[Remembering Love] Aria the Natural and Neo Venezia’s Cat Kingdom

Aqua is a world where each day moves slowly and where every encounter with a new person or place feels like coming home.  And yet there are plenty of experiences that emphasize how many mysteries still shroud the city of Neo Venezia.  You could spend your whole life there and never even delve beneath its surface of water canals and cobbled lanes.  Aria the Natural, the second series in the franchise, features both Neo Venezia’s secrets and the very special undine who comes closer than many others do in discovering them.  Among the several supernatural events, my favorites always include the border along the kingdom of cats, a world supposedly ruled by a cat larger than two humans stacked together.  Akari’s strange ability to both see and interact with Cait Sith and other cats in the border between worlds conveys the depth to which she has come to understand and love this city entrenched in the past.

The very first episode of Natural not only re-introduces us to Neo Venezia and its cast of undine, but also adds in an element of magic that transcends both time and space.  The city celebrates Carnevale, a celebration that hails back to the original city on Manhome and its colorful culture.  While everyone joins in on the festivities in the main square, Akari and her friend Ai embark on a journey of dance and song through the city led by the masked “Casanova” and his similarly masked entourage.  The combination of decorative masks, tinkling instruments, and the group’s marching rhythm entrances both the girls in a style reminiscent of the Pied Piper.  When unmasked, “Casanova” reveals himself to be Cait Sith, the supposed king of all cats.  And despite the time spent with him, Akari and Ai are forbidden from going any further into the cat world.

Through Akari’s repeated explorations of the city, she stumbles across various similar situations that overlap the human and the cat worlds.  As each encounter follows yet another discovery  and deepens Akari’s love for her home, Cait Sith begins to represent Neo Venezia itself.  As she is one of the few people willing to give in to her curiosities and march across untrodden paths without hesitation, she in turn receives the love of the city; it truly “welcomes” her into its arms by allowing her to see what others do not.

Aria the Natural is where I fell head over heels for the Orange Planet, and for Neo Venezia in particular, and is the very reason why I return to this series again and again whenever I need a moment of peace.  I am at home in the dim light and shadows of the city, and yet still marvel along with Akari as she re-discovers loves that are both old and new.  And despite the comfort the setting brings, there’s also a thrill of danger with each brush against Cait Sith’s world, one which traverses time and even death.

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34 thoughts on “[Remembering Love] Aria the Natural and Neo Venezia’s Cat Kingdom

  1. I had always been Akari X Cait Sith shipper. Slightly disappointed that the route will be aquamarine x salamander in the end, though that isn’t bad.

    1. Well, I can’t help but feel that Akari might feel for Akatsuki the same way the Alicia does :3 I know it’s implied that those two may have a future, but her personality really makes it seem impossible. Have you seen the ARIA Phantom of the Opera art? It perfectly compare Akari and Cait Sith to Christine and the Phantom ><

      1. Yeah , I agree with your analysis of Akari’s feeling for the salamander. Still, Alicia got married so ( To who? Hakuoro? ) Akari might change once her apprentice is ready to become a Prima. I doubt Akari wants to change Aria Company HR directive : “Always two there are, a master and an apprentice.”

        I loved that Phantom of the Opera comparison. It fits in so many ways, once you consider Cait Sith to be truly wise and benevolent. Some times I wonder if Akari might be better fit to be a miko instead of Undine.

      2. You know, I really don’t know who Alicia married. I don’t think it was ever revealed in the anime? Maybe in the manga?

        A miko Akari would be very attractive, though I don’t think it would give her the chance to share her sweet and bubbly personality with as many people. She really is well suited for tourism!

  2. I watched Aria the Animation quite a few years ago, must have been around 2008, and instantly fell in love with the franchise. I didn’t want it to end, so I waited a year or so before moving on to ‘the Natural’, and only started ‘the Origination’ last month. And I still don’t want it to end, so I’m taking it very slowly. :razz: Still, the option of rewatching it as you have is always there. :) I’d also say the Cait Sith episodes in ‘the Natural’ were among the series’ best episodes.

    1. Oh jeez, you really are stringing it out :P Do you have the OSTs? I find that listening to those does a great deal to soothe my cravings. Don’t forget that you also have the Aria OVA to watch, “Arietta.”

      1. Yeah, I have the OSTs, but no, I don’t have the OVA to watch – I fit that in somewhere between ‘Natural and ‘Origination. :razz: All I have left after ‘Origination itself are the series’ special and picture drama. And the manga, that’s always an option.

      2. Thank you for reminding me about the manga ^^ They’ll make for some good reading material for my upcoming trip! It’ll be my first time reading them, actually.

