Akatsuki no Aria (Aria at Dawn) is a manga by Michiyo Akaishi, dated to the tumultuous and ever-changing Japan of the Taisho era (1912-1926). It was released in 14 volumes, but there are scanlations only up to volume 3 in English.
The protagonist of this story is a young girl named Aria Kanbara, the illegitimate daughter of a rich man and a former geisha. Aria herself is beautiful, stubborn, emotional, ambitious, and specially blessed with an incredible potential for piano playing and singing. She wants nothing more than getting away from her very severe mother and start making it big in the world, and her chance comes in when she applies to the Tokyo Music Academy.
From then on, Aria starts living her life in Tokyo and honing her piano playing skills so she can become the best pianist. Her love life, however, begins to get heated — not only does she find her half-brother Natsuo Nishimikado, the rightful heir to her father's state, but she begins to fall for him! This is on top of her teacher Shiroyuki also starting to develop more-than-platonic feelings for her, and soon she is publically presented to the Tokyo society as a member of the Nishimikado clan — which also marks her and Natsuo discovering what their bond actually is. What follows is a Coming of Age story with lots of romance, confrontations and discoveries...
Akatsuki no Aria has the following tropes, among many others:
- The Alcoholic: Tsukio. To the point that he dies from liver failure for it.
- Annoying Younger Sibling: Natsuo's younger sister Ayako, is rather immature and childish.
- Arranged Marriage: Aria and Natsuo find themselves engaged to Daidouji and Beniko, respectively.
- BrotherSister Incest: The main couple, Aria and Natsuo, are half-siblings from their father's side. Except not: Aria's actual father is a foreigner musician who was an acquintance of Mr. Nishimikado, and Aria later starts searching for him.
- Coming-of-Age Story: For both Aria and Natsuo.
- Cool Big Sis: Shouko is this for Aria, as her sempai in music school.
- Daddy's Girl: Both Aria and Ayao want this badly with their father, Mr. Nishimikado.
- Disappeared Dad: Nishimikado Sr. dies at some point, making Natsuo swear that he and Aria will be Like Brotherand Sister. Additionally, Aria's actual father left her mother to return to Europe, and Aria sets out to find him.
- Elegant Classical Musician: Aria's goal is to become this, and not only she's pretty enough but she has such talent that she can completely switch from piano to opera singing when she can't play anymore.
- Eye Scream: Looks like this happened to Natsuo, as when he reappears in Shanghai after being thought of as dead he's wearing an eyepatch.
- First Girl Wins: The whole story was sealed by Natsuo and Aria meeting as children almost by chance.
- Freudian Excuse: Aria has huge problems with how, in her opinion, her mother only "waited" around for the man she loved. And then Mrs. Kanbara dies after being gravely wounded in the Great Kanto Earthquake, leaving Aria quite sad... and leading her to realize that her mom's deals weren't that simple. (She always knew that her lover/Aria's actual father would never return to her.)
- Heroic Bastard: Aria is the illegitimate child of a former geisha and a rich man. Actually, of said former geisha and a foreign musician. She is not happy about it.
- Hot for Student: Shiroyuki loves Aria, but cannot date her because he's her teacher and he's married to an Ill Girl. And later he dies of his own illnesss.
- Ill Girl: Two of these:
- Aria turns out to have a serious hand injury that leaves her unable to play piano. She still has her gorgeous singing voice, however.
- Also Shirayuki's wife Kimie, who is hospitalized due to her illness. She dies alone when Shirayuki is helping Aria because of her wounded hand, and many people believe he was fooling around with Aria while poor Kimie was dying.
- Incurable Cough of Death: Shinnosuke Shirayuki, due to his tuberculosis.
- I Will Find You: Aria is determined to meet her biological father.
- Kimono Is Traditional:
- Love Dodecahedron: Aria and Natsuo love each other. Shiroyuki-sensei, Tsukio, Daidouji and others love Aria. Shouko, Beniko and others love Natsuo.
- Loving a Shadow: Tsukio's French girlfriend, whom he dates because she is Aria's Identical Stranger.
- Parental Marriage Veto: The Nishimikados obviously don't want Natsuo to date a girl of lower social standing and who is his half-sister.
- Plucky Girl: Aria, and holy shit how. The plot bends over to break her, but she keeps going on.
- Territorial Smurfette: Ayako is this towards Aria... and then both Aria and ayako are this to Beniko.
- Wham Episode: More than one, but specially the one with the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 as its climax and the one where Natsuo disappears
- Wicked Stepmother: While Mrs. Nishimikado isn't as throughly evil as other cases, she still treats Aria with disdain. When her husband dies, she tells Aria that she'll pay for her education but will never let her into the family home again.
- Yamato Nadeshiko: Subverted with Beniko Kujou, Natsuo's fiancée. She looks the part eerily well with her dark hair and super beautiful kimonos — but she's also a rude, arrogant and stuck-up Rich Bitch. So much that Aria and Ayako team up in their shared dislike of her, Aria slaps her at some point, Natsuo calls off the engagement... and see below for what she does later.
- Yandere: What Beniko actually is. She snaps and stabs Natsuo at some point, leaving him unable to join Aria in her trip to Europe
- Your Cheating Heart: While Shirayuki never outright cheats on Kimie with Aria, he still harbors romantic feelings for the latter and feels horrible about it. When it turns out he has tuberculosis, he refers to it as his punishment for not having taken care of Kimie properly.