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).