She, the Ultimate Weapon
Volume 2

Starring (voice): Shiro Ishimoda, Fumiko Orikasa, Shinichirô Miki and Miki Itô
Manga Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Available 31 July 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 attack, Shuji discovers that Chise has been turned into She the Ultimate Weapon...

The second DVD release presents the next four episodes in a thirteen episode run. In my review of Volume One I was justifiably unhappy about some of the character designs; I have subsequently discovered that these peculiarities are a direct take on the designs in the original manga Saikano by Shin Takahashi. Whilst I still feel that they don't work as well in the anime as well as they did in the manga their inclusion makes a lot more sense now.

The story continues the melancholy teenage love story between Shuji and Chise against the background of an unexplained war. The war itself is secondary to the love story and is mostly added as a metaphor for the conflicts which arise from young relationships. Chise, rather than having to come to terms with puberty and the inherent changes to her body, has to deal with her body transforming into a weapon: Grow breasts... Grow cannons... The connection is a bit obvious, but not overly laboured.

The show continues to explore the effects on not just the young lovers but also on everyone around them. As you would expect the show contains depictions of death, but it cannot be said to be gratuitously violent and the nudity is slight compared to other shows. Where the show really scores high is in its depiction of the main characters, especially Shuji, who after a while you really do get to care about. They may look odd, but the characters journey through the show really does get you gripped after a while.

Episode five, Liar, and Chise is starting to question the morality of becoming a living weapon. The odd thing is that she continues to attend school, which is a bit weird that the military would allow such an expensive and dangerous piece of equipment to sit in a schoolroom. The stupidity of this action comes to fruition in this episode when an earthquake sparks off Chise's transformation into a weapon, whereupon she destroys half the school. If that wasn't freaky enough for her boyfriend, Shuji is starting to understand that Chise is more than a girl, she is also a thinking, living weapon and what is worse the weapon appears not to share Chise's morality. Behind the main story the war continues with some disturbing scenes of dying soldiers. There's an odd comparison between the school and town and the hell of the battlefield, a deliberate ploy to make both areas seem a little off kilter, adding to the uneasy feeling that the show imbues in the audience.

Classmates, episode six, and Shuji is suffering some more teenage angst, personally I'd be terrified of dating this girl, especially if you get her jealous. Shjui ignores this piece of advice and admits to Chise that he has a dirty mind and is always thinking of doing it with her. Not the best chat up line I've heard, but then I guess he's only seventeen. He also admits to her that he had done it with Fuyumi, more than once. Well that's never going to work. But, blow me down Chise admits to him that she wanted to do it with him a hundred times more than Fuyumi. Who'd have thought that chat up line would work? Well it doesn't and she dumps him. Could have told him it was a bad idea. Cue teenage angst and slow piano music.

Episode seven, What I want to Protect, and the angst has been cranked up a notch. Everyone's tense and both Chise and Shuji are given a lot of advice by their friends. Running through the episode is an interesting discussion on the nature of love and whether going to war is an act of protection for those that you love or just an act of killing. The episode continues the drift into a much darker show, with some of the students enlisting to fight for reasons that they are never sure of; they give into a form of romanticism that leads many young men to go off to war.

Episode eight, Everyone's Changing, and the school is starting to thin out, with some of the students having gone off to war, others have been killed and still others have just given up. With Chise away, the action moves to the front and the students are starting to understand the realities of war. Tetsu finds Chise amidst the ruins of a town she has destroyed and takes her off for a little looting.

Like the previous release, the show comes on two discs, each disc contains the same shows, only the audio options are different. On disc one you have the option of English or Japanese stereo or 5.1, while disc two offers the addition of a DTS track for each language.

On the extras front we get twelve pieces of production art and another hilarious instalment from the Japanese vocal actors Shinichiro Miki (the voice of Tetsu) and Miki Ito (the voice of Fuyumi). These guys really must be taking speed; their enthusiasm for the show is infectious as they discuss the story from an adult perspective. There is a slight discrepancy in the interview, due to the fact that the number of shows in the English release is obviously higher that that of the Japanese release, so sometimes they are discussing things which happened on the first DVD. Still it's all very entertaining none the less. Disc two also contains three trailers for other shows.

Charles Packer

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