Arjuna Vol. #4 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Bandai Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Arjuna

Arjuna Vol. #4

By Chris Beveridge     April 07, 2003
Release Date: April 22, 2003


Arjuna Vol. #4
© Bandai Entertainment


What They Say
Japan has collapsed! The PDB bacteria unleashed by the research facility has combined with the Raaja and has fallen across all of Japan. All petroleum-based products: plastics, textiles, and computers are being completely destroyed!

Japan is instantly thrown back into the dark ages! Meanwhile, half a world away, Juna is still in New York meeting with S.E.E.D.'s directors, it becomes apparent to Juna that they have no intention of helping Japan. An angry Juna lashes out, and Ashura responds! Can Juna, the barely-awakened 'Avatar of Time' save an entire nation? More importantly, can she save the ones most dear to her?

The Review!
The final installment of Arjuna brings the two extended length episodes out and attempts to wrap up the series and all its issues.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this disc in its original language of Japanese and in the 5.1 mix of it. The amount of dialogue and sounds in general sent to the rear speakers really increases with these episodes and the added clarity of the 5.1 mix helped bring about a warmer feel to the program. Dialogue is nice and crisp and the music sounds fantastic throughout. Also included, in addition to an English 5.1 track and 2.0 tracks for both languages is an isolated music score in 5.1, which was what we listened to while writing the review.

Video:
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for widescreen sets. This release also utilizes the directors’ cut of the show, as the original broadcast version has not been released in Japan. This provides one immediate inconsistency in that the original previews from the first two episodes were removed and placed in the extras section, which also happens here. The transfer itself is as flawless as I can find it to be. Colors are rich and vibrant while the darker sequences, such as at night in the forest during a rainstorm, maintain a very solid look without any macroblocking. Cross coloration and aliasing are non-existent. If everything looked this good, I could eliminate this part of the review process.

Packaging:
Continuing the same gold edge design, the final cover has the interesting shot of Arjuna holding her legs close to her while looking to be in water but set against the moon. There’s something of a knowing smile to her face, which gives the volume title of Understanding an amusing nod. The back cover has a few meshed images from the final episodes but is mostly filled with text, talking about the shows final moments and a listing of the numerous features and production information. The insert replicates the front cover minus the gold border while it opens to have summaries for the final two episodes and more Arjuna artwork. The back of the insert provides the staff and cast listings for both sides of the production.

Menu:
The main menu is a nice if simple piece, with a flowing array of colors in the background while the centerpiece is the “power stone” or seed where animation from the show plays. Selections are lined around it, though there’s only one pattern of movement. The layout is pretty standard and access times are good.

Extras:
For the final volume, there is a great selection of extras to be had. We get the preview collections as we did with previous releases, but we also get the amusing two part Appare Adventures. Another great extra here is a karaoke version of the Mameshiba video with both the Japanese text (hard subbed from the Japanese release) with soft-subbed romaji lyrics. Charles McCarter concludes his voice actor interviews with Andrew Francis and Brittney Irvin, each running about five minutes or so. The real unique extra here is the “home video’” footage from Anime Expo that has several of the creators at their panel talking about the show. The only downside to it is that while there is a translator talking there, the audio is weak unless you crank it up. I’d hoped it would have been subtitled. But still, there are enough interesting comments in there to make it worthwhile.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Arjuna comes to an end, it has the big job of wrapping all of the themes and issues it brought up and making it all make sense to the viewer. While some of the issues get nicely wrapped up, there’s enough of the big picture that pretty much is just set aside to let them focus on one area.

That’s not bad though, because I rather enjoyed where they spent a lot of their time. As we saw the beginning of the end in the previous volume, it’s all going on here in a very big way. While Juna and Teresa are still in New York, Japan becomes quickly isolated and quarantined, as the petroleum byproduct that was created by Tokio’s fathers company becomes the prime force that will destroy the nation. As the tanker crashes into the port city, it’s released as a mixed form and becomes an extremely powerful raaja.

The majority of the first episode is focused on this death of a nation. The PDB chemical, as it spreads across in the form of the raaja, eats anything that’s related to it. Buildings fall to ruin, products decay nearly instantly, and clothing falls apart. Over the course of two weeks, the nation crumbles and its peoples turn near savage at times, though many try to make do in various camps that spring up. All of this is set against a hazy red skyline that sets the characters facial expressions even more somber and near-death like than normal.

Juna tries to find a way to help with all of this of course, but SEED won’t let her even leave New York at first to do anything. Chris is set against it as well, and it seems like the world has no problem sacrificing them for the greater good. Much to Juna’s frustration, it seems like life is going on as normal in the city and nobody really cares. It’s the moments like this that I have to wonder if that’s how the Japanese see us (which I think is accurate in that I think we’d act just like that after the first couple of days) or whether that’s a universal human reaction to ignore something of that scale once you realize that you’re unable to truly help.

But as one would expect, Juna ignores all the advice given to her and heads off to Japan to try and stop the death and ruin of her country. But it becomes quite the job, so much so that even Ashura is little effective against the massive odds that are now against them. When it comes down to it, the end is a quiet little number rather than a big brash piece that one might expect, as everything comes back to the core of the series in whether Juna would save or destroy the world. And it’s that core question that causes things to become more internal than external for the solution.

While I do think that in the larger scheme of the series, the ending was weak, the overall journey was one that I really enjoyed. The entire piece of episode twelve that focused on the death of a nation is the kind of anime that I enjoy that we don’t see often. Or at least in the slow way it plays out here, as it’s more often a quick couple of minutes for a series to lead into the bigger picture. That episode alone really kept my interest and had me on the edge of my seat as I watched how they envisioned this end to their country. With it visiting so many real places and locations throughout the series and then to watch it all decay at the end, it just gets me right where I like to be.

Though hated by a vocal part of fandom for a variety of reasons, I rather enjoyed Arjuna as an overall package. Some elements did not play out too well, but for most of the journey I was engaged, enthralled and entertained. Gorgeous visuals, an interesting mix of live action with animation and a fantastic soundtrack tied to an intriguing storyline is exactly what I look for in anime. And just like everything else in the world, not everyone looks for or likes the same things, which is what makes it all go around. Arjuna is a series I’ll definitely be taking time to re-watch in a more condensed time period than its release schedule. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Features
Japanese 5.1 Language,Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Isolated 5.1 Music Score


Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.

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