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.
Message films or those with controversial or social commentary often don’t seem to fair well with the general public. That is honestly the only reason I can see for this series having such a small base of viewers. Arjuna from an art and production standpoint is really one of the better shows I have seen and one that I think everyone should check out. It attempts to deal with some very important issues facing our planet from ecology issues to the over medication of society. For the most part it does a really good job at this, even though at times
I felt it got overly preachy.
The story starts out with Juna, out heroine, being involved in an accident which leaves her dead. She feels her spirit slipping away when she is contact by another mysterious spirit who offers to save her life if she will help to save the planet and become the Avatar of Time. She accepts and much to the surprise of her mourning boyfriend, mother, and medical personal she jumps from her death bed and into action. Overall it’s a good start and we are treated to some good action right off the bat. From these beginnings you might think that this anime is going to be a pretty exciting action series. But the action soon lets up and slows down to a crawl. This is sure to disappoint some people who were expecting more action based story. Eventually it becomes a very endearing romance as well. I found this part of the series to be the most rewarding personally. The social commentary is also interesting as Juna learns about the world and what is damaging it and what could be done to fix it. Whether or not you agree with the conclusions or "facts" expressed in the show I think everyone can agree that the problems do exist. Many of these are hot political issues that have strong feelings on both sides of the debate. While I believe that some of the statements made in the show are naive and only tell partial truths at times, I still think it allows you to make up your own mind about what it is saying.
The relationship between Juna and Tokio is one of the best I have seen in a series to date. We get plenty of character development and a lot of back story on the both of them. They both feel like very real and relatable. Juna's struggle to be able to fit in with modern society after some of the changes her body goes through was interesting. This became a major part of the plot for most of the series as well as Tokio trying to understand what she is going through. Most of the supporting characters are left in the background. This is good and bad. Good because it did allow the extra screen time to our leads and was what lead to them being so interesting to me. We do get to see some important side stories regarding Juna's and Tokio's family but some of these stories are left open towards the end without any real resolution. It wasn’t overly important to the story in the end but some of it I would have liked to know how it turned out. Particularly the side story involving Juna's older sister. The most irritating character to me was definitely Chris. I found him to be a pompous know it all who is constantly telling Juna one thing and then when she does it asking her why she did it.
The production values of Arjuna are quite spectacular. From the beautiful artwork to the epic feeling of the music, this series feels like a movie in a sense. The background music in particular really makes the story feel like a grand experience and is really one of the best music scores I’ve ever heard. The animation uses a lot of CG effects which are for the most part very good. Though I am not a fan of this style it did mostly flow seamlessly with the rest of the animation.
Where my score of Arjuna really drops is in my overall enjoyment, this is mainly due to the ending. While it’s not a bad ending, I just didn’t like it and was disappointed almost across the board. There was too much uncertainty regarding the fate of most of the cast and I was left confused by many of the sudden revelations at the end. Also the social commentary got fairly intense and overbearing towards the end too which affected my enjoyment. I felt my intelligence was being insulted to some extent as characters would lament the starvation of millions in Africa yet their policies on farming and livestock production would lead to millions or perhaps billions more starving. I also found it a bit naive that simply turning off ones air conditioner for two weeks in the summer or eating a little less meat would somehow solve the energy crisis or end world hunger.
Despite my problems with how things ended and with some the series opinions, I still found this to be a show well worth seeing. If you just look at it as a work of fiction and a story and not try to take what is said as the absolute truth you are sure to enjoy it for what it is, a wonderful romance and adventure. Those looking for action and intense special effects will be disappointed however. Arjuna is anime that should be viewed by more than it has been to this date.
Earth Maiden Arjuna...it could be described as either you love it or you hate it. It's hard to say considering I'm one of those who loved it. I'll assume you have read the synopsis and at least have a basic idea of what this anime is about. Very good, on with the review!
Story: The story of Arjuna had a lot of promise, I'll tell you that. With the first and second episodes I was mildly in shock at the premise set out before me. It could have been a true masterpiece, but when you think about it, this is a tricky story to dive into.
I refuse to post spoilers, but a good majority of the show is about Juna's 'education' you could call it. With every new thing she learns about the world, another hint towards the ending is revealed. They do this well and I have no complaints about the ending. Although there are a few things I would have loved to know that they just seemed to refuse to reveal (origin of the Avatar of Time for one), though it was nothing that damaged my enjoyment of the series.
Every so often the show would trail off and become (dare I say...) preachy. It goes just a tiny bit over the top with the whole "Save Nature!" thing it's got going on. Luckily this only happens a few times, and if you can get past that and just go with the flow (an open mind is essential), then I promise you'll have an enjoyable experience. If this is the anime for you anyway.
