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ANIMERICA FAQ:

PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH

     Even without all the characters to keep track of, a story based on twenty-plus volumes of a manga series condensed into six animated episodes is bound to be a little confusing. Our special Q&A section is here to help, with answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH.

Q: PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH takes place mainly in Japan, right? So why does a Japanese girl like Alice Sakaguchi have such a non Japanese-sounding first name?

A: In PSME, as in so many other animated and comic stories from Japan, names add an extra dimension of understanding to the characters. In Alice's case, even though it's spelled "Arisu," it's pronounced "Alice," but rendered in kangi, the ideographic Japanese character system which represents concrete and abstract concepts directly, rather than through a particular word or speech sound. Therefore, in Japanese, Alice (Arisu) is written with the characters for "Asia," "pear," and "child." However, it should be emphasized that, unlike the name of the alien scientists (below), the kangi for Alice's name have been chosen more for the sounds they yield--"a," "ri," and "su"--than for any hidden meanings ("Asian pear-child?" Sure, whatever you say).
     Other characters in the series have layers of meaning to their names, most notably the seven alien scientists, whose botany-related kangi names read as follows: Mokuren, meaning "magnolia," a shrub or tree of the genus Magnolia, having large, usually fragrant flowers, which appear in purple-hued buds before blossoming; Shion or "aster," written with the character for "purple" or "violet," a Chrysanthemum-like flower wich blooms in fall, its petalsradiating out, star-like from a central disk; Byokuran or "yulan." Magnolia heptapeta, a pecies of magnolia tree indigenous to China; Hiiragi or "holly," a smallish tree which grows wild in mountainous areas or is cultivated for ornamentation, the leaves of which are glossy ans spiny-toothed; Shusuran or "orchid," a type which grows wild in Japan and blooms in summertime; and finally, Shukaido "begonia," a species of tropical plant cultivated for its decorative blossoms, named after Michel Begon, the French patron of science.
     As for how Alice's mother came up with the idea of calling her daughter "Alice," in the original Japanese PSME manga, we learn that Mom's a big fan of Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and that out Alice is purposefully named after Reverend Dodgeson's eponymous heronine [PSME tankobon Vol. 1, p. 31--ed.].
     However, the most significant PSME name of all may be that of Rin Kobayashi, the seven- then eight-year-old boy who lives next door to Alice in Tokyo, whose first name, Rin, is written with the kangi charcter for "a wheel; a circle; a loop." Think about it.

Q: In the first episode of PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH, we discover that the seven alien scientists stationed at the moon research base--Gyokuran, Enju, Mokuren, Shion, Hiiragi, Shusuran, and Shukaido--alll have a strong affinity for the Earth. Given that their own homeworld was eventually destroyed (and that their apearances resemble humans in all obvious respects), why don't they just go down to Earth and get it over with...?

A: This is one of the series' most perplexing questions. Opinions among people who have seen all six episodes of the video series and/or read all 21 compiled volumes of the original Japanese manga series vary, most favoring the assumption of a not-explicityly-stated-in-the-series, STAR TREK-like "Prime Directive"; i.e., a homeworld issued order that the alien scientists are not to interfere with the development of Earth cultures.
     As stated by Jinpachi during his conversation with Issei and Alice in the first episode, the seven scientists are restricted to observation and the collection of data regarding Earth's nations: people, poitics, wildlife, resources, etc. Their mission, as he puts it, is to "record and analyze this information...the seven of (them) working in shifts, os that there's always someone watching over the Earth."
     Though they are in frquent contact with their superiors, messages fromthe homeworld take about one year to reach the isolated moon base. After an incident which caused their communications to go down, the base team checked their messages and found they had received two messages, one warning them that war was brewing, the next with a more dire message of imminent destruction. No more messages were received, and the group realized that their homeworkd was gone, leaving them stranded on the moon. Following this, in both the comic and video stories, the scientists debate among themselves about going down to Earth. In the manga version, the deciding voice against the trip is team leader and linguist, Hiiragi (but only after Gyokuran raises the first dissenting voice, if only to thwart hi rival Shion's desire to leave the moon for the Earth). In the animated version, the scientists begin to be struck down by the virus while the discussion is still raging, thus making it a moot decision.

Q: Where does the virus come from? Is it just spontaneous, or...?

A: As far as we can tell, it's just spontaneous. Creator Hiwatari really doesn't dwell on the details, neigher in the mang nor in the anime.

