Earthian Anime Review
US Release By
Tragic Sci-fi Drama
2 45-minute episodes (I and II) and 2 30-minute episodes (III parts 1 and 2)
1989-07-26 - 1996-12-21
A race of angelic beings have watched over humankind throughout their history. But recently, the negative nature of the Earth's population has drawn the value of their existence into question, so pairs of observers have been sent to Earth disguised as humans. One angel in each pair is charged with observing the negative traits of humankind, and the other with finding the positive. If it is determined that the human race is too negative, then the Earth and its population will be wiped out.
One of these pairs is comprised of Chihaya and Kagetsuya; the former is the positive member of the team, but has an unusual distinction--Chihaya is the only angel in Eden with black hair and wings. Neither he nor his partner know what this means, but he is determined to seek out the answer during his quest. The journey will cross paths with a secret military research lab, fallen angels known as lucifers, a rock singer, and the mysterious angel Messiah, with the fate of the Earth hanging in the balance.
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A stylish and complex shoujo-style work, Earthian is anime of a different hue. Its stories are populated with deep, troubled characters and are tragedies through and through, and although its manga roots are evidenced by a total lack of set-up and a lot of time and relationship development elapsed between each episode, the complex characters make up for any weakness. Coupled with decent '80s-era visuals and a very good English dub, it has everything it needs to live up to as much of its potential as can be expected for a short OAV series based on a long manga series.
Intricate and engrossing, if you have any interest at all in dark shoujo-style tragedies, Earthian is a series worth checking out. Even those not usually interested in this sort of thing might find something to like.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
A stylish and complex shoujo-style work, Earthian is anime of a different hue. True to genre form, its stories are populated with deep, troubled characters and are tragedies through and through, with the only light coming from explorations of the hidden bits of humanity that come out under even the darkest circumstances. This is not quite what I was expecting based on the story, but for what it is Earthian is engrossing.
The storylines are not Earthian's strongest point. There are four mostly-self-contained vignettes (though the last two of the four episodes are technically two parts of story three), with all but the second episode linked by an overall plot. Though the plots are interesting enough, they're not particularly complicated or original.
The real problem, though, is that Earthian is based on a long-running manga series by Yun Kouga, and the animated version is definitely written with fans in mind. There's next to zero set up at the beginning, and even between the episodes you get the feeling that a lot has been going on that the viewer wasn't privy to.
This fragments-of-ongoing-story style does make it seem more real, as if the characters are doing their own thing even when you aren't watching, but it also left me feeling like I was missing something. Particularly lacking is the developing relationship between the main characters. A lot definitely happened between the second and third parts that would have been interesting to see, and the lack of setup reduces the impact of the friction between them during the final story arc.
Fortunately, the gaps in the main pair's history are the only real flaw in the variety of characters, and those personalities are what Earthian is about. All the characters are quite well crafted--each is distinctive, complex, and capable of keeping things interesting without any help from the story. Even so, the plots are more than enough to give the players room to do their thing.
Coming back to the main pair, homosexuality is something of a standard theme in shoujo stories, but it's still a touchy subject in many countries (including Japan), and there is no question that the two become lovers. I was quite pleased with how Earthian presents this relationship; not only is it handled directly and sensitively, but the fact that it is a same-sex relationship has no direct bearing on the story at all. While a little underdeveloped due to lack of time, it's no different than any other love interest. In any case, although I'm bringing it up, the sexual orientation of the main characters is never even discussed in the story, so it's really not a defining feature of the series, if you ask me.
Getting back on track with the technical end of the story, Earthian is visually about standard for a well-done production from the late '80s. The backgrounds tend to be a little bland and the colors are a little on the faded side, but there is also an edge to the art, with some moody shadows and settings. The character art is relatively detailed and nicely drawn, and the wings--they're angels, after all--are particularly impressive. Though the character animation could have been a little smoother, it isn't bad, and the faces are expressive. The character designs are more or less typical shoujo, with very lanky bodies and angular faces, but they are distinctive enough, and generally attractive. Chihaya seems to get a little less chubby and feminine through the series; I don't know whether this was intentional or just inconsistent. The action, of which there is more than you might expect, is fairly well animated, and surprisingly gory in a few places--it certainly doesn't pull any punches.
I have only seen the English dubbed version, but I must say that it easily ranks among the best dubs I've seen, particularly considering its older vintage. There is real acting to be found here, even in relatively minor characters, and the English dialogue is also well written. This story requires a wide range of emotions--mostly subtle, some not--and the actors meet the challenge all around. Even the couple of British accents are solid, with the sole exception of Cliff (the rock singer in part 2); he seems to be going for a slight British accent, but it comes out very unevenly. My only other complaint would be that Dave Snow's Takaki in the first episode is a little overdramatic, but it isn't so serious that it harms the character.
The music is also quite good, with some pleasant instrumental background music, and a variety of out-of-the-ordinary ending songs. The first one in particular is very pretty, and the rest are Japanese pop songs from the period not specifically created for anime.
Summing up, Earthian is a solid sample of tragic shoujo anime, with complex characters and a small selection of interesting vignettes. While it won't appeal to a wide variety of tastes, it might be worth checking out for something different, even if this is not usually your thing. If you're a fan of the manga you'll probably get a lot more out of it, but even for the rest of us there's still plenty to watch.
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Aside from the obvious comparison to the similar shoujo-angels-with-problems-on-earth Angel Sanctuary, this bears some resemblance to other shoujo manga-become-anime series, notably X and it's prequel Tokyo Babylon, as well as Please Save My Earth to a lesser extent.
Notes and Trivia
Based on a long manga series by Yun Kouga, who also wrote and drew the semi-parody fantasy series Gestalt.
US DVD Review
The DVD combines all four episodes with Japanese and English audio tracks. Extras include an art gallery and interview with the creator, presumably the same bonuses as were included on the last two VHS volumes.
A fair amount of violence, emotional trauma, and some ongoing adult themes and content put this at about a 16-up level, though the 13-up Media Blasters decided on isn't out of the question.
Violence: 3 - Not gratuitous, but no punches pulled either, and a fairly high body count.
Nudity: 2 - Only a couple of brief scenes.
Sex/Mature Themes: 3 - A brief scene in part 3.
Language: 1 - Not severe.