There has always been a part of me that gravitates towards those older sister type characters in anime. Perhaps it’s their beauty, elegance, or intellect (though they usually don’t seem to have a way with directions or can hold their liquor), but what really intrigues me is their perfection. After all, can anyone even be perfect?
These perfectionists often get a lot of flack from viewers, Belldandy being one of the main targets for viewers wrath. As a matter of fact, when I got my brother to sit down and watch the first few episodes of Aria with me, his first impression of Alicia was, “Whoa, what a bitch” (he kinda calls anyone he has a bad first impression of a bitch). I was shocked, considering Alicia is my favorite character, but when I tried to defend her position, I didn’t really know what to say. Was my admiration for her optimism that shallow?
So, I began to think: why was I so drawn to the “ara ara ufufu”?
Belldandy was my introduction to this particular type of perfection. Granted, I was first introduced to the Oh My Goddess franchise through the movie that was released in 2000, so my preferences were kind of skewered. In the movie we see Belldandy to be quite open and vulnerable (perhaps its due to memory loss), however she still maintains that ‘be nice to everything and everyone’ mentality despite having romance problems. This image of an outwardly perfect character harboring problems of their own on the inside, transferred to my viewing experiences of both the Television series and the OVA (and eventually the manga) and as a result improved my opinion of her considerably. My admiration for her stems from the fact that (like many others who suffer from the ‘ara ara’ syndrome) she’s always positive despite the odds and problems that face her. And no, I’m not speaking of the positive quality that you find in most shounen protagonists – “I will win because I won’t give up!” spheal – (something that’s particularly prevalent in Alicia Florence from Aria, which I’ll get to in a second).
Perhaps I find it so compelling because I myself lack that quality of optimism, being Miss Pessimism.
It’s actually quite a shame that we don’t see that type of development take place in the manga, which – if I remember correctly – has yet to describe any of Belldandy’s back story. Yes, we know she’s a goddess first class and the daughter of the Almighty, but other than that there’s zilch to go upon according to the manga, which has been running for over 270 chapters. Imagine the kind of character development she could have gone through given the proper treatment. And, no, jealousy does not count as character development, Fujishima. Perhaps it’s because the Oh My Goddess TV/manga series is a comedy while the movie – while listed as comedy – errs more towards drama than anything else.
I consider Alicia Florence to be the only anime/manga character (to my knowledge) that has actually reached perfection. Actually, as a funny little tidbit, Alice compares her to Budda in chapter 50, though that’s not what I’m trying to get at. She’s not perfect in the sense that’s she attained Nirvana or something of the sort, she’s just an expert on enjoying life to the fullest, something I hope to achieve at least sometime before I realize it’s too late. While realistically, it is nigh impossible to enjoy everything in life, but this is Aria after all – anything’s possible.
Alicia’s mentality is perfectly portrayed in a quote from chapter twenty six, spoken right from the horse’s mouth:
If you get stuck in the memories of those times, you won’t be able to appreciate all the fun that’s happening right now. So don’t be thinking “that time was fun”, because you should be thinking “that time was also fun” … Being able to find the fun that’s happening right now, is the best way to enjoy the present.
This is the positive quality that I’m talking about. Despite facing problem’s of her own – the possibility of a forced marriage (I refuse to believe any of the other possibilities floating around out there), the pressures from her job, and the insecurities she’s feeling having to leave Akari to fend for herself – looking on the bright side of things is something that can get you through the most turbulent times. Do most people look on the the bright side of things, however? No. Well, at least I certainly don’t.
With Alicia, however, we have to assume some of the troubles she may have gone through based upon her actions in the present. What makes her perfect, and what draws me to her, is not that she has no problems, but how she deals with those issues when they arise. As Akino states, “She’s an expert at enjoying herself in everything she does.” This idea is also displayed in chapter 49, where even though Alicia is describing Akari’s personality in relation to her own appellation (Snow White), we find the she also harbors the same qualities as a person. I guess it’s true when the say that the student takes after the teacher. That’s probably what makes them so cute together.
Ever hear of the mentality that if you’re happy then the people around you will also be happy? Well, since Alicia is enjoying her day to day life on Aqua, I enjoy reading about it. I guess it comes down to something that simple.
Believe it or not, I find Camille to be somewhat of a pre Alicia. She hasn’t quite attained that inward perfection yet, but outwardly – unless you’re paying super close attention -she’s just about as perfect you can get (polite, quiet, demure, eager to please etc). Unlike Alicia, she hasn’t found a way to deal with her problems while at the same time enjoying life to its fullest. Her idea of treating her situation like a game is neither bad nor good for her, it’s like being stuck on a never ending straight line.
In the future, when she’s married to some guy or – in a perfect world – Claude, I’m willing to bet that she’ll have basically the same outlook on life as Alicia. Why do I think that? Well, I find them to be similar in some ways. Despite their differences in thought, I can’t help but seeing Camille as a young, and somewhat more pessimistic, Alicia. She’s basically someone who has yet to find her purpose in life, like becoming a mentor for inspiring Undines, or finding that one person she wishes to spend eternity with.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Ara Ara Syndrome.
(This post was brought to you by the Aria manga, a series which I completed only days ago. My bias is probably showing, but go read it right now!)