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This wants to be a serious story about the brutality of war and what it drives each side to do. There are moments that work, but they tend to be the quieter ones where the cast finds relief from the fighting. While those meant to be intense are robbed of any serious message by two major problems running right through the work, which made my animation society laugh at much of the running.
The reasons and the outlook for the war are never looked at. This can work very well to make a war into a background for personal stories, and get pathos from people caught up in a situation they barely understand. But the devastation here is not a war, it is a plot device. In one episode a backwater village gets bombed for no reason by a single plane and it kills everyone except the two named characters. At this point the war stops being a dreaded unknown because we can see it will only do what is convenient to the author. The misery does not feel warranted, it is simply gratuitous.
The other is the tragic couple at the core of the story. They are supposedly teenagers, yet he looks like an adult man and she looks like child, and she acts even more childishly than she looks. They are never an equal couple, they are a man and his ward. It is impossible to overlook how the whole show is aimed at otaku who dream of having a subservient, pet-like girl who will not challenge them in any way. Men protecting women is old and trite, but usually bearable; when the woman is barely even a character and more a sex prop with a child's body, it becomes deeply disturbing. This is hardly the only show to pander to otaku in this way, but the way in which this one wants to be taken so seriously just turns the whole thing into a laughing stock.
Mind you, i'm a man with varied tastes. An optmist, for sure, but i am someone who can appreciate the entire Sliding Scale of Idealism and Cynicism AS LONG as it doesn't fall too deep into one of the two extremes. Sadly, Saikano makes the mistake of falling into one of these two, and i don't think i need to explain which one.
Again, i usually don't care much for how cynical a story gets as long as the Aesop becomes clear. I watched Devilman Crybaby and it's one of my favorite anime out there. The thing is, Saikano drops EVERY single ounce of misery on you, nonstop, and pratically never provides any closure. If anything, the episode i dislike the most in the series is the first one, because it gives out the impression that the work will have a balance in heartwarming moments and tearjerkers. But it doesn't. Pratically every moment after episode 1 is dedicated to turning Chise and Shuuji's life into a living hell, which is interpreted often as a "War is Hell" message. But when you don't know the circunstances of the war, why was it instigated and everything else, it becomes difficult to believe that.
Yes, War is Hell, but there IS a motive why war happens in Real Life. The World has all varying shades of Black, White and Gray after all, and when this is ignored because what matters in war is the fact that people die (Which again, is true, but fails to show HOW the events instigating a person's death in the first place), this becomes a hollow message that fails to convey all sides of the conflict in a effort to make it more effective, but accidentally only making even more pointless. It also doesn't help that the anime also leaves out pratically all levity moments from the manga. Yes, they WERE a case of Mood Whiplash, but they helped in showing a world that wasn't a completely grim sequence of suffering. It made things feel more... human.
In the end, what can i say? I feel only a masochist would enjoy watching Saikano. There are much better tragedy fiction out there that doesn't need to have the main characters under misery during the entire plot. A tragedy is built under noble endeavors being taken out slowly, but when you have 12 episodes and from the second one you can pratically SEE the downer ending coming, is there a point to all of this? I don't think so. There is a point when you can believe there is one, but when sadness is overflowing the entire time and any hope of something better turns into eight deadly words, you know it's time to beat of the dust and find something that can't be boiled down to the message of "War is Hell and in the end you will be stuck with a Yandere cyborg while forced to walk an empty Earth". And no, having a few passages talking about humanity won't help it, because if the mattered in the first place them the answer to all of the problems wouldn't be a Mercy Kill to all humans, but both Chise and Shuuji fighting until the bitter end, because THAT is what us humans do: We fight for our beliefs. And we don't give up on our world because we know it's hopeless, we continue fighting because somebody tells us it's hopeless.
Stay Classy, And stand strong, Tropers.
I tell you the truth this story hurts, it hurts so bad I actually cried. The most disturbing part of the story is when you realize that in the real world we could do all that to our self. I find it horrifying and sad and I thank God I've seen it for it makes me remind myself of my humanity and the need to uphold it less we become monsters.
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