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Aqua, Volume 1

Review

Aqua, Volume 1

When you think of Venice, you imagine singing gondoliers, sparkling canals and antique buildings stretching toward the sky as if to escape from sinking. In Amano’s landscape, however, you’re actually on terra-formed Mars, now known as Aqua, due to the polar ice caps melting more than anticipated and flooding over 70 percent of the planet’s surface.

Neo-Venezia, the setting for this tale, is a tourist city that is an exact replica of Earth’s Venice. Here girls aspire to be undines, the specially trained gondoliers who guide visitors through the sights and history of the city. Undines represent everyone’s first contact with the city and thus are a highly valued position. Akari has only just arrived planet-side, but she’s keen to start her training as a novice undine. She knows she’s in for grueling exams on her rowing skills and the city’s history, but she’s delightfully surprised by what else she finds on Neo-Venezia. Her boss is a jolly Mars cat, incapable of speech but as intelligent as humans, and her fellow novice Aika is a much-needed source of companionship and healthy rivalry.

A prequel to the manga and anime series Aria, when Akari is already an undine, this series follows her path from beginning student to expert undine. The real appeal of Aqua, however, is the character interaction and the awe-struck exploration of a city filled with charming characters and enticing secrets. I think my favorite scene is when the girls investigate their company president and the legend of the Assembly of Cats. The art is filled with the beauty of the city and moves at a leisurely pace, allowing the reader to almost hear the lapping water and bask in the sunshine. Amano has a lovely sense of space and elegant lines, making the city seem airy and majestic while the characters seem to flow along with the currents and wind.

This is not an action-packed adventure, a wacky romance or a goofy comedy. It’s a simple vision of a girl reaching for her dream, and it makes a calming, thoughtful break from life’s hectic schedule.

Reviewed by Robin Brenner on October 9, 2007

Aqua, Volume 1
by Kozue Amano

  • Publication Date: October 9, 2007
  • Genres: Manga
  • Paperback: 184 pages
  • Publisher: TokyoPop
  • ISBN-10: 1427803129
  • ISBN-13: 9781427803122