Title: Arjuna aka Earth Girl Arjuna aka Chikyuu Shoujo Arjuna
Company: Bandai Visual
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 9 Jan 2001 – 20 Mar 2001
Synopsis: Juna, a perfectly normal girl living a perfectly normal life, dies one day in an accident. As she ascends to her afterlife, she sees Earth destroyed by huge, worm-like creatures that are eating through the planet. A strange voice offers her the chance to return to life if she agrees to become Earth’s protector. Juna agrees and is resurrected as Arjuna, a warrior maiden with the power to fight corruption. But she has a great many things to learn before she can live up to her task…
Theme: Deals with environmental issues in a responsible way.
Art: Beautiful artwork and cinematography.
Message: Engaged but overdone.
Side Characters: Generally annoying.
Ever wanted to know what you truly get when you order a bacon burger? Though one couldn’t guess it from the synopsis, Arjuna is actually the first truly environmentalist anime. While it does start like your generic mahou shoujo series, it soon becomes a serious yet entertaining lesson in almost all major environmental issues. Nuclear waste disposal, biotechnology, use of chemicals in industrial agriculture, overfishing – if it’s on the GREENPEACE agenda, it’s in Arjuna. And whenever environmental issues appear, the series makes sure to point out that the current approach we’re taking toward these issues is dangerous if not dead wrong.
Arjuna has absolutely beautiful visuals. The artwork and animation are a blend of cel-designed characters and CG objects and backgrounds, and it works almost seamlessly. The creators even took the liberty of using their computer animation capabilities to the fullest. They played with unusual camera angles and made some spectacular flight scenes that you won’t find in your everyday TV series. The character designs might look a little bland, but the entire cinematography more than makes up for this.
Unfortunately, what could have been a splendid series ended up having flaws–not serious ones but flaws of the annoying kind. The most prominent of these is the MESSAGE. Yes, this has to be written in capital letters, because the MESSAGE is presented in such an annoying and repetitive way that you can’t help hating all situations in which the MESSAGE pops up after the third or fourth time. It’s always the same MESSAGE (are you annoyed yet?), and the reason why it is repeated so often is that Juna, our main protagonist, doesn’t understand it until episode 11. Any thinking human being should have got it much earlier. That’s what I call convenient ignorance…
…Which brings us to the second major annoyance: Chris/Kris and Cindy. These two side characters have absolutely no relevance to the plot. They are only there to confuse Juna and annoy the audience; Chris by giving cryptic “hints” and Cindy by displaying a smarter-than-thou attitude towards everybody and their mother. Thank goodness Juna’s boyfriend, Tokio, is a normal (and believable) young man who can save some situations by his presence alone.
Arjuna looks as though an environmentalist organization paid for some propaganda and got a director who really wanted the message to stick. The result is a highly entertaining series with an innovative concept and a strong message which, unfortunately, gets in the way of the plot sometimes. All in all, it’s more rewarding than annoying. And you’re never going to look at bacon burgers the same way ever again.
The Rating: 8
Reviewed by: Taleweaver