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Manga / Saikano

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Saikano, a.k.a. Saishuu Heiki Kanojo; She, the Ultimate Weapon; My Girlfriend, the Ultimate Weapon. In the French translation, Larme Ultime, a pun on "the ultimate weapon" (l'arme ultime) and "ultimate tear".

The tentative budding relationship between petite Chise and bitter, emotionally distant Shuuji becomes a little more complicated when Shuuji discovers that Chise has been converted into a living weapon of mass destruction by the JSDF.

Originally a seinen manga series by Shin Takahashi that ran in Big Comic Spirits from 1999 to 2001, it was adapted into a 13-episode anime in 2002. An OVA side-story was released in 2005, Saikano: Another Love Song, as well as a live-action movie in 2006. The manga is licensed Viz Media, they had the anime too, but they lost the license as evidenced by the announcement of the anime being rescue licensed by Sentai Filmworks.

This series provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Pet in a Box: Shuji finds such a box of abandoned kittens at the side of the road, and goes to tell Chise about it so that they can help them, only for them to be gone when he gets back. This makes him think somebody already took them, and shouts to the heavens that they surely must be alive. It turns out that they had frozen to death.
  • Action Girl: To say that Chise is a One Woman Army would be to understate it. Not only does she raze a city in every engagement, and is the sole reason why her hometown hasn't been destroyed, but she can easily end the human race by the end.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The anime removes some of the extreme Mood Whiplash present in the manga.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The anime adds some characters and scenes to fill in the parts with long monologues.
  • Anyone Can Die: No character is safe; by the end of the story, the only two named characters that are still alive are Chise and Shuji... out of everyone in the human race. It’s also debatable whether or not Chise is actually still ‘alive’.
  • Apocalypse Maiden: Chise gradually grows in power to the point that she can easily annihilate anyone and anything she chooses. By the end of the series, she does exactly that to humanity.
  • Apologizes a Lot: Chise, at the start of the series; this fades away, along with her humanity.
  • Artistic Age: The manga has character designs fluctuate between panels, such that Chise can sometimes look her actual age of 17, sometimes look like an adult, and sometimes look like an elementary schooler. The anime seems to have intended the latter.
  • Artistic License – Biology: There is no way that anything that happens with Chise's transformations into the Ultimate Weapon or what she does with her power is remotely possible in Real Life.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: The art style looks more fitting for a Slice of Life type of manga rather than a tragic, War Is Hell apocalyptic story. Specially in the Super-Deformed moments.
  • Art Shift: The art frequently shifts to Super-Deformed when Chise and Shuji are talking with their friends, especially when Chise gets embarrassed or Shuji gets mad.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: In the manga, while nipples are shown for both genders, genitals are either not drawn at all or only partially rendered, despite a number of full-frontal scenes with Chise and the various sex scenes (especially in the second and final volumes).
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Arguable in the Manga ending. Shuji and Chise (albeit, as an intangible spaceship/hologram Chise) end up together after all, with nothing to tear them apart. They seem fully content with this situation. Shuji's final words in the Manga: "It was our love song. We're going to fall in love. We're going to live.", plus, from author's end notes: "Chise and Shuji are not happy, but they are not unhappy, either. There is no hope, but there are memories and there may be a future."
    • For the live action film as well: Chise is destroyed as a condition of Japan's peace agreement with its enemies, and many of the main characters also die, but Shuji still survives, and the world is apparently not destroyed.
  • Black Comedy: Along with Gallows Humor, there's a sequence in the manga where after Chise and Shuji run away and start hitchhiking, they eventually get picked up by a military truck. Chise says off-handedly that everyone who knows what she actually is is already dead. The punch line to this is that the soldiers on the truck DO recognize Chise and know what she is and have a collective Oh, Crap! in their thought bubbles.
  • Blessed with Suck: Congratulations, Chise, the government made you the ultimate killing machine, pretty much guaranteeing that you'll survive this war that's killing everyone else. The only problem is that you're now the ultimate killing machine, and will have that on your conscience forever, and are no longer human.
  • Body Horror: Chise's uncanny body, with weapons sticking out of her.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: The show is mildly optimistic for all of one episode or so. It goes downhill very, very fast after that.
  • Child Soldiers:
    • Chise, completely without her consent at first.
    • The teen boys in the Japanese army, including Shuji's best friend Atsushi.
  • Clothing Damage: At the very least, Chise's transformations tear out the backs of her blouses, and sometimes completely shred them. As the story progresses and the transformations get more bizarre, this happens to the rest of her clothes.
  • Death by Adaptation: Chise herself is destroyed at the end of the live action film
  • Determinator: One of the main themes is people's amazing will to survive even though they know they're doomed.
