--As it touts, this series is a love story. The story itself is very hard to rate, mostly because in terms of plot, it was not entirely creative in terms of a love story, yet the manner in which it was told was a different style. Very slow in places, more often than not. Predictable, to say the least.
So at least mediocre for its weigh-downs, but then it is placed in a setting of pre-apocalyptic World War. This deals with many themes, including the view of said war from the perspectives of the main characters; it takes Fifth Element's compaction, and makes it into
a full-length series, dragging you along through the coals the entire way. There is no doubt that you will question your own views of war, and empathize with its consequences; it is laid bare with both the good and the bad things it brings.
--Wasn't incredibly impressed with the art style for this one on the actual characters. The lines were often very sketchy, which while this works well in manga, does not so much for anime. Most of the characters seem to have a permanent "blush"; you can get used to it after a few episodes, but initially it may be a bit distracting for some seasoned anime-watchers.
The detail and craftsmanship that go into the buildings and backdrops however generally make up for what faults I could find in the actual character animation. The city-scapes are breathtaking sometimes, and as to the walls they have actual depth -- you can see chips in wood or imperfections in cement. Having watched the special on the making of this series, it was shown that the team actually went out to Hokkaido (Chise's "hometown", which is coincidentally the hometown of the author of the story also). It really shows in the accuracy of landmarks and the "feel" of the places portrayed.
Unlike most series, there wasn't any noticeable "drop-off" of animation quality at any point so I suppose they had the budget to keep it with the same main animators the entire time.
--The music in itself was nothing exceptional, but it wasn't bad either. The Opening song is rather appropriate... it's a Love Song. :) The opening is certainly the most recognizable piece, regardless. The actual background music itself is okay and appropriate where it needs to be, but nothing stood out about it.
The sounds were also pretty good. Missiles launching, explosions, metal clanking and guns were all perfectly fine. The sound of Chise taking off can be kind of funny sometimes... but then we try not to laugh at Ultimate Weapons, right?
--Another tough thing to rate, but this is definitely were Saikano shines the most. Some of the characters seem hard to believe in terms of their actions (personally Fuyumi did this for me), yet at the same time, you get empathy for why they do what they do. Each of the characters have their own background and story; this is done intentionally no doubt to support what happens to them plot-wise.
Shuji is a typical high school boy: a bit on the blunt side, curious enough about girls to agree to be a boyfriend, but doesn't think he would have it in himself to write an exchange diary.
Chise is a slow learner, a klutz, and lovable girlfriend. Nothing less than adorable to Shuji, and yet she is slowly losing her humanity by turning into an Ultimate Weapon. She becomes less-and-less like herself, mostly when the enemy is nearby.
Akemi is the good friend to both main characters; naturally she harbors a secret crush for Shuji, and yet she encourages her best friend Chise to "go for it" the day she mentions she'd like a boyfriend.
As you can tell all of them seem very "down home" based on an overview description. However, this is part of the beauty; how they develop in the story itself (and what a story to be in -- wars are not fun) is very much something you find yourself relating to. It's painful, you feel their pain. It's elating, and you're soaring with them. They appeal to you in ways sometimes you may not always recognize until you think over it again. Without a doubt, Saikano is character-driven.
--The themes of the story itself are designed to be thought-provoking. They do their job wonderfully -- but overall a tad too slow. Mostly, I tended to be with Chise; the only thing that kept me going were the feelings of "love." I loved that the feelings from the series seemed to course directly into me, but at the same time, I still had the sense to know it was not me personally; the pace tended to start killing the mood by the end of most of the scenes. Regardless, the emotions and concepts were really what kept me watching through this, and will probably be what convinces me to watch through it again sometime.