Monday, 30 June 2008

Cameo from ARIA the Natural

What is seen below is your Gondolier's uniform in real-life.

Image retrieved from:
Venice Bedrooms Accessed 30th June, 2008.

In episode 10 of ARIA the Natural at 00:10, we see generic shots while Akari goes on her usual introduction. One of them is a moored Gondola with a shirt and straw hat. These are the Gondolier's uniform in real life!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Traghetto Santa Sofia

The Traghetto, as explained in ARIA is a gondola ferry service across the Grand Canal which saves time and walking since there are only three (functioning) bridges across the Canal.

Now, the Gondola as we all know is an expensive but the defining icon of Venice which meant I needed to get on one, but the fact that I'm such a cheapskate didn't help the cause - but the Traghetto is the answer to that. The ride lasts only 1 minute but costs a measly €0.60 standard (my second ride elsewhere was only €0.50).

It is amusing to see the "commuter rush" even in Venice, with two gondolas shuttling back and forth at some points during the morning, but the service reduced to a single gondola shuttle during the day. The Traghetto are manned by two gondeliers, wearing the same black and white striped uniform identical to that of the standard hire gondolas.

As I was wandering through Venice hours after arrival, I was on the constant lookout for Traghetto crossing points, and the first one that I came across was the very Traghetto S.Sofia which was used as a location in both ARIA the manga and anime. A very lucky encounter indeed!

Unfortunately, the number of passengers was sparse at 3pm meaning I didn't get the chance to stand but it does happen during crowded trips! Enough text boredom - bring in the pictures!

The approach to the South end of the Traghetto.

Looking away from the Grand Canal.

A view across the canal, facing North.

The scene on the Grand Canal as I do the one minute crossing.

A very lucky capture from a Vaporetto 2 days later of a Gondola pulling out, much like ARIA.

The Northern side of the Traghetto.

This picture of mine during the morning rush was not taken at S.Sofia but it is self-explanatory. The Grand Canal really is far narrower than ARIA depicts it to be. I guess the widescreen doesn't help either!

Although the Santa Sofia market was closed when I passed through for my Traghetto ride, it was in full swing 2 days later when I passed by early morning on a Vaporetto. The market is slightly out of the way of the tourist routes and I'm therefore under the impression that it would give a more "local" experience of Venice.

This is where I have to go against ARIA. In episode 9 of the Origination, Alice described the Rialto market area as the second center of activity, aside from San Marco and has a more "local" feel. My experience of Rialto is it being packed with tourists and therefore I would recommend the fresh food market of S.Sofia instead.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

My ARIA Story + Ep04 of ARIA the Natural

Having been rather busy of late, I have been unable to to much research, but the good news is, I'm up to re-watching ARIA the Natural ep04. My first run was a marathon, the worst possible way to watch ARIA and now I'm enjoying at my own pace. Which is also the reason why the blog has been slow.

In my RL, I have two people whom I can call "best friends". I became close with the first after watching Gundam SEED. One day, her MSN avatar was that of a "Haro", a Gundam mascot and it all started from this random chat! My second best friend was started when he randomly asked me about the Ichigo 100% manga. We had known each other for years at high school but it wasn't after we left, that we got close, so my best friends exist because of the world of anime/manga! Anime/manga = suteki na deai?

Before I digress too much, the second best friend of mine suggested me to watch ARIA during the summer of 2006. I was not into slice of life back then, favouring shows which had plenty of action or hard comedy, with Fafner and School Rumble being my latest titles. However, I somehow decided to give ARIA a try in June 2007 and I was actually extremely bored at the start but I persisted. ARIA took time for me to grow and I eventually became hooked towards the end of The Animation. "Undine" is one of my favourate OPs.

By the time I got to Natural I was really smiling through the whole episode, having discovered what a treasure ARIA really is. My impression of ARIA grew and improved the further I got into the show. I have also been amazed at the ARIA poster scans, drawn in watercolour by Amano-sensei and thought "now, this is REAL art!", having had a slight vendetta against the popularity of modern abstract art.

