The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Saikano

Title: Saikano aka Saishuu Heiki Kanojo: The Last Love Song on This Little Planet aka She, the Ultimate Weapon
Genre: Drama/Romance
Company: Gonzo
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 2 Jul 2009 – 24 Sep 2010

Synopsis: Chise and Shuji are high-schoolers nervous about beginning a romantic relationship, so they start writing an exchange diary to get closer. But one day, Chise is taken by the military and transformed into the Ultimate Weapon, a being with unimaginable technology and power, to fight off the armies invading the Japanese mainland. While Chise is constantly away fighting, Shuji bumps into his old flame from middle school. Can their love stand strong when the whole world is crumbling around them?

The Highlights
Relationships: Realistic and engaging highs and lows.
Warfare: The depictions are confusing, sometimes truly laughable.
Animation: A shameful effort from Gonzo.
Reason: It has none.

In its heyday, Gonzo established itself as a premier animation studio specializing in eye-popping computer graphics and detailed mechanical designs, and their high profile anime titles used these strengths for stylized action sequences and western inspired story concepts. Gantz, Afro Samurai, Gankutsuou, and Last Exile are prime examples. This history is what makes SaiKano – an emotionally raw work sparse in action and visuals – such a unique entry in Gonzo’s library. This anime wants to be a heavy-hitting dramatic bawler, but awful animation and conceptual gaffs stump SaiKano’s efforts well short of its aims.

SaiKano can be analyzed in two parts: the straining relationship between Chise and Shuji, and the taxing effects on Chise physically and psychologically on the warfront. On the relationship side, the emotional trials of the innocent young lovers are actually very believable and compelling. They are mercurial and prone to give into their passions. Each of them, weak from the stress and trauma of the situation, is tempted by comforting arms when Chise is away. We see them as humanly flawed, but care for their happiness and future too. However, there is a disturbing preoccupation with sex pervading SaiKano’s most critical scenes. Are dying and distressed people always so horny? It’s a little off-putting in the most tender moments, but just an annoyance compared to the show’s other flaws.

The other major part of SaiKano, this enormous war with Chise as the centerpiece, is riddled with incongruous plot points. The war has ravaged the Japanese mainland, but the nature of the enemy and the reason for the fighting are left a mystery. The enemy fights with conventional weaponry, but Chise is gifted with otherworldly technology from who knows where. Why don’t they make more weapons like her? The army spent all this effort to turn Chise’s body into this weapon, yet her abilities are kept secret from her family, she’s allowed to spend most of her day in class, and even returns home before her curfew. If Japan is in such bad straits, why isn’t Chise on the frontlines fulltime? The military conduct is absolutely bewildering.

The random nature of the tragedies brings even more frustrations. Bombings and earthquakes occur whenever, killing cast members seemingly at whim. Chise abruptly develops a split personality, and becomes dependent on mysterious drugs to live “because she is still human”. No one seems to stop and meaningfully question why all of this is happening. These series of situations are made at the convenience of the plot to extract maximum despair.

And last but certainly not least, SaiKano’s animation quality wavers between plain and atrociously laughable. In the first place the art style is unflattering, but sometimes I couldn’t even tell if the characters were supposed to be super-deformed or if the cells were just hideously undetailed. Rockets just fall out from under Chise’s shirt, and people spray cartoonish funnels of blood when they die. I became desensitized to death and war, and horrified at the appallingly cheap drawings.

It might seem like I’m nitpicking, but these complaints are about important world- or character-establishing facts inexplicably left blank; holes that shred any suspension of disbelief. SaiKano makes strong emotional appeals to the audience, but with little subtlety and none of the presentational ability to make it effective. SaiKano is a disheartening anime project, where all the good intentions in the world can’t overcome a lack of attention to details and thoughtlessness.

The Rating: 4
4/10

Reviewed by: kadian1364

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