Saikano Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: A+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saikano

Saikano Vol. #2

By Luis Cruz     July 23, 2004
Release Date: July 06, 2004


Saikano Vol. #2
© Viz Media


What They Say
After completing her duties as a 'Weapon,' Chise starts to doubt her actions, as she watches city after city being destroyed. When an earthquake strikes during class, Chise reacts as if it were an attack and accidentally destroys a section of the school. After witnessing the incident, Shuji learns to fear his girlfriend, the Ultimate Weapon.

The Review!
The pain and reality of war begins to hit closer to home in this emotional volume of Saikano.

Audio:
For my primary viewing session, I took in the Japanese audio track. Most of the content comes through the center channel, as the focus of the episodes is the dialogue. There are a few action sequences that utilize the front soundstage quite well. The track suffered from no noticeable problems; everything was clear and sharp with no distortion.

The series takes place in Hokkaido, and the audio does a fantastic job of capturing the country atmosphere. The ambient sounds draw the viewer into the laid back, quiet lives of our protagonists; this makes the brief, harsh sounds of war even more powerful as they shatter the illusion of peace surrounding them. Adding to the atmosphere of the series are the beautiful and haunting opening and ending songs. They manage to perfectly capture the essence of the story.

Video:
While anamorphic fans may be slightly disappointed, Saikano has been given a gorgeous 4:3 letterbox transfer. The colors are lush and vivid making the surroundings almost come alive; the digital animation really shines in the panoramic views of the city. At times, it appears more like a photograph than a piece of animation.

The opening and ending credits contain hard titled credits rather than the original Japanese credits; the beautiful opening and ending songs are not subtitled. In an odd twist, they subtitle the original Japanese episode title cards.

Packaging:
For the front cover image, Chise sits upon a tank and shares a laugh with her comrades in arms; it is a beautiful, eye-catching cover. The Japanese and English titles are across the top of the cover with the volume title and number just below them. On the back cover are the requisite disc specifications, plot synopsis, production credits, and screenshots. Inside is a one-page insert containing the chapter listings on one side and the front-cover image on the reverse.

Menu:
Viz has a track record of producing simple yet stylish menus, and Saikano proves to be no exception. The main menu features four options along the bottom of the screen. A very brief animation is played when switching between menus. The remainder of the main menu features the series logo at the top, a picture of the Chise on the left, and a muted series of clips from the episodes playing across the remainder of the screen.

Extras:
Viz packs only two extras onto this volume. First, we have a gallery of fifteen pieces of production art. The other extra is a twelve minute interview with the voice actors for Tetsu and Fuyumi.

Content:(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After taking in the second volume of Saikano, it struck me why I am continuing to enjoy this series; much like Macross, the series places the emphasis of the story around the effects of war on the characters and their relationships rather than on the war itself. The volume begins where we last left off with Chise unable to cope with the deaths she causes and begging to be killed herself. As Tetsu points his gun at her, she quickly breaks down and realizes that she wants to live because of her love for Shuji.

Chise returns to school shortly after and tries to resume a normal life; however, even nature seems to be conspiring against her happiness. The faint rumblings of an impending earthquake are detected by Chise; she is still not fully developed as a weapon causing her body to react, as if she were under attack. Shuji manages to set off the school's alarm and rush Chise to an abandoned spot in the school. As the earthquake shakes the school, it is overshadowed when Chise cannot control herself and blows a hole through the building.

A rift begins to grow between the two and continues to grow throughout the rest of the volume. No matter how much he loves her, Shuji finds part of him scared and repulsed by the death and destruction Chise brings. Chise also loves Shuji but finds herself pushing him away to spare him the pain she sees in his eyes when he looks at her.

Things come to a head in the second episode of the volume; in an emotional scene, Shuji confesses to Chise about his past and present relationship with Fuyumi and his mixed feelings about Chise. Tearfully, Chise pushes away Shuji and tells him that they should go back to being classmates.

The pain of the war also begins to hit close to home for Shuji; his friend Atsushi has decided to enlist in the army to protect Akemi, the woman he loves. As reports of the war slowly make their way into people's homes, Chise also manages to stop an attack on the city before the bombers even reach it. Shuji witnesses her efforts and finds her standing in the rain afterwards. He runs over and kisses her, but Chise persists in pushing him away. She spends the remainder of the volume looking to make her self stronger by going on mission after mission.

The above summary of the volume cannot do justice to the actual material; the emotional connection made during the first volume only grew stronger with the second. Chise and Shuji are destined to be tragic lovers and play the parts very well. Both truly love the other but cannot get past their own insecurities. Shuji cannot see past the weapon to see the woman that only wants to be in love with him for the rest of her life. Chise cannot see past the pain she causes Shuji, her fellow soldiers, and the enemy soldiers; despite her enormous powers, she still feels helpless and too weak to protect those that matter to her.

There are a lot of tears throughout the episodes, but the writing manages to keep it from being maudlin. Both Chise and Shuji are unable to contain their emotions any longer; they feel helpless and feel that they are unable to change themselves or their circumstances.

Atsushi's move to the military also shows that the solid writing extends to the secondary characters. It is in their faces, their eyes that we learn what war is truly about. Atsushi embodies the young, idealistic youth rushing off to war to die for his love; but as Shuji points out, you do not go to war to die. You go to war to kill; is Atsushi prepared to kill to protect Akemi? That question remains to be answered; however, Atsushi's new comrades quickly show him the myriad emotions of the troops.

They are scared, angry, and mired in hopelessness; Tetsu sums up the life that awaits Atsushi in the army. Tetsu refuses to learn anyone's name, as they only end up dying; he refuses to see anyone he knows well die. Only on the screen for a few minutes, Tetsu's scene is powerful and moving, as much as the rest of the entire volume.

What is impressive is that the bleak and harsh emotions are played against a bright, colorful background. The bright, vibrant countryside is more suited for a light piece about young love, not for a tragic war story. Yet, the dark clouds that hang over Chise and Shuji's relationship slowly begin to creep over the serene beauty of the town. It is rare to see a series pay attention to details to the point that the story and artwork begin to blend together.

The series is not without its flaws, mainly that the war is almost too distant for the viewer. Chise, Tetsu, and now Atsushi give us a window into the war, but we know little of who is attacking Japan or why. Why has Japan resorted to experimenting on a young girl in order to protect their nation? Does no one stand with Japan as their ally? These mysteries have barely been touched upon, and the writers do not appear to be eager to explore them. But, they can be forgiven this, as the core of the story is quite compelling.

In Summary:
An engaging cast of characters, =beautiful animation, and an emotional plot... there is little not to love about Saikano. Watching Chise and Shuji struggle to keep their love and sanity intact is heart wrenching. The way the characters relate to the events around them has an honest feeling to it, and it is done without copious explosions or battle sequences. Despite the lack of action, the series is paced quite well; the dialogue does not slow things down but moves it along briskly. It is easily becoming one of my favorite shows of the year.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production Gallery,Voice Actor Interview

Review Equipment
Mitsubishi 27" TV, Pioneer DVL-919, Sony STR-DE915 DD receiver, Bose Acoustimass-6 speakers, generic S-Video and audio cable

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