Star-Bulletin Features

Sunday, January 6, 2002

[drawn & quartered]


Not much saved in
comic’s move to film

By Wilma Jandoc

When a book is made into a movie, some things are inevitably lost in the process.

So when 21 volumes of a Japanese comic -- more than 200 pages -- are mashed into just 180 minutes of film time, you'd expect things to end up on the cutting-room floor.

But few anime pick a story line's bones clean as ruthlessly as "Please Save My Earth," based on the comic by Saki Hiwatari.

The six-episode story first introduces a shy high school girl, Alice, who has just moved to Tokyo from the country but is already on the receiving end of the pranks of a bratty 7-year-old boy, Rin.

One day, two of Alice's classmates tell her of vivid dreams they've been having for years, in which they always portray the same people: They are two of seven scientists on a moon base, studying the earth.

Alice thinks nothing of it until, not long after, she has a similar dream, taking on the role of a female scientist named Mokuren.

The trio then find the other four through an ad they place in a magazine. Three of them are also teenagers, but the last one turns out to be Rin.

Several of the youths have had the dreams for much longer and have already learned about the sad fate of the scientists, who have psychic powers.

It becomes clear that the seven youths are reincarnations of those scientists, and the events in their moon lives reveal what they must do in their Earth ones to atone for past mistakes.

"Please Save My Earth" has good story pacing for the first five episodes, touching on all the characters' relationships but focusing mainly on the romance between Mokuren and a male scientist, Shion, and their respective Earth identities.

After that, however, the pace suddenly picks up, with an ending so chock full of patched-together images that viewers are left thinking, "That's it?" and need to make their own conclusions about what happened.

Its hurried feel is emphasized by the fact that the extra features in the "Please Save My Earth" DVD include character biographies and a question section that ties up some of the anime's loose ends.

Even with that, too many questions are still left unanswered, some of which are, admittedly, not tackled in the comic, but others of which are glaringly absent in the anime.

Rin's obsession with Tokyo Tower, a big subplot in the comic that simply fizzles out in the anime, is one such enigma.

And "Please Save My Earth" barely scratches the surface of the other five scientists, who have their own dramas to settle in the complex relationships that influence the actions in their present lives.

Like the beautiful pastels that grace the covers of the original Japanese comics -- which have not been translated into English -- the anime's end has a tender, delicate note. But it is also rushed, confusing and ultimately unsatisfying.

But to give the series its due, the excellent animation captures Hiwatari's exquisite art style, and the scriptwriters have done a good job of pulling the main plot from the comics.

Accompanied by an almost dreamy ending theme by famed Japanese composer Yoko Kanno, "Please Save My Earth" is captivating and tragic, if severely truncated, with a mix of romance, action and sci-fi.

The series also had a movie, which was simply a summary of the original six episodes but included some extra scenes, and a half-hour music video. Sadly, neither was brought to the American market.

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