On an ordinary day, an ordinary boy, Sakai Yuji, discovers that he is not ordinary. Suddenly finding himself in a frozen slice of existence with a monster, he is saved by a flaming girl with a burning sword-the contractor of Alastor the Flame of Heaven, a Flame Haze. Discovering that such attacks happen regularly and that the girl’s purpose is to stop them comes with another discovery-he himself is dead. A mere temporary replacement, to ease the disruption to the worlds balance caused by his being devoured in some earlier attack. However, Yuji is something special-rather than going into shock, he accepts it, determining to make the most of his time. It is a more significant meeting than they think. Yuji is not any Torch, but a mistes, and the treasure he holds is something any King of Guze would kill for. Yuji is going to have to learn many things, strength and hardship and battle, from Shana. But Shana, who has devoted herself to her cause at the exclusion of all emotion for many years, may have something to learn as well. Humans were not meant to be empty or alone, and life is full of strange, painful, but wonderful surprises.
Kugimiya Rie as Shana
Hino Satoshi as Sakai Yuuji
Kawasumi Ayako as Yoshida Kazumi
Nabatame Hitomi as Margery Doe
Fantasy, Action, Romance
Shakugan no Shana aired from October 05, 2005 till March 22, 2006
Shakugan no Shana runs twenty four episodes, with one completed sequel and a third to follow.
There are two ways to make a successful story: to invent something new, or to somehow enliven and enrich a know theme. Shakugan no Shana falls into the second category. With a big breasted character who never gets goggled, a female lead who goes through a very real and meaningful transformation of persona, and a powerless male lead who actually has real guts and manages to find a way to influence every battle, it’s a success that safely steers around all the potholes. Unfortunately, impact went down a bit in the second half, so a four I cannot call it, but I can call it a three point five, for standing out quality wise and giving us a satisfying ending even while building towards a sequel.
Characters are strongest in the lead roles. Side characters shine much less than in some, but at least that’s the right order of priority: I’ve known some where every other character was more interesting than the leads. Shana, the Flame Haze and the fighter, starts out a very cold fish. The fighting girl who’s out of touch with her feelings is an old one. However, it’s done to perfection here. You can see the mask made by duty, and you can see Yuji’s nature cracking it. The path from denial so absolute she’s forgotten what she’s denying, to full bloom, is both real seeming and touching, and achieves just what it’s supposed to. Sakai Yuji, the male lead, is, for the moment, powerless, and seems like he is going to be one of those ‘gentle, weak, but compassionate’ types that become the focus of increasingly complicated love geometry. While I’m all for getting away from the macho image(this has nothing to do with my not being macho, got that?), a soft hearted dishrag isn’t really a good substitute. However, Yuji does better than that: in addition to the fact that his compassionate view really is something Shana needs to be reminded of, his empathy does not equal weakness-his strength of mind is equal to Shana’s fighting strength. Someone who will not turn his back on the truth, he first embraces the nature of his existence, and then manages to consistently find ways to make real differences, both to the astonishment of Shana and Alastor. Lacking attack power, he discovers an incredible intuition and grasp of tactics, and no victory is won without his thumbprint. Though I happen to hate love geometry-operative word being geometry-there is also Yoshida Kazumi, an ordinary girl in the school with a crush on Yuji. Though the series would like you to take her more seriously, her feelings never seemed quite as authentic to me. Still, she’s sympathetic, and the manner in which she and Shana collide is in better taste then many. For further interest and a dash of madness, add Margery Doe to the mix. Also know as the Interpreter of Condolences, Flame Haze of the Fang of Devastation, Marcosius. A battle freak whose contracted Tomogara paints a glaring contrast to Alastor’s dignity, she is a drunk, a bimbo, and a powerful Flame Haze. She has her issues too, and occasionally becomes an advisor as well-once she and Shana settle things. Moving on to the villains, that’s a little complicated. The real ones don’t show up in person for introduction until too late in the series; it would come out as a spoiler if I described them here. The earlier stand-ins are interesting, and in the case of the Seeking Researcher, quite, quite weird, in an enjoyable way. However, none really warrant individual description. I’ll leave it that they are well done and not all of them are simply evil, always an important touch for more introspective style anime.
Plot flow, handling, type, choice-it’s a little haphazard, if you think about it, but in the end, it does flow well. The first two episodes are a bit confusing chronology wise, but they straighten out. The first villain’s arc, which plays from one through six, stretches to encompass Margery’s entrance and the early ground breaking between Shana and Yuji. Once resolved, some references dropped during the previous arc are unraveled into the next arc, which lays the ground for two episodes of character, which make the next arc more interesting as the antagonists test Shana’s new thoughts(mercifully, not by lecture, as all too many do-just by being themselves), which leads into more character, plus some detailed flashbacks…you see what I mean? It seems jumpy I know, but the seeds of each arc are laid in the previous, so despite all that, the flow feels natural. And in the end, both character and plot lines are resolved satisfactorily for the moment, even though you can tell a sequel’s coming to pick things back up.
Tells a good character story, has characters you like, and even sincerely respect, and doesn’t leave you hanging-I was very pleased with this one. I hate waiting for sequels-but that can’t be helped. The anime is based on an ongoing sequence of novels, so I’m assuming they’re timed to come out as the next book is released. Trilogies are common; the third will probably finish things this fall. In any case, any series that rates three point five should be followed on, so see the reviews of the sequels, when I make them.
Final Rating: 3.5/5
This review was brought to you by Z.N. Singer
Info such as cast and airtime are taken from ANN’s encyclopedia listing. All else is and always will be the origination of the author.
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