Ross founded the UK Anime Network back in 1995 and works in and around the anime industry.
She: The Ultimate Weapon 1
Distributor Manga Entertainment
I find myself genuinely torn.
When She: The Ultimate Weapon arrived on my mat, I felt out of touch. Animated by Gonzo, hailed as the next big thing and fawned over by the press, I was embarrassed to realise I’d heard little about the series. Racking my brain I remember seeing the figures though…
She… is based on the best selling manga by Shin Takahashi, and has been declared as “Genius” by Anime News Network. I have a lot of time for ANN, but I think they’ve overstated things a touch there.
The series focuses on the story of Shuji and Chise, a pair of high school students in a time of war, where their town of Hokkaido is under constant threat. Inexplicably the accident prone and timid Chise is taken by the military and transformed into an ultimate weapon, capable of destruction on a massive scale. With each new battle, she becomes more weapon than girl, and Shuji must find a way to save her from losing her humanity.
I watched the 4 episodes on the disc with a nagging sense that I’d seen this somewhere before. The next day Gunslinger Girl volume 2 arrived and it all came flooding back. The sombre mood, adolescent central characters and changing young girls into cyborgs are also central to MVM’s release, and I have to say, Gunslinger Girl did it better.
I never really felt for the characters in She... I think it was a case of being just a little too far-fetched for my tastes, without enough explanation as to why the military would choose such an unsuitable base for their weapon, and why she’s allowed to go to school. At one point she’s asked by the soldiers to protect them, yet no one asked if she wanted to become the weapon in the first place. This is compounded by the question that if the military is so advanced that it can engineer bio-mechanical weapons, why is its army getting hammered?
It was minor flaws in the logic that just grated, and the choppy narrative did little for me. Gunslinger Girl set up more of its (logical) premise in the first episode than S:TUW did in the first disc.
And yet, at the end of episode 4, I wanted to see more of it. Certain characters clicked, a few plot threads came together and whilst I wasn’t particularly taken with any of the characters, I did start to become involved in the series worldview, especially as we saw the soldiers on the front lines. I’m interested to see what future volumes will reveal, but if given a choice between this and Gunslinger Girl, I’d go for GG any day of the week based on what I’ve seen so far.
Extras are very generous. Conversations with voice actors (Shuji and Chise); "All About Saikano" featurette; "Shaikano Times" TV programme; Japanese TV commercials and colour characters sheets. The release also features a slip case (in common with most Manga releases) and a booklet with a forward by Jonathan Clements.
Initially unappealing, but I'm intrigued to see what's next. Shows promise…