by Maral Agnerian,

Earth Girl Arjuna

Earth Girl Arjuna
Juna was just an ordinary high-school girl, right up until the day she died in a motorcycle accident. But there, in the twilight of death, she saw the future of the barren earth destroyed by the Raaja, and was offered a second chance at life if she would stop them. Now she must learn to cast aside her thoughtlessly destructive ways and face her destiny as the Avatar of Time, the one being who can decide the fate of the planet... and is very much a part of it.
This is one of the best series I've ever seen. It's one of those shows that leaves you with goosebumps. It's atmospheric, dreamlike, gorgeous, and powerful.

First, the art is spectacular. Gorgeous CG and nice clean cel work meld smoothly for the most part. There are a few moments where it's a bit distracting, but all in all the animation is just gorgeous. Character designs are nice and simple, and the characters move in a surprisingly lifelike way. As for the Raaja, the CG just takes your breath away and reminded me strongly of the horrifying and powerful scene at the end of Mononoke-hime, or the ghost-like creatures from the Final Fantasy movie.

The music is also utterly gorgeous (by Yoko Kanno, of course), and all of you should run out and get the soundtrack NOW. Now, I tell you! Anyways, the music fits seamlessly into each scene and adds to the wonderful sense of unearthliness and mystery that this show is cloaked in.

The characters are established well, with depth and complexity, even relatively minor characters, and the concept of communication -- between people, as well as between humanity and the Earth -- is dealt with a great deal. The opinions expressed in Arjuna have their roots based in the Shinto religion, in which all things in nature have their own spirits. As a result, we are faced with the understanding of what we're really eating and surrounding ourselves with...and it can be disturbing. Arjuna deals with difficult environmental and social issues, and can sometimes feel a bit 'educational'...on the other hand, given the general apathy for environmentalism, we need all the help we can get. But for the most part it's handled well. At its core Earth Girl Arjuna is a sweet and delicate love story perfectly balanced with environmentalism, action and drama.

The Raaja themselves are somewhat ambiguous in nature, sort of like the Angels in Evangelion. Arjuna doesn't suffer from Eva's descent into incomprehensibility, thankfully. Still, nothing in Arjuna is as simple or black-and-white as it may first seem. Bugs destroy plants, but they also help them. Medicines cure diseases, but they also introduce strange and possibly toxic chemicals into our bodies. Is it worth it to stop the Raaja from destroying modern civilization if civilization is itself destroying the Earth? And is it right to kill them at all? In a way, Arjuna harkens back to Kaze no Tani no Nausicaä.

Arjuna strikes me a bit like a grown-up magical girl show--you've got the girl receiving mystical powers to save the world, but there's no pink plastic lockets, no frilly dresses and no stupid youma. It's all rather dark, atmospheric and lush, which I suppose fits well since Juna is older than your average magical girl, and acts like a fairly intelligent, responsible person (unlike most magical girl heroines). There's a conflict between Juna's link with the Earth and her regular life, but unlike most Magical Girl shows, it's REALLY a conflict, not just some stupid romantic comedy device; because she can sense the true nature and history of plants and animals, she can't even eat 'normal' city food because it's full of preservatives and pesticides and antibiotics and deforestation and pain. She's constantly trying to reconcile the needs of the Earth with her emotional needs as an individual.

This show definitely isn't for everyone; those who are cynical or indifferent to environmental issues might not be too impressed. But you never know, it might open some eyes. Beautiful and profound, Earth Girl Arjuna is definitely recommended to anybody who gives a damn about the future.
Production Info:

+ Beautiful art and music, powerful subject matter, excellent characters
Emphasis on environment might put some people off

Director: Shoji Kawamori
Series Composition:
Shoji Kawamori
Hiroshi Ohnogi
Shoji Kawamori
Hiroshi Ohnogi
Eiichi Sato
Hidekazu Sato
Kazuharu Sato
Koichi Chigira
Sunao Katabuchi
Shoji Kawamori
Kazuma Mizukusa
Kiyotaka Ohata
Shinsaku Sasaki
Eiichi Sato
Yasuyuki Shimizu
Kenichi Takeshita
Hiroyuki Tsuchiya
Sumio Watanabe
Episode Director:
Yoshitaka Fujimoto
Ichiro Itano
Shoji Kawamori
Masato Kitagawa
Eiji Kurokawa
Norio Matsumoto
Takahiro Ōmori
Eiichi Sato
Yasuyuki Shimizu
Kenichi Takeshita
Kazuo Takigawa
Tomokazu Tokoro
Hiroyuki Tsuchiya
Hirotaka Yamahata
Yutaka Yamahata
Yusuke Yamamoto
Atsushi Yano
Joe Kato Group
Masatsugu Shinozaki Group
Otohiko Fujita Group
Tsuneo Imahori
Yoko Kanno
Matarou Misawa
Syunsuke Sakamoto
Yasuo Sano
Masaharu Satō
Gavyn Wright Strings
Hideyo Takakuwa
Seiichi Takubo
Keishi Urata
Hitoshi Watanabe
Original creator: Shoji Kawamori
Character Design: Takahiro Kishida
Art Director:
Masanobu Nomura
Dai Ohta
Masaru Ohta
Animation Director:
Mei-Hua Chen
Manabu Fukazawa
Masaki Hyuga
Tetsuya Kumagaya
Norio Matsumoto
Kouji Matsuyama
Kenji Mizuhata
Masaharu Morinaka
Hideyuki Morioka
Kenichi Nagata
Daisuke Nakayama
Fumitoshi Oizaki
Hiroshi Okubo
Yasuhiro Senoo
Haruo Sotozaki
Miyako Yazu
Sound Director: Masafumi Mima
Fukashi Azuma
Minoru Takanashi
Atsushi Yukawa

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Arjuna (TV)

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