Please Save My Earth Anime Review
Boku no Chikyuu wo Mamotte
Protect My Earth
US Release By
Dramatic Sci-fi Romance
6 30-minute episodes
1993-12-17 - 1994-09-23
Stranded at an observation base on Earth's moon, seven alien scientists succumb to a plague, one by one. These seven, reincarnated in Japan as a group of innocent youths, begin their lives as any other humans would. But as memories of their past lives begin to resurface, they find that the tumultuous relationships of their past incarnations have not died either, and the repercussions of what went on in that base will affect far more than just their own lives.
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Please Save My Earth is a finely crafted shoujo-style series, but its appeal goes well beyond that category. Sporting a detailed plot with some very unusual situations, both uplifting and tragic, populated by interesting, multifaceted characters, and almost as appealing visually as it is to the mind, it plays to the shoujo genre's strengths while still maintaining a down-to-earth air and sense of humor that protects it from being overwhelmed by angst or pretense. It would be a nearly perfect series, were it not for the final episode, which is rather abstract, a bit silly, dumps most of the plot lines, and leaves almost every question unanswered.
For five episodes, Please Save My Earth is an engrossing ride, but the disastrous final episode is almost frustrating enough to make the whole thing worth skipping. How you feel about the end will significantly affect how much you like the series on the whole, but in any case it's good while it lasts.
Full ReviewSwitch to Quick Review
Please Save My Earth is a finely crafted shoujo series with appeal well beyond that category. Sporting a detailed plot with unusual situations both uplifting and tragic, populated by interesting, multifaceted characters, and almost as appealing visually as it is to the mind, were it not for the disastrous final episode, this might have been a perfect series. On balance it's almost frustrating enough to make the whole thing worth skipping, but it's certainly worthwhile for as long as it lasts.
It would be hard to go wrong with any character-driven story about a group of high school kids burdened by past lives, and Please Save My Earth does not disappoint.
The scientists on the moon have enough backstory, interesting personalities, and tumultuous relationships among them that they would have made the series worth watching alone, but they mainly provide the set-up for the group of kids that the story follows. From resurfacing romances to conflicts that live on from past lives, there is plenty of sheer momentum behind the characters, and the way that the kids handle the weird situation--partly as a sort of party game, partly frightened by the burdens of the past, and partly just confused by the torrent of adult emotions facing them--is quite believable and engaging to watch.
That the characters don't take their situation too seriously is one of the series' assets. Shoujo stories like this have a tendency to get bogged down by their own emotional weight or overly cool characters, but through a combination of natural humor, "normalness," and peripheral characters going about their everyday lives, Please Save My Earth stays well above that.
Easily the most interesting character, and probably the best part of the whole series, is the closest thing it has to a "bad guy"--one of the most interesting villains I've ever seen. It's hard to go into much detail without spoiling the story, so you may want to skip the rest of this paragraph if you haven't seen it. Specifically, the fact that he's as much a love interest as a villain means that the treatment of his character goes well beyond a motive for his evil ways. That said, his motivation is understandable and his long-term goal is very ambiguous--I'm not even sure if it's his goal that makes him the villain, or just his methods. Further, the fact that you have great psychic power, a sadistic personality, and a collection of mature adult emotions from a past life all trapped in the mind of a mischievous young boy makes the character simultaneously one of the most sympathetic villains I can think of and one of the scariest. One minute, he's every bit as evil as you could ask for, but the next he seems to be caught up in a normal child's behavior or trying to come to grips with the conflict between his romantic desires and his physical demeanor; I found that unbalance quite unnerving. Most intriguing of all, the combination seems entirely believable--if I were to imagine a little boy saddled with the memories of a troubled scientist driven mad by his burdens, this is exactly the sort of conflicted character that might come out of it--frightening, frightened, and a tragic victim of fate.
All that said, the characterization isn't entirely flawless. A couple of characters are a little too exaggerated and contrived for their own good. The sort of gang boss/mother fellow who has devoted his life to helping a youth based on some past tragedy is particularly hard to buy, although the character is written (and acted, at least in Japanese) with enough emotion and genuine compassion to make it almost work. A few of the other main characters suffer from the same problems on a much more minor level, but in their cases the same strengths easily conceal the flaws.
