She, The Ultimate Weapon Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A-
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: Manga UK
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • Running time: 125
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 Widescreen Letterbox
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saikano

She, The Ultimate Weapon Vol. #3

By Bryan Morton     August 10, 2006
Release Date: August 21, 2006


She, The Ultimate Weapon Vol. #3
© Manga UK


What They Say
Based on the best-selling manga strip by Shin Takahashi and produced by Studio Gonzo (Burst Angel; Full Metal Panic and Hellsing), SHE, THE ULTIMATE WEAPON is a potent blend of slice-of-life drama, teenage romance and incendiary battle action, all built around the moving story of Shuji and his girlfriend Chise, two young lovers caught in the midst of a cataclysmic international conflict. The twist? Shuji's dilemma is that the girl he loves is also an engineered fighting machine, designed as The Ultimate Weapon and capable of causing unthinkable destruction.

As Shuji and Chise's story moves towards its conclusion, old friends are lost, cities destroyed one by one and Shuji struggles in fear with the knowledge of his girlfriend's terrifying powers. Chise fights on, defending the country from foreign invasion, but her humanity is rapidly succumbing to the deadly will of the weapon inside her. The young lovers attempt to change their fate, escaping to a small fishing port and finding ordinary jobs, but the military is close behind and desperate to keep their grip on the only chance for victory " their ultimate weapon, Chise!

Episodes Comprise
9 - Akemi
10 - And Then...
11 - A Time for Us
12 - Love Song
13 - And We Will Love

The Review!
The end of She, the Ultimate Weapon, also signals the end of the world for Chise and Shuji " or does it? Can the power of love let them live on where no-one else does?

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.

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 a static image of Chise, wings outspread, with snow falling around her. A piece of background music from the show plays throughout. 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:
Another good selection of extras are provided with this release. Alongside the usual production art gallery, the series of voice actor interviews continues, this time featuring the Japanese VAs for Atsushi and Akemi. There's also another interview with series creator Shin Takahashi, and with the anime version's director and producer.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
One of the general rules of anime is that if a character has an episode named after them, you can be sure it usually means something bad is going to happen " and so it is that when a major earthquake hits Shuji's home town, Akemi is seriously injured, and with the town's medical facilities overrun her chances don't look good.

This episode scores a nine-out-of-ten on the 'shamelessly playing with your emotions' meter - there's really no attempt made to hide the fact that it's deliberately going for an emotional response, although it's not quite as effective as it could have been - mainly because the sheer volume of 'bad stuff' that happens to people in SaiKano pretty much dwarfs any other show, so that you do get a little desensitised to it. That said, there are some pretty powerful scenes here, and it sets the tone for the rest of the series " there's no happy ending here.

But you do get one episode where, just for a moment, you're led to believe things will turn out okay. With the world around them descending into chaos, Shuji and Chise decide to elope together, and after travelling for a while come to a seaside town very much like their hometown that the effects of the war still haven't reached. It's their first chance for a normal life together, just the two of them, and for a while they're as happy as they've ever been together (or at least that's what they're telling themselves). Their time there is as close to life as a real couple as they're ever going to get, but as the drugs that Chise has to take to keep her weapon side under control begin to run out, so do their final days of peace.

This part of the story is quite hard to watch because you know the two love-birds are just fooling themselves - deep down they know they can't go on the way they are, but Chise's just trying so hard to get away from what she knows is her destiny that they have to make the effort at finding a 'normal' life. In a way, by the end of the series they do find happiness together, but not in a way that either of them would have wanted, or even imagined, at the beginning of the series as the final two episodes cover Chise finally losing herself to the weapon inside her, and the final hours before " and after " the end of the world.

With Chise back in the hands of the military, Shuji honours her wishes and heads for home - the last place on Earth with any semblance of peace. Returning to the place where they first kissed, he finds Chise's schoolbag and more of her diaries - and what appears to be Chise herself. Unfortunately, her weapon personality has now taken over entirely, and she no longer remembers who Shuji is, but Chise's feelings are still part of her and she doesn't at all know how to deal with them. With the end fast approaching, Shuji tries to teach "Chise" about love all over again.

It's maybe a little bit ironic that 'the ultimate weapon' in the end was not what destroyed the earth - that chain of events had been set in motion long before Chise was 'recruited' by the military. The final episode or so focuses entirely on Shuji and Chise, learning about each other all over again while both realising that their time together is almost at an end. When the end finally comes, yes it's the disaster that crowns a whole series of disaster that these two have had to live through, but there's also the sense that, in a way, they got the happy ending they deserved " although the way it's done leaves a fair bit open to interpretation.

In summary:
SaiKano throughout has been an exercise in tugging at the heartstrings and has been perhaps a little too blunt in trying to get an emotional response out of its audience, to the point where a few people I know were put right off the series. Stick with it through all the angst, betrayals and destruction, however, and there's a gem of a series underneath, and it's definitely one of GONZO's best works. It may be largely devoid of happiness and fluff, but there are very few shows in my experience that have been quite as adept at drawing you in and making you care, making this a series I can wholeheartedly recommend.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0 / 5.1 / DTS,English Language 2.0 / 5.1 / DTS,Interview with Director and Producer,Interview with Creator Shin Takahashi,Conversations with Voice Actors: Atsushi and Akemi,Production Art

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

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