Saikano

Alt title: She, The Ultimate Weapon

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Reviews

Ultima's avatar By on Nov 11, 2004

Story
When I first read the description for Saikano, I already developed preconceived notions about the series. Taking into account the DVD’s front cover and genres, I was expecting a series along the lines of a heart-warming romance or maybe even a heroine that kicked ass the whole series. Either of these ideas could have been great, but this isn’t what Saikano is about. Saikano is about war, its hardships, and the eternal power of love.

The plot was great when you look at how the characters were put together, but the setting of the story had a few loose ends and holes in it. Considering that the backdrop of the series is the war, it would have been nice to know a bit of history behind it. During and after watching the series, you would continuously be asking yourself: Why is Japan facing complete annihilation? Why is most of Japan gone? How long has this war been going on? Who are the Japanese fighting? Where are all these earthquakes coming from? Despite these little details the creator opted to leave out, they don’t hinder the overall mood, atmosphere, or direction of the story. But answering them would have definitely given more depth to the story. You are just left to assume that Japan is facing total annihilation. However, despite the many flaws with the story’s setting, the actual plot makes up for it.

Saikano's story is told mainly from Shuji’s point of view, but the story does shift from one charcter to another to allow the viewer to feel and see other character's situation. The story centers on Shuji and Chise’s love relationship, and their friend’s problems with dealing with the war. Everyone experiences death and tragedy in war - it is an unfortunate consequence. This is one of main themes of Saikano. The creator really went out of their way to create a drama for most support characters, thus allowing them to feel realistic. You’ll definitely be able to connect and associate with their emotions and predicaments.

Viewers that would like a happy ending should stop after watching episode 10. Although it sounds weird to warn viewers about watching Saikano all the way through, it shouldn’t be taken lightly. From episode 11 to the end, the story becomes even more depressing. The story however does come to a full circle in the last episode. While you would think it would tie up the loose ends in the story, but it doesn’t. It also was a missed opportunity to explain Chise’s history and role in the war.

Despite Chise and Shuji’s relationship facing turmoil and hardship, I always felt that their relationship was forced and unnatural. Were they really in love? I’m not really sure. Apparently in Shuji and Chise’s mind they were, but from my point of view, they both seem too weak to actually be in love. They never spent enough time together to even figure that out. But then again, Saikano wouldn’t be Saikano without the love relationship between Chise and Shuji. Throughout the series, Chise becomes less human and the only thing that sustains her is Shuji’s love, which is a pivotal part of the story. Both endure great hardships, but still love each other in the end.

In all, Saikanos plot depicts a doomed Japan who seems to be at war with many nations. Who these enemies are, we don’t know. But what we do know is that without Chise, Japan would have been gone long ago. Saikano expresses a clear anti-war message and the theme that love is eternal.
Animation
The animation isn’t groundbreaking or awe inspiring. The animator has an unusual style of making all characters appear to be blushing all the time. It may appear weird at first, but you probably would get used to it after a few episodes. Male and female character design was typical, but there was a particular emphasis on women’s lips and characters crying, which was done really well. There were many bloody scenes and explosions, but fortunately the violence and blood wasn’t toned down.

Unfortunately, despite the great DVD covers of Chise in her "Ultimate Weapon" mode, you never really see her in real time battle. Although it is not the main focus of the story, I was hoping for at least one action sequence depicting what she typically did. Most of the time you assume that she is just plain powerful. It really would have been great to see the great "goddess of death" in action.
Sound
The opening and end themes "Koisuru Kimochi" and "Sayonara" were great. They were composed and performed by Yuria Yato, and both themes really fit the melancholy, yet hopeful mood of the series. Most of the Saikano OST comprises of acoustic and electric guitar tracks. The songs are easy to recognize which is great. I was able to add another good OST to my play list. The mood of the songs range from depressing to exciting, which is a nice mix.

The seiyuu that performed in Saikano were very good. All characters were able to expresses each character’s personality and mood effectively. My favorite seiyuu from Saikano is Yuu Sugimoto, the seiyuu for Akemi. It’s too bad she hasn’t done more voice acting for more anime. I thought she did a superb job, especially in the episode called Akemi. You probably would recognize Chise’s voice done by Fumiko Orikasa. Her most notable roles are from playing Seras Victoria in Hellsing, Yayoi in Stellvia, and Meia in Vandread. She did a nice job in expressing Chise’s character.
Characters
While Saikano’s story and setting have holes in it, Saikano’s characters were really developed well. Saikano mainly focuses on how each character dealt with the war. Both main and support characters have some sort of history or relationship with each other.

