Based on the manga, Saikano by Shin Takahashi, She, the Ultimate Weapon’s design is faithful to its comic origins. Takahashi’s distinct facial designs are here. Present are his noses that barely register as nasal speed bumps as are the series of scratchy red lines for cheeks that seem to leave the teenagers in a permanent state of embarrassment. The backgrounds have a washed out, pastel palette that reflects an oppressive Indian summer that shows no signs of yielding to autumn.
She, the Ultimate Weapon is the story of a high school romance between two teenagers, one of whom happens to be a weapon of mass destruction. It is an interesting premise that certainly requires some suspension of disbelief. One can’t help but wonder what sort of military outfits a timid and clumsy school girl with state-of-the-art ordinance then lets her return to class between sorties. And what possessed Chise to become involved in a secret weapons program when working a register at Mc Donalds is a far less hazardous part time job.
At the end of the day, Chise as the ultimate weapon is a story device used to ratchet up the intensity of a high school first love. So pressures on the relationship come less from parental intervention and more from enemy incursions. For Chise, insecurity with body changes associated with puberty are less about the periods and breasts and more about the development of a three meter arm cannon and mechanical, angel-like wings that allow her to travel at mach 1. Suddenly my wondering why, if Kara Harris liked me in year 6 so much, then why did she punch me in the nose, seems a whole lot less important than Chise’s ability to destroy a wing of her high school.
When She is exploring elements of the teenage love it at its strongest. It successfully captures the essence of teenage dating where immature emotions can vacillate wildly. Shuji is initially embarrassed by the timid Chise’s clumsy advances however, when Chise shares her secret with Shuji, he mistakes the intense emotions he feels for love.
Of the two protagonists, Shuji’s character feels more rounded while Chise’s crippling helplessness, a trait that seems to afflict many of anime’s female protagonists, can be a little much. Disk 1 explores the first blush of Chise and Shuji’s relationship while disk 2 looks at internal and external pressures that conspire to break the couple apart. Watching the two disks back-to-back reveals aprogressive arc where Chise shows potential to overcome her timorous nature.
More Breakfast Club than saving Private Ryan, She the Ultimate Weapon is an enjoyable story of teenage, high school romance. Although its themes of teen love and military engagement can at times feel a little incongruous, the emotional situations ring true. For a latter day Romeo and Juliet romance, She, the Ultimate Weapon comes recommended. Just watch out for collateral damage.