Art: Wow, where Arjuna lacks in story-telling, it completely makes up for in the art. While I myself had a personal hatred for Juna's hair, the art is just downright beautiful. No complaints here. The second time I watched this show, I watched it purely for the eye-candy for a while. It's just so beautiful to watch, especially the few transformation scenes (there aren't many). Seeing the way Juna begins to view the world can be breath-taking.
Sound: If you haven't heard this by now, it's about time someone told you. The music in this show is amazing. Absolutely amazing. Most of the music was done by Yokko Kanno, who I believe also did the music for Cowboy Bebop and Raxephon (don't quote me on that last one). Even if you go into this series feeling skepitcal of the plot presented to you, I believe it's worth it to stick with it just for the music. The music is haunting and fits the scenes beautifully. Combine the music with the art and you have the perfect reason to try this show right there. In this category especially, Arjuna does not disappoint.
As for the voices, I will admit, I've only watched the English dub. Feel free to attack me or whatever. At first the voices for the dub seemed a bit...off, as most dubs usually do, but after a while you could tell they were starting to get a feel for the characters. Lip-synching was kind of off, but it was nothing noticeable in the later episodes. I especially loved the voice of the character Chris. :] Pardon me for being a fan-girl, but the voice made me love the character.
Characters: Speaking of characters! There was some character development, but nothing out of this world. The most was seen for Juna and her boyfriend Tokio...and...yeah...I wasn't left hating any characters by the end, which is saying something because there was a girl who I wanted dead on that show. All of them were true to their personalities. I thought Juna's development from well-grounded spunky teenage girl to Avatar of Time was very good. Not at all like most shows in this genre where the girl gets powers and suddenly they're full of confidence and joy or whatever. That's about it for characters, go Chris!
I'll admit, this show is NOT FOR EVERYONE. You will love it or you will hate it. I can't be responsible for either one. xD I recommend watching at least up to episode 4. Episode 4 is almost like a trial...if you can make it past that episode unscathed (I'm exaggerating, it's not bad) then you will most likely enjoy the rest of the show. I myself love it because the entire thing to me is just so beautiful. I'm a nature-loving girl, so this was just an anime after my own heart. Even if you're not too big on the whole nature deal, I suggest you give it a try anyway. Just remember to keep an open mind and enjoy it for what it's worth. This show should not be overlooked without at least a first glance.
The first impression that I got from this anime is that this anime is going to deal with a lot of environmental issues that still plague the world today but it’s going to have some sort of action in it. The art actually reminded me of something from “Tenchi Muyo!” but it’s a bit more messy than it. Plus, you can tell that the CGI didn’t age very well but it’s not detrimental of the story. It felt very much like it’s imcompleted, somehow but the landscapes are from from that. The landscapes are breathtaking and gorgeous and really pops out from the actual characters.
by the first episode by itself, it goes into it immediately along with the action of her powers, even if she’s not “truly” woken up. But the episodes after that seemed to grind to a halt; it’s mostly because Chris, the person who saved Juna’s life from death, who is gravely ill and disabled – when he fights, he doesn’t fight physically. Instead, his spirit seems to leave his body at will and fights for him. He’s also a telepathic and has a young girl, Cindy, to translate for him because he can’t talk on his own.
The thing is – Juna keeps misunderstanding him. She, including the audience, assumes that by stopping the Raaja, she has to kill them.
Raaja are demons from the earth who, after a period of time, cannot handle mankind’s pollution anymore so it retaliates by attacking the humans and whatever it is that’s hurting the planet. Juna’s job is to, really, retain these demons from causing anymore harm on the earth rather than actually killing it. However, she needs to understand why she retains them instead just of using the arrow and besides the obvious answers of protecting the earth and her loved ones.
Along for the ride is Juna’s boyfriend, Tokio who is a typical rich kid and will follow Juna to the ends of the earth. The series mostly focuses on their relationship as Juna’s powers prevent her from doing the normal teenage stuff they used to do before (mostly eat hamburgers or consume junk food). He really doesn’t understand what’s going on and truly does love her but it’s hard for him to understand. Even if Juna attempts to explain it to him, it’s just gets lost under the muddle.
But truly, her powers are hard to explain if you don’t understand why it’s so important for the Avatar of Time to defend the earth and it’s important to understand why the Avatar of Time to defend the humans.
Unlike most series, this one goes really hard and seriously goes all out to make Juna and the viewer to understand that: all life is important. In one of the episodes, they talk about babies and hearing their voices before they’re born. Juna’s older sister, Kaine, whom Juna already has a strained relationship with, is pregnant and Juna tries hard to convince her not to abort the baby; but only because Juna could hear her son within her sister.
