In the morning, we walk side by side up the long hill to school, as usual… As though that day never happened. Chise is as slow as ever. Without comment, I shorten my stride and let her catch up… So the distance between us won’t grow.

Shuji is an emotionally immature teenage boy, awkward and cloddish the way teenage boys can be. Chise is a shy slow girl who’s immature in every respect. They start dating, more for practice than because they like each other in particular, and write an “exchange diary” which they trade back and forth to record their lives and feelings. Early volumes of the manga have lots of excerpts from the diary.

But then the war comes to their peaceful town. Chise is taken away and transformed into a cyborg angel of death, and set to work as a killing machine. (The series title is an abbreviation for the Japanese for "My girlfriend, the ultimate weapon.") She and Shuji try to keep up a semblance of normal life, going to school and worrying about whether they should have sex yet, but soon the war engulfs their town and their lives. They’re forced to make adult decisions they’re in no way ready for, and their feelings for each other slowly grow even as their relationship stays largely a matter of circumstance and the desire to have a relationship. It’s not so much that they’re in love, as that they hope that if they act as if they are, they will fall in love with each other.

This is a very odd series. The art is sketchy and Chise looks about nine most of the time, which made the sex scenes even creepier than they would have been already, given the limits to which the story pushes the connection between sex and death. In separate encounters, both Shuji and Chise end up having consensual comfort sex with someone who is dying in bloody agony. EW. Not a creepy fetish, but rather than a statement about war and the desperate grasping at life in the midst of death. Still, really disturbing.

The pace is slow and meditative. The emotions and the atmosphere feel raw and honest, and though I never really liked either Chise or Shuji, I did root for them to have their little love story before the world ended. There’s something very compelling about the story and the way it’s told that kept me reading even though I knew it couldn’t possibly end well. And sure enough…

Death, doom, despair, and a long warm red tunnel )
In the morning, we walk side by side up the long hill to school, as usual… As though that day never happened. Chise is as slow as ever. Without comment, I shorten my stride and let her catch up… So the distance between us won’t grow.

Shuji is an emotionally immature teenage boy, awkward and cloddish the way teenage boys can be. Chise is a shy slow girl who’s immature in every respect. They start dating, more for practice than because they like each other in particular, and write an “exchange diary” which they trade back and forth to record their lives and feelings. Early volumes of the manga have lots of excerpts from the diary.

But then the war comes to their peaceful town. Chise is taken away and transformed into a cyborg angel of death, and set to work as a killing machine. (The series title is an abbreviation for the Japanese for "My girlfriend, the ultimate weapon.") She and Shuji try to keep up a semblance of normal life, going to school and worrying about whether they should have sex yet, but soon the war engulfs their town and their lives. They’re forced to make adult decisions they’re in no way ready for, and their feelings for each other slowly grow even as their relationship stays largely a matter of circumstance and the desire to have a relationship. It’s not so much that they’re in love, as that they hope that if they act as if they are, they will fall in love with each other.

This is a very odd series. The art is sketchy and Chise looks about nine most of the time, which made the sex scenes even creepier than they would have been already, given the limits to which the story pushes the connection between sex and death. In separate encounters, both Shuji and Chise end up having consensual comfort sex with someone who is dying in bloody agony. EW. Not a creepy fetish, but rather than a statement about war and the desperate grasping at life in the midst of death. Still, really disturbing.

The pace is slow and meditative. The emotions and the atmosphere feel raw and honest, and though I never really liked either Chise or Shuji, I did root for them to have their little love story before the world ended. There’s something very compelling about the story and the way it’s told that kept me reading even though I knew it couldn’t possibly end well. And sure enough…

Death, doom, despair, and a long warm red tunnel )
This picture on the front cover of the first DVD, of a young man embracing a bewildered girl with cyborg weaponry jutting from her back, made me look at the back for the premise, then rent the show:

http://www.saikano-usa.com/

"Saikano" is an acronym for "Saisho Heiki Kanojo," which means "She, the Ultimate Weapon." It could also mean "(My) Girlfriend, the Ultimate Weapon," and the latter is the more pertinent title.

Chise is a common shojo heroine archetype-- the average flawed girl with a good heart who tries hard-- pushed to its farthest extreme. She does have a good heart and she does try hard, but she's both physically and mentally slow, clumsy, and underperforming. She's seventeen but looks about twelve because even her puberty has been slow. (The other girls at her school look distinctly more mature.)

She lives in a small town in Hokkaido, in the far north of Japan. The country is at war, but that's just stories on the news as far as their town is concerned.

