10 of Kozue Amano’s manga
Aria is very nearly the final volume of the series. With only a handful of
volumes to go, will Akari ever graduate? And will she be upset if she
Not graduating is, it seems, a very real possibility.
“Navigation 46: Birthday”
Alicia’s reverse birthday gives her old pals Athena and Akira a pretext to drop in for a visit. They meet rarely these days, due to press of work and conflicting schedules, so this visit should be a treat. Alas, circumstances are against them; Alicia is out on the canals working when her old friends arrive. Only a rare bit of luck will allow the trio to meet up without careful planning.
Reverse birthdays are the Aquan solution to the fact that Aquan years are about twice as long as Terrestrial years: people get two birthdays every Aquan year. Since Aquan years are not quite twice as long as Earth years (686.98 Earth solar days, or 668.5991 Martian days), Aquan ages and Terran ages will still drift out of phase… just not as quickly.
Readers may wonder why they didn’t just text Alicia to see where she was. I suspect this is one part “because they wanted to surprise her” and one part “24 th century Aqua is oddly deficient in electronic communications.” They could have checked her schedule, but chose not to for some reason.
apparently does not mean that circumstances won’t force friends
“Navigation 47: Epiphany”
For many, Christmas is a time of celebration. But not for Alice; she has become somewhat cynical and finds childish traditions hollow. It’s up to her mentor Athena to salvage the holiday! But what can one Undine do to restore girlish faith?
The Aquans have kept many of the standard Christmas traditions and yet inexplicably NOT the one about luring unwary British policemen into giant, flammable wicker men. Odd.
This is a very touching story about disillusionment and solace. Being me, I wondered why the Aquans still followed the tradition of placing coal in the stockings of bad children (among whose numbers Alice counts herself, for losing faith). Where does one get coal on Mars? Do they import it from Earth?
“Navigation 48: Traghetto”
Determined to prove herself useful, Akari serves in the Traghetto ferry service, one of the few commercial enterprises that employs journeyman Undines. There she meets Anzu, who has failed test after test. Not everyone who sets out to become an Undine succeeds. Many end up working the ferry forever.
Anzu is too stubborn to give up just because she’s failed a bunch of tests. Good for her.
Two interesting details: first, the ferries are crewed by people who either are too inexperienced or too unskilled to become full-time Undines. Second, the Traghetto passengers do not sit, as they would in a regular gondola. They stand.
I can see no way this could end badly.
“Navigation 49: The Four Seasons”
Akari finds wonder in all the seasons because it is her nature to find wonder in everything.
In fact, except for a few weeks in May and in October, most seasons in temperate climates are too hot or too cold, too damp or too dry. Akari either overlooks or chooses to enjoy such affronts as incipient heatstroke or frostbite. Poor Akari; she is so blind to the world’s grievous flaws.
“Navigation 50: Extra Lessons”
No living witness has ever seen Alicia scolding anyone. Is she just nice? Or does her retribution take some uncanny secret form? Alice decides to stalk Alicia and find out!
In retrospect, I guess “Alicia is far too pleasant to chide people, instead preferring to rely on positive feedback” was more likely than my guess, which was that Alicia was sacrificing badly behaved Undines to one of the Things from Tanith Lee’s Secret Books of Venus .
How odd it is that the often best way to find something out is just asking.
“Special Navigation: Horoscope”
Although horoscopes are very often untrue, Akari still finds them useful. Just not for the purpose their crafters intended.
Akatsuki will die old, alone, and bitterly disappointed that the accolades from the people around him never match the ones he has imagined receiving. Akari, on the other hand, will find some way to appreciate whatever happens to her.
My earlier impression that all apprentices graduate is wrong. Many, perhaps most, would-be Undines never become skilled enough to shed both gloves 1. Given how many stories are about dealing with disappointment and bereavement, I am no longer convinced the story has to end with Akari becoming an Undine. It may end with how she handles not making the cut. Knowing Akari, probably with a smile.
1: Humans being humans, I expect passing is dependent on factors like favouritism and owning the company.