Let me start by saying I consider Saikano to be the best manga I have ever read. A nearly perfect blend of seinen and shoujo, sci-fi and drama, I picked Saikano up on a whim with fairly low expectations and was honestly consistantly stunned by its quality.
Story 10: Most of the negative reviews I've read of Saikano seem to revolve around this category. Saikano is a war drama, it is a sci-fi, but by far its focus is romance. And this is where it really succeeds. Rarely do you see a true romance epic, but I cannot think of a better term for Saikano. From
the summary I was worried this was just another "Magical Girlfriend manga", but in a similar way that Evangelion isn't just a mecha anime, Saikano really surpasses all of the standard cliches and stereotypes.
Art 9: Personally, I really love Takahashi's art style, but I can see how it could not be some people's thing. (If you liked the art in the FLCL manga, chances are you'll like it). Specific to this series however, I would like to applaud him for two things. Chise's weaponry is not only fascinating and more than slightly disturbing, it is also very visually appealing. Also, the sex scenes were tasteful, romantic, and never seemed gratuitous, all of which seem to be rare qualities for a series that includes several.
Character 10: This is definately where Saikano exceeds other great works of the genre; with a normal grasp of character Saikano would be fairly similar to shows such as "This Ugly Yet Beautiful World". But Saikano's characters are almost unarguably (and increasingly) realistic, sometimes painfully so. They don't beg us to like them; they aren't flawed to make them interesting characters. They are all real people, examined more honestly than most people ever get to see more than a handful of people.
Enjoyment 10: I cried at some point during each volume of this series. Saikano is SAD. I'm not even sure what to say beyond that. I think it really speaks for itself; go into Saikano with an open heart and I promise you you'll feel something.
Overall 10: Saikano is an ultimate underappretiated work, matching and at points exceeding much of the medium's finest works. If you are looking for a mature, heart-rending love story, I really don't think you'll be disappointed.
Good if you like... romance especially tragic romance; immaculately detailed plots and characterization; stories with a slow, thoughtful pace; Apocalypse stories; humor used to highten tragedy; slice-of-life school dramas; flawlessly imployed literary techniques (especially symbolism and foreshadowing).