Earth Maiden Arjuna
Notes: By creator of Vision of Escaflowne
High school student, and mediocre archer, Juna dies in a motorcycle accident but is given a second chance in exchange for protecting the Earth from creatures called the Raaja. She transforms into the Avatar of Time and has the ability to summon a mecha called Ashura to help her against the Raaja. But the Raaja may not be the enemy she thinks they are. Follow Juna's adventures as learns about the Earth, the environment, and the circle of life on her path of self discovery.
The animation is an interesting but rather incongruous mix of regular animation, CGI and live action. The CGI backgrounds are quite good and detailed, but the character designs are plain. Juna's costume when she morphs to the Avatar of Time is corny, a pink nightmare, a fashion disaster. There are some amusing live action commercials and the ending is of live action scenes. The voices are fine in both the sub and dub. The musical score is at times reminiscent of Escaflowne with chanting during the action scenes, but overall, the score is lacking.
Series starts off quite interesting. Juna and her friend Tokio are involved in a motorcycle accident. While near death, she shifts into a different dimensional or rather into outer space where she has visions of the Earth being destroyed. A voice speaks to her and tells her he has finally found the one who will save all life on this planet. He (Chris) calls her the Avatar of Time who will lead the way to the future. Chris explains the Raaja are demons that will destroy Earth and she must fight and purge them. In return he saves her life.
Chris turns out to be a psychic child in a wheel chair who sacrificed himself to save her. He is a member of SEED which appears to be some sort of secret government agency. Chris' partner is a little telepathic girl named Cindy. He gives Juna a bindi for her forehead (the drop of time, a power stone created by ancient people). It looks like a "9" or a nautilus shell. This holy stone gives the owner the power of the Earth by sympathizing with the planet. First up is to protect a nuclear reactor from a meltdown and from being attacked by the Raaja (snakelike CGI monsters). With the power of the planet, Juna transforms into a superhero with a funky pink costume, and a large bow and arrow. But Juna gives into her fear and accidently summons Ashura (a mecha creature, the divine protector of time) who defeats the Raaja but nearly destroys the reactor.
This short magic girl series should be seen in order to follow Juna's quest of self discovery and her gradual awakening to nature's harmony and learning about the circle of life. There are some good things about the series, especially the relationships among the characters, and the characters' development. Juna's relationship with her wannabe boyfriend Tokio is especially realistic and touching, where Tokio wants to be more than just a friend to Juna, who likes him but something holds her back from that step. Her best friend Sayuri forms the remainder of the love triangle. She gives Juna multiple chances with Tokio despite her own feelings. The problem with their relationship is Juna's gradual empathy with the environment and Tokio's adherence to civilization's luxuries. There are also some good themes like the lack of face to face personal communication, the power of words, and how technology and society mitigates all that. But the problem with the series is the heavy handed environment message. It is obviously anti-growth hormones, anti-preservatives, anti-insecticides, etc. which can be tedious.
Rated PG. The themes probably won't interest children under six and some of the action scenes might be a bit scary for them, but they are generally innocuous. Recommended for children 6-12 who might find the information on the circle of life and the save the Earth message interesting, although some of the technological and medical language might be above them. Also recommended for supporters of Green Peace and other such groups. Not really for action fans or magic girl fans, but for people possibly looking for something more cerebral.