The news of Origination could not have been any better and it by far exceeded my expectations. It has by far the best art of any anime series I've ever watched and was mindblowing. January 2008 also coincided with me handing in my dissertation for my degree and as a reward, I had wanted to go to Continental Europe before I left the region after my studies. My initial thoughts were either Amsterdam or Swiss/Austria but my fondness for ARIA had reached slightly unhealthy levels. I checked the fares on Easyjet and it was £50 return including taxes. The rest is history.

In the early hours of April 1 2008, I watched the grand finale of ARIA (the Origination ep13) which was bittersweet. There was no time to re-watch it immediately as I had to leave for the airport immediately. Venice, here I come.

Describing my Venice experience at this stage would be too "spoilery" for the sake of this blog. Stay tuned as I do have plenty of ideas still left to be researched!


Episode 4 of The Natural was always something I wanted to research but unfortunately, I ended up fairly empty-handed, but I did pick up a few things.

The Post Office is located in what seems like a converted Church. I took my maps out and tried looking for locations but it seems the post office is entirely fictional. Then comes Sora-kun, who wants to deliver a letter - fast.

When Akari asks Sora about the delivery address, he becomes even more depressed. For the post office is in Cannaregio (as mentioned earlier by Akari as she arrived) is in the Northernmost district of Venice, while the wedding it turns out was at the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute (pre-refurbishment!) being in the Southernmost area of Venice. It could take anywhere up to an hour by foot to get there - if you don't get lost - and people in general have a habit of under-exploring their own hometown.

Image to compare with from Wikipedia

As for the letter collection system, unfortunately I saw conventional mailboxes rather than the rather elaborate method used in collecting and delivering mail in ARIA.

The mailbags in ARIA better be watertight! Akari makes such a cute face here.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Gondolas & Co.


Alice has very good taste - I like strolling around as well and that's what I did for 4 days in Venice, and had numerous random encounters, Akari style!

One of my totally random encounters was the Gondola shipyard, known as the Squeri.

ARIA says Gondolas take 3 months to build and last approx 20 years. My Lonely Planet guide puts it at 1 month build time and 20-30 years service life, longer for the ones which are really well built. Other mind-boggling info is as follows.

Making a good gondola is no easy task - seven types of wood are employed to make 280 pieces for the hull alone. Also, it has to be assymetrical. The left side has a greater curve to make up for the lateral action of the oar, and the cross section is skewed to the right to counterbalance the weight of the gondolier.

Your standard model costs from €20,000, while a really 'pretty' gondola can cost more than €50,000 (Simonis, p33).


Simonis, D. (2008), Venice & The Veneto: City Guide, Lonely Planet Publications: London

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Restoration and Accademia bridge

Episode 03 of ARIA the Origination is by far the episode I liked the least, but it is packed with some very good stuff relating to the real-life Venice, too much stuff in fact that it is impossible to do it in one entry.

The focus of the episode was restoration and reconstruction. The below image, seemingly insignificant was played during the OP. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture but I saw the exact same thing on the northern shoreline of Venice, how the bridge was reduced to half width while resurfacing was done half at a time.

The Chiesa di Santa Maria della Salute also makes an appearance, minus the two spires at the back! The surrounding structures are also all under restoration, unfortunately also closing the longest traghetto gondola ride.

The Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) was seen as being under restoration. When I went, the exterior was luckily not under restoration but given the pristine condition of it compared to the other Piazza San Marco structures which needs an urgent clean, the Palazzo Ducale obviously receives very close attention. Other buildings under restoration in prominent locations (such as a hotel on the Grand Canale) have put photoreal images covering the scaffolding to show people what the building actually looks like, slightly different but still similar to what was seen with the Palazzo Ducale in the Origination.

Going back to an earlier blog post, the Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo is also currently under restoration. It looked a rather sorry state and really needs it!

Last but not least, the Accademia Bridge. Made of wood, I think it's the prettiest of the 3 bridges spanning the Grand Canal. This bridge also *should* have made an appearance in Episode 06 (it was used in the manga) but was replaced with a generic wooden bridge.
You can see the one disadvantage of widescreen - the producers stretched the bridge sideways to make it fit!

Picture taken from: Accademia Bridge, Venice, Italy Heaven, Retrieved June 03, 2008.