She, The Ultimate Weapon: Another Love Song Vol. #2 (of 2) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, November 10, 2005
Release Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2005
What They Say
Covering more of the relationship between Chise and Mizuki, the final episode shows more of what both went through during the last days of the war.
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.
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.
The front cover for this volume takes the look of the first volume and reverses the characters positions around so that Mizuki in her full uniform is in the foreground while Chise is off flying in the background with the glowing light coming from her. 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 insert is a close-up of Mizuki 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 "Kill Me! Mizuki!" picture.
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.
There's a small but good selection of extras included with the release though of course it's all without subtitles. There is a section what looks to be a premier showing of the OVA along with several of the cast and production folks. There is also a section of trailers which has the commercials for this.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the concluding episode of Saikano, it's something where since you already know how the entire series concludes what you get within this episode isn't a surprise but it does a really great job of fleshing out some of the existing scenes from the series. The first episode did a good job of showing more of what went into the operations that managed Chise and handled her when she left Shuji and her home town as well as going more into the overall project by having the prototype version in Lt. Col. Mizuki being key to working with Chise.
Their relationship is one that has evolved in small spurts along the way due to the shows nature of covering a decent amount of time from the main series. Chise and her relationship with Shuji comes across both from what she says directly to Mizuki, which impacts her own views on life, but also through the emotional telepathic bond that the two share due to their bodies being changed with the upgrades. Mizuki is the type of person that we learn grew up with the desire of only pleasing her military father so she tossed away almost all of her childhood so that she could become something more. It was all done willingly and she has no regrets but her time with Chise and the tie the two share has allowed her to experience something she had kept away from and it helps her become something more and certainly more understanding of the kind of pain and suffering that Chise is going through.
What was really nice for the Mizuki character is the continued storyline that ties her to one of the soldiers that we got to see during the TV series that was leading one of Chise and Shuji's friends and classmates. Expanding his story slightly and giving him ties to Mizuki that go back to earlier parts of the war and up through where we follow him in the TV series is just done very nicely and doesn't feel forced. The older characters in the show have a real sense of weariness to them but are still able to reach out and find that human connection to keep going but they simply don't wear it on their sleeves like the youngsters. And in comparison to them, seeing those who are running the war and the way their mindset is when it comes to using the youth and bodies of the nation in order to accomplish what continues to turn into an impossible goal is also well handled though brief.
With just the one episode and one that's tied strongly to an existing TV series, there isn't a lot to really go over but the episode does a fantastic job of fleshing out elements of the TV series that you wanted them to do then but would ultimately detract from that love story that was the center piece. While Another Love Song doesn't reveal everything or make clear the war and its participants, it does provide some very good background that in the end makes the TV series better and makes you want to go through and watch it all again. The moment it was mentioned that a sequel OVA series was announced you really had no idea how it would impact things but they did a great job here by not hurting the original and only building upon a very solid foundation. Very recommended.
Japanese 2.0 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,TV Commercials,Premier Showing
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)
Running time: 30
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2