Shakugan no Shana Series 2 Part One (Episodes 1-12) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 290 minutes approx.
It’s been a while – five years to be precise – but the red haired Flame Haze is back!! For those of you with lapsed memories of this series, somewhat understandable given the gap between releases, a brief recap, I’m sure, would be welcome.
Yuji Sakai is your average school boy except for the minor detail of being a Mystes, possessing a special treasure called the Midnight Lost Child, which embedded deep within his body and sought by beings called Denizens, inhabitants of the Crimson World. But Yuji is not alone as a sword wielding red headed babe is on hand to act his protector, a Flame Haze who Yuji named “Shana” after her sword. Other assistance, for wanting a better term, is provided by another Flame Haze named Margery Daw, who spends most of her time drinking, sleeping off hangovers and working her two student followers, Satou and Tanaka, like slaves, and the maid attired Flame Haze Wilhelmina Carmel.
Since the wait for this second series in Japan wasn’t as long as the one we Brits have had to endure, things start of pretty much by following on from where there left off originally, something of a handicap for us Johnny Come Latelys here in the UK. But to ease us back into the swing of things and reacquainted with the characters and central concepts, we are helped by an inventive opening episode in which Yuji seems to experience déjà vu when a formerly vanquished foe returns to claim the Midnight Lost Child but only Yuji recognises him. Make the most of the action scenes in this and the next episode because after that they are in short supply.
Whereas the first series was based around the free-for-all between the Denizens vying for the Midnight Lost Child with the occasional diversion of High School life – where Shana has adopted the existence of dead classmate Yukari Hirai – series two reverses this paradigm, at least in this first volume, and the focus now shifts on the daily interactions at school with the fantasy element put on the backburner. The catalyst for this is shy transfer student Fumina Konoe, who strongly resembles series one foe Hectate, immediately outing the proverbial cat among the pigeons. Having discerned that Konoe might not be the foul denizen after all, fears are reduced, but Shana remains on guard when Konoe shows an unhealthy attachment to Yuji, despite there being no apparent legitimate history between them.
There is also the small matter of Shana’s jealously towards Konoe’s clinginess to Yuji due to her unspoken feelings for her charge, while also competing against the amorous attentions of long time classmate Kazumi Yoshida. While the latter takes this all in her stride, Shana is less tolerant, not in the least at how pathetic Konoe is around Yuji. In the early episodes, Konoe rarely speaks, offering little more than a feeble whimper while grabbing onto Yuji’s arm for dear life like a frightened toddler. Aside from the matching bracelet she shares with her creepy butler, Konoe is as much a blank slate for the viewers as she is for the characters – only Shana has her suspicions that there is more then meets the eye to this meek newcomer.
The second disc in this set sees the focus shift away from the high school love triangle to take a temporary detour into the past of boozy Flame Haze Marjory Daw, to relive the traumatic experience from her youth that explains her jaded attitude of today as well as her love affair with the bottle. Action fans will rejoice in the brief return to the fantasy battles that made the first series so enjoyable. After this we have the semblance of an actual storyline brewing as Yuji is being trained to use his latent Mystes powers, the result of which is his ability to create a shield – only its colour is silver. Wilhelmina researches this phenomenon and uncovers the genesis of the Midnight Lost Child, a tragic tale involving the Crimson Lord Pheles and her lover Johan, a Mystes like Yuji. As after would have it, Yuji’s ability starts to become unstable and a minor incident at the school festival brings an unexpected visitor to the human worlds who is not a happy bunny.
And thus, after this all too brief moment of genuine excitement and story development, we are left clinging to the precipice until the arrival of the next volume to see how this pans out. As a fan of the first series, it is difficult to hide my disappointment at this follow up. It’s not so much that the emphasis on the battles has been usurped by focusing on the characters, rather that we get little development from what we already know about our main leads, and the addition of drippy Konoe makes for rather dreary viewing, given the amount of screen time she gets. A product of a supposed sheltered upbringing abroad, Konoe is so inept she not only needs a class appointed “caretaker” – in this case Yuji – to walk her to school, she even needs help undressing for gym class, having the right books and even needs to be told when to eat! Aside from the mystery of whether she is the reincarnation of Hectate, we are given little reason to care about such a feeble and bland character.
For anyone with fond memories of the first series of Shakugan no Shana this sequel is likely to sour them, at least based on this first volume. With the only true piece of story development occurring right at the very end there is some hope that redemption is forthcoming with the second volume – we can only hope. Otherwise this is akin to watching any other pedestrian high school series and not the Shana we know and love.
English 5.1 Surround
Episode 1 Commentary
Naze Nani Shana II
Shakugan no Shana II DVD Commercials
Shakugan no Shana II Promo Videos
Shakugan no Shana-tan Begins
Shakugan no Shana-tan & Yoshida – Fumina Konoe Strikes Back!
Textless Opening Song – Joint
Textless Closing Song – Triangle
Rating – ** ½
Man In Black