Finally we reach volume twelve of Kozue Amano’s Utopian manga Aria. The end.
Navigation 56: Living Dolls
What dread secret lies behind the ominous visages of the old man’s lifelike dolls?
I admire the effort the old fellow put into creating two creepy dolls, then sitting with them in a park every day. This was a pretext to inveigle passers-by into listening to the dollmaker’s philosophy lectures.
Navigation 57: The Name of the Rose
And how did the extremely competitive Aika react to Alice’s unprecedented promotion from mere trainee to full-status Undine? Why, in the way any reasonable person would react when they find out (to their horror) that they’ve lost a competition.
I myself am very very uncompetitive. Less competitive than 99% of the general population. Nonetheless, I can understand where Aika is coming from here. After all, I regularly compare my review statistics to the Strange Horizons annual report. Purely as a benchmark, of course, and inspiration to greater effort.
I would outperform them all if my editor hadn’t put her foot down and demanded a lighter workload!
[note: my editor added that last line. I was funneling through her as much work as I previously funneled through a dozen editors, which in retrospect was not reasonable]
Special Navigation: The Three Girls
Isolated by her achievement, Alice misses her two friends. Try as she might, she cannot think of a pretext for arranging a meeting with her best friends.
If she were the sort of person able to think that “just because I miss them and I want to see them” is a good reason, Alice probably would not be the sort of person who jumps the entire middle grade of training.
Navigation 58: Distant Blue
With Alice gone, Aika and Akari are back to training with each other exclusively, just as in their earliest days. It’s unlikely that the two of them will graduate simultaneously. How will the one left behind react to her friend’s success?
Akari is so profoundly upbeat that she cannot understand why the impending separation (promotion and a new, distant, job assignment) would upset Aika.
At some point, unrelenting niceness probably counts as a legitimate disability.
Akari has a pen pal on Earth (her letters to her friend are the frame for the episodes.). She does not appear to write her pals on Aqua. It’s an interesting blind spot, one that makes me wonder if there’s any evidence Aika and Alice can read. But Akari also does not phone/email/text, so my guess would that be remote communication just isn’t done on Aqua,because it would undermine the historical cosplaying.
Navigation 59: The Future
The three friends have each graduated. Each is set on a separate course. But life is change. All that is solid melts into air.
One course is to get married and leave the Undines. Akatsuki reacts badly to the news that the object of his infatuation is marrying someone else. I think he’s supposed to be cute but I find him creepy. His verbally abusive courtship of Akari is also not as endearing as the author may intend.
Navigation 60: Fairies of the Water
Cling to the memories of a happy past or embrace the future? Which shall Akari choose?
Special Navigation: Aquaria
How was it that Akari of all possible candidates was handpicked to replace Alicia?
The old man with the two dolls sums up the situation that everyone in Aria faces:
In the end it comes down to the choice Akari faces: try to cling to a vanishing past or accept that change is inevitable. Rather than rage about what’s lost, find some way to enjoy each moment.
[Editor’s note: this reminds of the Buddhist tale of a person who falls off a tall cliff and grabs a bush growing halfway down. Two mice, white and black, are nibbling at the root of the bush, which will soon dash the person to the bottom of gorge. Death is inevitable. The person picks a berry from the bush, eats it, and exclaims, “How very tasty!”]