Arjuna Anime Legends Complete Collection - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: C
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 39.98
  • Running time: 325
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Arjuna

Arjuna Anime Legends Complete Collection

By Dan Barry     August 07, 2006
Release Date: April 25, 2006


Arjuna Anime Legends Complete Collection
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
High school, archery club, and boys were the things that filled Juna's daily life. But when an accident leaves her clinging tenuously between life and death, fate intervenes as she becomes the sole witness to scenes of Earth's destruction along with humanity's reckless pollution of the sky, the Earth, and water.

It is here in which Juna is given a new chance at life and bestowed the powers of the Earth, a power she must wield in order to stop an evil bent on Earth's destruction.

The Review!
Arjuna is a strange series even by anime standards. After an initial few episodes of action and violence, it settles into a more meditative, scholarly groove, taking an overtly progressive stance on issues from education to agriculture, abortion to big oil. More Fast Food Nation than magical girl anime, the bulk of the show is character- and dialogue-driven, despite the action implied by the promotional art. Arjuna is directed squarely at the food-for-thought crowd, and that is the series' main strength; viewers looking for action or a relaxing, passive show should look elsewhere.

Audio:

Straightfoward and unadorned. There's some good panning during the action sequences, but as a largely dialogue-driven anime, Arjuna isn't the type of show to demonstrate the full capabilities of a surround system.

Arjuna features music by Yoko Kanno, but it's uncharacteristic of her typical quality. Music plays a very small role in the drama of Arjuna; it simply doesn't get much air time. Add to this the fact that Arjuna's overarching theme "the environment "isn't as music-friendly as those of Escaflowne or Cowboy Bebop, and it's not hard to see why Kanno might have had difficulty generating memorable material.

I watched Arjuna mostly in the original Japanese. The quality of the Japanese voice acting was above average. The English voice acting sounded passable, if a little sappy at times.

Video:

Overall quite good. A little bit of interlacing crops up in some of the city-based episodes, especially in shots that have lots of parallel lines (city blocks, skyscrapers). Other than that, the animation is very crisp.

Arjuna falters a bit when it tries to incorporate CGI and live-action footage into its animation. The CGI looks far more rudimentary than it should given the series' 2001 release. Ditto for the live-action footage, which gives the appearance of being shot on a Handycam.

The subtitles have the occasional typo, and a few times on each disc, there were some pretty drastic mistakes with subtitles. They would appear on the screen with no correlating speech/audio.

Packaging:

Nothing terribly interesting here. It's the standard issue for Bandai's "Anime Legends" collection series. The 4 DVDs come in a double-thick DVD case with the same sort of cover insert regular DVDs have. There are no additional printed materials inside "just a snap-in "page" in the center of the box that holds discs 2 and 3. It flops around annoyingly when you open the box. And Bandai's "Anime Legends" banner at the top of the box front is completely at odds with the cover art's palette. It's literally colored storm cloud gray, and it looks like a thunderhead looming over poor Arjuna's head. Rather unimaginative packaging.

Menu:

I don't know where in the series they pulled the menu music from, but it's a cringer. Imagine the wailing singers from the original Ghost in the Shell movie re-cast as chanting, tambourine-banging priestesses. It makes you want to skip the opening menu as quickly as possible. The menus themselves are nice and readable, but the key layout is a bit awkward "it takes a lot of button mashing to get to the option you want in some of the larger menus. There's some full-motion video on the main menu, but it's constrained to a small space in the center, and the effect is more distracting than enhancing.


Extras:

Nothing over-the-top. There are music videos/karaoke and a few interviews with voice actors and the director. There's also an "Arjuna Dictionary" on each disc that discusses some of the more obscure sci-fi concepts from the series.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

The Plot

Anime is adept at exploring topics of technology and society "but the flipside of the coin is that it has been conspicuously silent about environmental issues. Arjuna is one of the few anime besides Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Princess Mononoke to reckon creatively with the impact of man's behavior on his environment.

Unfortunately, the 13 episodes of Arjuna have none of the style or grace of those films. The tone of the first episodes sets the viewer up for some raging action "in the opener, Juna literally springs up from her deathbed, jumps on a helicopter, and saves a nuclear power plant from meltdown. But beginning with episode 3, the show abandons the action format altogether. It's a confusing switch, and many viewers will feel betrayed as the show begins to take an episode-by-episode look at a number of different environmental issues.

Which is not to say that some of those episodes don't work well if taken as stand-alone pieces. In episode 4, an old farmer introduces Juna and Tokio to pesticide-free subsistence farming. It's a fascinating look at an organic lifestyle that most people never consider, and it's one of several concepts in Arjuna that make viewers re-think their relationship to their food. In episode 6, Juna visits her math teacher in his home, and ends up embroiled in a discussion about how the education system works (and doesn't work). Collectively, these episodes represent Arjuna at its best. Not only do they encourage the viewer to think critically about their choices and consequences, but they're entertaining in their own right.