A lot of the side stories and characters remain open ended and up for interpretation but for good reason. Something like this does not need a definitive answer from the side characters because the side characters are also real life human beings. Juna may have convinced her sister to keep the baby or maybe not. She never took away her sister’s agency to abort but only gave her a different train of thought – there’s an unheard baby in all of those who can conceive them. We may or may not be able to hear it but it’s really up to you what to do with it.
Usually in magical girl anime, there’s a always some form of focus on the relationship. This anime does just that. A lot of it is introspection about the world around us, true, but it also focuses on the relationships Juna had or have. In the case of her father, he ran off with another woman and chose to stay with her because it was easier than facing her mother about the affair. Sayuri loves Tokio and even though she loves her friend Juna, she couldn’t help but strain that friendship because of Juna’s sudden shift in personality. Her feelings towards Tokio were just that much stronger and especially since Tokio was having trouble coping with Juna. Juna’s relationship with her mother and sister are so very important – after all, your mother is the one who kept you safe in her womb and your sister is your blood relative. If we are all connected, then it’s even more so important to consider your relationship with your family.
SEED are those militant environmentalists that help people like Juna, Chris, and Cindy protect the earth from pollution, world hunger, and all those very important issues but they’re mostly put in the back burner since this is more about Juna’s awakening. They’re a great addition, nevertheless, and also add to the dire importance of Juna realizing the message sooner before anything worse could have happened.
One of the things I really liked about this anime is that they mixed in a variation of live action and animation (however messy and out dated it actually is) to really drive home the point about saving the earth and how we’re all connected to everything and everyone around us. For some, this could be really out of place in regards to the tone of the anime or the current episode but it’s still really important. If we don’t make that connection and if we don’t truly understands what is the point of Juna even bothering saving the world, then there’s not a lot at stake. The stakes are not placed high enough for us, the audience, to fully understand why this earth is crumbling and dying a painful death.
Juna, though, is still very much a high school girl and she’s very much still a human. She pushes Tokio away in an effort to protect him from danger but even with her own insistence, she just can’t leave him alone. She loves him so very much but she does not want him to put in danger because of her.
Granted, there’s not a lot of action sequences in this anime that people can marvel at but that’s the whole point: what is Juna fighting for? Why is she fighting them? Why is she protecting them? Why is it so important that Juna knows how food is made and where it came from?
Why do you kill?
That’s the question that Chris always asked Juna and with Juna, the audience is just as annoyed and angry about its meaning until the very last episode. But because the audience is angry, it means that they’re thinking. It means that they’re considering everything that they’ve done – eating out at McDonalds, throwing away a meaningless piece of plastic on the ground, the boring rituals we do every day to make us think we’ve done a job well done. That’s not to say everything is fruitless and has no meaning. There is meaning in what we do. Maybe it’s not as deep as we liken it and maybe it isn’t. However, everything we do and don’t do is important in the grand scheme of things.
Granted, this anime is extremely preachy when it comes to the environment of the earth but the message really is clear: we are one. We are one. The more pollution we put into our bodies, the more pollution we produce. We lose our meaning when we push aside our feelings and emotions for the sake of something mass produced. Maybe there’s a temporary joy in material items but, essentially, we’re not communicating with one another not because of technology – because we forgot that we are all one and the same.
And it’s so important for Juna to understand that so she can protect those who are still alive from ourselves.
Looks like I'm adding another show to the 'visually interesting anime of the early 2000s' list. Otogizoushi came to mind almost immediately when I started this. So anyway, yeah, on the surface this is basically an environmentalism propaganda piece, but (and this is unusual) I wasn't turned off by it. Does it get preachy at times? Maybe. Is that a problem? Not at all. I think it works because all of the opinion spouting somehow meanders its way into, and melds with, the overall aesthetic of the anime. In other words, the message is an integral part of the experience;
coupled with the imagery, nothing feels out of place. Because of this I see this as more of a mood piece than an 'An Inconvenient Truth,' "here are the facts" kind of thing. In this sense I don't think 'agreeing' with everything (or anything, for that matter) plays an important role in getting enjoyment out of this series. This is probably accomplished due to its above average writing and direction. And in the end, I don't think it is as quite propagandistic as a surface viewing would lead you to believe.
As happy as I am that they did it that way, anyone actually interested in environmental issues is probably going to find fault with the execution: 1) There are no facts, spirituality trumps science in this one. Think, 'we are one with the planet' kind of stuff, which works well for the mood and art but not so much for compelling propaganda. Hell, some stuff they say seems like complete fiction, but I'm no expert.
