Aria the Animation Episode 1: Life on a Terraformed Mars

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Aria the Animation happens to be one of my favorite shows – it’s a very tranquil, easy-going anime about gondoliers working in Neo-Venezia, a city situated on a terraformed (and renamed to Aqua) Mars. Set in in an unknown future, Aria the Animation has the distinction of a calm pacing, a contrast to the more hectic development of others (such as One Piece, the Dragon Ball franchise and similar); as a result, it allows the audience to take in the environment as the series progresses, letting the scenery take center stage from time to time rather than simply letting it play second fiddle to the characters. Non Non Biyori, a more recent anime, has the same set-up – the environment becomes important not only as a backdrop, but as a living, breathing place where the characters interact, with scenic beauty being a main draw for the series.


As a matter of fact, this Martian city appears alive here in the first episode; the action embarks on a leisurely pace, letting viewers soak in the surroundings before getting into the meat of the story (in this case, showing the daily lives of the undines, who work the gondolas). Despite being set on another planet, everything looks so relaxing and calm and familiar – Neo-Venezia brings Earth (now known as Manhome) to Mars/Aqua, and people enjoy the relaxing, bucolic charms of city life on the former Red Planet. One gets various glimpses of the advanced technology throughout; Earth has proceeded far enough technologically to make terraforming a feasible reality, but Mars became a “second Earth,” so to speak, as people migrated there to live and work. That Neo-Venezia is so explicitly modeled after an European city makes the terraforming all the more impressive – floating islands and ships exist in the same space as classically-inspired architecture, where no cars can be seen (something Mizunashi Akari explains later on in the episode).

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Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: His First Four Shorts

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Oswald the Lucky Rabbit has somewhat of an unusual history – people likely recognize him as a sort of “predecessor” to Mickey Mouse, although Oswald enjoyed a cinematic career that lasted from 1927 to 1943. In 1927, Disney and Ub Iwerks stopped production of the Alice Comedies; their distributor, Charles Mintz, recommended creating a new character for Universal, and Iwerks developed Oswald for the company. The very first short that Iwerks and Disney created for Universal, however, didn’t pan out – Universal’s executives felt that Oswald was old, so Iwerks returned with a new short, Trolley Troubles, which became Oswald’s inaugural outing.

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Popeye: The First Three Shorts (All 1933)

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On 17 January, 1929, Popeye the Sailor made his formal debut in Thimble Theater; the comic strip would eventually be named in his honor as he became the central character. When Max Fleischer adapted Popeye into a series of animated shorts in 1933, he first appeared alongside Betty Boop – also a creation of Fleischer, Boop ran up against the Hays Code of the 1930s and became more toned-down appearance-wise late in the decade, and in Popeye’s inaugural short, she appears briefly performing a hula (which Popeye joins in on).As a bit of history, Betty Boop’s design went through a significant change during the 1930s – Popeye the Sailor, made before the design shift, shows Boop in her more flapper-influenced years, when her sexuality was more of a selling point (a nod to her roots in the Jazz Age). Popeye, by contrast, has more of a “tough guy” appearance – he’s powerful and reliable, a stark contrast to the more brutish antics of antagonist Bluto, who vies against him for the affections of Olive Oyl (another Thimble Theater regular).

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