Saikano is told from Shuji’s point of view and he is the most developed of all the characters. He loves Chise who happens to have a weak and clumsy personality, but ironically is turning into the "Ultimate Weapon". Throughout Saikano, Chise fights for Japan’s survival, but her regular high school and love life is compromised in the process. As the war drags on, Chise spends less and less time with Shuji, but Shuji and Chise always hang on to their love for each other despite the many hardships they have to endure. Shuji had to endure the loss of his many friends and love ones, and always had to resist the temptation to become unfaithful to Chise.

Sadly, I found Chise’s character to be more underdeveloped than I would have liked. She is one of the main characters, but yet you would be asking questions about Chise such as: What is Chises origin? How did Chise come to be? What is Chise’s purpose? The list goes on and on, but I think those are the main questions. For some reason, the creator shrouds Chise’s origin and purpose in mystery. I’m not sure why he would want to do that, but yet again you are left to assume that Chise is the "Ultimate Weapon" and how she came to be that way is irrelevant. I thought it was a big let down because she is one of the main characters in Saikano. Even the title is referring to her. Knowing more about her origin and past would have helped in connecting with her character. However, despite her hidden past, her strength, perseverance, and love for Shuji more than make up for those linger questions about her past. Chise always has to face heartbreak when she has to be called away from her normal life to fight for Japan. Without her help, Japan probably would be already destroyed. The more that she fights, the less human and more machine-like she gets. But even through all those hardships, she always thinks about Shuji and their love for each other. It is what kept her from being a total weapon. Love is what kept her human self alive.

As for support characters, they received good back stories. One friend joins the military to protect the girl he loves, but she doesn’t love him back. Another friend struggles to cope with the death of her former boyfriend caused by the enemy. A woman struggles to find love in others because her husband is away serving in the military. Another classmate copes with unrequited love. They all are like mini snapshots of what people have to endure during the course of a war. Enemies aren’t the only people that suffer and die, innocent bystanders suffer and die as well.
Overall
Although Saikano has excellent character development, it can’t hide the many holes and weaknesses in its plot. Saikano’s characters are hard to forget because of effort the creator made to develop them. He managed to induce emotional attachments to Saikano’s characters. Once these characters become engulfed with hardship, grief, or even death, the viewer is able immediately feel their emotions. Moreover, the all-important anti-war theme is prevalent throughout the series. The depressing mood the anime provokes emotions that are usually not felt in ordinary, peaceful times. War sucks; there are no winners, only losers.

Saikano has quite a bit of value, and I believe it was successful in expressing its themes. Saikano isn’t an anime that can be "enjoyed" in the sense of it making you feel happy or feel complete. Instead, it serves to only depress you, and make you think about the ramifications of war. You are able to experience each character’s burdens and hardships while watching, and experience emotions that you wouldn’t normally feel in peaceful times. It is because of these emotions that Saikano awakens that makes Saikano so great.
8/10 story
8/10 animation
8/10 sound
10/10 characters
8.7/10 overall
roriconfan's avatar By on Sep 15, 2012

Saikano was the first super dramatic anime I had watched when I was still a rookie in the medium. Back then I didn’t know how bad GONZO was as a studio and had no idea of how manipulative shock factor can be into liking a show. Thus to no surprise it brought tears to my eyes. After all these years, I now see things more clearly and know what it really was all along. One big pile of SHOCK FACTOR! But I still admit that it was one hell of a good show in making you all emotional as long as you shut your mind. It had created a tsunami of emotions in the fandom and everybody was praising it for its extreme drama and cruel fates of the characters. Some fansubbers even went as far as warning people not to watch the last episodes if they didn’t want to witness and extremely unsettling and tragic ending. So yeah, was very successful at what it set out to do.

