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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Saikano: The Complete Box Set
Saikano: The Complete Box Set
VIZ // R // November 15, 2005
List Price: $79.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted March 27, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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C O N T E N T
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The Show:

Saikano was a manga created by Shin Takahashi that was turned into an anime series back in 2002. Both the manga and the anime featured a story about teenage romance amidst a global conflict that threatens the lives of humanity. You know the story of classic romance. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl fall in love. Girl turns into a weapon of mass destruction that used as a tool by the military to destroy cities and lay waste to their opponents. It may not be like the poetic stuff that Shakespeare wrote about, but this tale is full of tragedy and emotion none-the-less.

The world has been recovering from a great war for some time now, even though we only see the point of view of Japan. Apparently in this timeline Tokyo is no more and humans are clinging to an old failing way of life. Not a lot of details are dropped about what exactly is going on here, but things are dire enough to the point that they have to put the fate of their culture in the hands of a seventeen year old girl.

Despite the backdrop and war setting, there is surprisingly not a lot of action. Before I started watching the show I was under the impression that there would a ton of epic battles and some badass fighting. What I found however, was a much more subdued and surreal atmosphere. The sense of adrenaline doesn't come from explosions or gallons of blood being spilled; it comes from the feeling that all that is going on is building to something. If you have ever watched Lain or Neon Genesis Evangelion then you should understand what I'm talking about.

The attitude for Saikano is surprisingly similar to the aforementioned series as well. You'd think that a show in which a normal school girl is transformed into a weapon of utter destruction that there would be a lighthearted sense of humor to accompany it. I mean, yeah the show tosses a few jokes your way to lighten the mood, but for the most part it's an extremely somber experience. Each character in the show goes through a metamorphosis of sorts and they are each handled with the utmost care and seriousness.

Saikano starts innocently enough with a teenage boy named Shuji and a girl named Chise. The two are walking to school and making their way up a huge hill, but Chise lags behind as usual. She has always been very physically weak though as her feelings towards Shuji we see that she's emotionally weak as well. The two lovebirds start out with very little chemistry between them and it seems as though some strange force was pushing them together.

At first Shuji rejects Chise's attempts at courtship though he eventually warms up to the idea of having her as his girlfriend. They go out on a date and everything is hunky-dory until Chise is captured by the military and turned into a destructive piece of weaponry. The very next time that Shiju and Chise see each other is amidst rubble in the street after an enemy attack. He's hurt badly but he keeps his wits about him long enough to see his girlfriend with wings and a cannon for an arm.

After Chise confides to Shiju about her dark secret his attitude towards her changes. He still feels the same way about her, but now that she has been turned into a weapon he strives to help her maintain her humanity. Of course putting up such a front takes its toll on him. He not only has to conquer the feelings he harbors inside, but he also has to do what he can to ensure the woman he loves still exists. Talk about conflicted!

As much as Shiju is going through and putting up with, you can only imagine what poor Chise must be feeling. One thing that Saikano does masterfully is portray her struggle to keep her soul from being devoured by the weapon within. She loses a little of herself each time she goes into battle and little by little she is torn apart. It's heartbreaking to see her decline and frankly if the ending doesn't bring a tear to your eye then you have lost some humanity yourself. This is easily one of the most emotional anime that I have ever seen and it's thanks to the development of the two main characters.

In the end Saikano is a show that tells the tale of a tragic love. Yes there is the war that's being waged and yeah there are a few other nuances that arise during the series, but the core of the story is all about Shiju and Chise. It really raises moral questions and will make you question just how much you love someone. How far would you go to protect that person? Would you sacrifice your own life? The lives of others? This is definitely an anime that should be on your hit list if you like slower and more emotional stories. If you're coming for action and funny circumstances that the concept would seemingly promise you're going to be sadly mistaken.

The DVD:

Video:

Originally produced in 2002 Saikano is presented with a 4:3 widescreen aspect ratio. The transfer here may not be an anamorphic one, but the visual impact will definitely leave an impression on you. The art style, character designs and the world that they live in will draw you in thanks to their simplicity and beauty. Unfortunately due to the nature of this box set there are some compression artifacts that pop up here and there. This is a by-product of cramming thirteen episodes onto two discs and it's unfortunate because the image does suffer a little. Granted my complaints about grain and speckle are minor at best, but you can't deny the fact that they are present in the video.

Audio:

Two language tracks are featured on this collection and both are presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo. The English dubbing proved to be fair enough with a decent voice cast, but I found the original Japanese track to be much more suited for the material at hand. Both options offer some fine sound quality for a stereo mix and I didn't really encounter any flaws while I was watching. Due to the boat-load of dialogue that is present in this show it didn't really need a 5.1 treatment, but it certainly couldn't have hurt things.

Extras:

Surprisingly enough even with seven episodes on the first disc and six on the second Viz still managed to squeeze a couple of extra content in. Naturally there are clean opening and ending theme song animations, but there are also two features that are pretty unique. First up is a twenty four minute episode from a Japanese TV show that features interviews with some of the voice cast. It's translated via subtitles and provides a little bit of information that fans will find fascinating, but all together the interviews were pretty light. The last feature is a collection of clips from the American voice cast with some outtakes and talky bits about their characters.

Final Thoughts:

Saikano is a peculiar series. It doesn't really involve an epic story or antagonist to keep things moving. Instead it relies on the power of its characters and the moral decisions that they make. Watching Chise slowly destroy herself to protect the ones that she loves is heart breaking and just about as tragic as it can get. Needless to say this is an emotional series that will tug at your heartstrings and leave you with a strong impression.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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