2) There is nothing concrete, other than vague references to pollution (everywhere and everything), nuclear power (of all the things to go after) and the usual anti-capitalism (and a lot of flashing imagery to go with it) one can definitely feel some disconnect from this anime world and our real one. Because it doesn't try to tackle any one specific, pressing, environmental issue it eventually drowns in its own cynicism; thumbing its nose at almost everything we do in modern society.
What this amounts to in the end is, 'all complaints, no solutions.' At least it's somewhat self-aware, our pal Tokio, after hearing Juna complain constantly about city life, eventually asks (paraphrasing obviously) "how the hell are we supposed to live?" Juna gives what amounts to a non-response: "live like that old guy we met in the mountains." That's something only a person living in the First World could say, which is ironic considering that those who suffer in poverty are shown sympathetically (as victims of the sick Earth). I guess they're trying to make a distinction between self-imposed and involuntary poverty but I never think is the best answer for this kind of stuff.And some of this is tempered in the end anyway where we see a little bit of optimism, all without Juna needing to re-evaluate her principles or compromise what she learned.
Despite some complaints, I DO like how the anime tries to get its message across. The interplay of well-written dialogue and imagery are effective, moving, and interesting from an artistic perspective. Stuff like Juna being able to see herself in the food she is about to eat is a good way of getting the (little) idea across that what we eat becomes a part of us and that we should care about what we put in our bodies. Sometimes the little ideas go over better than the bigger picture. In this regard the quality of the message in the anime is more than the just the sum of its parts. In the end, this imagery ALSO finds its way into the bigger picture. Thus, I would consider this anime to have depth. And we are made aware of this depth in a compelling and organic manner.
And I think if we detach ourselves from the message even more it is easy to see how important the radicalism is for the overall feeling of the show. Character opinions are simply character opinions, of course, but even beyond opinions, the dialogue is also there to put forth general philosophical ideas that require a bit of authority and directness from the characters to be effective. But what is the message, really? I think there's a lot there, the main thing being the idea that we are, as living things, a part of the universe as everything else is. To find happiness as humans then is to live as parts in harmony, like the rest. The idea is, that our trying to dictate our own roles in the the universe, according to our own whims, is what is making the world imbalanced. A simple life then, is to live the way nature dictates, and to live this way we need to come to an understanding about what we NEED. Coming to such an answer requires a sort of philosophical journey that can only be achieved via becoming intune with the earth itself. The anime is calling on us to try and learn from nature, ask questions about what we need to survive, what we really need for happiness. Live according to principle. Definitely, biologically deterministic. I'd say the anime has an aura of stoicism around it.
To summarize: To understand ourselves at the most basic level, is to understand the world.
There are two ways of looking at it, maybe it really isn't so "propagandistic" after all, and all of the 'complaining' is just to get us to that one simple truth. (In the end,this is how I see it).
Conclusion of this part: watch this series as you would an art film, detach yourself from the politics of the message and let it impact your emotions not your rationality.
Despite what the synopsis tells us, this is a character driven, dialogue heavy, and not an action or plot driven show (thank God). Juna and Tokio are great characters. The show gives them a relationship and makes me care about how it turns out, in fact I'd say their relationship and interactions make up about 80% of this anime (which I was pleasantly surprised by). A long conversation between them feels just as natural as a diatribe about our place on the planet. Not only is it a journey for Juna, and her understanding of life on earth, it is also a journey for her and Tokio's relationship. We really see how it effects them, and of course, how their love for each other effects the journey they take together. They really are a great couple.
To put the importance of the "plot" into perspective, despite putting a lot of effort into making you think this would be a typical combat/magic based series in the first episode, we get two episodes of Juna and Tokio hanging out with the aforementioned old guy in the mountains (great episodes by the way). What might be the meat of the plot for any other series takes a back-seat in this one. This is a good thing because the Raaja stuff isn't all that interesting.
However, Juna's psychological and philosophical journey IS interesting. In the end coming to terms with a truth that has been fluttering around in her mind (as we see) since the first scene of the first episode.
The pacing also really got me. I already have a weakness for slow-moving, atmospheric shows and this one manages to maintain a consistent pace the entire run-time. Irregular episode lengths allow for some episodes to accomplish more without having to speed anything up.
Wish i had the vocabulary to describe the art and visual direction. Let's just say it really works well.
I think a lot of what is great about this show needs to be experienced. And I am writing this review because I think the overall low score is due to people literally WATCHING IT WRONG. Hopefully with the right perspective a new audience on this site could appreciate this anime a little better. Because if nothing else, this is absolutely an above average series. If I've managed to point out what to keep an eye out for, I think this review has done its job. (Also this anime is an instant favourite for me).