a.k.a. The Last Love Song On This Little Planet
“Sorry, but I’m dangerous now.”
Genre: Drama, Science Fiction
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 7/2/2002 to 10/24/2002
Chise appears to be an ordinary high-school girl. But not even her parents know her secret — she’s a top-secret military project, a highly-weaponized human being: she IS the Ultimate Weapon. Now, war has broken out, and Chise is about to be unleashed on the enemy — and on herself.
summary by Papa-san
Reviewed: 1/03/16 by
Highs: Some philosophical insights into war, suffering, and death.
Lows: Story drags and makes little sense.
Don’t get me wrong now. This series does have its moments. Unfortunately, they’re few and far between in this slogging sobfest as Chise, the ultimate weapon, muses on how she dislikes wiping out cities before breaking into tears over the thought that her Shu-chan can’t possibly love her as she is.
Maybe some of it is a bit too subtle, of all things. For example, the series opens with a couple of cryptical references to the F-15s flying overhead and how tense the situation is. As the class travels to Sapporo for a shopping trip, what is first thought to be an earthquake turns out to be an air raid, and a number of characters whom we have barely met and can hardly care about are killed — along with a good deal of the rest of the city’s population. At some point, Japan gets invaded, as a “skirmish in the Western sector” is mentioned. One naturally wonders who has begun a war with Japan, and why. But about halfway through, I myself wondered if that was itself part of the message here: it doesn’t really matter, does it? Ultimately, the Whos and Whys are irrelevant to those who fight and to those who die. Also, Chise’s endless agonizing and self-loathing over what she has become, and what she has to do. Is that what any soldier must face, to some degree? Are those parts of the message here? Or is this just my own effort to pull some sense out of this bizarre mishmash?*
Chise states early on that her weaponization was such a secret project, not even her parents and family know about it! But it’s OK to share it with a boyfriend, evidently. Most of the story actually is about Chise and Shuji’s relationship. Several times, Shuji describes the unnamed place where they all live as a small rural town, but all the scenery looks like a good-sized seaside city. (Although unnamed, the town is clearly in Hokkaido.) In classic anime style, although they are high-school classmates, she appears to be about half his age. He cheats on her, and regrets it, especially when she figures it out — she is equipped with all sorts of tracking devices. The two spend a lot of screen time crying at each other. Chise’s incessant crying becomes almost an in-show in-joke. Most sequences lead to someone’s agonized soliloquizing, usually to the backdrop of heartfelt music which wants us to think of Neon Genesis, as does Chise herself, in some ways a cheap Ayanami knock-off (watch for the detachable arm). Most character design is bland and uninspired, except for the few glimpses we get of Chise in her weaponized mode, and some of the incidental soldier characters. Drawn-out death mono- and dialogs.
Right, some high points. Part of Chise’s problem is that she often has no control over herself “activating”. Early on, when there is an earthquake at the school, she effectively can’t distinguish the earthquake from an attack, and accidentally takes out a couple of floors (the incident from which I draw the “I’m dangerous now” tagline). Later, when walking with an Army buddy, she warns him that if they get too near the enemy camp, she might kill him along with everyone else: “If I activate, you’ll die. That happens all the time now . . I don’t even realize it, and suddenly everyone’s gone.” A bit toward the end where the two find a remote fishing village where they might escape war and fate. But that’s about it, at least until a compelling “last apocalypse” action sequence and the surrealistic conclusion itself in the final episode, which is indeed quite moving. It actually had a feel like some of the good old “Twilight Zone” episodes, especially if you go back and watch the very beginning of the first episode again.
As a final word, it was a long way to a strong finish, but I’m not sure it was worth the trip. I think this might have done better as a single movie**. As it is — I won’t go so far as to say Don’t bother, but maybe save it for a REALLY boring weekend or two.
* I’m afraid it is.
