Saikano Vol. #4 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, November 09, 2004
What They Say
Winter arrives and the land is covered in snow. Chise and Shuji come to a nameless little town by the sea to begin their new life. Leaving their past behind, they rent an apartment and share a moment of happiness. But that happiness is short-lived as Chise's body begins to deteriorate. When Kawahara arrives to confront Shuji, he makes an important decision, both for himself and for Chise...
And we will love...
For my primary viewing session, I took in the Japanese audio track. Most of the content comes through the center channel, as the focus of the episodes is the dialogue. There are a few action sequences that utilize the front soundstage quite well. The track suffered from no noticeable problems; everything was clear and sharp with no distortion. The soundtrack is hauntingly beautiful, and everything from music to action to dialogue is balanced well.
While anamorphic fans may be slightly disappointed, Saikano has been given a gorgeous 4:3 letterbox transfer. The colors are lush and vivid making the surroundings almost come alive; the digital animation really shines in the panoramic views of the city. At times, it appears more like a photograph than a piece of animation.
The opening and ending credits contain hard titled credits rather than the original Japanese credits; the beautiful opening and ending songs are not subtitled. In an odd twist, they subtitle the original Japanese episode title cards though the subtitles appear to be missing from episode eleven.
Shuji and Chise lie half-naked holding each other on the front cover. The remainder of the front cover has the series logo with volume number and title stretched across the middle. It is a touching cover that perfectly fits the content of this volume and the entire series. The back cover contains the requisite disc specifications, plot synopsis, production credits, and screenshots. Inside is a one-page insert containing the chapter listings on one side and another gorgeous picture of Chise and Shuji.
Viz has a track record of producing simple yet stylish menus, and Saikano proves to be no exception. The main menu features four options along the bottom of the screen. A very brief animation is played when switching between menus. The remainder of the main menu features the series logo at the top, a picture of Chise and Shuji near the bottom, and a muted series of clips from the episodes playing across the center of the screen.
The final extras for the series feature production art, an interview with the director and producer of the animated version, and an interview with the manga creator Shin Takahashi. Both interviews run roughly ten minutes long, but the interview with Takahashi is the standout of the two.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As the final chapter of Saikano opens, Chise and Shuji elope to find some happiness in the world before the inevitable end. They settle down at a small port town that reminds them of their old home. Shuji becomes a fisherman while Chise works in the local noodle shop. As Chise's medicine dwindles, the pair does manage to share some tender, happy moments. And then hell rides in on the heels of the aging, scientist Kawahara.
To elaborate further on the rest of the volume would ruin an amazing experience. The ending is tragic, heart wrenching, depressing, but ultimately uplifting in its own way. The remarkable thing about this volume and the overall series is how it is laid out and executed. From the beginning, we find ourselves hearing the story through flashbacks.
It sets us up with the knowledge that Shuji and Chise's relationship is not going to have a standard happy ending. Their end will entail a lot of pain and loss; however, the series breathes so much life into the characters and the events around them that one cannot help but hope that they will see some happiness once everything is said and done.
But the inevitable must occur, and the tragic end takes a bit of a metaphysical twist. It drives home the two valuable lessons that have been the major themes of the series. First, no one wants to die; everyone wants to hold on to every last second of existence that they can. Sadly, this has the consequence of driving mankind to the point of insanity where their attempts to stay alive can only result in their certain death.
Yet despite this insanity, the most valuable lesson is that life is precious when you have someone to love, someone to care about more than yourself. While these lessons sound maudlin, this volume deftly avoids presenting them that way. It will leave some lasting emotional mark on you after watching it. It is rare to see such visceral and moving material. The makers of the anime did an incredible job and make a solid, emotional, and detailed love story.
And we will love...
The final volume of Saikano proves to be the perfect capstone to an emotional series. This is quite easily my pick for series of the year and has become one of my all-time favorite series. This series is certainly not for everyone; the themes are very deep and the imagery very powerful and at times disturbing. Yet, it is a very powerful work that everyone should try to watch at least once.
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production Art Gallery,Interview with the director and producer,Interview with manga creator
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Panasonic RP-82, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and optical audio cable
Mania Grade: A+
Audio Rating: A
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A+
Menus Rating: A+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Viz Media
Running time: 72
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Letterbox Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2