  3. Ah yes, Aria, the reigning queen of SoL anime, whether anyone agrees or not. It’s the show that continues to elude me due to time constraints and not being in the right mood. Also it’s 50-something episodes so I need the right mindset to prepare for such greatness.
    Besides, I’ve heard some sweet details that favor my cause, as long as I ignore a pointless mcguffin that serves no other purpose than to screw with my mind. I think you know what that mcguffin is.

    1. Hmmm, I can’t say that I do! Do share, will you?
      And it’s not like you have to watch all 52 episodes in one sitting. Like AngryJellyfish, you can take your time going from season to season. I do concede that you may have to be in a special frame of mind to watch it if you’re not already attuned to slow paces; I can Aria any day in any mood!

      1. Dood, you’re talking to a man who specializes in Slice of Life anime. I praise all things SoL so no need to warn me of slow pacing. One of my favorite shows this year so far is Mouretsu Pirates after all. Thanks for the warning though.

        P.S.: It’s a ring.

  4. When I read the title and even the start of the blog I was thinking just how little anime knowledge I have. Then you started talking about the first episode and I remembered seeing that episode. I’m pretty sure it’s the only episode of it I’ve ever seen. At least now I know that’s not the beginning. Gotta admit it’s amazing to realize how many great anime is out there and kinda sad to know you’ll miss so many.

    1. I choose to think of it not as sad, but as a bit of a treasure hunt that I’ll be able to chase for as long as my love for anime lasts. It can be overwhelming if you allow it to be, but exhilarating should you decide to tackle it head on!

  5. I like how you wrote about the mysterious nature of Neo Venezia and Akari’s connection to Caith Sith. Coincidently my first post in the Remembering Love series is also about Aria but I put my focus on the human relationships and the the ways the people act within the city. I feel that you touched on the other aspect of the series – the city itself and how it surrounds the people and guide them to new dicoveries and new meetings.

    1. I think I’ve noticed a few Remembering Love posts focusing on Aria in the blogging community–and as happy as it makes me to see others appreciate the masterpiece, I’m also a little saddened by the thought that this special world and its people isn’t solely mine, if you get what I mean. It’s a strange and selfish conflict.

  6. Aria is such a sweet anime. It’s soft, peaceful and alluring, and it brings peace to everyone who watches the show^^ Interesting post, it had been a long time since I last watched Aria. I never would had notice this if I didn’t rewatch/read your post, but from what you said, the cats and Cait Sith is the embodiment of Neo Venezia itself, and with Akari’s love for the unknown, makes the cats fond of her and invites her more and more into the secrets of Neo Venezia.

    1. I find it interesting that each of the three seasons focuses on a different aspect of the overall: Animation on our characters, Natural on the setting, and Origination on the Past and Future of the undine of whom we’ve become so fond. I’m probably way oversimplifying, but those are the themes that jump out the most to me.

    1. Aww, I certainly hope that you are able to some day. Though I have a feeling you won’t fully enjoy the rest of the season if you couldn’t before, since the atmosphere and pacing don’t really change.

  7. Unfortunately, despite being a big fan of ARIA myself, I haven’t watched Natural (only Animation and Origination) since I’ve read the manga, and I don’t know if the events of Cait Sith are the same for both adaptations having read that the director for the anime had a “different” interpretation for Cait Sith.

    Nevertheless, I admire the whole “cat culture” of Aria having Aria-sachou and the likes as company /presidents/. The surreal existence of Cait Sith makes the mysterious vibes of Neo Venezia both baffling and amusing at the same time. The setting of the “cat world” is quite fascinating as it somehow melds perfectly with that of the normal Venice setting.

    1. Oooh, now you’ve got my attention and curiosity. I’m planning on reading all the manga on my trip in a few days, but I would love to know how the interpretation of Cait Sith differs from manga to anime. Would you mind elaborating?

      1. Was there a Seven Wonders of Neo-Venezia concept in the anime? In the manga, I’d say Cait Sith somehow acts not just the spirit guardian of Neo-Venezia but also an embodiment of Akari’s /childishness/. Cait Sith’s last appearance in the manga marks Akari’s ascent to maturity.

      2. You know, I’m not sure if “childishness” was quite the way that the anime version implied it. There’s a definite connection between Cait Sith and a whole array of different worlds though, especially in consideration of the last episode in which he is featured, “The Night of the Galaxy Express.” I feel that if she had boarded that train with him, she would have been spirited away permanently, or to some world where time runs faster than Aqua’s. By choosing to give away her ticket and remain behind, she acknowledges that she’s not quite ready to leave and that she still has many more wonders to discover during her life on Aqua. So I guess that’s a lesson for growing up of sorts?

      3. Actually, The Night of the Galaxy Express isn’t the last time that Cait Sith appeared in the manga. And by the way, /childishness/ (probably reluctance to “grow up” as an adult?) is quite inappropriate i think, I just can’t think of another word to describe it, sorry.

      4. You’re making me more and more excited to read the manga >< I'll have to follow up on this topic after reading it for myself :)

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