||This series works best if you don't know anything about it beforehand. There's a big surprise for the viewer near the start. 'Saikano' is full of shocks, moving and very good. This is one series I want to see much more of. The character designs are a little "different" and I reacted strongly to the characters and their situation. However the plotting of the background war situation and the heroines's powers may be felt by some to be full of logical holes. Best to view this as a romantic drama rather than a SF war drama. Note also that the characters are aged about 17 and the story contains "adult themes and situations."
I didn't get to see "Saishuu Heiki Kanojo" aka "Saikano" when it first came
out because my friend in Japan didn't receive it at the time on her various
cable and satellite channels. But I read a number of glowing
recommendations for it and so I wandered off to the official web site at
http://www.saikano.net/ to check it out. There, I was able to read the
teaser, look at the character designs and listen to the three main theme
I wasn't enthusiastic about what I found at the site. My first impression
was colored by the two alternate English names for the show, "She, the
Ultimate Weapon", and "The Last Love Song on This Little Planet". Then
there were the images of the heroine Chise, who stood there morosely with a
sci-fi weapon growing out of her right arm, sort of like a cross between
"Trigun" and "Project Arms". The theme songs didn't do much for me either;
they were pure "elevator Muzak", straight out of a "Denny's" restaurant.
What this appeared to be was just another variation on "Mahoromatic", which
was not one of my favorite recent purchases.
Yet, because of all the enthusiastic reviews "Saikano" received, I agonized
for a while on whether or not I should spend the money to order the first
DVD and try it out. I vacillated and vacillated, and finally was saved from
the decision by the recent start of a re-broadcast of the series on the
Kansai regional TBS channel in the same time slot in which "Chobits" had
just finished. So last night I got to watch the first episode.
The show starts out with the hero, Shuji, walking alone through the snow
and darkness to a covered platform overlooking the dark countryside. He
starts to remember things, and suddenly hears some bells tinkling in the
wind. He turns and looks into an alcove and sees ( surprisingly uncovered
by snow or debris ) some school bags. Shuji goes over to the school bags,
pulls out a diary, and starts to reminisce.
We now flash back to a sunny day when in Shuji is walking to high school. A
little voice calls from behind him and we see little Chise trying to catch
up to the tall Shuji. Shuji tells us about Chise; she is small, weak and
frail. She also apologizes for herself all the time. Chise likes Shuji and
wants him to share a diary with her. Shuji reluctantly agrees and the two
go off to school. We then see the two of them slowly going from friends to
boyfriend/girlfriend until finally, at that terrace from the first scene,
Shuji agrees to be Chise's boyfriend and they kiss.
All of the above flashback was done in a deliberately slow style, with an
attempt to make the kids seem realistic, a la "Too Heart". ( Another
"popular" series that I was fortunate enough to be able to see from the TV
broadcast instead of paying for a video. ) Everything is depicted as very
"ordinary", other than the occasional troop movement going on in the
background, or the overflights of fighter jets.
Then, one afternoon while Shuji and his buddies are out buying trinkets for
their girlfriends, everything changes. And at this point my "suspension of
disbelief" mental circuitry took a big hit and crashed completely. The guys
hear some loud booms and assume that an earthquake is happening. They run
out of the underground mall to see an incredible sight; the sky is black
with bombers, flying low and slow as they carpet bomb the city. Do our
bright high school seniors go back downstairs to the relative safety of the
underground? No, they run out into the street to try to "out run" the
Huh? Sure I know those bombers are flying slowly, but even assuming a
stall-speed of say, only a 100 knots, which is pretty much impossible for
any large jet, no one is going to out run a plane.
The bombs start to fall near the buddies. The guy who just bought a pink
quartz heart for his girlfriend is killed. The fighter jets fly out to
shoot down the bombers, but the bombers are too strong. Then Shuji sees a
pink beam flashing out of a building towards the attacking planes. The beam
starts to shoot down the bombers. But a bomb or missile hits in the center
of the city, with a resulting huge blast that destroys most everything.
Shuji is smashed to the ground. ( For some reason his glasses don't
shatter; I guess that he needs to be able to recognize what happens next. )
Shuji gets up all bloody and dirty, but still alive. ( But not for long if
that was a small tactical nuclear blast. ) Out of the flames and smoke
walks Chise, still wearing her school uniform but with her right arm
transformed into some sort of super weapon/gun. Shuji surmises that it was
Chise who was shooting down the bombers. He also notices Band-Aides on
Chise's knees; she had similar Band-Aides on her knees a few scenes before.
Shuji staggers up to Chise and hugs her; her right arm is now back to
normal. And thus ended Episode 1.
So what's wrong with this series besides being excruciatingly slow for the
first half of the episode, and devolving into pure "idiot plot" in the
second half? Well, let's look at the "suspension of disbelief" failure
first off. As soon as I saw that sky full of bombers I got really twitchy.
It reminded me too much of the old, really bad SF stories in 1930's pulp
magazines. Why would anyone fly big, expensive bombers very slow and very
low? Even the USAF in WW II flew carpet bombing missions only at night.
Daytime missions were at 30,000 feet to minimize flack and stop the
interceptors from getting to the bombers. Bombers are way too expensive and
way too hard to replace to waste.
Of course, the reason for the "low and slow" is simple; it's to allow Chise
to shoot down the planes. If they were instead flying in stealth mode at
80,000 feet, or 10 feet off the ground at 600 knots, there would be no
chance for her "one girl" heroics. And that is the point that is being
driven into the viewer's face here; this isn't a "war story", it's an
"Anti-War Story". And in an "Anti-War Story", what is "important" is the
"Message", not trivial things like originality of plot, self-consistency of
story line, or the appropriateness of the characters to the situation. This
is audience manipulation of the most blatant kind.
Okay, so we are being told in a very unsubtle manner that this is going to
be a "serious" and "sad" story. I'm reminded of the line in the "One Minute
Critic" web site that says something like, "This is sad. This must then be
important Literature". At the same time I'm reminded of the old quote for
which I can no longer remember the correct attribution,
"The conflict between Good and Evil is melodrama. Tragedy is the conflict
between Good and Good."
As far as I could see from Episode 1, all we have so far in "Saikano" is
some didactic melodrama.
Never-the-less, I'm going to keep watching the series for a while. Every
"season" I watch one "popular" anime that I don't really like, just in case
it eventually causes my opinion to change. But let me tell you; after
watching Episode 1, I almost needed Band-Aides on my own knees, because I
was down on them, praying loud and hard, "Thank God I didn't spend money on
this piece of crap!"