After deciding that she needs to change her timid ways, high school student Chise finally works up the courage to ask out her classmate Shuuji. Though both are particularly awkward when it comes to romance, the situation is further complicated when Chise is taken and transformed into a combat cyborg as part as the government's last ditch efforts to defend against invasion.
When I first heard the general plotline of this anime, I had assumed for various reasons that it would probably be very light and perhaps comedic. Various wacky scenarios involving phrases like, "Sorry, honey, I have to go take on the 7th Fleet now! Keep the sukiyaki hot for me!?" While I suppose the plot, in some ways, does have a lot of that, this series is anything but light. This is perhaps one of the most emotionally flaying anime series I have ever seen. It is a deeply emotional series that leaves an impact of the viewer long after the last episode has been viewed.
SaiKano does one of the finest jobs of character development I have ever seen in an anime. As we see the interaction and thoughts of Chise and Shuuji, they come alive as real people desperately struggling to find a bit of happiness in a situation and world greatly beyond their control. Their relationship is expertly and realistically developed. They are not presented as some sappy couple instantly and deeply in love with each other from the very beginning. Instead the show explores various ideas about the meaning of love and its relation to issues ranging from existential validation to pity. Besides just the issue of love, Chise struggles with the nature of her new existence. It is a particularly pitiful state of affairs, as a girl who finally found the courage to begin taking control of her life, now finds herself no longer completely human and a killing machine as well under the direction of others.
Besides the relationship theme between the two, the effects of war on people's practical day-to-day lives are presented. There is very little actually explained about the background of the war explained in the show. Instead we simply see the effects. Loved ones killed and missing, the sickening routine of preparing for air raids. All through this various types of people from soldiers to teachers are doing their best to continue living normal lives and trying to find something to hold onto to shelter them from the chaos.
Despite Chise's status as a combat cyborg, this is not an action show and those seeking large scale cybernetic battle will be disappointed, as the emphasis is more on showing how war effects people than glorifying battle. Most episodes at some point include Chise being called into action, but most of the battles are seen from far away.
In terms of animation and character design, SaiKano is fairly average, though I found the light and somewhat faded color palette generally used for the show rather effective. Combined with Shuuji's narration, it helped reinforce the general feeling of bittersweet memory than underlies this show.
While the music isn't exactly up to Kanno Yoko levels, the opening and ending themes are fairly good, but the love song theme fits in perfectly with the main themes explored in this show. The voice actors all give excellent performances that fit perfectly with the characters they are portraying.
SaiKano is wonderful character driven show that while not vast in theme and scope as some other anime, does a fine job of presenting two very real people and taking the viewer into their plight. While angst is hardly rare in anime, the characters of SaiKano are desperately trying to hold onto their happiness instead of simply falling into laconic despair. That makes this title all the more poignant. Prepare to be moved and you might want to bring a box of tissues.
An excellent and compelling romantic drama with moving characters, drop a star if you don't like depressing anime or are looking for something a bit more action oriented. — Jeremy A Beard
Recommended Audience: While for the most part there is little overtly graphic violence, there are multiple very emotional deaths, multiple suicides, and a lot of general war-related violence. The show also contains brief nudity, some mild language, and a few sexual situations. Recommended for older teens and adults.
Version(s) Viewed: Prerelease fansub
Review Status: Full (13/13)
SaiKano © 2002 Gonzo Digimation
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