Saikano (aka: Saishuu-heiki Kanojo) Vol. #02 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, November 12, 2004
Release Date: Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Translated by:Yuko Sawada / Adaptation: Lance Caselman
What They Say
Chise is a cute, slighly clumsy, shy teenager - just like most high school girls. but one thing makes her very different - she's been engineered to be the ultimate weapon for Japan's Special-Defese Forces. To further complicate her life, Chise accidentally hurts an innocent bystander on one of her cover missions. Her boyfriend, Shuji, rushes to help the injured girl and discovers that it's his first love.
The Review: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The war in Japan continues. Television broadcasts and the internet are suspended. Rumors run rampant. The main island of Honshu has been hit hard by the enemy. Tokyo is in ruins. No one knows if any of it's true. Meanwhile, Chise and Shuji continue to go to school and act like everything's normal. They don't talk about the night when they were supposed to leave together and she didn't show up. They try to pretend, but things aren't the same between them any more. There is an uncomfortable awkwardness they can't get past. Chise continues to go on missions. She encounters an American squad that's almost been entirely wiped out. One of the soldiers, enraged by grief and the pain of his wounds, pulls a gun on her. And Chise, the Ultimate Weapon and a high school girl, destroys everything around her, friend and foe alike.
Back at school, what's really bothering her is the question of Shuji's first love, which he's avoiding. Akemi knows, though. Fuyumi was a woman a few years older who took Shuji to bed a couple of years earlier. Fuyumi is married, but her husband is an officer in the army and she's alone all of the time. When Chise activates for a mission, the shockwave knocks a passing woman off her bicycle. Shuji goes to her aid and discovers it's Fuyumi. He helps her home, but she immediately tries to seduce him. She loves her husband, but she can't stand being alone.
Shuji tries to find a way to be better to Chise, and decides to take her on a real date to see the aquarium. She turns off her pager so she can actually spend some time with him. It goes well until the Self Defense Force shows up. She's needed. In between battles, Chise spends some time with the troops. Their commander is Tetsu, who happens to be the husband of Fuyumi. The soldiers worship Chise, and treat her like a pop idol. Only slowly do they begin to understand what a danger she is to them. She still doesn't have much control over her abilities. If she isn't careful, she'll obliterate the entire city they're in in the blink of an eye. When the enemy targets Chise, she does exactly that. Tetsu and a few men survive, and as they approach her, she smiles and asks them to kill her. But she can't be killed. At this point, there may not be a weapon on Earth that can kill her.
Back at school, she and Shuji continue to struggle with each other. Chise's defense systems are so good, she is able to predict an earthquake that's about to hit the high school. Unfortunately, her body's not able to discern between an earthquake and an attack. It will respond the same way. When the earthquake hits, she will wipe out the school and everyone in it.
Saikano continues to be one of the most extraordinary manga I've ever read. The premise of teen love during the time of war, compounded by the fact that the girl is a highly dangerous weapon, works surprisingly well. In this volume, we finally follow Chise into battle, and see the horror she is capable of. Shin Takahashi's story telling continues to be highly original. When Chise destroys an entire city, he gives us 4 pages of nothing but black, making the reader fill in the blanks with their imagination. The writing is as powerful as ever. Quiet moments between Shuji and Chise reverberate with meaning, contrasting with the scenes of violence and horror. Takahashi's art is thin and spare, with a wispy quality. He continues to use comical caricatures of his characters in places, especially in school when classmates are talking and being rowdy. The language is coarse and graphic at times, both in school and on the battlefield. Lance Caselman's adaptation is excellent, bringing out the pathos, but without resorting to cheap sympathy or manipulation.
The art reproduction looks good. With such thin linework and so much screentone, it's important to get it right, and it appears Viz has done just that. All sound effects are translated and retouched into English, though sometimes it's obvious where the cut and paste has been done to fill in the background art where the Japanese text used to be. The cover is a picture of a nude Chise seen from the back. Insect-like biomechanical wings have sprouted from her shoulder blades. The color is soft and pale, like a watercolor painting. The back cover image is the same, but in a line drawing, with everything in orange.
The brilliance in Saikano is in the honesty of the emotions. Shuji and Chise are real people in an extraordinary situation. They stuggle, they make mistakes and they keep trying. Each volume is an emotional rollercoaster that leaves me drained. Highly recommended.
Mania Grade: A+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left