Earth Girl Arujuna: Director's Edition Vol. #1 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Audio Rating: N/A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 2 - Japan
  • Released By: Bandai Visual
  • MSRP: ¥5000
  • Running time: 75
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Arjuna

Earth Girl Arujuna: Director's Edition Vol. #1

    December 28, 2001
Release Date: July 25, 2001

What They Say
The show is from Masaharu Kawamori of 'Macross' fame. The newly mastered high quality transfer gives better picture and sound to this awsome TV show. What is the future seen by Juna, the empathic girl who feels the pains of the Earth.....? Contains Chapters 1 through 3. Also includes a previously unbroadcast episode to give this show a total of 13 episodes. 8-page booklet enclosed. *This is Bandai's "Emotion Carnival" item, for which a set of 3 'Emotion Cards' is offered to the first 100 customers who bought this title.

The Review!

Unbounded by clichés, the star-studded team lead by director Shoji Kawamori produces an alternative animation called "Chikyuu Shoujo Arujuna." One thing to keep in mind with the DVD series is that they vary from the aired episodes during the spring 2001 TV run, as the production went back and changed several scenes and added an entire, previously-unaired, episode, to volume 4 (episode 9). With that in mind, let's take a look, shall we?

The setting is modern time, in the Kansai region of Japan. A high school student, Arujuna, died in a mysterious traffic accident and was given another chance at life by a mystical entity named Chris. In return, however, Arujuna must be reborn and become the Avatar of Time, to save the world from the apocalyptic prophecy Arujuna saw in her out-of-body experience while she died.

However, that's probably as much similarity you'll get with this show and the magical girl genre of anime. It's serious, real, and deals with real life issues. It can get preachy and it doesn't care about what you think--but it does it with style!

Visually there is a strong stress on computer-aided 3d/2d visual effects. Unlike, say, Blue Sub no.6, the CG aspects are integrated seamlessly as the subject matters are much more natural and the art style appeals to realism. There are a few scenes where the CG depicts mechanical/buildings where it stands out visibly, but overall it's quite awesome. The DVD itself does little, if any, to hide that, as there are little pixelation and rainbow notable on the disc. For a TV series, the visuals are superb. I remember my first time seeing it, and it almost put me in an awe-struck state. That's not even mentioning the cinematography, which is up to par with what Shoji Kawamori has known for in his past works.

Audio-wise, due to my lame setup (my standalone DVD player is not available--being lent out, I had to use my PC and its game speakers) for audio, I left it as N/A. I thought, while being a huge Yoko Kanno fan, the music itself was heavenly as she did the soundtracks for Arujuna. On the DVD itself, there's a good amount of directionality as far as I can tell, in the L/R channels and what little forward/rear (which is usually depicted by volume changes) directionality I can pick up.

The packaging for volume 1 came with a pack of autographed "Emotion Cards" which are basically 3 trading cards, with the characters from the show and a message from their voice actors respectively. The DVD itself is cased in an Amaray keep case, with only an outer cover. Inside there's an 8-page booklet (mostly B&W character sketches), a folded Bandai promo leaflet, a promo for the rest of the Arujuna DVD series, and a registration card. It's fairly typical for a R2 release of a TV show, as a standard print run. On the DVD, there are, in additional to the episodes, the TV trailers, Bandai DVD promo clips, and a prologue at the start of the disc. I'll describe those later.

The menu itself is not very worthwhile to talk about--it's lean, fast, and sufficient. There's a background picture, some buttons, and the title of the DVD. The disc takes you to the menu automatically only when it finished playing the whole disc. There's no animation to the menu, either. I suppose it's typical, as well, for a (Bandai Visual) Japanese R2 disc of a TV series.

The only notable extra, the prologue piece, is basically some character narrations, setting the mood for the whole thing. Visually we're treated with some scenic, lightweight animation. Given that only volume 1 has 3 episodes (the rest have 2), there will probably be more extra material in the later discs of the run (which there are). That said, the way the prologue fits into the whole presentation of the disc is nice, as it sort of enhances the whole experience and package the episodes as a whole. The next-episode-preview for each episode is taken out and collected at the end of the DVD play routine, and you can access them through the menu directly. The Bandai DVD promo clips, of course, are placed at the very end of the DVD play routine (Gene Shaft, eX-D, Figure 17, Galaxy Angel). At the end of the 3-episode run, there is also a special preview for the next DVD, separate from the normal preview after each episode.

Content stuff:
Where to begin? Arujuna is almost as much as a social commentary as a story. This anime gives out a lot of messages and vilify many things that we take for granted in our modern life. A lot of the viewers of this anime that I talked to found one or several of these messages offensive, and I could only expect a few of you to take my stance on this--Arujuna brings out what we take for granted in a reconstruction/re-examination of the modern human being. That said, several of these viewers enjoyed Arujuna anyway. ^_^

However, the anime itself doesn't take on the serious tone so quickly. In the first two episodes, we're greeted with the average life of a high school girl in Japan. We're then to witness the transformation of Arujuna into the Avatar of Time--the whole dying, visioning, reviving, and reacting to "my world is changed upside down." Perhaps a bit Escaflowne-ish, Arujuna is very unfit to perform her new role as the savior of the world, but we're then presented with the special organization, SEED, which took upon the same task and assist/trains Arujuna to combat the mysterious "Raajar" monsters. Utilizing her archery skills (which now takes on a whole new level of meanings), she saves Tokio, a bunch of innocent people, some real estate, and iced the Raajar in her first encounter with a little help from her guardian mecha.

During all this, we're also greeted with the main cast of characters: Chris, the mute telepathic boy, the original avatar; Cindy, Chris's translator--a self-confident young girl; Tokio, Arujuna's love interest who is looking after her well-being; Teresa Wong, SEED agent and a hardened soldier; and Arujuna's mother, a typical Japanese mother.

In episode three, we're given more insight as to what it means to be the savior of Earth. Arujuna's survival training in the wilderness is more akin to a Native-American spiritual journey than anything, but it was portrayed very well (with action!). Her relationship with Tokio is further illustrated in the episode. We get a better glimpse of the world the Arujuna team is trying to illustrate to us: a tangible reality with human-like characters, and with human-like failings.

In conclusion, this is a fairly exciting anime that has a well-planned story and real characters. Besides the preachy stuff that it tends to intonate, it is a superb visual-audio trip with a nice plot progression (although a little confusing), in these 3 episodes. It's not a conventional piece of animation, so I'd suggest you try before you buy.

Japanese Language

Review Equipment
Spec: AMD 1.4mhz PC w/ Win2k, Creative Drx2 decoder/DVD kit, S-video to Sony 27" XBR TV. SBlive value soundcard, Altec Lansing gaming speakers (2 speakers, 1 subwoofer).


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