There's also a large cast (due to the past life thing, about twice as many as it would seem) with exponentially confusing relationships. Most are introduced rather abruptly, so it took me a while to get a firm grasp on who was who. It could have been much worse, but the confusion could have been lessened by dropping a few people not necessary to the condensed plot of the anime.
That condensed plot accounts for both the best and worst of Please Save My Earth; a lot of manga is getting squeezed into a very few episodes of anime.
It's not exactly what you'd call a formula story--alien scientists, past lives, and even psychics--but in addition to getting points for originality, the tale is told well on multiple levels. The experiences of the scientists, revealed in bits and pieces as the characters remember and come to grips with their past lives, makes the first couple of episodes quite engaging in a sort of X-Files way, and keeps a hint of mystery going throughout the series. That mystery works with some unclear character motives and a general theme of not quite letting the viewer in on everything to provide more than enough twists, turns, and drama for the plot as a whole.
It's not fair to relegate Please Save My Earth to the category of "shoujo-style romance," although that's what it is at heart, complete with unreciprocated love, an undercurrent of tragedy, and some gender-ambiguous relationships (not everybody is reborn as the same sex they were in past lives). If you're not fond of shoujo, before you write it off let me say that I was impressed with how Please Save My Earth plays on the strengths of the genre without going too far, or falling victim to its weaknesses.
The best example is the tragic side of the story, which is made up of the sort of carefully-crafted web of events that makes for almost Shakespearean drama. It stops short of becoming overwhelming, and isn't taken to nearly the extreme that it could have been--far from being a bleak picture, there are both uplifting moments and light situations that make the whole thing feel much more real than melodramatic. (That also makes the plot more exciting--some shoujo stories are so overwhelmingly tragic that you know exactly how it's going to end, but this one kept me guessing.)
Now for the big "But": There's a whole lot going on, and not a lot of time for it to go on in. For the first five episodes it handles this admirably; apart from a few too many sub-plots, the story is detailed, tightly written, and fits together nicely. Also admirable (sidestepping another shoujo pitfall) is the brisk pacing; the story is neither ponderous nor hurried, moving along quickly enough to keep you on your toes without getting totally lost.
But, unfortunately, the series is six episodes long.
Although there are some minor length-induced problems throughout, it all falls apart in the last episode. No, it doesn't just fall apart, it utterly disintegrates. I really wanted to like the end of the story, but that would require there to actually be an end. By my count at least 3 major sub-plots are entirely abandoned, and a whole collection of minor details are left totally unexplained (up to and including why it's titled Please Save My Earth, which is hinted at but never followed up on). Even the plot-line that stands out as the main one (and that's debatable) is only wrapped up in a somewhat abstract and inconclusive manner in about the last minute and a half.
Cutting the story off abruptly would be bad enough; what makes it downright insulting is that the bulk of the final episode--everything but the first and last couple minutes--feels more like peripheral backstory than directly related to the plot. I can't imagine what would possess a writer to abandon so much (like, say, the entire finale) to make room for that. I tried desperately to at least find some answers to the questions the series asks hidden in there, but came up empty.
As the final nail in the coffin, this out-of-nowhere sidestep is also distractingly more abstract and "fairy tale-esque" than the rest of the series, featuring (among other things) a giant anthropomorphic cat. In a fairly "realistic" series where nobody even has a puppy, something so blatantly cute wreaks havoc on the serious mood and seems jarringly out of place, whether it has a purpose in the story or not.
Combine all those insults, and the final episode is so bad it feels like it isn't even part of the same series.
The overall story has so much going on (and going for it) that it's enraging to see it implode at the end. The rest is so good that I personally thought it was worth watching on the whole, but, for the same reason, I walked away feeling entirely unsatisfied and rather cheated; it's going to be a matter of personal taste which feeling dominates for you. In either case, you've been warned.
