She, The Ultimate Weapon (Saishû Heiki Kanojo)-Volume 1: Girlfriend (2002)

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Released 21-Jul-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Anime Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Conversation With Voice Actors (Shuji And Chise)
Featurette-All About Saikano
Featurette-Short TV Program - Saikano Times
TV Spots-Japanese TV Commercials
Gallery-Colour Character Sheets
Trailer-Escaflowne, Azumanga Daioh, Gravion
Reversible Cover
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 97:09 (Case: 100)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mitsuko Kase
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Fumiko Orikasa
Melissa Hutchison
Shiro Ishimoda
Mark Atherlay
Shinichirô Miki
Abie Hadjitarkhani
Yu Sugimoto
Amy Provenzano
Tetsu Shiratori
Joe Wyka
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Takeo Miratsu
Yuria Yato


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.75:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English Titling
English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, next episode teaser

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

The last love song on this little planet...

    This is a rather low-key, slow-moving, story of a romance between two high school students, a boy, Shuji (who seems fairly stoic), and a girl, Chise (who is shy and timid). It's not a remarkable romance, and it barely gets started when it is disrupted in an unusual way.

    The setting is Japan of the near future, when Japan is at war with an as-yet-unidentified (to us, anyway) country. The war is not going well for Japan — Tokyo no longer exists, for example. So they have deployed an ultimate weapon. And that ultimate weapon happens to be Chise. When she's in fighting mode, all manner of things unfold from her body. She seems ashamed of this, as well as being indoctrinated to keep her identity a secret from everyone — even her family. She tells Shuji, who sympathises, and tries to help.

    In the four episodes on this disc we don't have time to get into the depths of the story (I did mention that it's rather slow-moving). We do meet the main characters and those surrounding them. The episodes on this disc are:

  1. We Fall in Love — we meet Shuji, Chise, and their friends; Shuji and Chise are trying to make their relationship work
  2. I'm Growing — Shuji and Chise try to run away from what is happening to her
  3. Together, Alone — While Chise is on a mission, Shuji runs into a woman (Fuyumi) he used to know
  4. Fuyumi — Fuyumi is lonely because her husband is with the army. She tries to get some company from Shuji

    The English name of this series is She, the Ultimate Weapon, and that's the title on the box, but the previews, and some of the extras, use the Japanese name Saikano. I'd rather that they would stick with one title or the other, but it's not a big thing.

    There are some interesting touches. Because the country is at war, cellphones and the Internet have been banned. Apart from that, things seem to be fairly normal most of the time. The students go to school, have homework, all the normal things. Just sometimes there are bombers in the sky. And sometimes there's a small pink dot following the bombers and blowing them out of the sky with ridiculous ease.

    There's an element of the near-absurd, or surreal, on occasion: Chise may be standing there, with her clothes ripped and shredded from fighting, and the only sign of injury we'll see is a pair of bandaids on her knees.

    I don't really like Shuji, but I can feel some sympathy for him. And I feel sorry for Chise, and especially for her low self-esteem, and her need to judge her self-worth by the opinions of others. Strange, but these characters do grow on you.

    It is not uncommon to finish watching the first volume of an anime series, and feel ambivalent about the series. This time, however, I know that I want to see more of this series, but I honestly have little idea of where it is heading. It's interesting, even intriguing, and I'm definitely keen to see more. I just wish it felt like more happened in each episode.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    This DVD is presented in an aspect ratio of about 1.75:1, but it is not 16x9 enhanced (a pity). Although the cover claims an aspect ratio of 1.85:1, I'd expect this to have begun with an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, because it was broadcast on TV.

    The picture is clear, and sharp enough (there are softer moments, but that's deliberate). There's no film grain. There is no low-level noise. The animation style is fairly simple, but effective, with mostly static backgrounds, and foreground characters who move to a limited extent — it conveys the story well.

    Colour is nicely rendered, even if it is sometimes too light/bright (especially during the credits), and sometimes vivid and rich. The colours are well-chosen. There are no colour-related artefacts.

    There are no film artefacts.

    There are tiny touches of aliasing, but no moiré. There are no MPEG artefacts.

    There are the two standard subtitle streams in English: one for signs / lyrics, and one for (Japanese) dialogue. They are seem accurate enough, well-timed, and easy to read.

    The disc is single sided, dual layered, but not RSDL. There are three episodes on the first layer, and one on the second (plus all the extras), so the layer change is concealed between the third and fourth episodes.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    There are two soundtracks, in English and Japanese. Both are Dolby Digital 2.0, not surround encoded, but the English is at a bitrate of 224kbps, while the Japanese is only 192kbps.

    The English dialogue is clear and easy to understand. The Japanese dialogue sounds clear enough. Neither is perfectly matched to the mouth movements, but neither is far enough out to be distracting.

    The score, from Takeo Miratsu, is nicely matched to the action. The themes are by Yuria Yato, and are unusual, but effective.

    Both soundtracks are pure stereo, with some good stereo panning, but with no surround sound. There is nothing for the subwoofer.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    The menu is static and silent, but easy to operate.

Reversible Cover

    The cover slick can be removed and reversed. The reverse slick features a rather nice image of Chise as a weapon.

Interview — a conversation with the voice actors (13:20)

    This begins at the real Observation Hill (which plays an important part in the anime) with two real people. They are Fumiko Orikasa (who plays Chise), and Shiro Ishimoda (who plays Shuji). They talk about how they felt about getting the parts, about the fact that they are trying to do a northern accent because this show is set in Hokkaido, and many other things besides. This is quite interesting.

Featurette — All about Saikano (24:05)

    This is a form of making-of. It explains how the Saikano story originated as a manga, and works through to the production of the anime. Even if you don't like the blatantly advertising style of making-of, you may get something from this.

Featurette — Saikano Times (20:07)

    This is a concatenation of segments on a TV show called (apparently) Family Theatre. The host, Natsuki Kato, interviews various supporting characters, and Yuria Yato (composer of the themes). Not as informative as the other pieces, but entertaining to watch.

TV Spots

    These are Japanese commercials, totalling 3:09, with a mix of 15 and 30 seconds spots. That's a fair few commercials!

Character Sheets (21pp)

    These are in colour, showing Chise, Shuji, and a number of their friends.

Madman Propaganda

DVD Credits

    A single page listing the Madman people responsible for this disc.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release of this title came earlier in 2004. The R1 and R4 are quite similar, containing the same episodes, even having the same character artwork (but different backgrounds) on the front cover. Note that the R1 version uses two discs, with the episodes on the first disc and the extras on the second. As far as I can tell, the only extra missing from the R4 disc is the credit-less opening and closing — that's not a lot to give up, when you look at the comprehensive extras included on the single R4 disc.

    Judging by reports, the R1 may have a slightly better transfer, but the differences seem likely to be small. Their transfer is wide-screen, not 16x9 enhanced, just like ours.

    Here in Region 4 we have the choice of buying this volume with or without a collector's box. I bought mine with the box, which is a good quality heavy box sized perfectly to hold all four volumes. Interestingly, the Region 1 release didn't offer this choice. I'm happy to buy the Region 4.

Summary

    A gently sad romantic story about a love that runs far from smoothly during war, presented rather nicely on DVD.

    The video quality is quite good.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are impressive.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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