Japan is at war, and their only hope rests with Chise—a teenage girl who is also the ultimate weapon. But what happens when the ultimate weapon falls in love?
Japan has a knack for putting together cute schoolgirls and violence; 2008’s The Machine Girl was an excellent example. Don't let that comparison fool you though—Saikano is a far different film that's more of a tragic romance.
Saikano is plagued by a number of issues. It has a glacial pace and is quite weepy. If you're looking for crazy, gratuitous violence you've come to the wrong film. That's not to say there's no action—there is—but it's never the movie's focal point. For the most part the movie sticks to a melodramatic combination of teenage romance and a meditation on the cost of war.
It's never explained why any country would choose to turn a teenage girl into a weapon capable of leveling cities, or how they’d go about doing so. Perhaps that's for the best, because I can't think of an explanation that would make sense. Giving a teenager unlimited potential for destruction doesn’t seem like a good idea. Nor is it explained why the military lets Chise attend a normal high school. The movie never even explains who is attacking Japan, or exactly why. Outside of a few attacks the city where Chise and Shuji live seems relatively untouched by war for most of the film.
If you can let all that go and just accept the film's illogical fantasy for what it is, it's not a bad film. Aki Maeda is good (or at least good enough) as Chise, the ordinary, incredibly dangerous Ultimate Weapon who just wants to have a normal life, but who has a heavy burden placed on her. Shunsuke Kubozuka is a bit bland as Shûji, but he’s not bad.
And that really sums up a lot of movie. Performances that aren’t really good or bad. A script that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that is good enough to get by. Decent but unexceptional special effects.
The anime that Saikano the Movie was based had a lot more time to flesh the story out, but it would be easier to understand that a two-hour film just doesn’t have enough time to include everything if Saikano weren’t so very slow and tedious at times. It may have captured the deeply sad nature of the series, but it probably could have been a little less boring about it.