Reviewby Bamboo Dong, Nov 1st 2002
DVD 1: Rebirth
When high school student and archery club member Juna is killed in a mysterious motorcycle accident, she is visited by an enigmatic boy named Chris. He allows her one more chance to live, on the condition that she become the Avatar of Time and fight the Raaja spirits that are trying to destroy Earth's ecosystem.
Released as a three-episode DVD, the first volume of Earth Girl Arjuna is now available in North America from Bandai Entertainment. The episodes themselves are available in stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1 in both Japanese and English, with the added option of an isolated score. Along with the episodes, the disc also includes an Arjuna dictionary, which defines a few of the terms used in the series. Unfortunately, the descriptions are vague and unhelpful, so viewers are left as confused as they were when they first came. Interestingly, the "next episode" previews that normally follow each episode are not included after the episodes. Instead, all 3 next episode previews are included in the DVD extras. Another interesting feature is the cast interviews, which features a few of the English dub actors discussing their roles for the series.
The story for Earth Girl Arjuna can be described as confusing and cumbersome at best. As soon as viewers think that they have grasped the storyline, a character will offer a piece of contradicting information that throws any viewer's preconceived notions about the plot out the window. Although there are some intriguing elements about the plot, there are many holes punched into every aspect of the story, such as Chris's claim that Juna shouldn't harm the Raajas, even after he gives her an archery bow to shoot the demons. Fortunately, there are enough interesting characteristics about the series that have enough leverage to make almost every viewer interested in the next volume, even if just to clarify all the confusion and plot holes left in the viewer's mind. Possibly the most annoying angle of the series, however, is the sheer volume of pro-environmentalist propaganda woven into every scene of the story. At every turn, at least one character is ready to greet the viewer with a handful of environmental sermons, something which soon becomes very tedious and old.
A redeeming quality about the series is the art, which is fascinating, to say the least. Combining cel artwork, computer graphics, and live-action shots, the art fuses all of the above mediums into an end project that is oddly beautiful. Although the combined media is out of place at times, the end result matches the nature of the series quite well. The background shots of mountains and forests and the suchlike are comprised of real life footage, giving the series the environmental and earthy touches that makes Juna's mission of saving the planet all the more ethereal and meaningful. The animation itself is hard to distinguish as either good or bad, given the odd mix of mediums that make up the series. For the most part, the animation is fluid, making the scenes interesting to watch, even if the accompanying story makes no sense.
The music is also oddly fascinating, and matches well with the almost surreal art. Comprised largely of chanting voices and frantic ensembles, the music possesses an eerie quality that is able to display a variety of character emotions, ranging from fear to relaxation and even revelation. Despite the annoying and excessive pro-ecology theme of the series, Arjuna is able to heighten feelings of viewer interest and sympathy for the characters just through the art and music. Most viewers will feel the calming aspect of the chanting in the background, which is actually rather unpleasant to listen to outside the context of the series.
The voice acting in the series is well done in both langueages. The Japanese voice actors perform their roles nicely, matching the emotions of the characters perfectly. The English actors also do a rather nice job. At times, however, the inflections of some of their lines seem off, giving the lines a different implication than was already there. For the most part, though, the acting is good, and not too jarring on the ear. Not too surprisingly, the English script matches the Japanese dialogue closely, which is something that Bandai is well known for. Any changes in the script are minimal, and serve only to better fit the characters' mouth movements. The only problem with the characters is not the acting, but the characters themselves, namely those in the secret organization SEED. The group members randomly throw Juna into the role of being the Avatar of Time, without any explanation of what she is to do, or even why she is to do it, and then get angry at her when she fails. This nature of the protagonist group is both absurd and annoying. The most exasperating character is Chris's lackey Cindy, who makes the viewing experience almost harsh and torturous. She possesses a naivete and selfishness that is rivaled only by Mobile Suit Gundam's collection of outrageously irritating women. It is characters like her that serve only to dampen any viewer's joy of watching the series.
Earth Girl Arjuna is a unique series that can only be judged by those who have seen it. The series is fascinating both to watch and to listen to, and observe as a work of art. Once the story is examined, though, the flaws are pointed out and magnified. Because of the work done on the aesthetic aspects of the series, however, the end product is one that leaves viewers with a feeling of desire to see the next volume. Even if the first volume seems to not make any sense, fans of mystical and spiritual anime are urged to at least give Arjuna a rental try, as it definitely has potential.
Overall (dub) : B-
Overall (sub) : B
Story : C-
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Interesting blend of artistic mediums
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