Also known as: Saikano, She, the Ultimate Weapon
Genre: Drama, Romance, Science-Fiction
Type: TV
Length: 13
Studio: Gonzo

Synopsis

Chise and Shuuji’s relationship is in its infancy, that awkward and embarrassing stage which is as much about discovering yourself as discovering your mate. But as war presses ever closer to their small hometown, Shuuji learns that Chise is more than just the tiny, clumsy girl who makes his heart go doki-doki. She is the military’s ultimate weapon.

Can Chise and Shuuji forge a love amidst the turmoil of high school and world war when both of them question Chise’s humanity?

Impressions

One of the best works from Gonzo Digimation, Saikano is an emotional ride—or more aptly, a plummet. Don’t expect to come away from this anime feeling all warm and fuzzy. In fact, one fansub sports a disclaimer following episode ten: “This is the end of happiness in Saikano. If you would prefer the anime to have a happy end, consider stopping here and pretending there are no more episodes. Continuing will only bring misery and pain.” And even then, a happy ending would be relative.

If there is a mistake in the production of Saikano, it is the choice of character designs. First Shuji looks like a grey-haired old man with glasses, so that even when you have realized he is a high school student it is still a difficult image to set aside. Second, all of the character designs are the sort you’d expect in a light-hearted high school romance comedy, complete with red-face blushes and super-deformations; this is a problem for many. I expected this to bother me and was surprized when it didn’t. Horror and suspense writers have known for ages that unexpected humor in the midst of terrible or terrifying circumstances only serves to highten the terror. Having Chise suddenly fall into cartoonish mannerisms in the middle of an emotionally draining scene serves the same purpose.

The fansub disclaimer I mentioned should actually have said “If you prefer a well-written ending, pretend there are only ten episodes.” It seems like the last few lost their way a bit and only served to rehash the cycle of pain one last time. So I found the finale somewhat disappointing not because it was painful but because it was painful in the same way as the rest of the series.

But the characters of Saikano are its warm and beating heart. Even if we’ve seen their counterparts before in countless high-school romances, all of them are alive in a different manner here. The anime’s subtitle is “The Last Love Song On This Little Planet.” And as Shakespeare knew well, the best love stories are tragic.