Q: Why is Rin so intereste in Tokyo Tower?

A: One of the criticisms often made against the animated feature-length epic AKIRA is that there's too much story in creator Katsuhiro Otomo's original comics to fit comfortably in the approximately two hours alloted for the video version. In some ways, PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH suffers from the same problem; i.e., 21 tankobon or compiled volumes of writer/artist Saki Hiwatari's original Japanese comics, which somehow must be make to fit inside six half-hour OAV episodes. Which parts of the story go? Which parts stay? Essentially, it's the screenwirter's task to condense those less essential parts of the overall saga to better focus on those crucial story and plot elements which justify the financing of the project as an animated series in the first place. Although it's given great empahsis in the early episodes of the animated series, the Tokyo Tower subplot (as well as the details of Rin's quest for keywords) is eventually dropped in order to tell the story of the serie' interlocking characters and their intertwined destinies which are, after all, the reason we're watching PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH in the first place.
     In the manga, we learn that the research base where the seven scientists are stationed also has a fearsome military capability. Alien technology, we learn, is so advanced that even a modest outpost such as the one on themoon is capable of utterly obliterating the Earth. To prevent this occurance, access to the station's military defenses is restrcited by the use of individually chosen passwords. Each of the seven scientists has his or her own keyword; each keyword is elected on the basis of its meaning to its owner; each keyword is changed several times by each character as the story progresses.

     In the anime version of PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH, Rin manaces Takashi, the son of the man in charge of renovating Tokyo Tower, so that changes will be made according to his specifications. What those specifications are or how he lans to use it to destroy the moon base (as he explains to Haruhiko int he third OAV episode) is something we never find out in the anime version; in fact, after securing several of the necessary keywords, Rin seems to lose interest in the project and drops it entirely.

     In the manga, however, we find out that Rin plans to modify Tokyo Tower to allow him to use it as a sort of psychic amplifier, establishing contact between he and the main computer on the deserted moon base. "I intend to destry the moon base," Rin says. "I don't want Earth to repeat our failed history. Our civilization made many mistakes, and it paid dearly for them. I'm gonna to try to save the Earth, if I can." In the anime, Rin never follows up on this intention, but in the manga, he not only rigs Tokyo Tower to his specifications (chosen, as he explains, because he's "always has a special liking for Tokyo Tower"), but actually established contact with the moon mainframe and initiates his nefarious plan.

Q: Why does Hiiragi say in the third episode, "Should we have gone down to Earth while we had time?" Isn't it too late by that point for the alien scientists to seek a cure on Earth?

A: Actually, the decision to go or not go down to Earth was one which had been bitterly debated among the scientists for some time before the virus struck. Shion, for example, was the first to suggest that they desert the moon base and relocate on Earth. Gyokuran, Shion's longtime rival, opposed Shion's idea on principle, while the other scientists were torn. After all, there was a strong sense of duty among them--felt most strongly, perhpas by Mokuren--that the destruction of their homeworld didn't negate their essential mission; i.e., to observe and analyze the Earth. Now that the homeworld has been destroyed, Mokuren reasons, it's more important now than ever that they continue their work.
     Shortly after Hiiragi makes the decision as team leader that everyone will remain on the moon, the virus begins infecting the scientists one by one, thereby rendering further discussion pointless. In other words, Hiiragi doesn't second-guess the wisdom of going down to Earth "while (they) had the time" because he hoped to find a cure there, but because he had hoped to find companionship and solace among the peoples of Earth who, we are reminded, are son much like the peoples of his distroyed homeworld.

Q: When Jinpachi, Issei and Alice finally meet up with their other "moon dream" friends a Hiiragi's house in Kawasaki, they're suprised to discover that what they took for future events actually happened in the past. Just how long ago were the alien scientists on the moon, anyway?

