She, The Ultimate Weapon Vol. #2 (of 4) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Release Date: Monday, July 31, 2006
What They Say
Shuji and Chise, young and in love, find themselves caught in the midst of a cataclysmic international conflict. What Shuji does not realise until it is too late is that his new girlfriend has been turned into "The Ultimate Weapon", an engineered fighting machine capable of destroying entire cities. As the war rages on, Chise is forced to fight in battle after battle, each time becoming more weapon than human. Can Chise and Shuji find a way to divert their constant focus from the ongoing war, destruction and killing towards strength, friendship and love, and allow their romance to survive?
After completing her duties as a weapon, Chise starts to doubt her actions as she watches her home city being destroyed. When an earthquake strikes during class, she reacts as if it were an attack and accidentally demolishes a section of the school. After witnessing the incident, Shuji learns to fear his girlfriend. Meanwhile, an old flame of Shuji's continues to make unwanted advances towards him. But what Shuji should remember is that when your girlfriend is the ultimate killing machine, it is a good idea not to make her jealous!
5 - Liar
6 - Classmates
7 - What I Want to Protect
8 - Everyone's Changing
For a series that's ostensibly a love story, it's surprising this volume how little time Shuji and Chise spend together...
As usual, Manga outdoes the R1 release by providing the full range of audio tracks with this release, with English and Japanese tracks each provided in 2.0 stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 versions, spread across the 2 discs in the set (2.0 & 5.1 on disc 1; DTS & English 2.0 on disc 2). I listened primarily to the Japanese DTS track for this review, but did spot-check the other tracks at various points. Saikano is a very dialogue-heavy series and as such doesn't have much opportunity to make much really creative use of the soundstage " even the more action-oriented scenes only make limited use of directionality. The surround tracks seem to be Manga's usual up-conversions and add little to the mix. There were no obvious problems with any of the tracks.
The series is presented in 1.85:1 letterboxed widescreen, the same format as the original Japanese release. The subtitles have been thoughtfully kept away from the black borders, meaning that picture zoom can be safely used on widescreen TVs to give a full-screen image. For the most part the transfer is clean and clear, although there is some noticeable banding on colour gradients, which spoils things slightly. The animation itself is well-detailed and does a great job of capturing the series' setting. Subtitles use a white-on-black font, and are clear & easily read.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
The main menu features an image of Chise in weapon-mode, as used on the cover of volume one, with flames in the background. Options are provided for direct selection of each episode and for Set-up and Trailers (disc one) or Extras (disc two). It's all simple & quick to use.
Extras seem quite minimal this time around compared to the abundance we had with volume one " just a 15-piece gallery of character production art, and a 12-minute interview with the Japanese voice actors for Fuyumi and Tetsu.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Despite her pleas to Tetsu, Chise decides she doesn't really want to die - mainly because of Shuji, and all the things she still wants to say to him and do with him. Not that Tetsu would have been able to, anyway - Chise's weapon personality would have made sure of that. And so Chise makes it back to normal highschool life, but as her abilities continue to develop, she's able to anticipate a major earthquake. As with all threats to her life, her weapon personality responds with force, giving Shuji another clue as to just how dangerous his girlfriend can be.
You do wonder sometimes just what's going through Shuji's mind when he sees Chise "in action". This is the point where it first seems to really sink in to him that she's not just the cute little schoolgirl, and together with events later on the disc he's getting to the point where he's beginning to be scared of her " something that Chise herself fairly quickly catches on to. Add that to her finding out about the time Shuji's been spending with Fuyumi, and it's no surprise that despite her wanting to carry on her relationship with Shuji, she decides that maybe it would be for the best if they just went back to being classmates, and nothing more.
With that, the two go their separate ways. Shuji carries on with the normal school life, while being unable to put Chise out of his mind, something that begins to colour his relationships with his friends. Akemi in particular ends up on the wrong side of his temper more than once on this disc, in scenes that highlight just how unlikeable Shuji can be at times. While he's usually very laid-back and understanding on the surface, particularly with Chise, every so often there are glimpses of a very angry young man lurking under the surface. Given everything that he's going through that's probably not surprising, but it's a side to his personality that really does make it hard to connect with the character.
Chise begins to show signs of a split personality here herself, although in a slightly different way. It first appears shortly after the earthquake, we she snaps awake again and begins speaking to Shuji " but from the tone of voice and the things she's saying, you can tell that it's not Chise speaking but the weapon. As that side of her is continuing to grow, it's asserting more control over her and threatening to become the dominant personality " the end result being a constant urge to kill, as she throws herself into her military role with gusto. This really does make me feel for Chise and the situation she's been thrown into, even more than I already did " as if becoming an unwilling killing machine isn't enough, she's now faced with losing her own identity to the weapon and clearly isn't sure what she can do to stop that happening " or if it's even possible.
A lull in the fighting and a chance meeting with Tetsu gives her the chance to spend a normal day away from the fighting. Seeing the two of them almost on a date, wandering around a deserted city and make believe that everything's normal is just a little surreal, but it does provide a good break in events and gives Chise an increasingly rare opportunity to be happy " at least until the weapon personality pops up to spoil the mood.
Away from the problems Shuji and Chise are facing, Shuji's classmate Atsushi also gets a good amount of screentime on this volume, after deciding to quit school and enlist. He's got the idealistic notion of joining the war to protect the girl he loves, but he's clearly unaware of just what he's letting himself in for, and his first few days of active duty are a real eye-opener for him. He's also had the misfortune to be posted to the same region as Chise, which really doesn't bode well for his chances of living much longer " something his fellow soldiers are all too aware of, as Chise's capabilities are now well known amongst the troops and they're just waiting to be caught up in one of her attacks.
Saikano continues to get darker as it goes along, as the war begins to encroach more and more onto the lives of the characters and Chise begins to lose the battle against the weapon that's growing inside her. For the most part the theme here is Shuji's and Chise's efforts to still have a life that's at least approaching "normal" - events outside their control have already made sure that's simply not possible, but their attempts make for a riveting story. Just don't be holding out any hope for a happy ending.
Japanese Language 2.0 / 5.1 / DTS,English Language 2.0 / 5.1 / DTS,Conversations with Japanese VA's for Tetsu & Fuyumi,Production Art Gallery
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.
Mania Grade: A
Audio Rating: A-
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B+
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: Manga UK
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen Letterbox
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2