This show is a war drama combined with tragic romance and some science fiction. The romance part is so overblown with love triangles that boarders a cheesy soap opera. Here is a general overview to get what I mean.
- Chise is a shy, low-esteemed, and seemingly frail high school girl. She is turned by the military into their ultimate weapon as means to defend the country against an invading army. She has a crush with Tetsu for looking like a more bold Shuji.
- Shuji is a high school boy who has a hard time expressing his emotions. He loves Chie but the war and her mutation makes it even harder to admit it. He is seduced by Fuyumi’s bold advances on him.
- Akemi is their schoolmate. She loves Shuji but seeing she can’t have him, does her best to see him happy with Chise and as means to get over it dates Atsushi.
- Atsushi is another of their schoolmates who loves Akemi. She never really loves him and does it just for the sake of Shuji, making him feel left out entirely.
- Fuyumi is a married woman who seduces Shuji, because he looks like her neglecting husband Testsu.
- Tetsu is a military man who neglects his wife Fuyumi, and ends up feeling so sorry for Chise that he falls in love with her.

And this is just the basics; there is a lot more mess where that came from. If you like this sort of stuff, you will get gallons of it here. If you want to fully enjoy it, you should never try to rationalize the reasons behind the plot. If you ever wonder why does everything play out in such and over-the-top tragic way, the answer is simple: Because this way it is tragic. And indeed, Saikano is an anime basing its appeal entirely on making you feel sad and miserable and not on excusing its internal logic. As long as you don’t think what the devil is going on with the plot, what’s this war all about, what’s that ending of the world, what’s that magical land of nothingness in the finale, you will definitely enjoy it. Even more in case it is your first super tragic one, since in later years it became sort of a trend to shovel as much tragedy as possible.

Anyways, the core plot is basically young people being constantly thrown in a most tragic situation, in the worst moment possible. Bad things happen to them all the time and they are all pretty much cowards or too passive to react boldly in any of all that, ending up manipulated, crushed, and disappointed with everything. All that occurring because love is painful, war is heartless, and nothing makes sense in the story. This is the winning formula of the show and it does it great. Any difference in it would definitely have a much less effect on your emotions and would literally work against the goal of the show. I would prefer the characters being bolder with their feelings. This way they would have the courage to face their problems easier but at the same time they wouldn’t feel so helpless and the drama wouldn’t kick you in the guts every five minutes. I would also prefer the story making more sense but this way the senseless killings during the war wouldn’t feel tragic either.

The production values of the show aren’t particularly good but the directing was good to the most part and the tragedy was so heavy that made you to completely neglect to think how basic and crude things looked most of the time. Especially with the female character designs; man, they look so cartoony and chubby! The soundtrack is also unimpressive and voice acting is usually too overblown with corny romantic jargon. They fit the feeling of the show though and the directing is done right so they don’t feel out of sync.

But who cares about all that if you are taken in by a setting where a normal carefree life suddenly turns to a living hell? What it matters if you witness cute young people having to kill or be killed in a battle field? And that stuff actually happens; the scriptwriter does not miraculously save them just because they are major characters. In the contrary he does his best to kill most of them in a most pitiful, senseless, and unfair way imaginable, just to make the tragedy even bigger than it already is. He also never tries to make the actions scenes to be cool, or anyone to be super awesome for killing and destroying. He leaves everyone to be scared, weak, confused, and desperate, seeking love in a world gone mad.

So does that mean the anime is great for what it is? On the very basics, yes, it does it well in spades. That still does not save it from being too corny and senseless in the longrun. If for any reason you don’t sympathise the characters, the whole show will feel like an impossible to tolerate unrealistic war drama/soap opera with stupid science fiction and ridiculous plot twists. It is also true that the story overtakes the characters to the most part, because they are all too weak and miserable to affect the plot in the slightest way. Being passive observers to events that are past their powers only makes the viewer to be a plaything in the hands of the scriptwriter, who bases all the appeal of the show on shock effect. See past the shock effect and you lose most of the charm of the whole anime. Of course it was never intended to be seen past the tragedy or the weak characters but I am just saying it is the only thing it bets everything. It requires from the viewer to be in a very specific mindset and it’s definitely not for mass viewing or that accessible to most of anime fans.

I still recommended as a medium-low war tragedy based on manipulation of emotions. It is also quite the uncommon anime coming from a studio which loves to trash wonderful premises with retarded fan service and horribly bad CGI.

And now for some excused scorings.

