can travel in time, and Akari does visit the past a few times. One time to deliver a letter to a long-dead person who worked in a water-factory, and one time to visit the Aqua just before the water came. Those episodes are more weird than wonderful, and it's like they were added as an afterthought when someone asked whether the series didn't need a plot at all.
The episodes take the form of emails that Akari writes to a friend of hers back on Man-home, which gives the writers the opportunity to voice some of Akari's self-reflection. That is a very clever trick for a coming-of-age anime like Aria seems to be.
Designs are attractive (which is important for a bishoujo anime, after all: why look at ugly-drawn pretty girls?), and the music is laid back and calm, just like the series. The voice acting is very good, the cast has some very recognizable voices.
- Calm and laid-back stories;
- Good music and voice acting;
- Nice designs.
- Not much happens, not much character development. That may not be much of a bad point, depending on your preferences, though.
Overall, a 8.5.