The Song Begins...
Saishu Heiki Kanojo (or as the fan base refers to it: Saikano) is a story about love. On Japan's north-most island, Hokkaido, the majority of the characters are students at a high school. Like most other high school aged kids, they live their lives through contact with their friends, and try to seek out romance and discover what it's all about. Their biggest cares are who likes whom and what they're eating for lunch that day, until the war that has been going on around them comes to their city. Shuji and Chise had only been dating each other a short time when their city, Sapporo, was bombed by an unnamed enemy. It was during this time that Shuji learned two things: he couldn't shut his eyes to the reality that the war was real because it had claimed classmates already, and that his cute, small girlfriend had been somehow transformed into the Ultimate Weapon of their nation.
This anime wasn't written to be a happy story. While it's true that there is a lot of science fiction involved as far as Chise's weapons and capabilities are concerned, the interactions and emotions of the characters are far more real. This story depicts what it's like to love, to be loved, and to lose things that are important. Throughout many hardships that concern both the war, and the characters' difficulties in discovering their feelings and sharing those feelings with the people they care about, it's a story about the frailty of love and how desperately you can chase after it. The love that Shuji and Chise try to hold onto, even though the world around them seems to be crumbling, is "The Last Love Song on this Little Planet."
In Depth Character Information
If you have seen the anime and wish to read about what happened to each character, or if you simply do not mind spoilers, feel free to read about them in this spoiler section.
Spoiler Alert! Click to show or hide
Shuji is one of the two main characters. He's a student at the high school in this anime, and had until recently been on the track team. He's well liked by his classmates and is quiet and stern most of the time, but he tries to be easy going. As the story opens, Chise had just a few days ago confessed to Shuji that she liked him, and to her surprise he said, "OK". They try to get to know each other little by little, but at first differences in their personalities make communication difficult. He has a lot of mental and emotional turmoil about what to do regarding Chise's augmentations and her feelings. Eventually they overcome that and fall in love. Fuyumi, a girl who Shuji found himself sexually involved with in junior high school, shows back up in his life and tempts him many times to be with her again. Shuji struggles to refuse her, but after Akemi's death, he is finally able to tell her that he can't be there for her anymore. After this, he and Chise elope in a neighboring town and live together with the love they had fought so hard to grasp finally in their hands for a short while.
Chise is the other main character. She's in Shuji's class, and had liked him for a long time before being dared to ask him out. She's timid and clumsy, and is a small, delicate girl. Her motto is to become stronger, and she has a habit of apologizing all the time. It wasn't long until, for reasons unknown to her, Japanese military scientists altered her body to be a weapon to use the in war that was consuming the nation. Her alterations scare her because she doesn't like the idea of killing people, and she is scared that the changes are making her less human. For this reason, she is embarrassed of her body around Shuji for a long time. During the time when she had broken up with Shuji (even though she couldn't completely free herself of her feelings for him) she sought the companionship of Fuyumi's husband Tetsu, who was a soldier in the military. He reminded her a lot of Shuji and treated her like a normal girl, while accepting her differences. That was important to Chise because she felt as though she wouldn't be any good to normal people in her condition. During and after her brief fling with Tetsu, she realized she just couldn't erase her feelings for Shuji and they spent two of her last weeks as husband and wife in a neighboring town.
Akemi was a childhood friend of both Shuji and Chise, and was also on the track team with Shuji. She secretly loved Shuji since childhood, but could never feel comfortable telling him - especially since her best friend Chise also liked him. She revealed this to Shuji's friend, Atsushi, when he confessed his feelings to her. Since she knew she could not be with Shuji, she gave herself to Atsushi, but they both knew her feelings could not be changed. She was gravely wounded during the second large earthquake, and after confessing everything to Shuji at last, she died in his arms.
A schoolmate and friend of Shuji's, Atsushi had a crush on Akemi for a long time. The war and the loss of their friend Take led him to decide to quit school and join the military. Before leaving, he confessed his feelings to Akemi, and she agreed to let him call her his girlfriend while he was fighting. In a sad and ironic turn of events, he and Akemi die at nearly the same time; he in a crossfire at war, and her from wounds received during the earthquake.
Fuyumi is a girl a few years older than Shuji. In junior high, she helped out with Shuji and Akemi's track team. During that time, she broke up with her boyfriend, but Shuji reminded her of her ex, and the two of them ended up having sex. Years later, she married Tetsu. After the war started and Tetsu had been away for a while involved in the fighting, she happened to run into Shuji again. Because she was lonely and scared, she clung to Shuji the same way she did when they were younger, seeking some kind of intimacy and security in him, but though he was nice to her and almost stayed the night with her, he ended up pushing her away each time because of his feelings for Chise.
Tetsu is Fuyumi's husband and an officer in the military. He is the only survivor of one of Chise's original assigned units, and slowly he began to develop a kinship with her. He later said it was because when she was depressed, she reminded him of his wife. Tetsu himself acts and looks a lot like Shuji, which in turn helps Chise warm up to him quickly. Tetsu is probably the only other person besides Shuji who is able to view Chise completely as a human being instead of an "Angel of Death" due to her frightening power on the battlefield. In his delirium before death due to multiple gunshot wounds, he only calls out for Fuyumi, even though Chise was the one who was holding him, showing where his true heart was. This might be where Chise decides to stop denying her own heart and go find Shuji, making it a very important experience for her.
The story itself is a little unbelievable of course, because it's rooted in the midst of a sci-fi war. As such, who or what they are fighting isn't ever very clear. I think that was intentional though, because the students in the story really didn't get to hear much about the war or what was happening, similar to how a country might really be locked out of communication with it's outlying areas during a war of this scale. I think those details aren't revealed so that the viewer may feel that underlying sense of fear and anxiety that the characters are having to endure.
The musical score not only sets and fits the somewhat sad and dark mood throughout the anime, but it also plays an important role during the story. There is a song that Shuji likes to hum when he's happy that Chise readily recognizes throughout the show. Other sound effects are great as well: heartbeats, gunfire, and building destruction just to name a few. The noise Chise makes when she's flying in weapon form is a little strange, but it somehow didn't seem out of place to me.
I think this is probably the brightest shining point of Saikano. The characters all feel very real: by that I mean they are easy to relate to. Their persona are all well thought out and their interactions feel like what could happen on an everyday basis. The impact of how genuine they are is further amplified by the fact that most of the story takes place in a real city (if you ever visit Sapporo, you may recognize some of the cityscape from this anime). Feelings of helplessness, of not knowing what your lover or friend is thinking and feeling, and of struggling to hold the threads of each bond together when they threaten to come undone can be found in these characters. For more detailed information on each character, read the spoiler section above.
The animation is also good in this anime. I didn't give it a perfect score because of a few minor details. One such detail is the way the land vehicles make impossible looking maneuvers in a few scenes that seem poorly drawn to me. But for the most part, everything flows very smoothly and is well drawn. The city and countryside are especially well done, right down to the details of how Hokkaido's traffic lights are vertical as opposed to horizontal like the rest of Japan due to increased snowfall. Truly a lot of thought and work went into many of the scenes.
Overall and closing thoughts
This is probably one of the most touching anime's I've ever watched. Somehow this story has a way of making me feel personally connected to each character rather than being just a spectator because of how well their interactions and feelings are portrayed. Though it certainly isn't the happy smile-filled romance that you typically find in anime - indeed can be heart wrenching at times - it is no less a true love story, and I think most mature audiences will also be as touched by it as I was.