ART SECTION: 6/10
General Artwork 1/2 (generic)
Character Figures 1/2 (generic)
Backgrounds 2/2 (basic but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Animation 1/2 (basic)
Visual Effects 1/2 (basic)

SOUND SECTION: 7/10
Voice Acting 2/3 (corny but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Music Themes 3/4 (not great but fitting with the feeling of the series)
Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess)

STORY SECTION: 5/10
Premise 2/2 (interesting)
Pacing 1/2 (erratic)
Complexity 1/2 (not much)
Plausibility 0/2 (none)
Conclusion 1/2 (cheesy)

CHARACTER SECTION: 6/10
Presence 1/2 (generic)
Personality 2/2 (rather cheesy but well founded)
Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there)
Development 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)
Catharsis 1/2 (overblown but it’s there)

VALUE SECTION: 6/10
Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by some as an interesting retro title)
Rewatchability 1/3 (low because of too much overblown drama)
Memorability 4/4 (extremely tragic to the point of forever remembering it)

ENJOYMENT SECTION: 4/10
Art 0/1 (looks lazy)
Sound 1/2 (sounds ok)
Story 1/3 (feels messy)
Characters 2/4 (they are ok)

VERDICT: 5.5/10

5/10 story
6/10 animation
7/10 sound
6/10 characters
5.5/10 overall
balloon's avatar By on Dec 28, 2011

THE BARF IN MY MOUTH AND BOOGERS IN MY EYES: SAIKANO - THE WORST ANIME EVER.

Do not watch this. It is degrading literally.

The worst story ever, it revolves around a STUPID girl who somehow becomes the "saviour" of humankind. Whilst watching this, you will realize how stupid this anime is, you will see how shitty and uncreative the writers are; the writers who don't even have a brain to do accurate story telling. 

Corresponding to the story, this anime has unlikeable characters. The worst contemplation of characters in all of ANime world. A weak, stupid, shy girl, a clueless boy who looks like he is a 40 year old man. There hideous and very boring love story. This anime shows the bad side of japanese culture, that is often ignored from our smirks. Pedophilia and disrespect of women. This anime spits at all the female achievements. The main character is stupid, weak girl, who becomes partly a robot after some scientists talk to her. When her BOyfriend(grey haired loser) asks her how, the idiot doesn't even know how. WOW. Pathetic. After the first two episodes you will realize how stupid the writers are of this story. The lowest technique in any medium to showcase suspense. It's not worth it, don't try to wrap your head around it. Its bloody stupid.

The hideous love story embedded in this anime is basically: *BLUSH* SMILE *BLUSH* SMILE. Pathetic. 

THIS ANIME SUCKS, WORST EVER, DO NOT WATCH IT, YOUR EYES AND EARS WILL LITERALLY BLEED AND MAKE YOU PUKE.

P.S I WAS FORCED TO GIVE THE RATING OF 1 TO EACH CATEGORY. THIS ANIME DESERVES LESS THAN ZERO.

1/10 story
1/10 animation
1/10 sound
1/10 characters
1/10 overall
stalwartwalnut's avatar By on Apr 23, 2015

Polarizing (as in, love it or hate it, with no middle ground). Hard to watch. I "enjoyed" it, if that word even applies, I'm glad I watched it, and I never want to see it again.

9/10 story
6/10 animation
?/10 sound
8/10 characters
8/10 overall
SwordAcolyte's avatar By on Jan 29, 2011

I felt the need to give this a rating after seeing the okay ratings others have given it.

 

This anime had some interesting ideas, but its poor execution, hamfisted 'morals' and terrible characters combined to the worst anime I've ever finished.

 

Saikano deals with the question if an innocent girl becomes a weapon, what are the consequences.  It is an interesting question, but this anime ruins it with making her so unbelieable, and hateful that it drags any good points away.  This anime tries to stay fairly real, but then suddenly stupid stuff starts happening like 'don't look!' while bombs start dumping out of her dress.  What?  Is she a mutions factory now?

Further, some of the side characters are pretty interesting, but they are dispossed of fairly fast, and we are left with the main girl.  The guy is only there to profess his love for the main girl, he shows no change or growth.

 

The largest problem stems from that the show makes it seem like we should feel sorry for the main girl, but it is immpossible to when she nukes a city just about every episode.  Her 'innocent' voice claiming 'but Im a ulitmate weapon, i can't love' feels as unbeliable trite as it sounds.  Why would I feel sorry for this girl when she has a kill count in the millions and grows with each episode?

 

This is nothing like Elfen lied (its closest recomendation) so forget this anime, and watch one that is actually good.

?/10 story
?/10 animation
?/10 sound
?/10 characters
1/10 overall