She, The Ultimate Weapon: Another Love Song Vol. #1 (of 2) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, October 13, 2005
Release Date: Friday, August 05, 2005



What They Say


The Review!
Filling in the gaps from the TV series, the Ultimate Weapon's origins and those who worked to create her have their story told.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. The OVA release includes both a stereo and a 5.1 mix for the program and we listened primarily to the 5.1 mix and then to the stereo mix in full via TV speakers. The 5.1 mix on our main setup is very nicely done and it opens strongly with jets flying overhead and continues on throughout the show both with dialogue and other action effects and explosions being amply used to the rear speakers. The stereo mix itself is also pretty strong and we had no problems with either track during regular playback in terms of dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally released in 2005 to video, the transfer for this OVA release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The source materials for the show look gorgeous here but manage to keep in line with the soft and almost ethereal feel that a lot of the TV series had. There isn't a huge shift in terms of how this looks compared to the TV series which was already pretty strong but there is a smoother feel overall and better executed action sequences. Colors look fantastic, everything maintains a good solid feel and black levels are great. With a lack of cross coloration or aliasing, this is simply a great looking transfer.

Packaging:
The front cover of the clear keepcase has a good shot of the two main characters of the series with the shadowed image of Mizuki in full mode in the background against the sunset while Chise is in full color in the foreground with her standard sad girl look, both of them standing amid the destruction. The back cover provides a good mix of shots from the show and a fairly standard summary of the series premise. The discs production and technical information rounds out the bottom quarter of things and we continue to like how the Japanese are pretty consistent with what their grids mean. The reverse side of the cover is black and white with the left panel being a breakdown of what the technical features of the disc are while the right side has a very attractive illustration of Chise. The insert is a close-up of Chise from the cover that opens to several panels that have more illustrations of the cast, some pictures from the show with descriptions and presumably some thoughts on things by the staff. The back of the insert has the rest of the artwork from the cover along with the staff and cast listings. The keepcase has a couple of neat little additions to it, such as an advert for more Saikano music related material, an advert for one of the new pre-painted figures of Chise with the gear coming out of her back a bit and last but certainly not least, a postcard sized sticker that has the "Save Me! Chise!!" picture from within the shows final moments.

Menu:
The menu layout uses the artwork from the cover zoomed in a bit to provide a nice layout where the series name is across the center and the selections come in along the bottom from each side, set to a full length instrumental piece that runs just under three minutes. It's unfortunate that most US companies can't seem to do this for presumably various reasons, likely music licensing related, but it's still nice when it is done. The layout is pretty straightforward but will depend on your language skills. Figuring out what's what isn't too difficult after picking up a few Japanese releases and it's easy enough to set up the disc and start it up. Access times are nice and fast and the disc properly read our player's language presets though we had to change it manually to the 5.1 mix as the stereo is default.

Extras:
There's a good selection of extras included with the release though of course it's all without subtitles. There is a section with six full interviews included from the cast to the production staff. There is also a section of trailers which has the commercials for this episode and a commercial for the second volume.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The original release of the Saikano TV series on DVD had an appeal for obvious reasons. The premise of the show was certainly interesting, Gonzo was behind it and probably most importantly, it had English language subtitles on it that didn't read like Engrish for the most part. Being able to see a series legally a year or more ahead of its US release has its own appeals and there's simply no denying that. Thankfully, the show itself was certainly worthwhile and it earned its kudos based on that.

So now, some two and a half years after end of the DVD release, a slew of new Saikano projects are finally underway again. While the manga sees a US release and the TV series has made it here, new things in Japan are a forthcoming live action movie which could conceivably be done very well since the show isn't heavily outlandish or anything as well as this new OVA series. It had been hoped that like the TV series it would have English subtitles on it since they want to get the property to appeal to a wide range of people in places they don't normally get their shows released in. Thankfully, it does have the subtitles so once again we get an early look at a very interesting show.

Suffice to say, you really need to see the TV series to see this. That eliminates a lot of the problems in talking about this because you already know what the ending is from that and knowing that it makes sense as to why this show goes to fill in the gaps from the TV series. Chise is still a main focus here but we spend more time with a military woman named Mizuki. We see how she was the only living survivor of her battalion and lost both her leg and part of an arm in an assault from the enemy. Unlike before, we actually see the enemy (speaking English rather well I might add) throughout the show whereas in the TV series we didn't really see who it was. Mizuki's still wanting to fight and demands she be let onto the battlefield.

In her condition she obviously can't do much but the military sciences folks have a project they're brewing up and she'd make for an ideal candidate for it. What we see in snippets is how she became the prototype for Chise and gained her version of the same kinds of armaments and ability to fly. Her successes led to Chise bring brought into the project as the ideal person at the ideal time, which we know from previous experience that it wasn't something she wants to do. The differences between the two women are obviously stark with a cold career military type who wants to fight and defend her country and a young girl who simply wants to learn to love and live. The two clash in an obvious manner but it's made worse for Mizuki in that she's able to hear a lot of Chise' thoughts due to their similar technology.

With this going back in time, we don't really get anything with Shuji though there are a few shots of him at times. The bulk of it focuses around Mizuki and then Chise but there are obvious ties to the series in terms of the timeline. During one of the moments when Chise is proactive about fighting it comes when Shuji and the others were in Sapporo and that was attacked. Other areas focus on the men fighting in the trenches and the way Chise becomes a known figure to them as either a goddess or a devil depending on their point of view. Seeing the story weave in and out of previously known events is fun to see as it does a good job of giving a bit of a view of the other side since a lot of the TV series was very Shuji biased and he needed a good ass kicking once in awhile.

In Summary:
Another Love Song could have been truly awful by doing an actual sequel or a prequel that completely rewrites things but instead they've done a nice job of inserting new material into the existing series as well as expanding on the origins of the weapon that Chise becomes through the person who was the prototype. While relationships aren't the key focus here as it was in the TV series, they continue to have a strong impact and we see them in a different form, perhaps more of a love of country and nation as opposed to a person, as we see things through the eyes of Mizuki and the men and women fighting on the ground. This opening episode does a great job of bringing more life to the Saikano series and I can't wait to see more to see where they actually intend to go, even though the outcome is long preordained.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Interviews,Commercials

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: All
Region: 2 - Japan
Released By: Toei Animation (Japan)
MSRP: 3800
Running time: 30
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saikano