  • Double Standard Rape: Female on Male: In the backstory, Shuji lost his virginity to Fuyumi, when she was an adult and he was thirteen. Moreover, she was a student teacher presiding over his class at the time. When Fuyumi shows up in the present, Shuji very quickly gets over it, and we are meant to pity her, because of how horrible the war has been for everyone (even though things don't get really bad until after she leaves).
  • Driven to Suicide: The nervous, sweaty middle-age man who oversees Chise's transformation.
  • Dubtitle: Saikano, at least in the OVA, was partially dubtitled. Sometimes the subtitles differed considerably from the dub, but at other times they matched the dub perfectly. Especially noticeable in some sections where the dub dialogue was a radical departure from the original Japanese.
  • Emotionless Girl: Subverted. Near the end, Chise does have emotions, but she doesn't quite understand them.
  • False Cause: The soldiers believe that Chise is an Angel of Death and that no one who meets her will live. While it's true that all the previous soldiers who met her have been killed in action, this is because the war is so hopeless that Japan is taking near 100% casualties anyway, and Chise has nothing to do with this.
  • Fan Disservice: Usually involves Chise's scars and lack of control over her transformation.
  • Fatal Family Photo: All of the characters that carry the photos of their loved ones to war die horribly. Their loved ones die too.
  • Hell Seeker: Tetsu wants to go to hell because he thinks that's where he'd go after death and that death is the only way out of his misery.
  • Hopeless War: The entire point of Saikano is that one of these is causing the death of the planet. Chise pulls a planet-wide Mercy Kill to keep everyone from suffering any more; the series is exactly two characters away from a full-on Shoot the Shaggy Dog.
  • How We Got Here: The first episode of the anime opens with a haggard young man wearing broken glasses staggering through a deserted town, a service so that you don't mistakenly waste any hope on him later.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Shuuji is fairly tall, while Chise is very petite.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Not played entirely straight, but the show makes it clear that everyone is guilty to some extent. At the same time, some passages sing the beauty of human life and the merit of committing to memory the fact that humans existed.
  • Human Weapon: Chise is a Person of Mass Destruction, and currently the page image.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Chise doesn't want to be the ultimate weapon, for the obvious reasons that she exists only to massacre people, and is losing control over her humanity.
  • It Gets Easier: Chise starts by hating having been turned into a weapon, and breaks down whenever she is sent on a mission, at one point even rebuking the soldiers who claim she's saved lives by saying that the only difference is whether she is causing the deaths of Japanese or foreigners. But she gradually succumbs to her nature as a weapon, and gets more and more eager to kill people, culminating in killing everyone on Earth, except for Shuji, as a mercy. Not even her own family is spared.
  • Just Before the End: Saikano begins with everything apparently peaceful, although the weather has gotten bizarre. As Chise reveals at the end, the world was actually dying from the start. She performs a Mercy Kill on all living things to spare them the pain of dying slowly with the planet. The manga is more hopeful, in that the by-then transhuman Chise survives, as does her still-human boyfriend. They set off to explore the universe, hopefully to find someone they can talk to.
  • Kill All Humans: Chise eventually comes to the conclusion that this is the only way to end all war. She succeeds.
  • Light Is Not Good: When Chise uses her abilities, she starts to glow a bright white, looking almost angelic. Unfortunately, this is usually followed by lots and lots of people dying.
  • Last of His Kind: By the end of the series, Shuji is the last human alive, since Chise doesn't count as human anymore.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Chise's parents and brother never learn that she is the ultimate weapon, not even once their hometown becomes her Protectorate and everybody knows her name.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: At the end of the anime version, Chise's spirit creates one for Shuuji to help him cope with the fact that everyone else in the world has died.
  • Luminescent Blush:
    • This is the default expression of everyone, to the point where the blush sometimes appears to be coming off character's faces and can occasionally get quite distracting.
    • The overuse of luminescent blushing leads to the strange effect that it doesn't even indicate if a character is really blushing or not. Only when the face of someone turns glaring red, you can tell that he is in an emotional state that would cause a blush (if it wasn't already there).
  • Mercy Kill:
    • Tetsu to another soldier.
    • Chise to the entire human race.
    • Subverted in the anime. Chise wants to do this to spare everyone the suffering of the world ending but Shuuji tells her not to, that everyone has the right to live even in the face of doom.
  • Moral Myopia: Chise snaps at the soldiers who tell her she's doing a good thing and saving lives, by saying that all she does is destroy the enemy, who are also human, meaning the only difference is the nationality of those who get killed.
  • No Full Name Given: According to Word of God, this was in order to create an atmosphere of familiarity with the characters.
  • Non-Indicative First Episode: If you only read the first volume, you will think the manga is over. When you begin the second volume you will think it's an Anthology of happy little feel good Shojo oneshots instead of the most horrible and depressing War Drama ever. In the end the heroine has to watch her boyfriend starve to death. And it's all her fault. You want to read the first chapter again and pretend the whole rest of the series was just a bad dream.
