Reviewby Theron Martin, Feb 21st 2007
Shakugan no Shana
Yuji asked Shana to train him so he would be more useful in a fight, but the training is not going well. More troubling to Shana than Yuji's seeming incompetence is her difficulty sorting out various things, including how she feels, what she feels about Yuji, and what kisses really mean. Kazumi knows exactly how she feels about Yuji, however, and with Ike's prodding begins a determined effort to win his attention. Even perceiving Shana as a romantic rival won't stop her. Margery Daw has been stopped, however, as her defeat at Shana's hands has left her so out of sorts that she has trouble accessing her power. Keisaku and Eita struggle to get their “Big Sister” to do anything beyond drink herself into a stupor, a task which takes on greater urgency when a trio of dangerous Denizens, including incestuous brother-sister duo “Engulfed in Self-Love” Sorath and “Engulfed in Love for Others” Tiriel, arrive in town. They seek the “Nietono no Shana” (Shana's sword), and to claim it they lay a trap for its wielder.
No self-respecting teen-oriented anime series would be complete without a beach or water park episode to allow an excuse for lots of fan service, which Shana offers up in episode 9. Though no nudity can be found, it offers plentiful opportunities to see young ladies in cute or sexy swimsuits. It isn't the only source of fan service in episodes 9-12, but it is the most playful.
Yet even in such base content one gets the sense that the series has at least a bit of extra substance. That can be seen more clearly in episodes 10-12, as the series returns to its more serious norm and devotes considerable time to exploring the feelings of Shana and Kazumi concerning Yuji, as well as Ike's possible feelings for Kazumi and Keisaku and Eita's devotion to Margery Daw. Although their interactions give the look of typical school romantic content, they don't have the same feel because they aren't played for laughs.
The serious look at Kazumi as she gathers her strength and determination for a romantic battle against Shana makes her feel more credible than characters in such situations normally are, but it's Shana's behavior, more than anything else, which truly sells the series. Her “shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” refrain, obsession with melon bread, and various ways she asserts her acerbic personality are endearingly cute despite their sometimes-atypical approaches, but the series never lets us forget that this Flame Haze is still adjusting to being a teenage girl and all the emotions that come with it. An encounter with an orphaned RIN-NE in episode 10 forces her to acknowledge her own insecurities, and her growing consternation over Kazumi's advances on Yuji finally boils over in episode 12 when Kazumi works up the nerve to confront her about Yuji, creating one of the series' defining moments. Her exploration of the meaning of kissing allows Yuji's mother to come into play in a big way, who justifies her existence as a significant supporting character throughout this block of episodes. (And if any further justification were needed, her phone conversation with Shana's “guardian” Mr. Alas Toru is priceless.) Providing further perspective on Shana's musings are the thoroughly disturbing kisses of the sibling Denizens Sorath and Tiriel, scenes apparently intended to emphasize all that could be wrong about the practice.
For all its romantic elements, though, Shana does not forget that it is also an action series. Shana gets to flash her moves against the RIN-NE in episode 10, while the arrival of the disturbing new Denizens at the end of the episode provides the set-up for some tension with Margery Daw and another epic battle for Shana, which begins in episode 12 and looks to carry over into the next volume. They are not quite the flashy, busy affairs seen in volume two, but this stretch of episodes is less about the action and more about the character development anyway.
Volume three maintains the good animation, effective soundtrack, and great opening and closing songs seen and heard in previous volumes, although it still lacks 5.1 audio tracks. J.C. Staff's production effort also maintains the pleasing (if overly huge-eyed) artistic look which has been such a solid draw so far, with the facial expressiveness of all the characters – especially Shana – continuing to be a highlight. Amongst new designs, Sorath and Tiriel are suitably cute-looking kids, albeit in a generic way for their types; these are designs well-experienced anime fans have seen before. CG effects are used sparingly but efficiently.
The English dub continues to do a great job of retaining the spirit and feel of the original. Although not quite as cutesy-sounding as her Japanese counterpart, Tabitha St. Germain nonetheless offers an appealing interpretation of Shana, while Chantal Strand, who is probably best-known as the voice of Lacus Clyne on Gundam Seed, impresses as Kazumi. The English script stays as close the subtitles as is reasonable, and the grammatical errors which plagued the second volume's subtitles do not recur here.
As with previous volumes, extras and set-up options share a single combined menu. Extras this time include a sizable Production Gallery and another installment of the “Naze Nani Shana” routine, still hosted by Friagne and Marianne. This time the emphasis is on explaining the relationship between Denizens and their RIN-NE, and as before it can be watched subbed or dubbed, depending on the current language settings. Also present is bonus interior artwork.
Its story elements may be typical, but its execution is not. Ample character and relationship development highlight a strong and pleasing installment in a series which always stands at least a bit above expectations.
Overall (dub) : B+
Overall (sub) : B+
Story : A-
Animation : B
Art : B+
Music : B+
+ Good character development, appealing lead.
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