Reviewby Christopher Macdonald,
English Dub Preview
(Review Based on Episode 1 English Dub Only)
With Saikano coming from Viz later this month, many have wondered how Viz would treat the show. One of the more anticipated new anime to come to North America in 2004, Viz must have known that they would have to treat the Saikano dub with the utmost care. It comes then as a bit of a surprise that Viz would choose to go with a group of relatively inexperienced voice actors to provide the dub. Voice One is in fact, a school for voice acting with an in-house recording studio that casts the school's students in professional projects. It's therefore unsurprising that the Saikano dub could have been better, but to be fair, it could have been far, far worse. In fact, given the circumstances, the Saikano dub is better than expected.
With Mark Atherlay as Shuji and Melissa Hutchinson as Chise, the lead voices are extremely well cast, as their voices match the characters to a T. Unfortunately, Mr. Atherlay's delivery of his lines is rather wooden, particularly in the slow, reflective dialogue that makes up most of the first epsisode. Later in the episode, when the action picks up, Atherlay gets a different opportunity to show his ability, and the stiffness in his voice disappears. Regrettably, he still seems to have a problem getting the right emotion across at the right time. Chise's Melissa Hutchinson is the only other voice with more than a cursory line or two in the first episode, and while she doesn't feature nearly as predominantly in this episode as Shuji, she does get the chance to show off more of her acting ability with a broader range of emotions, all without any of the woodenness that plagues Shuji's actor.
Visually, Saikano is a bit of a treat. While none of the characters are particularly original in their designs, they are all distinctive from one another. It's nice to see an anime set in contemporary Japan that manages to create unique characters without resorting to giving them blond, purple and blue hair. The animation is crisp and the colors rich. Each character is drawn with a bit of color to them, be it a bright blue blazer, or a red hair piece. Combined with backgrounds and props of all sorts of rich, yet appropriate colors, it makes for a show that is a delight for the eyes.
What stands out the most about Saikano is the plot. Regardless of any failings in the English or Japanese voice acting, by the end of episode one, the viewer will be entranced by the story. The first three quarters of the first episode are a slow-moving introduction to the characters and their relationships, but all this is turned upside down during the last 4 minutes when Saikano shifts into high gear. The characters that we've been introduced to, and have come to know in their native environment, are thrust into the most unnatural of situations. Chise is transformed from a quiet and weak high school girl into a weapon of mass-destruction that protects Japan from invading forces. This could have easily devolved into a typical sci-fi-shounen-action series, but instead it remains focused on the characters' relations with one another and does not shy away from showing the pain and brutality of war.
If the first episode of Saikano is anything to go by, this thirteen episode series will undoubtedly become many people's favorite. If you like character-driven stories taking place in abnormal circumstances, this is a show that you must check out.
Overall (dub) : B+
Story : A+
Animation : B+
Art : B+
Music : B-
+ Well developed and exposed characters, touching story
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