Original Run: July 2, 2002 - September 24, 2002 Number of Episodes: 13 Genre: Drama, Military, Romance, Science Fiction Based on the Series Created By: Shin Takahashi
***Warning, the following may contain spoilers for Saishuu Heiki Kanojo. Reader discretion is advised.***
In a small seaside town in northern Japan, the troubles of the world seem far and away. Here, life goes on peacefully, and thus, young love can take root. For Chise and Shuuji (voiced respectively by Fumiko Orikasa and Shirou Ishimoda), being together promised to bring untold happiness.
That was until the war broke out.
To face its greatest threat, the Japanese military must deploy the ultimate weapon. Tragically for the fate of one teenage couple, that need for dominance would go on to crush all the hope for a quiet, passionate romance.
Without warning, Chise is taken away to be transformed into a killing machine.
Despite the global death toll rising by the day, Chise and Shuuji try desperately to be there for one another. However, poor Chise fears she will soon lose everything that makes her human.
In these uncertain times, death and sadness are never far away.
From the opening moments of this show, I found it hard to lose myself to Saishuu Heiki Kanojo’s (Saikano) story. Initially, I thought my disinterest may have stemmed from a combination of this series’ age (it was released seventeen years prior to the posting of this review) and it just being one of those kinds of narratives I, personally, don’t find compelling.
Working under that assumption throughout most of Saikano, I wanted to keep an open mind. Thus, I tried looking at this show from a more technical perspective; how was it as a standalone product? Having now finished it, I can firmly say, “No, this series just wasn’t that good.”
Despite being a bit of a mess, I will concede Saikano was, at least, an interesting mess. Naturally, when I use the word “interesting,” all I mean is this show was unlike most other anime I’ve seen from its genre. In a nutshell, this series took the idea of a typical high school romance and set it during the war that would bring about the end of civilization; culminating around a central theme of what it is to be human.
There were three key pillars to this story – the romance, the war, and the humanity question – and two of those pillars felt like an afterthought. That, right there, was Saikano’s biggest problem. But what wasn’t a problem was the character of Chise.
Whether intentionally designed or accidentally blundered, it was nearly impossible not to feel sorry for Chise. Consider the hardship the poor girl had to go through; just try to imagine it.
(No, seriously, try to imagine it, this will become crucial later on.)
Chise was a teenager known for being incredibly shy. She believed herself to be physically weak, and she was always quick to apologize. Nevertheless, she found the courage to ask the boy she liked, Shuuji, out, to which he said, “yes.” From there, both Chise and Shuji were optimistic about their budding relationship. Then one night, a group of military personnel arrived at Chise’s house and told her she was to be their ultimate weapon in the war that was currently devastating Japan.
With either no choice or after a relentless guilt trip, Chise was turned into a machine-like entity with the power to wipe out entire cities in the blink of an eye. The programs running her weapons system would periodically take full control over her body, and with often no memory of the act, Chise would regain consciousness and learn she was the cause of thousands of deaths.
Even though she was turned into this “monster” against her will, Chise was soon the object of fear amongst her fellow soldiers; almost as if it was her fault. Very few people treated her as a person, and she feared her beloved Shuuji was one of them. Up until the end, Chise struggled to maintain her humanity as she spiraled deeper and deeper into a pit of despair and anguish.
Jesus F@#$ing Christ, yes, of course, I feel sorry for Chise. If there were ever anyone who had the right to be constantly tearing up, it would be her. Chise’s entire character seemed to have been built around pity of the most extreme sort. If that was your goal, Saikano, then mission accomplished.
With all that said, maybe you can see why this show might have run into some trouble. It is hard for a story to take something to the level of Chise and keep everything else relatively standard.
Think of a one-of-a-kind, world-famous work of art by the most gifted artist in history. Now take that piece and surround it with the scribbles of a bunch of two-year-olds. I won’t say there isn’t a charm in what the children did, but I’m willing to bet you’re going to find it difficult to stop thinking about that priceless painting for any amount of time.
In essence, that was what it was like to watch Saikano.
Although this series came out five years before it, and despite it being nowhere near as nasty, I would be lying if I said Saikano didn’t remind me a little of School Days.
And just to be clear (for those who have seen the show): I’m referring to the School Days which has nothing to do with why that is a particularly memorable anime.
Like School Days would go on to do, much of the romantic drama seen in Saikano came about because Person A told their best friend, Person B, to try for the guy Person A secretly-not-so-secretly liked. As anyone can probably guess, there was then a lingering sense of jealousy and regret within Person A. Those feelings became exacerbated when Person A saw that Person B and the guy were struggling as a couple. As a result, and without knowing the full details of the situation, Person A closed themselves off to other people and wallowed in a self-centric, oh-woe-is-me attitude.
Also like School Days, the main guy (the same individual who was the source of the sourness between Person A and Person B) always thought he was the one being treated unfairly. He would complain that nobody was thinking about what he was going through and that he was the only person who was truly suffering. Nevermind the fact it was the guy who was the biggest butthole because, geesh fellas, girls are impossible to understand and relationships are hard.
To be fair, though, Saikano’s Shuuji was immensely more tolerable than the walking, talking piece of trash that was School Days’ Makoto Itou.
So basically, Saikano was filled with the standard teenage-love-story BS you might find in any other drama-based romance series. I really only compared this show to School Days because that was where my mind went instinctively.
Could this kind of story work? Sure. I mean, why not?
However, the reason this kind of story didn’t work here in Saikano was because of perspective. Whenever Shuuji or any other supporting character commented on how they had it rough, I always had the same thought:
Okay, so, you’re having it tough right now. I’m sorry to hear that. But let me ask you something. Does the problem you’re facing involve, in any way, nuking an entire city into oblivion because a group of military scientist came to your house and forced you to become an emotionless weapon to fight in the war that was literally turning into the extinction event to eliminate the entire human race? Unless your answer is “yes,” I, frankly, could not care less.
Can you see the disparity that was going on in Saikano?
What was happening with Chise and what was happening with everyone else was nowhere near equal. And if anything, this show put more emphasis on everyone else’s story. Why?
Plus, when you take all that and combine it with this series’ other problems:
- Strange, forced-in humor
- Unlikeable characters
- Unimportant side plots suddenly becoming super important for seemingly no reason
- Uneven pacing
- Conflicting narration – How can Shuuji have flashbacks to events he wasn’t there to see?
- An utterly off-the-rails ending (I think the war might have actually been between humans and aliens according to what was shown in the final episode)
Then I think it’s pretty damn clear. Saikano was not a great watch.
There were definitely elements of this show I was more lenient towards than I usually am. For example, I didn’t harp on the animation because this series was primarily a product of its time.
However, there are some things which don’t age well. Such as everything about this show that wasn’t its animation – and even that looked incredibly dated.
This series had to its name, one distinct character. The problem, that one distinct character made everything else come off as vastly inferior in almost every way imaginable. The story was confusing, many aspects were poorly explained, and in the end, this show was more tedious than anything.
With that in mind, Saishuu Heiki Kanojo is one you can easily skip.
But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? Have you seen this show? What would be your advice concerning Saishuu Heiki Kanojo? Leave a comment down below because I would love to hear what you have to say.
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I’m LofZOdyssey, and I will see you next time.