  • Nuclear Weapons Taboo: Chise practically is one, given her unstoppability and growing reputation for total destruction.
  • Oracular Urchin: Chise increasingly knows what will happen as a result of the war.
  • Ordinary High-School Student: Shuji. He doesn't have any powers, but his relationship with Chise is the one grounding element that she has that keeps her relatively sane as the story progresses.
  • Painful Transformation: While it's inconsistently portrayed (at least in the manga), the more extreme renditions of Chise's transformations into the Ultimate Weapon are agonizingly painful for her.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: As the Ultimate Weapon, Chise can unleash horrific destruction when she's of a mind to do so.
  • Pet the Dog: Chise and Shuuji love kitties. They die horribly.
  • Plot Hole: Could be said to be voluntary. The fact that we never learn who's at war with whom and the identity of the Big Bad strengthens the status of Saikano as an allegory about war at large. Similarly, knowing how come Chise is chosen to become the ultimate weapon and how on earth that actually works isn't quite the point. See The Unreveal.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Double subversion. We learn fairly early on that some soldiers speak English. Then Tetsu meets up with soldiers and tries to talk them down in English. They don't understand English.
  • Pun-Based Title: The French title.
  • Rape as Drama: In a volume of canon stories happening in the universe of Saikano, one story focuses on the relationship between a teen soldier and a girl who got raped by soldiers from the other side. Particularly jarring since he waited for them to be finished before he killed them because he knew they'd feel 'spent' after sex. And since they supposedly fall in love he convinces the girl to have sex with him while she doesn't want to.
  • Screw the War, We're Partying: Played for maximum sadness when the students beg the military to allow them to celebrate the school festival.
  • Seinen: In the small Afterword in the manga, Word of God stated this was for young adult boys to adult men. This is also how he got away with including a rather graphic sex sequence.
  • Sekaikei Genre: Saikano deconstructs the living hell out of this setup. Chise is an ultimate weapon in a war and how she decides to fight (if at all) depends on her boyfriend, Shuuji.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The protagonists' relationship would have no issue if it weren't for the war.
  • Super-Deformed: The manga does this a lot in the most inappropriate places.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Chise's personality while in the Ultimate Weapon form could be psychotically vindictive, threatening on multiple occasions to utterly eradicate anyone who got in her way or made her mad, be it friend or foe...and that she could do so with ridiculous ease made her even more horrifying.
  • Super-Soldier: Chise holds a military rank, although her real function is as the Ultimate Weapon.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Flashbacks show that Shuji had a relationship with his student teacher, Fuyumi, when he was in middle school.
  • There Is No Higher Court: Girl changed into weapon without her knowledge or consent. No one bats an eye.
  • Too Happy to Live: Whenever a secondary character is having a happy moment, joking and/or laughing as a break of the horrors of war, they are about to be killed in a short moment by an enemy bombing or attack.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The trailer for the live-action version shows the very ending of the end of the world even though it doesn't make sense by itself.
  • Transformation Trauma: In more than one way - the pain of the transformations, Chise's embarrassment at being seen partially or completely unclothed when she returns to normal, and the knowledge that she's losing her humanity a little at a time.
  • The Unreveal: For example, why and how was Chise chosen as the ultimate weapon? Why is every country at war with each other anyway? What actually happens to the earth at the end? The second bit isn't outright stated, but pretty much made obvious. The Earth will eventually die, and Shuji is confined to a Fate Worse than Death due to energy-being Chise's "kindness". The best we get for the first in one of the OVAs is she, and only she, just so happened to fit the criteria to be the ultimate weapon. It's even mentioned that it could've been anyone and they would've used him/her.
  • War Is Hell: The manga makes it clear that war is a nightmarish experience that causes nothing but needless death and destruction and ruins the lives of everybody even tangentially affected by it. The situation on the ground is basically a carbon copy of conditions endured by Japanese civilians in World War II from the Tokyo firebombing onwards, except even worse because this is the liberalized, post-Occupation Japan suffering it. And because their enemies are hit just as hard.
  • Where I Was Born and Razed: Spectacularly inverted: Chise's hometown not only doesn't get destroyed by her as one could expect, but it's in fact one of the only "safe" places on the earth due to Chise protecting it, to such an extent that it gets dubbed "Chise's town" and people flock to it in a desperate effort to find refuge. However, she eventually decides that when the time comes, she'll destroy it herself rather than let everybody die painfully. She goes through with it in the manga, but in the anime, she's convinced not to. The manga has the good ending.
  • Winged Humanoid: Chise's transformation makes her look like an angel.

Alternative Title(s): She The Ultimate Weapon