She, The Ultimate Weapon Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A-

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saikano

She, The Ultimate Weapon Vol. #1

By Bryan Morton     May 11, 2006
Release Date: May 15, 2006


She, The Ultimate Weapon Vol. #1
© Manga UK


What They Say
She, the Ultimate Weapon is the story of Shuji and Chise, a couple of typical high school students living in a Hokkaido City, Japan at a time of war. When Chise offers Shuji her 'exchange diary' the first seeds of romance are sewn. As with most first romances, the pair must deal with peer group pressure, gossip, intense emotions, feelings of ambivalence and the fact that Chise is a secret military weapon capable of leveling a medium-sized city!

Episodes Comprise
1 - We Fall in Love
2 - I'm Growing
3 - Together, Alone
4 - Fuyumi

The Review!
She, the Ultimate Weapon (Saikano for short) takes two high school kids with a ropey romance, and throws them into a situation they had no chance of ever forseeing. If the strongest relationships are forged through adversity, then Shuji and Chise deserve to be together forever " but the fates are never going to be so kind...

Audio:
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.

It's worth noting that Saikano benefits from an excellent background soundtrack, which adds a lot to the atmosphere of the series with some very well-used pieces of background music that capture the tone of the series perfectly.

Video:
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.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
The main menu features an image of Chise in weapon-mode, standing on Observation Hill. A series of clips from the show run along the top of the screen, with options provided for direct election of each episode and for Set-up and Trailers (disc one) or Extras (disc two). It's all simple & quick to use.

Extras:
Disc two of the set contains an impressive set of extras, most of which come from the original Japanese release and are presented with English subtitles. First up is a 13-minute interview with the Japanese VA's for Chise (Fumiko Orikasa) and Shuji (Shiro Ishimoda), where they talk about their experiences working on the show. There are also two TV specials, "All About Saikano" and "Saikano Times", which look at the background to the series, its manga roots, and behind the scenes of the production. Both include interviews with manga creator Shin Takahashi.

Rounding out the extras is a collection of 8 Japanese TV trailers, and 21 pieces of character artwork. Overall, an impressive collection of bits & pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Slow, small, timid, clumsy, but really cute " that's how Shuji describes his new girlfriend, Chise. As far as possible, they're living a normal life and doing what normal highschool kids do, but the shadow of war isn't far away - Hokkaido may be peaceful, but news from the Japanese mainland is scarce. When a trip to Sapporo places Shuji and his friends right in the middle of an enemy attack, Shuji spots a mysterious flying object that appears to be destroying the attacking aircraft with impunity - but little does he know the mysterious weapon is Chise.

Shuji was having problems dealing with his relationship with Chise even before he found out about her "upgrades" " during the first episode there's already one attempt by him to break up with her, as despite being attracted to her he's not sure that he wants to put in the work that building a lasting relationship requires. You would think that finding out that his cute girlfriend is also a one-woman weapon of mass destruction would only make him run further away, but if anything it ends up bringing them closer together " they now have a secret to keep together, while Shuji seems as though he's aware that Chise wasn't entirely a willing recipient of the modifications the military have made to her & wants to take on some sort of "protector" role.

Chise's involvement with the military gives her a lot to deal with. From being a normal high-schooler, she goes to being a military officer with the ability to kill thousands, and who is going through physical changes she doesn't understand and can't control. She also becomes aware that the war " which up until the Sapporo attack was just a distant threat to her and her classmates " is far more serious than they'd been led to believe. Add all that together, and it's no wonder that both she and Shuji soon begin to look for a way out. Shuji himself has dreams of a future with Chise that he's beginning to realise isn't going to be possible, but that doesn't stop him from planning a future with her out of some vain hope that things will eventually work out. Eventually they decide to leave town together and try to find a normal life somewhere, but just at the time she'd arranged to meet Shuji at the train station, Chise is ordered into action - and her military masters won't take "no" for an answer.

As the volume progresses, both Chise and Shuji become less and less able to cope with what's happening to them. For Chise, the changes she's going through are leading her to hate herself & think that maybe she'd be better off dead, while for Shuji a chance meeting with Fuyumi (a teacher with whom he has something of a history) gives him an opportunity to put Chise's problems out of his mind.

This isn't a series you want to be watching when you're looking for something cheerful " it's very heavy going, with only the occasional normal-life scene to lift the tone and keep things from becoming too oppressive. As Chise's modifications continue to grow and she becomes less and less in control of her own destiny, you very quickly realise that watching Saikano is a bit like watching a train wreck " you know it's not going to have a happy ending, but you can't help but watch anyway and hope that somehow, these two people will find a way to come out of the crash intact.

There's a good cast of characters here. Chise is, of course, so cute that you can't help but love her, while Shuji is the typical teenage male in that, while he often tries his best to be as supportive to Chise as he can be, there are flashes of selfishness in there that make you wonder is he's worth it. Fuyumi and Tetsu (a military man Chise meets while on duty) look set to be the spanner in the works as far as their relationship goes, while giving them both someone to vent to when required. Their classmates provide the supporting cast and help bring things back to normality now and then. For all that Saikano relies on one out-of-the-ordinary idea to work, in a lot of ways it's a typical highschool slice-of-life show, and it works really well on both levels.

In Summary:
She, the Ultimate Weapon is one of those series that needs you to invest a little of yourself in it to get the most out of it, but if you can do that it can be really rewarding to watch, despite its dark tone. The core story, of two teenagers being caught out of their depth and not quite being able to cope, easily hooks the attention, while the war going on in the background provides a suitable backdrop to events. Well worth checking out.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0 / 5.1 / DTS,English Language 2.0 / 5.1 / DTS,Conversations with Japanese VA's for Shuji & Chise ,All About Saikano,Short TV Programme "Saikano Times",Japanese TV Commercials,Colour Character Sheets

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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