Synopsis: Juna Ariyoshi was just an ordinary teenager... until she dies in a motorcycle accident. As Juna's spirit floats farther and farther away from her body, a mysterious being named Chris gives her a choice. If Juna agrees to fight the Raaja which threatens to destroy the earth, Chris would save her life. Desperate for another chance to live, Juna agrees without fully understanding the implications of her decision.
Review: The first time I read about Arjuna was sometime back in early 2002. I was very excited about the prospect of another masterpiece in the tradition of my favorite anime series "The Vision of Escaflowne", to be brought about by combining Shoji Kawamori's directorial talents and Yoko Kanno's musical genius once more. The good news is, Arjuna is certainly a unique series and I've never seen anything like it. The bad news is, the whole viewing experience can be likened to one excruciatingly long and boring ecological lecture.
The first episode was exciting enough. Juna dies in an accident, she's faced with a choice between life and death, etc etc. The basics are established and we are presented with a very interesting situation, the type that would normally make you want to see the next episode as soon as possible. Arjuna's main problem is it never quite gets past the basics. All the episodes that follow the first are repetitious, always preaching about pollution and other environmental problems caused by civilization but never really clarifying what our heroine needs to do. It got to a point where Juna couldn't even eat a burger because she sees how it was processed with chemicals and such as soon as she touches it. She can't drink canned juice because she sees how pesticides had been used on the fruits as they grew on the fields. These changes frustrate Juna, more so her loved ones. It made me wonder how she could possibly continue living in the city. Juna's savior and mentor Chris is of no help, forever spouting cryptic remarks about the earth, humanity, and Juna's supposed objectives. All the ecological lectures and "one with nature and everything" talk got on my nerves even before I was halfway through the series. Soap opera-ish elements such as family problems and a love triangle are present as well, not that it really matters.
Then there's the Raaja, the bane of the earth and Juna's existence. It is never clearly explained what the Raaja is, but from what I make of it it's supposedly the result of mankind's abuse of the earth. Raaja eats away at everything it touches, causing sickness and destruction wherever it materializes. Raaja takes on the form of tentacles and Arjuna has to stop it from wreaking havoc, although according to Chris she isn't supposed to kill it. I guess the Raaja is their way of depicting the consequences of human advancement, over-exaggerated and at times somewhat silly as it would appear. Needless to say, Arjuna takes the concept of environmental decline to the extreme.
The art and animation can be considered excellent, with its smooth mix of cel animation, computer imagery, and live-action footages. I was not too fond of the character designs though, especially Juna's. The normal Juna looks plain, but the transformed powered-up Juna looks plain freaky. The enthralling music suits the series perfectly, which is no surprise since the great Yoko Kanno is the one behind it.
Given my high expectations, I was disappointed by Arjuna. Now I'm all for environmental concern and I understand the good motives that came with the series' creation, but it kept on stuffing the same message down my throat episode after episode. I was sick of Arjuna by the time I reached the ending, which was as vague as a lot of the plot points were. I wouldn't call it a bad series though, just redundant and overdone as hell.