By Ed Kidhardt

Imagine if you will, dear reader, you are a high school senior living in a tiny town in Japan. You’ve just started dating a clumsy (yet cute) girl who apologizes for everything she does, like walking slow or reading comics. You truly have feelings for her, but every time you try to tell her you end up yelling at her, eventually making her cry.

After three awkward weeks of this, your town is attacked by an unknown air force. During the strike you run outside and who should appear from the sky but your girlfriend – her arm transformed into an automatic rifle and metal wings sprouting from her back.

You slowly embrace your destroying angel, and she starts to cry.

This is how Saikano opens.

Though this may sound like another boyfriend/girlfriend manga, Saikano offers more than just the trials and tribulations of a budding relationship. Under the surface layer of clumsy teenage love lies something deeper.

Questions come about as Chise (the girlfriend) becomes more and more of a weapon and Shuji (the boyfriend) struggles with keeping her secret to himself.

Chise fights with guilt as her hands become more stained with blood. Shuji tries to love her, but on some level he is scared to death of her. The story evolves into an intense drama as the war heats up. Chise gets sent out on more missions, and the attacks keep getting closer to Chise and Shuji’s home town.

But enough about the story, I don’t want to spoil it. The art is really good. The faces become vehicles for action as much as the words. Chise and Shuji are very well drawn and their interaction shows the discomfort they share in discovering one another’s true feelings.

There is a really well drawn series of panels spaced far throughout the first volume showing Chise and Shuji getting closer and closer as they sit together at lunch.

Even in her weapon form Chise looks both strong and sad. But one warning: This is for mature readers ONLY! Nothing really over the top, but it’s not something you want your ten year old brother reading.

This series, in all of its heart wrenching beauty, had me in glorious tears the first time through and still makes me cry. If you don’t at least feel a twinge of sadness from page 192 to page 197 of the first volume, you might not have a heart.

There are seven volumes of Saikano in all and can be found at better retailers nationwide for around $9.95 per volume.

Saikano is tragedy at its best.