A: In the anime, the relative point in time the alien scientists exist on the moon is undefined, other than a single clue. In the fourth episode, Mokuren listens to a piece of music from Earth by German composer Robert Schumann (1810-56)--who, like Haruhiko in PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH, attempts suicide by throwing himself into a river--which Jiiragi is trying to "translate" for her. (After the meaning of the lyrics begin to be revealed, Shukaido decides to take as his keyword one of the translated lines from the music: "Seeking paradise in a dream.") The music could have been a modern radi broadcast, or contemporary to Schumann's time--it's left unclear.
     In the manga, however, creator Hiwatari took a more playful approach, opting not for a classical piece of music in the scene but for enka, a maudlin genre whose closest U.S. analog is country-western. Elsewhere in the manga, several of the scientists watch television transmissions from Earth, which leads us to conclude that they must have been on the moon during a relatively recent period. (One of the shows they watch is a typical Japanese soap opera. When the story turns to the depiction of a three-way love triangle, the scientists wryly conclude, "Romance is the same no matter what planet you're from.") In other words, after the virus takes its deadly toll, little to no time passes between incarnations. With this in mind, it's probably safe to assume that the time the alien scientists are on the moon is only a generation or so away from Alice, Rin, and the others.

Q: Who is Sarjalim?

A: Sarjalim is the name of a goddess-deity recognized by the alien scientists. In the second episode of the animated series, one of the reincarnated scientists, Sakura (Whose name in Japanese means "cherry blossom"), is on a field trip when the school bus they're in skids on the wet road during a thunderstorm and slams into a guardrail. "No!" Sakura screams. "I don't wanna die!! Oh, God! Help me, Buddha! Sarjalim, please save me--"
     In the sixth and final episode of the PLEASE SAVE MY EARTH OAV series, we'll learn more about Sarjalim, but for now suffice it to say that the esper powers of the seven scientists are seen as a physical manifestation of the goddess Sarjalim's will. People with these psychic abilities are called "Sarches"; Sarches with the four tiny red dots in the middle of their forehead are known as "Sarjalians," the blessed of Sarjalim, who are taken from their families at the age of three, nurtured in special schools, and set to the service of their society because of their "divine" abilities to speak with plants and animals, make flowers boom in the desert, or even see into the future. There is also an element of "grace" involved; for example, Sarjalians aren't just "super-Sarches," theyre literally the beloved of Sarjalim and as such, subject to special conditions and restrictions.
     Take Mokuren. Obviously, Mokuren is a Sarjalian--even without the four dots on her forehead, we would know this by her special ability to commune with plants and living things, and by the special connetion/empathy she feels with the "blue planet," Earth. In the manga, we learn that Mokuren is a Kichess, which is short for Kitche Sarjalim. Kichess, who are marked by the four dots, can see into the future and talk with plants, but only one in a hundred million are born with this ability. From the world of the moon people, the Kichess are sort of gigh priestesses ot Sarjalim, and one of the most important subplots in the PSME manga concerns Mokuren and the way other react with and to her--men, for example, see her as a kind of untouchable "Madonna," while women react with envy. (Of course, much to the dismay of ther Sarjalian teachers, all Mokuren wants is to be loved as a normal woman...the one thing which is specifically forbidden to her. Is is so far to guess that the main reason she feels such a strong attraction for Shion is that he's the only one who sees her as a woman and not as some avatar of the Sarjalim godhead?)
     Just like Solitaire in the James Bond film, LIVE AND LET DIE, Mokuren is a Sarjalian who retains her blessed status only so long as she retains her chasity, her "state of grace" (again, this is a major subplot in the manga, never addressed the the anime due to time constraints). Shion, the orphaned child whose only parents seem to be warfare and strife, can't help but want to defile Mokuren's purity, because of his own anger and loneliness. Shion, on the other hand, is not a Sarjalian but a Sarches, his psychic ability turned not toward helping other, but to achieving his own ends.
     Does Sarjalim exist in a real sense? So the psychic powers of the alien scientists really flow from her good will, or are they just X-FILES-like manifestations of unexplained phenomena? Perhaps even Sarjalim's chosen handmaidens--the nun-like "Lian," whom we'll meet in the sixth episode--don't know themselves. The important thing is that the characters themselves believe it which, if not enough to satisfy our own skepticism, is certainly enought to satisfy theirs.

Q: Who--or what--is that weird giant cat I keep seing in the Japanese advertisements for the series? Am I imaging things?

A: No, you're not imagining things. The giant cat is an important character whom we'll meet in the sixth and final episode of the series. Without revealing too much of the plot, suffice it to say that the cat--whose name is "Kyaa!," as in "KYAA--! WHAT THE $@%* IS THAT!?--isn't a figment of your imagination, but a person just like everyone else in the series, only from a planet where everyone looks like a giant cat. (Be sure to look to ANIMERICA to provide detailed information on new characters and plot developments as each volume of the video series is released.)