One day Chise asks out a boy, Shuji, who is more competent and mature on the surface but is almost as socially inept and shy as she is. She did it to practice courage, and is astonished and frightened when he accepts. Though their first date almost comes a disastrous end because they're both so terrified of each other and the entire situation, they end up going steady, more to practice love than because they've fallen for each other.

But when Shuji and his guy friends go the nearest town, Sapporo, for an outing, the town is bombed. One of Shuji's friends is killed, buildings are falling, it's the end of the world... and then all the enemy planes are shot down by some glowing thing in the sky. Shuji staggers out from the rubble and finds Chise, standing lost and frightened, transformed into a cyborg angel of destruction.

The rest of the disc is about how they struggle to keep their relationship alive when Shuji must stay home, bored and confused and helpless, while his girlfriend fights at the front with weapons she never asked for in a war she doesn't understand.

It's hard to tell from the first disc whether this is a critique of gender roles or is playing on them for tragic value, to show the unnatural horror of war when even a little girl can be fed into the war machine. Either way, it's an intriguing premise for an unusual show. It's narrated by Shuji in retrospect and is mostly from his point of view, but it plays much more like shojo than shonen. It's a love story, it's about relationships, there's not much conventional action, and so far we've never seen Chise actually fighting, but only the aftermath of battles.

The character designs are unusual and personally I don't like Shuji's, but it's definitely a striking and different-looking show.

Japanese Pronoun Watch: Shuji uses the macho "I," ore, when he speaks, but the younger, less assertive boku in his voice-over narrative. On their first date, he keeps forgetting and using boku until Chise cracks up and he defensively points out that he's been calling himself boku since he could talk. Needless to say, the subtitles made no sense whatsoever if you didn't know those words already.

In the manga, which I haven't read, I flipped through to see how the hell they had translated that. They had him refer to himself as "Shuji-kins." I don't know how I'd have handled that, but that's just wrong.
This picture on the front cover of the first DVD, of a young man embracing a bewildered girl with cyborg weaponry jutting from her back, made me look at the back for the premise, then rent the show:

http://www.saikano-usa.com/

"Saikano" is an acronym for "Saisho Heiki Kanojo," which means "She, the Ultimate Weapon." It could also mean "(My) Girlfriend, the Ultimate Weapon," and the latter is the more pertinent title.

Chise is a common shojo heroine archetype-- the average flawed girl with a good heart who tries hard-- pushed to its farthest extreme. She does have a good heart and she does try hard, but she's both physically and mentally slow, clumsy, and underperforming. She's seventeen but looks about twelve because even her puberty has been slow. (The other girls at her school look distinctly more mature.)

She lives in a small town in Hokkaido, in the far north of Japan. The country is at war, but that's just stories on the news as far as their town is concerned.

One day Chise asks out a boy, Shuji, who is more competent and mature on the surface but is almost as socially inept and shy as she is. She did it to practice courage, and is astonished and frightened when he accepts. Though their first date almost comes a disastrous end because they're both so terrified of each other and the entire situation, they end up going steady, more to practice love than because they've fallen for each other.

But when Shuji and his guy friends go the nearest town, Sapporo, for an outing, the town is bombed. One of Shuji's friends is killed, buildings are falling, it's the end of the world... and then all the enemy planes are shot down by some glowing thing in the sky. Shuji staggers out from the rubble and finds Chise, standing lost and frightened, transformed into a cyborg angel of destruction.

The rest of the disc is about how they struggle to keep their relationship alive when Shuji must stay home, bored and confused and helpless, while his girlfriend fights at the front with weapons she never asked for in a war she doesn't understand.

It's hard to tell from the first disc whether this is a critique of gender roles or is playing on them for tragic value, to show the unnatural horror of war when even a little girl can be fed into the war machine. Either way, it's an intriguing premise for an unusual show. It's narrated by Shuji in retrospect and is mostly from his point of view, but it plays much more like shojo than shonen. It's a love story, it's about relationships, there's not much conventional action, and so far we've never seen Chise actually fighting, but only the aftermath of battles.

The character designs are unusual and personally I don't like Shuji's, but it's definitely a striking and different-looking show.

Japanese Pronoun Watch: Shuji uses the macho "I," ore, when he speaks, but the younger, less assertive boku in his voice-over narrative. On their first date, he keeps forgetting and using boku until Chise cracks up and he defensively points out that he's been calling himself boku since he could talk. Needless to say, the subtitles made no sense whatsoever if you didn't know those words already.

In the manga, which I haven't read, I flipped through to see how the hell they had translated that. They had him refer to himself as "Shuji-kins." I don't know how I'd have handled that, but that's just wrong.
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