The world is approaching its final days. The war that has engulfed the planet is reaching its natural conclusion, and slowly but surely, the casualties are adding up. And as Shuji and Chise face the loss of everyone they have come to care about and depend on, they are once again drawn together; their bond strengthened by the horrors they have been forced to witness and endure. For a time, the couple may be able to find a brief respite with each other, but with Chise now more weapon than human, can this happy time last for long?
Given the tone of the series, it would have been unrealistic to expect any kind of happy ending for Saikano, and indeed, this volume seems intent to put both its cast and its viewers through the emotional wringer. It is a situation which sees the series stray perilously close to the realms of the overly melodramatic, but fortunately Saikano is largely able to avoid this fate. This is character drama at its best, pushing the protagonists to their limits, and offering a heart-wrenching and bittersweet conclusion to all that we have seen so far. Each character gets some kind of resolution here, and it is pleasing to see all their threads come together without any feelings of unfinished business or undeveloped avenues; from Atsushi and Akemi to Shuji and Chise, everyone gets the time they deserve.
Saikano is not without its flaws, however, and most of these are due to the lack of background explanation. To be honest, it does not really matter that we do not learn much about the war itself, since, as mentioned in previous reviews, it is only the backdrop to the story; it would have been interesting, however, to have been given more information about the nature of Chise’s weapon transformation.
Visually, the series remains as strong as ever in its final volume, skilfully combining realism with the more futuristic elements of Chise’s weapon abilities. The understated but well-scored background music adds atmosphere to the series, enhancing the emotion of key scenes.
A hauntingly powerful ending to an excellent series, Saikano #3 pulls out all the stops to ensure that no viewer can remain unmoved by the tragic events that befall the main characters. Provided you have a box of tissues handy, this is a highly recommended series that must surely rank amongst the top UK releases of 2006.