04 Oct 2006
I think it’s fair to say that our very own Ross wasn’t too enamoured of She: The Ultimate Weapon by the end of its second volume, which left me offering to review the third and final volume of the series to see if I could find something in this oft-acclaimed anime that he couldn’t.
First things first, volume three of the show gives us a bumper number of episodes to watch – I’ve seen many a thirteen episode anime spread over four discs in the past, but Manga Entertainment have resisted this temptation despite, from the look of the some of the extras, the fact that the Japanese release was spread across four volumes. This means that the climactic five episodes of the series are all present here, along with a nice bundle of extras (more on those later), so if nothing else you’re getting good value for money here.
So, this final volume of Saikano sees us continue to follow the by now divergent paths of Chise and Shuji, as the effects of the war which their country is waging hits both them and their circle of friends ever more closely. Indeed, while the early episodes of She seemed to be largely an allegory for puberty and growing up, the series by this stage has turned its focus well and truly to war, and the horrors thereof. This ‘war is bad’ message isn’t one that’s delivered lightly to the viewer either, instead being bludgeoned into you via graphic scene after graphic scene that will most likely provoke a reaction from even the most cold-hearted of viewers.
As you’ve probably guessed by now the final episodes of She: The Ultimate Weapon aren’t exactly a cheerful, happy-go-lucky affair; with each episode offering a relentlessly depressing window into a world of war, death, destruction and suffering. You could almost call it the anime equivalent of Eastenders…
While Ross found himself aggravated with the constant stream of crying and tears present in the show (and I would certainly heartily recommend a drinking game where you down a shot of vodka every time a character blubs), I found that it wasn’t too much of a problem personally at all, simply due to the fact that it fell well and truly in line with the despair and suffering being experienced by all and sundry. If you’re after a light-hearted anime, then definitely avoid this series like the plague – If on the other hand you’re happy to explore the darkest depths of the human condition in animated form from time to time, then you’ll most likely get far more mileage out of She. The comparisons regarding some of the imagery on show here to Evangelion (and in particular End of Evangelion) are clear for all to see, and it has to be said that it never even comes close to reaching the levels of drama and depth seen in that seminal anime, but for me it still had that certain something that made an impression on me, enough so to make it very much watchable.
Gonzo’s animation style throughout the series hasn’t really been my cup of tea, although in general the animation quality is pretty good and my qualms with it were in no way distracting from the impact of the show. I just want to know why everyone looks like they’re blushing all the time, that’s all… The Japanese soundtrack is also quite decent, although musically not my thing either, with the English dub proving to be rather a mixed bag – The voice acting itself is good, it’s just that the choice of actors doesn’t always seem to match the characters.
At the end of the day then, did I enjoy watching She: The Ultimate Weapon? Quite simply, yes I did. While I’d very much agree that other anime series such as Gunslinger Girl and Evangelion have dealt with some of the issues portrayed here better, Saikano still stands up well as its own body of work. Sure, it can be a little heavy-handed in getting across its message, but I have to commend it for its brave, pull no punches approach to dealing with the scenario it paints, and that al
As I mentioned earlier, despite the glut of episodes on the disc, Manga have found room for a nice bundle of extras too, from a pretty comprehensive set of production art to interviews with the shows creator (Shin Takahashi), director and producer, as well as conversations with a couple of the Japanese voice actors who play the characters of Akami and Atashi in the show. Plenty of interest for fans of the series there, I’m sure you’ll agree.