As for the more technical end of the production, Please Save My Earth is a visually appealing series. The character designs are in an angular '80s shoujo style, which I liked, although a couple of characters look a bit too similar for their own good. The character art is quite good--delicately drawn with attention to expressions and fine detail. The backgrounds are also detailed and well drawn, although occasionally a little sparse or abstract. About the only thing I didn't like (and it's not surprising for a series like this) was that the colors on the whole are a little too heavy on the pastels. The character animation holds up its end in making the characters feel real--the quality ranges from good to really great in a few scenes. Also worth mentioning is the action; there isn't a lot of it, but what's there is exciting, creative, and very well animated.
In the acting department I can only speak for the Japanese, which is extremely good. My only (very minor) complaint is that a couple performances are a little on the wistful side; not inappropriate, but weaker than the rest of the very strong cast. The youngest of the protagonists is the most unusual role, and certainly the most challenging--being mature, childish, and rather evil by turns, all while maintaining believability as an 8-year-old is no easy task, and is pulled off admirably. The rest of the cast is also dramatically effective, with even minor characters turning in powerful moments of raw emotion, tempered by generally natural performances elsewhere. In the first few scenes, for example, a mix between school kids talking and a raw, powerful accident scene illustrates the balance and the great contrasts that the series is full of. As I mentioned above, that rather matronly man is also impressively acted--the gentle but serious tone behind his voice almost made his character believable.
Musically the series is relatively quiet, but there are some soft, appealing pieces of background music, and a few eerie ones to enhance moods. Most noteworthy, though, is the end theme--written by Yoko Kanno (who I don't believe was responsible for any of the other music), it is an unusual song not unlike Voices from Macross Plus--slow, melancholy, slightly eerie, but most of all a beautiful song that captures much of the feel of the series as a whole.
All in all, Please Save My Earth is a very good piece of anime, both shoujo-style and in general, for the first five episodes--an unusual story that is visually appealing, powerfully acted, extremely well written, and populated with deep, interesting characters. Unfortunately, the last episode is rather abstract, a bit silly, dumps most of the plot lines, and leaves almost every question unanswered. I at least was drawn in by it up until that point and enjoyed it enough on the whole to ignore the disappointment waiting at the end. Some other viewers may not be as forgiving, and a few may actually like the vague end, but in any case, it's good while it lasts, and really made me want to read the conclusion of the comic series.
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A number of other shoujo series have a generally similar theme--Earthian (very similar, but more tragic), Tokyo Babylon (darker), and They Were 11 (straightforward science fiction).
Notes and Trivia
Based on a 21-volume comic series by Saki Hiwatari that ran between 1987 and 1994; it's available in English from VIZ in 18 volumes. In addition to this six-episode anime adaptation, there is a movie that consists of most of the same material framed as a retrospective narrated by Alice, with a slightly more satisfying conclusion. There's also a set of six music videos that include material not covered in the OAVs or movie.
The original Japanese title "Boku no Chikyuu wo Mamotte" means about the same thing as "Please Save My Earth," although "protect" would be more literal than "save"; the particular version of "my" used, "boku," is the pronoun used by younger males specifically, for whatever that implies.
US DVD Review
The DVD from VIZ features crisp, bright video and decent stereo audio in Japanese and English plus a subtitle track. Extras include credit-free ending (there is no opening), as well as some useful information: character profiles for the scientists, and a FAQ taken from Animerica, the latter of which is quite useful for filling in some of the major gaps in the story that didn't survive the manga-to-anime transition.
Mature themes and generally tragic situations, but little actual objectionable material, placing it at a 10-up level, 13-up if you're strict.
Violence: 2 - While it's not graphic, people die; the impact is tempered a bit by the reincarnation theme.
Nudity: 1 - No actual nudity.
Sex/Mature Themes: 2 - Again, nothing graphic, but very serious.
Language: 1 - Relatively mild in the sub.
Available in North America from VIZ on a single hybrid DVD, currently out of print. Was originally available from VIZ on three dubbed VHS volumes. You can find used copies at Amazon, although it's going to cost about as much as it did new: Please Save My Earth DVD.