Review

by Zac Bertschy, Jul 26th 2002

My Girlfriend, The Ultimate Weapon

Synopsis:
My Girlfriend, The Ultimate Weapon
Shuji is your average emotionally stunted high school male living his life as he saw fit. Chise, a girl known for her frailty and inability, has a crush on him. In an effort to change her doormat personality, Chise breaks down and asks him out. To her surprise, he accepts, albeit reluctantly. Chise and Shuji slowly break down the barriers between them and go through personal journeys of self-discovery. In the meantime, Chise is recruited by the military to become the Ultimate Weapon, an experimental tool of destruction intended to aid in the ongoing war. Looks like emotional communication isn't the only problem Shuji has.
Review:
Studio Gonzo has a habit of making shows that are over the top. Take a look at some of their recent releases, like Gatekeepers or Full Metal Panic!, and you'll see what I mean. When I first heard the storyline behind My Girlfriend, The Ultimate Weapon, I'll admit, I rolled my eyes. What could be more typical from Gonzo than cute girls and military machinery? Thankfully, I was proven wrong. My Girlfriend, The Ultimate Weapon is an emotionally valid, heart-wrenching show that breaks the Gonzo mold in more ways than one.

The storyline seems fairly basic; guy meets girl, girl falls in love with guy, guy starts to fall in love with girl, they get together, and it turns out the girl is a weapon of mass destruction. Gonzo could have really dropped the ball on this one, but instead, we're treated to something completely different. From the top down, this show is unlike anything Gonzo has ever done. The art style is very different from their typical fare; gone are the thick lines, panty shots, lascivious curves and gigantic eyes. The characters in My Girlfriend, The Ultimate Weapon are rendered in a simpler style, closer to a sketchy manga style than anything else. Backgrounds are lovingly rendered in simple watercolors and the entire show has a very shoujo look to it. There's a bit of a clash once the action starts; the heavy use of CG during action scenes is reminiscent of other Gonzo productions, but there are only so many ways to render a fighter jet dropping bombs on civilians. Overall, it's a good mix.

Where this series really shines is, of course, the character development. I was expecting two-dimensional characters with little to no background or emotional depth. What I got were characters that genuinely changed and adapted to their situations and reacted with a behavioral pattern that changed appropriately over time. This almost never happens in an action show, and it really sets My Girlfriend, The Ultimate Weapon apart. By the second episode, I was completely wrapped up in the developing relationship between Shuji and Chise, and found it captivating. Many of the developments in the series strike me as very realistic depictions of what effect crises can have on a struggling relationship. The show is so emotionally authentic that several of the scenes later on in the series are actually somewhat difficult to watch. Shuji has to come to grips with the cruel things the military has done to his girlfriend, and has to decide what he's going to do about it, even though in the back of his mind he knows he can't do anything at all. He makes bad decisions and scrambles to do something, anything to protect her, even though he can't. Shuji is a very deep, convincing character and I bought him straight away. Bravo, Gonzo.

The series isn't without its flaws, however, although there are surprisingly few. Chise has a tendency to fall in to the stereotypical “weak-willed high school girl” role that so many of these shows portray, but not for long. She is clearly bottling up her emotions about what's happening to her, and as the series chugs along her character develops as solidly as Shuji's. The music is somewhat unremarkable, and the opening and closing themes bring to mind old character image songs from long-dead Shonen romance titles. Other than that, Gonzo has a solid, challenging and emotionally wrenching series on their hands. This could have been another over-produced, insultingly clichéd, sophomoric, action-comedy series. Instead, it's genius. Here's hoping we see more of this sort of thing from Gonzo in the future.
Grade:
Production Info:

+ Beautiful animation, captivating storyline and character development.
Opening and closing songs leave something to be desired.

Director:Mitsuko Kase
Script:Itaru Era
Storyboard:
Makoto Bessho
Hiroshi Haraguchi
Yoshimasa Hiraike
Hideki Hiroshima
Hiroyuki Kanbe
Mitsuhiro Karato
Mitsuko Kase
Takeshi Mori
Makoto Moriwaki
Toshinori Narita
Shinichi Shoji
Hirokazu Yamada
Episode Director:
Hiroshi Haraguchi
Yoshimasa Hiraike
Hiroyuki Kanbe
Yuichiro Miyake
Toshinori Narita
Akihiko Nishiyama
Hirokazu Yamada
Koh Yuh
Music:Takeo Miratsu
Original Manga:Shin Takahashi
Character Design:Hisashi Kagawa
Art Director:
Junichi Higashi
Toshihiro Kohama
Chief Animation Director:Masayuki Sato
Animation Director:
Natsuki Egami
Chihiro Hayashi
Hisashi Kagawa
Shinichi Nozaki
Shinichiro Takagi
Ryo Yonemoto
Takahiko Yoshida
Mechanical design:Hiroyuki Kanbe
3D Director:Hiroaki Matsuura
Sound Director:Keiichiro Miyoshi
Director of Photography:Haruhide Ishiguro
Producer:
Naotsugu Kato
Naoko Takahashi
Masashi Tsukino
Rika Tsurusaki

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