Saikano (aka: Saishuu-heiki Kanojo) Vol. #01 -

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Mania Grade: A+

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 232
  • ISBN: 1-59116-339-0
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Saikano (aka: Saishuu-heiki Kanojo) Vol. #01

By Mike Dungan     November 10, 2004
Release Date: June 01, 2004

Saikano (aka: Saishuu-heiki Kanojo) Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Shin Takahashi
Translated by:Translator: Yuko Sawada / Adaptation: Lance Caselman
Adapted by:

What They Say
Shy Chise and nervous Shuji are high school seniors in a small town and have just started dating. But everything changes when Shuji discovers that Chise has been engineered by the Japanese Self Defense Force to transform into the Ultimate Weapon! Soon Chise is torn between realizing her protential as a devastating fighting force and her desire to share a bowl of ramen with her new boyfriend!

The Review
The Review: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shuji is tall and taciturn, a quiet high school senior who seems perpetually unhappy. Chise is tiny and shy, cute and clumsy. They've just started dating. Things aren't going well. Shuji has a hard time saying what he wants to, and they never seem comfortable around each other. When Shuji finally decides to break it off, the resultant fireworks actually serves to break the ice between them and they decide to start over, and get it right this time.

A few days later, Shuji and some of his classmates have made the trip to Sapporo from their home in rural Hokkaido to do some shopping. And then war breaks out. And unnamed enemy bombs Sapporo, resulting in thousands of deaths. As Shuji and his friends try to find safety, Shuji sees a small, fast and very agile craft taking down the enemy aircraft. The craft lands in front of him. It's Chise. His girlfriend. She's still in her school uniform, but there are wings coming from her back, and her right arm is a cannon.

The next week, and they continue in school and deal with the aftermath of the attack, Shuji avoids the subject. It's only when he reads the shared diary they both write that he begins to understand how much he's hurting Chise by avoiding the subject. Chise is the Ultimate Weapon, created by the Japan Self Defense Force. No one knows, not even her family. Except Shuji.

Shuji slowly learns more about what was done to her, even as she goes off on more missions. The country is in full scale war now, and Chise is needed more and more. Meanwhile, Shuji and his friends continue to go to school. There's Akemi. She's a childhood friend of Shuji and Chise's best friend. Although she's in love with Shuji, she put Chise up to asking Shuji out in the first place. There's also Atsushi, a friend of Shuji who was with him in Sapporo when the city was bombed. He's partially deaf now, and he's in love with Akemi.

A comment that Chise wrote in their shared diary bothers Shuji. "Shuji, I'm growing up." It takes him a long time to figure out what it means. When he realizes she no longer has a heartbeat, the horror of what the SDF is doing to Chise makes him decide to run away with her. They try to make an escape, but as the military's top weapon, Chise is constantly watched, from all directions. Their escape is shortlived, but they decide to try again. This time, Shuji will meet Chise at the train station. But it doesn't go as planned. It's only then that he begins to understand what she meant by "I'm growing up."

Saikano, short for "Saishu Heiki Kanojo" or "She, the Ultimate Weapon", is an extraordinary story about love in the time of war. Shuji and his classmates are very ordinary high school students. What makes the story so fascinating isn't just the unique premise, but the completely believable way Shuji, Chise and their friends deal with the war and each other. As Chise continues to grow and mature as a weapon, her only anchor to still feeling like a normal girl is Shuji. But Shuji is not able to express himself well, and it seems like everything he says comes out wrong, which just hurts her more. Shin Takahashi has a lyrical way of writing dialogue that is almost poetic. The passages in the shared diary written by Chise are heartbreaking in their honesty of emotion. Shuji wants to protect Chise, but how does he protect a girl who can decimate an entire army in a few minutes time? When Chise breaks down and is crying in Shuji's arms about what's been done to her, he holds her and comforts her. And gets horny. And that's what makes this such a great story. Despite the incredulous premise, it's very real.

Takahashi's art is very wispy, with a watercolor feel to everything. He's fond of using chibi charaicatures to add levity in strange places. His use of panels and full page splashes complement his unique style of writing. For example, the last chapter is made up of mostly 8-panel pages, which are punctuated by full double page spreads as realizations pile up on Shuji. The art is finally broken up by two pages of nothing but passages from the diary. It's a dramatic and highly effective way of telling the story with very little dialogue. Despite the terrible things that happen in this story, there is a surprising amoung of humor, though it's sometimes of the black variety. Conversations between the boys and girls at school are hilarious, because we've all had the same conversations.

Lance Caselman's English adaptation does a wonderful job of capturing the humor, beauty and heartbreak, in Takahashi's work. The art reproduction looks quite good as well. The thin linework and large amount of screentones Takahashi likes to use require a dept touch to reproduce accurately, and it looks like Viz was successful. As with almost all Viz releases, all the sound effects are translated and retouched into English. The front cover is a picture of Chise, her shirt slightly open, bandages everywhere, holding a small bolt in her hands. The colors are very muted, again suggesting the softness of watercolors. The back cover is a panel from inside the book, with everything printed in green.

Saikano is brilliant, one of the best manga stories I've read in a long time. It's affected me deeply, and I strongly recommend it.


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jnager 3/13/2012 7:15:26 PM

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