I just watched the final episode, and read through the thread. I'll post my final thoughts. I noticed that one of the techniques that Aria uses to keep itself subdued is that everytime any happentence arises that are potentially strong in emotions or dialogue, the characters involved goes into SD-mode. This serves to lighten the impact, thus always keeping the atmosphere soft.
Aria is one of those rare series that even though it is a wonderful show, I don't watch it immediately as a new episode comes out. My behavior for other shows is to obtain and watch it as soon as possible whenever a new episode appears. Not for Aria. When I feel stressed or frustrated by life, I find ways to reduce it, such as playing the guitar to emote those feelings away through music, or drinking some alcohol to numb myself from reality, or watch Aria. So in addition to hearing gentle stories, it serves to unwind me. In this sense, episodes of Aria are like pills of tranquility, I only take it when I need it. Because Aria is only one choices out of other activities, I did not always chose to watch Aria to reduce stress (my preference is the guitar), hence it took me a while to finish. Nevertheless, Aria is a gem, and a pleasure to watch. I will follow the second season in similar manner.