You may recall my glut of posts on Aria the Animation, some of which ended inconclusively. Now that I’ve read Aqua, the ten-chapter beginning of the Aria manga, what is there to do but grab those loose ends that dangle annoyingly before me and tie them together with the wrath of an angry god?
Let’s start with this one, both because it proved most frustrating, and because this post promises to be fun.
Try as I might, I could not come up with a truly good reason for Aria’s noticeable and seemingly deliberate lack of romance, given that it had plenty of (what I thought were) good setups to exploit. I even diverged into absence causation, the results of which led me to the conclusion that — no, actually, I didn’t even reach a conclusion, lacking the numbers to assign to enough of the variables, so to speak. But maybe Aqua will provide the answers I seek. Let’s find out.
Aika admires Alicia — That much is obvious in the anime, and there’s nothing strange about it; Alicia is a top-class undine, as Aika aspires to be. So what if Aika’s a bit…stalker-esque? I mean-
Alright, that’s weird, but-
Oh, come on! As if it wasn’t enough to infuse Aika’s admiration for Alicia with romantic overtones, the above panel further opens the doors to speculation by having her quote Romeo and Juliet to Akari’s window!
But what of those “good setups” I mentioned? Well, Aqua deals largely with the period prior to Aria the Animation, so Al is nowhere to be found. Akatsuki shows up, and he’s still mildly endearing, I suppose, but he’s little more than an annoyance in this iteration, and his “feelings” for Alicia are made obviously impure, particularly in his arguing with Aika on the subject. Because, you know, maybe Aika has a thing for Alicia, too, and there’s no doubt in my mind that Aika is set up as the one we’re supposed to sympathize with.
I can’t deny it: Aria lacks visible romance to make yuri a tantalizing possibility. Those romantic voids are gaps, if you will, or they result in gaps.
How awesome is that!?
Er, ahem. Sorry. What I meant was, this revelation makes Aria a much more robust experience for me. It’s not as if the potential for straight relations is annulled by the potential for gay relations; rather, both are possible. I suppose I should’ve gleaned as much from the anime, or from my subsequent overlong rambling about the show’s romance, but at least I realize it now.
Fortunately, my exploration of absence causation wasn’t for naught — I can bring it in now, in fact. To be brief, absence causation refers to the idea that an absence of cause can result in an event as surely as a tangible cause, though it’s less established fact and more ongoing debate; some argue that a “non-cause” isn’t an absence of cause, per se, while others claim that absence causation is impossible altogether. Given that “absence of romance” was the (non-)cause I dealt with in the previous post, and which I’ve addressed here, it seems as though the complete cause-effect relationship would look something like “if absence of romance, then yuri subtext/speculative gaps.”
But that doesn’t sound right. Remember, the absence of romance alone was not enough to reveal yuri subtext to me, and it only allowed me to see those speculative gaps seated well within my sphere of life experience — that is, as quick as I was to draw conclusions about Akari, Akatsuki, and Alicia, it didn’t occur to me to pair the women together. Only when Aqua made the yuri subtext obvious did the fog lift, which leads me to espouse a causal relationship more along the lines of “if absence of romance and yuri subtext, then [more] speculative gaps.” We can’t really apply that to the anime, with its lack of yuri subtext; in the case of Aria the Animation, it’d be more apt to say that “if absence of romance (but no yuri subtext), then less speculative gaps.” Given that yuri subtext was well and truly absent in the anime, or from my reading of it, this seems to support the view that absences — not conspicuous absences, but “true” absences — can’t serve as proper causes in narrative art. Which, in retrospect, seems pretty obvious.
Whatever their quantity, speculative gaps universally seem to be the “effect” I was searching for when I wrote about Aria’s absent romance previously. It’s interesting that, in both cases, an absence-cause resulted in or contributed to resulting in gaps, which themselves can be characterized as absences — though, in this case, they’re absences which can be filled as seen fit by readers and viewers. It’s not unreasonable to assume that the romantic ambiguity in the text becomes the speculative absences when translated by reading into a form the reader can work with, that it’s the potential of the absences and not their quantity that increases when things like yuri subtext are added — but, lest I frighten you off, I’ll leave the authorial shell out of it this time.