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Bandai Entertainment presents
Arjuna #1: Rebirth (2001)

"One hot summer day, I died. Hovering between life and death, as I watched life on this planet facing its demise, he spoke to me."
- Arjuna (Mami Higashiyama)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: November 25, 2002

Stars: Mami Higashiyama, Tomokazu Seki, Aya Hisakawa, Yuji Ueda, Maggie Blue O'Hara, Brad Swaile, Trevor Duvall, Samantha Ferris
Other Stars: Mayumi Shintani, Yoko Soumi, Tessho Genda, Fiona Hogan, Brittney Irvin, Richard Newman, Tabitha St. Germain, Andrew Francis, Ron Halder
Director: Shoji Kawamori

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (13+ for animated violence, brief nudity)
Run Time: 01h:13m:40s
Release Date: October 08, 2002
UPC: 669198222092
Genre: anime


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B-AA C

DVD Review

"A new era has begun." - Juna Ariyoshi

Earth Maiden Arjuna was a highly anticipated television series in Japan, as the latest project from Shoji Kawamori, the creator of Macross Plus and Escaflowne, especially as its accompanying music is by Yoko Kanno of Escaflowne and Cowboy Bebop fame. Raising the bar in terms of anime series presentation, Arjuna delivers an "end of the world" storyline, highlighted by lot of eye candy in its three-episode opener.

Juna Ariyoshi is an average teenager, not quite fitting in, and a little unsure of herself. When her friend Tokio suggests they head to the sea to liven her up, little does she know what is in store for her. On the way, she is killed in a motorcycle accident, but finding herself in a netherworld between life and death, she is offered a resurrection by a mysterious young man named Chris, who explains that only she has the power to save the world. She must battle the Raaja, creatures which are slowly taking over her dying planet. Confused, and not wanting to die, she accepts, becoming the new Avatar of Time.

After her miraculous recovery, Arjuna's friends don't see much outward difference in her, but her behavior is another matter. Whisked away to a nuclear power plant, she comes face to face with the beings she is now empowered to defend against, but her insecurities can summon more than she is able to cope with. Those who know of her abilities belong to a secret team known as S.E.E.D., whose members question whether the girl is the right person for the task that lies ahead. Arjuna must learn to wield her new responsibility, as the only one who stands between the Raaja and the end of humanity.

The first thing that strikes the viewer is that the quality of presentation far exceeds what is expected in a television series, looking closer to a big budget feature film. Those familiar with the Escaflowne movie or Macross Plus will recognize the cinematic styling, with deep visual fields and near constant movement in the camera. The artwork is highly detailed, with many layers, and combined with the sweeping compositions, creates an engrossing image field, and heightens the dramatic impact. Computer animation is realized on two levels, the first for creating the very realistic angles used, which still maintain a fairly traditional look, while the second is obvious computer generated imagery, with rendered surfaces and a three-dimensional appearance. This latter style is primarily used for the Raaja, who are invisible to all but the Avatars, so makes sense from a conceptual perspective. Love it or hate it, the look of this show is very impressive.

While it certainly looks and sounds gorgeous, I am not yet sure what to make of this series. The premise is pretty common—young girl is granted special powers, then has to learn how to use them to save the world—which in and of itself isn't bad, but the first three episodes haven't developed the characters enough to create an affinity for them, which is key to my enjoyment of any show. Yakahiro Toshida's character design is taking a while to get used to as well, which again makes it hard to become attached to the cast. Arjuna also draws a lot on Japanese mythology, thus shares many common elements with Blue Seed, such as the presence of the kami, (aka mitama) the spirit of all living beings, which graces Arjuna's forehead, and even naming the group defending the Earth "S.E.E.D." The environmental message is hammered home, which I can take in small doses, but this feels a bit extreme.

The story does have some intriguing aspects, which could progress nicely, and I'm hoping we'll get a chance to see more of the show to form a better opinion. Based on this disc alone, it is strong on style, but has room for improvement in development.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: There is not much to say about the image quality other than it is on par with the best theatrical anime releases out there. The anamorphic widescreen picture is simply gorgeous, with great color, solid blacks, and even gradients. Only a miniscule amount of aliasing detracts from a perfect score. I wish all anime could look this good.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Japanese, Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Japanese, Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Like the video, audio quality is excellent, offered in both 5.1 surround and 2.0 mixes in Japanese and English. The soundfield is enveloping and full sounding, dialogue is perfectly placed, and directionality well utilised. Yoko Kanno's music enhances the presentation significantly. There are no technical faults to mention.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 16 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring Jin Roh, Escaflowne: The Movie, Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counter Attack
Isolated Music Score with remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: M-Lock
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Cast interviews
  2. Episode previews
  3. Arjuna dictionary
Extras Review: A few extras are included to round out the release. Since the show as presented here is the director's version with live action openings, the original episode previews were removed, and are available in the supplements section.

A pair of interviews (14m:37s), hosted by chief producer, Chris McCarter, feature English voice actors Maggie Blue O'Hara (Arjuna) and Brad Swaile (Chris), who offer their first impressions of the show. These are casual and pretty basic in terms of style.

Finally, trailers for Jin Roh, Escaflowne: The Movie and Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counter Attack complete the extras.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

While I haven't quite made my mind up on whether this is an essential or not, Arjuna does set a new standard in television anime presentation quality. The story has potential, the look and sound are certainly topnotch, and if the show's theme isn't played with too heavy a hand and the characters get some more dimension, this could turn out nicely.

 


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