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volume 3 issue 6

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Features 3
Chasing Otakuism 11
Anime Briefs 12
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Animefringe Coverage:
Saishuu Heiki Kanojyo
By Ever Cheung

In recent months, many of the domestic anime companies had begin to put a real effort into translating and releasing various manga titles in the US. For all the otaku who had been hoping for a boom in awareness on anime related products for years in the domestic market, this of course came as a pleasant sight. Though for some of us, the amount of domesticated products are still far from being enough to quench our thirst for fresh titles hot off the press. And to satisfy that need, fans would often try to get new stuff from wherever they can get them, through the internet, conventions and local anime stores (where the prices on manga are more often than not, higher than they should be). With the domestic anime market still falling behind from the speed in releasing new anime in comparison to Japan (although many noticeable progresses are being made), many otaku begin to turn their focuses on manga. But like anime, a story with depth are always hard to come by, a story such as the one depicted in Saishuu Heiki Kanojyo, a recently concluded manga series with a story line that will surly touch anybody who reads it.

By combining two entirely different phrases: "Saishuu Heiki" (the FINAL/ULTIMATE WEAPON), a phrase that's common among sci-fi series; and "Kanojo" (GIRLFRIEND)... two phrases that was never meant to be used in the same sentence, the author of Saishuu Heiki Kanojyo Takahashi Shin no doubt did an amazing job in capturing the first element of a successful manga series - the curiosity of the readers.

Take place in a time much like our own, in a common place Japanese high school, a new relationship was found, a bond between an everyday teenager named Shuuji and a shy girl named Chise (a name that holds an immensely deep meaning, which was explained in the last few chapter of the series). For the most part of the first two chapters, the story provided little hint to why the title of the series was named as such. It was much like many other romance stories shown in anime and manga at first glance. As the story approached the end of the second chapter, the first shock of reality in Shuuji's world finally begin to set in the form of an air raid, a bombing run on the city of Sapporo - something Shuuji and his friends never thought they would see in their wildest dreams - casualties, blood, collapsed buildings, smoke... and the seemingly powerless, tiny figure of Chise standing in the middle of it all with weapon-like machine parts growing out from her back and her arms, standing in front of Shuuji's eyes.

What made Saishuu Heiki Kanojyo the favorite manga of many otaku was how deep author Takahashi Shin was able to describe the psychological world of the characters, not only for Shuuji and Chise, but also for their close friends like Akemi (life long friend of Chise), Atsushi, Take, Nori (Shuuji's circle of friends) and their family who were introduced in the story as well. How each individual deal with their personal feelings and find comfort through the company of others, in a world that seems to be going downhill everyday, a world that is being torn apart by a war that only seems to grow bigger and worse like a run-away car that would not stop, destroying everything in its path. But still, for the most part, it would always be the strength of how strong Shuuji and Chise were able to hold their feelings toward each other that would show readers that no matter how bad the world may become, there will always be feelings and bonds that cannot be broken.

Unlike most novels and files that deal with war time events, where the guys always seems to be the one who go to fight at the front line, in Saishuu Heiki Kanojyo, the main focus on the war front was placed on the shoulders of Chise, Shuuji's girlfriend; who took on the role as an enhanced human who's body was fused with advance weapon technologies. And from the two different starting point, readers will be shown the events of life from the front line of the war - a place where the difference between sanity and insanity is as thin as a piece of paper, where people's lives are nothing more than mere numbers in a casualty count; and from the home front, where people tries to couple with the absence of their loved ones through new relationships and going on with their normal lives. Just as important as the philosophy the author tries to share with his readers in between pages, how everybody in the story grow and change as the story (and the war...) progresses will also keep readers wanting to read on until the end. Also as a special bonus, the author also shares with his readers a list of reference books, manga and psychology books from which he got some of his materials from while creating the story between Chise and Shuuji.

Seeing the big picture of the whole story of Saishuu Heiki Kanojyo as a whole, there seems to be a much more important message in this tale of war and love. The first two things that immediately came to mind after reading the first few volumes of the series were Grave of the Fireflies, an anime from quite some years ago that carries a much similar feel during many of the events that happened in the story, and WWII. The air raid on Sapporo, the language spoken by the 'enemy' troops (some of which sounded like American-English and French), the way the war developed, all seems to be a mirrored image of WWII and what the war may seemed to normal civilians in Japan. However, whether or not the author was aiming for that, nobody can say for sure, but one thing that everybody who had the pleasure of reading this manga series could probably agree on is that - nothing gained through a war is ever worth the expense of the amount of human lives lost in the process, ever.

Saishuu Heiki Kanojyo is undoubtfully a series that I would personally recommend, even though I have to say some of the content are definitely not appropriate for anybody under the legal age, it IS still, a great, inspiring story for anybody who can stand sad and touching scenes. If you are looking for a story with magic users, mecha fighting, one guy with half a dozen girls around him and a simple straight forward storyline then you better look somewhere else. Saishuu Heiki Kanojyo is guaranteed to give anybody who read it a brand new look into life and the world, much like what Grave of the Fireflies did for many otaku who had seen it years ago.

Currently an anime version of Saishuu Heiki Kanojyo is in the works at the GONZO studio, although little is known at this point about the release date and air time, loyal fans of the original manga series will most likely get to see the mechanical heroine in motion before the Fall lineup comes along.

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