She, the Ultimate Weapon
Volume 1

Starring (voice): Shiro Ishimoda, Fumiko Orikasa, Shinichirô Miki and Miki Itô
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 15 May 2006

In the not so distant future war has come to Japan, caught up in the configuration are two young high school lovers Shuji and Chise. Chise is a young clumsy and not too bright girl who is in love with Shuji. The normality of their teenage romance is seriously interrupted when during an air attack Shuji discovers that Chise has been turned into the ultimate living weapon...

The DVD presents the first five episodes in a thirteen-episode run of this 2002 serial. Overall the show is thoughtful, it is never really explained just who Japan is at war with, and to a greater extent it's immaterial as this is essentially a love story. If the show has a fault it's in its character design. Everyone appears to have a permanent rash on their faces and Shuji's design with his glasses and grey hair make him look more middle aged than the teenager he's supposed to be. Chise looks about twelve giving the show an unwarranted Hentai feel. That's not to say that there aren't some fan-service elements to the show, a lot of young girls in way too short dresses with well-defined breasts. Just which audience Gonzo are trying to appeal to is unclear, maybe they figure that the breasts and guns will get the guys and the love story will pull in the girls. At the heart of the story is Shuji's desperate attempt to stay in love with a girl who looses a bit of her humanity every time she fights.

Episode one, We Fall in Love, introduces us to the characters in the moments of peace before the outbreak of war. Chise presents Shuji with an exchange diary, which he reluctantly agrees to write in. Like most teenagers Shuji hangs out with his friends leading an apparently normal life until war comes. Death and devastation rain down from the bombers killing Shuji's friends. At the height of the battle Chise appears, transformed into a living weapon and destroys the bombers.

In I'm Growing, Shuji has to come to terms with the fact of his girlfriend's double life and the hundreds of thousands that have lost their lives. The two lovers decide to tell no one about Chise's secret, but someone is watching them. If truth were told, everyone seems to take the outbreak of war too well, leaving an emotional vacuum to the show that's hard to explain. Shuji and his friends just come to an unspoken agreement to never talk about what happened, even though they witnessed one of their friends being killed in front of them.

Together, Alone shows that the cracks are already appearing in their relationship. Shuji starts to have doubts about their relationship, which is a little more realistic than his reaction in the second episode. His doubts go as far as contemplating an ex-partner Fuyumi, who as fate would have it, he runs into after she is knocked off her bike during a raid. We discover that Fuyumi likewise harbours feelings for Shuji, which way will the poor lad turn?

The last episode on the disc, Fuyumi, the path to true love continues to become fraught with danger. Shuji has to go to Fuyumi's house to get back his wallet, whilst Chise becomes so despondent that she asks to be killed. In this episode the show ends on an emotional high, after pulling the audience through a rollercoaster of highs and lows.

On the strength of these five episodes this looks to be a show worthy of attention, though I can't help feeling that as each episode starts with Shuji describing the events as if they were in the past that, in the end, things do not go well for Chise. Will love win out in the end? I'd put a fiver on a no.

Audio options are extensive and in this case maybe a little too extensive as it means that the episodes are repeated on both discs. On disc one you have the option of English or Japanese stereo or 5.1, disc two offers the addition of a DTS track for each language. Though the stereo track is nice and clear the show really stretches its legs in the 5.1 and DTS tracks, though the addition of a DTS track adds little to the experience making the second disc a bit redundant except for the extras.

The first extra is a thirteen-minute conversation with the voice actors Fumiko Orikasa (Chise) and Shiro Ishimoda (Shuji) about bringing their characters to life. It was difficult not to get carried away with the sheer enthusiasm that the actors have for the project, I loved the fact that they started the piece with a live action recreation of the show. Next up, was a piece called All about Saikano, which is the Japanese name for the show. This is another nice little documentary detailing the creation of the original manga and it transition to anime, which runs to a very reasonable twenty-three minutes. If you want to see some Japanese girls on speed then Saikano Times is a must watch - it's a television special of the seriously over enthusiastic kind. You'll either love it or suffer a very bad migraine. The extras are rounded off with some TV commercials and static colour character sheets.

Ill leave it up to you if you think that the double disc is a bit of a con as both discs contain the same episodes, otherwise a good beginning for the show.

Charles Packer

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