published in Empire No.83, Sydney
The last word spoken in Arjuna is “itadakimasu”. Most Japanese people – young and old – softly say this as they break open their chopsticks to eat a meal. It basically translates as a thanks for what one is about to enjoy. It’s a politely spiritual acknowledgement of the natural forces that contributed to what one is about to eat. Arjuna is a slow, soft and subtle meditation along similar lines. Qualifiable as an eco-fantasy, it is the most extreme of this anime sub-genre, brimful as it is of near-preachy environmental messages and awe-inspiring scenes of natural devastation.
Ordinary high-schooler Juna dies in the opening episode riding a motorbike. In a wonderful scene of her viewing her own death on a hospital bed, she begs the cosmos to give her another chance. This wish is granted – not by any mystical being, but, in a sense, by the earth itself. Consequently, she is laden with the responsibility to transform into a mystical warrior capable of fighting the Raaja, monumentally destructive mega-worms seemingly intent on collapsing all earth resources into a black hole of non-regenerative energies.
Oscillating between splendorous poetics and social politics, the unusual characteristic of Arjuna is the way in which it clearly points blame toward humans and their abuse of the environment. Particularly, the series doesn’t hold back when it comes to criticising the youth of Japan as being ignorant of the implications of their hyper-consumption and excessive waste. Yes, you’ve seen and heard this rhetoric in many movies and TV shows from around the world, but Arjuna is a successfully salient and sobering delivery of the same but with maximal dramatic impact. Its success lies in the sheer inventiveness in which it shows Juna’s sporadic ability to view life-energies in her friends, plants, her own body and eventual complete exo-systems, making this a unique anime.