Ever since I first saw this ending of the series, I admit I’ve never been a huge fan of it at all. The sudden retirement is one thing, but marriage? To who? That, and I kinda didn’t want it to end.
Page 276: What’s 寿引退?
Discussion of plots and themes
So, Naphthalene expressed mild surprise last week that Akari’s graduation was not the final chapter of the manga; here’s my opinion why: Because Akari’s grauduation is not one of the main themes of the manga. This chapter is.
Oh, Akari’s graduation certainly ties into the main theme in that graduating is one of the things that happens when you become an adult, but it was only Akari’s goal, not the theme. The primary theme being basically the same as the Star Trek TNG finale: All Good Things Must Come To An End. Someday you grow up, and you put away your childish things, and sometimes that means you part ways with your friends and comrades too.
And honestly, I think that’s kinda sad. And not really at all the ending I wanted from Aria.
In some ways, it’s heavy-handed. Things change when you grow, sure - but for Alicia to leave and get married the instant Akari matures? It’s too sudden. And yeah, there’s the aspect that Akari could have graduated ages ago except that Alicia was holding her back, but still… Plus, it makes Aria Company look like the Sith - always two there are: a master, and an apprentice.
Turns out Alice graduating from middle school was quite the catalyst, hey?
This chapter’s furigana title is also the subtitle of Aria the Avvenire, the post-series OAVs, released to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the anime’s first season. And in my opinion, Avvenire exists only to drive home the main themes of the series with a sledgehammer.
Brief plot summary of Avvenire
Avvenire uses the stories of Ai, Aika’s student Azusa and Alice’s student Anya meeting up and becoming friends (as their mentors and grand-mentors did before them) as a way of introducing manga chapters that hadn’t previously been animated as flashbacks - episode 1 is Alicia’s un-birthday (from Navigation 56), episode 2 is Akari’s final meeting with Cait Sith (from Navigation 63), while episode 3 is basically a brief summary of the overall story - and primarily Akari’s hiring and Alicia’s retirement - from Alicia’s point of view. Point is, it absolutely bears down with gusto on the point that growing up means sometimes leaving things behind - like friends. It’s not helped by the fact that Athena barely appears (both of her voice actresses had died from cancer in the interim, so she’s only heard singing Lumis Eterne from one of the soundtracks).
Well, it’s kinda ironic you said that, because I was actually about to praise one aspect of the anime version of this chapter: namely, that it takes the time to show Alicia’s actual retirement ceremony.
(Uh. Ignore the Chinese subtitles. It’s the only one I could find. Also, just stop at the halfway mark - for some reason, the video repeats again but with no audio the second time.)