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3 home / october 2002 / feature Turn Page BackwardBack to HomeTurn Page Forward

Animefringe Coverage:
Arjuna - Plant a Tree For Your Tomorrow
By Adam Arnold

"Life was created on this planet and countless species have appeared and disappeared. Even if human beings were to become extinct the Earth will continue to journey across the galaxy without a second thought. Human history, after all is but a mere flicker in the long history of time." - Chris, Episode 1's Opening Monologue.

For years mankind has taken advantage of the planet and given nothing back except for mountains of garbage. The lakes and streams are filled with chemicals that turn the sparkling bodies of water into poisonous death traps. The forest and trees are crowded out by industrialization, forcing the remaining animals to adapt their natural instincts to new purposes merely to find food - but not for much longer.

Mankind's heartless ways have unwittingly created a new problem that, if left unchecked, can and will spell the very end of the Earth. This new problem is none other than an invisible menace known as the Raaja. These worm-like beasts are the product of years of pollution and can only be seen with the aid of specially designed equipment that lies in the hands of a secret tactical organization known as S.E.E.D.

However, military might is not part of S.E.E.D.'s prime directive. No, the organization's main purpose is to act as backup and monitor the status of a powerful psychic known as the Avatar of Time. It's the Avatar's purpose to physically face down the environmental menace and ensure a disaster does not befall mankind.

Here lies the problem, Chris, the current Avatar of Time, has become weak and is no longer able to perform at the same capacity. His body has become frail, and he must remain in a wheelchair to conserve what little energy he has left. The time has come for the torch to be passed to a new champion. This new champion is a 16-year-old girl known as Juna Ariyoshi, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

The series opens with Juna at a pivotal moment during an archery match. She is visualizing the target and suddenly she sees a glimpse of the future. When she snaps back to reality she's let's go of the arrow and it falls to the ground, ruining her round.

Shortly thereafter, Juna is eating ice cream with her blonde-haired slacker of a boyfriend, Tokio. She wants to forget about what's happened and drive to the ocean. Yet, on their way, the two of them get into an accident that leaves Juna fighting for her life in the hospital.

Juna finds herself outside of her body, witnessing the doctors frantically trying to bring her back to life to no avail. Juna's spirit meets up with Chris, who shows her another glimpse of the planet's future and gives her a choice. She can either die or be brought back to life to fight the Raaja. It's easy to guess the choice that Juna made, but the hardships that Juna will face from now on are staggering.

For a few people, this might bring up some horrifying images of Captain Planet, but don't freak out. This show is nowhere near as juvenile or as overt in its messages. Arjuna is the brainchild of Shoji Kawamori, the creator of Macross Plus and Escaflowne, and it's a present day conservation flick with its root in a number of issues such as energy problems, mass pollution, and global hunger. The series may be set in and around Japan, but the topics presented are as relevant to Japan as they are to world at large.

Interestingly enough, one of the key messages this show aims to express is need for mankind to become one again with nature. It is mankind's separation from nature that ultimately makes it impossible for a human to see the Raaja without the aid of specially designed equipment. As the show points out, long ago humanity was able to see the spirits around us, but gradually became blind to them as we separated from nature. In many ways, a similar parallel can be seen in Miyazaki's masterpiece Princess Mononoke, where the film aimed to show the effects of industrialization.

Arjuna is designed to be a soapbox title, and one of the early things it serves to show is that even though Arjuna has such remarkable powers, she is still only one person and one person can't hope to make a difference in the world without help. So when you start feeling that uncanny desire to go and plant a tree, or maybe even a garden, why not follow through with it?

Juna Ariyoshi

A normal high school student who nearly dies after a motorcycle accident. Chris gave Juna's spirit the option of helping to save the Earth from the Raaja in exchange for giving her life back. She is now the new Avatar of Time, but she has a lot to learn before she can accomplish her mission.
Avatar of Time

A person with an exceptionally high bond with the Earth. When Juna became the new Avatar of Time, she brought with her a number of impurities that must be purged before she can fully utilize all her powers. At the moment her main weapon is the bow known as Gan Deeva that she uses to slay the Raaja.
Tokio Oshima

Juna's concerned boyfriend. Tokio is on a different wavelength than Juna, or so Cindy keeps saying, but he has remained loyal to his girlfriend. Though Tokio knows about S.E.E.D.'s existence, they have deliberately tried to keep him in the dark, forcing him to track down Juna on his own.
Chris Hawken

The former Avatar of Time. The rigors of his planetary gift have taken their toll on his body. He has been left a drained husk of a man forced to conserve all his energy until he is most needed. Chris is a powerful telepath and still has some of the powers of his former title.
Cindy Klein

Chris's argumentative translator/medium with well developed powers of telepathy and empathy. She is constantly on Juna's case because she disapproves of Chris choosing such an inexperienced girl as the new Avatar of Time.

Images Copyright Sotsu Eizo, TV Tokyo, and Bandai Visual. Copyright Bandai Entertainment. All rights reserved.

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