** Visitors to the BakaBT download will notice that this WAS redone in shorter formats, including OVA and live movie.
Afterword — This had been sitting in my library so long that not only had I forgotten I had it, I didn’t even realize this already had a review page here! I watched this entirely cold, having no idea what it would be nor what others had thought of it before. Humble apologies to my esteemed predecessors for diverging so greatly from them in my assessment of this series.
Highs: Focus on realistic relationship
Lows: Animation style doesn’t match story
Look out Evangelion, you have competition. In the “angst-filled teenagers use big weapons for mass destruction while dealing with their own humanity” category, She, the Ultimate Weapon is definitely a challenger. But even though this anime is in the same class as Evangelion, its flaws are enough to keep it in second place.
She, the Ultimate Weapon is stubbornly intent on placing the next World War as merely a background to the larger, more important story: the relationship between Shuuji and Chise. At the beginning of the story, Shuuji and Chise are innocent high school students clumsily entering their first relationship. The show does an excellent job of accurately portraying how it is to be young and in love, as they seem more interested in each other and their budding love than in the world around them. But due to the fact that Shuuji’s character is quiet and somewhat indecisive by nature, it was rather hard for me to completely believe the sincerity of the relationship. This deliberate skepticism adds realism to a relationship that, like all relationships, is far from simple.
Shuuji also suffers from the largest flaw of the show: horrible character design. When I first saw him, depicted as a gray-haired man with glasses, I mistook him for a much older character. Add to that the fact that the character design for such a serious story resembles more cutesy, super deformed character art used in comedies, the design becomes distracting and just plain awful. Even Chise in battle-mode seems to have nubs for feet rather than a fleshed out design. If the animators were aiming for a cute, informal style to emphasize the characters’ innocence, they failed miserably.
The moving story, however, outweighs the bad design. Obviously embedded with anti-war sentiment, She, the Ultimate Weapon succeeds in getting its message across. It will make you stop to think and see the world a bit differently… at least for a few hours.
Highs: Realistic character interactions; will tug at your heart the entire time
Lows: Character designs need improvement; unexplained war; too angsty for my liking
I have no clue what Gonzo’s deal is with teenagers and military weaponry (Full Metal Panic!, Kiddy Grade), but it feels as if they are building their company largely on this concept. While that is a viable approach to creating anime, She, the Ultimate Weapon concurrently succeeds and fails to live up to Gonzo’s reputation.
If anything left me in awe, it was definitely the interactions between every character. She, the Ultimate Weapon cuts through the crap a lot of times just to give you people who feel and act real; they do not hand out backgrounds for everyone, but as soon as you meet someone, you know exactly where they stand in relation to everyone else around them. Had they replaced each character with a real person, I could easily see each line coming out of their mouths without anyone giving that person a sideways look. Shuuji and Chise’s relationship is played out well simply because it feels like a real teenage relationship; all of the right ups, downs, tension and anxiety are present to make it work. You will laugh when they laugh, you will be sad when they cry (which occurs more often than not) and you will cry when people die. These are undeniably elements that make a good anime.
What prevents this series from being a great anime are a few problems starting with character designs. Imagine buying Barbie dolls for your characters; there are no facial or body features that greatly distinguish a lot of characters other than hair color and gender. On more than one occasion, I was confused as to who was who until they began interacting with everyone else, and even then, it was annoying to be thinking that someone was Shuuji or Chise when they were not. Something else that irritated me to no end was the lack of background given on the war that Chise was fighting. It was just another “us versus them” war; absolutely nothing was explained about either side or how the war began, and it is only used as an excuse for people dying and causing a whole lot of drama between those left alive. While I find it necessary to have some teenage angst to keep Shuuji and Chise’s relationship real, it went overboard. Sorry, but I was gagging from all of the whining and crying by the end of the series.
She, the Ultimate Weapon is a mildly depressing series that will definitely grab you by your heart and take you for a teenage angst-filled ride, but with numerous blemishes in its design and execution, this is nothing particularly special.
She, the Ultimate Weapon can be downloaded legally in the United States HERE.