But more often than not, the opposite holds true, and Arjuna becomes an "anime with a mission" but little dramatic or cinematographic value. In episode 5, Tokio finally convinces a reluctant Juna to eat a Meriken Burger. Juna digs in, and her "earth sympathy" powers put her in direct contact with all the suffering caused by modern agricultural practices. The "death burger" sequence that follows is a montage of pesticides and tortured dairy cows. Shortly afterwards, Tokio and Juna collapse with an intestinal infection. The episode is resolved when Juna, in her powered-up superhero form, enters Tokio's intestines "seriously "and uses her mystic bow to destroy the supernatural parasites. It looks as mind-boggling as it sounds.

The end of Arjuna is practically a farce. An artificially engineered petroleum-eating bacteria runs amok in Japan, destroying the plastics that have become the very heart of industrialized life. Japan is instantly reverted to the dark ages, while the Raaja "evil earth spirits "hunt and kill the survivors. In able hands, this material could have been terrifying; as it stands, it feels forced. It's as though Arjuna's creators tried to cram all of the action and plot development missing from the previous episodes into one outlandish ending.

The Characters

Calling the characters of Arjuna "stereotypical" is an understatement. They're entirely commonplace, and the lack of character development over the course of the series only reinforces this flaw.

Juna Ariyoshi is your typical reluctant protagonist, a female incarnation of Shinji Ikari. In early episodes, her moments of self-doubt are even rendered in the exact same fish-eye close-up as Shinij's. Like Shinji, she has to face an inward battle in order to prepare for an outward one; unlike Shinji, Juna's external battles are so few and far between that by the time she finally does have to fight, the battle feels like a deus ex machina. She demonstrates frustratingly little growth or change as a character.

Chris Hawken, Juna's mentor, is based loosely on Lord Krishna, and is one of the series' few references to the Hindu legend that supposedly inspired it (the Bhagavad-Gita). Chris, a young, crippled psychic, is largely one-sided. Rather than training Juna or cultivating her understanding of her new powers, Chris constantly browbeats her, telling her "you're not aware," and "you haven't understood a single thing I've told you." It's hard to blame poor Juna, considering Chris gives only the vaguest of instructions.

Tokio Oshima is Juna's love interest. He's addicted to fast food (especially Meriken Burger, the show's McDonald's stand-in), and he largely avoids anything that might require more than superficial thought. He is largely Juna's foil, criticizing and alienating her whenever she attempts to turn to him for understanding. The show is realistic about the resulting tension: it drives them apart and pulls them back together as the pair reckons with love for the first time in their lives. Oddly enough, because of their nuanced relationship, Tokio often comes off as more developed than the show's other characters "including Juna herself!

Interesting to Note

Despite Arjuna's many shortcomings, I have to applaud Character Designer Takahiro Kishida for making the bold decision not to sexualize Juna. She's thin-limbed and small-breasted, and all of her personality is located squarely in her face. Throughout the series, Juna is able to be feminine without a huge rack or up-skirt camera angles. Likewise, her peers are also portrayed as somewhat ungainly or uncomfortable in their bodies "an aspect of early teenagedom that most anime are eager to gloss over. Kishida's decision not only makes his characters more humane, but it also prevents the viewers from treating them as eye candy, which is wonderfully in-tune with the show's larger themes.

However, sex is dealt with quite candidly in episode 9, "Before Birth." This will be the make-it-or-break-it episode for most viewers: it's overtly pro-life, it features graphic depictions of babies in the womb and being born, and it ends with Tokio and Juna trying (and failing) to have sex. Small wonder this episode was actually banned from airing on Japanese TV.

Another interesting aside is that many of Arjuna's viewers say that the show changed their views on fast food. Many say it turned them off from fast food for months "if not permanently. Despite the large number of environmental issues Arjuna covers, it's safe to say that it deals with the topic of food most consistently and fruitfully (no pun intended). If GM foods, vegetarianism/veganism, agricultural practices, or sustainability are issues that interest you "or even if you just really enjoyed Fast Food Nation or Super Size Me, and want new material in the same vein "Arjuna will offer you enough fresh and interesting ideas to offset its hokiness.

In Summary:

Arjuna is filled with germane (if divisive) insights into our relationship with the environment; it does a good job of canvassing a number of different fields and subjects. But the average viewer will likely be bored, annoyed, or just plain old mock the series' many shortcomings. In the absence of a compelling story arc, Arjuna becomes a series of interchangeable vignettes that at best are profound, but more frequently are laughable. It's hard to recommend this show to anyone but ardent environmentalists and educators who might use portions of it in class.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,Isolated 5.1 Music Score,English Subtitles,Interview with Shoji Kawamori,Arjuna Dictionary,Cast Interviews

Review Equipment
Toshiba 34HF81C (16:9, 32", HD-ready), Sony DAV-C700 5 DVD Changer (5.1 DTS) w/ Sony speakers

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