Shakugan no Shana Series 2 Part Two (Episodes 13-24) (Cert 12)
2 Discs (Distributor: MVM Entertainment) Running time: 290 minutes approx.
After a rather dull and meandering start the previous volume of Shana Series II ended with the promise of some much needed action and excitement with the untimely arrival of Crimson Lord Pheles, the tragic creator of the Midnight Lost Child, which is currently embedded inside the body of school boy Yuji Sakai. Unfortunately our patience isn’t sufficiently rewarded as the collision between Yuji, the titular Flame Haze Shana and friends lasts for the first episode then it is back to exposition and slice of life anxieties for our teenage cast. A shame as this development had legs for quite a run but writer Yasuko Kobayashi clearly had other ideas.
In the wake of this brief skirmish Pheles reveals that she was only interested in retrieving her lover Johan, the original Mystes to carry the Midnight Lost Child, but the Silver within Yuji has gone a bit haywire. Similarly hard drinking Flame Haze Margery Daw loses it when Yuji’s Silver seal is revealed, creating a huge divide between her and the others. The fall out of Pheles’s arrival is quite far reaching however, with a long standing bond between two friends coming to an end while an expected gift to an unlikely recipient may just provide a useful surprise later on. The most significant outcome from this involves the mystery of shy newcomer Fumina Konoe, the dead ringer of the dangerous villain Hectate, leading to further future problems for our heroes.
While the other characters indulge in some soul searching and info dump sessions, Yuji resumes his training with his Silver proving to be beneficial to his progress, his new found abilities and powers increasing tenfold. Just as well as more Denizens appear in town to wreak havoc, pushing Shana, Margery and Wilhelmina Carmel to their limits before an old enemy resurfaces with plan to cerate their own World Order. And in the middle of all of this Shana learns where babies come from and she and Kazumi Yoshida continue to vie for Yuji’s affections.
The major complaint held against the first volume of this sequel was the action to slice-of-life drama ratio being heavily in favour of the latter. This release, containing the final twelve episodes in the series, goes someway to addressing this imbalance but not by much, saving the bulk of the action – quite understandably – for the second disc. Of course, this isn’t so much a case that every fantasy adventure show should be wall-to-wall fights as this would make for a repetitive and one dimensional show. The problem here is more to do with the execution and how battles which are vital to the story are cut short to make way for the mindless everyday material, with little attempt to make them even remotely interesting.
Even so, the show ends with a mighty bang as the key protagonists come together to ward off the interloper baddies in spectacular, if slightly cheesy, fashion to make up for the paucity of decent action beforehand. The character at the heart of this campaign sadly comes across as too comedic ruining the tension of the battle with his over the top reactions to everything. There are sufficiently evil antagonists already weaved into the story who could have spearheaded this final assault to give it a little more credibility but again, the creators felt otherwise.
The drop off in the quality of the storytelling in this second series of Shana might in part be due to writer Kobayashi veering off from the original source material of Yashichiro Takahashi’s light novels. It is quite often that TV writers may be able to capture the spirit of existing work but when it comes to putting their own spin on it they get a little lost – hence why filler episodes pale in comparison to canon material. With the light novels and the subsequent magna and anime all being big successes the pressure would surely have been on to keep this momentum alive. Viewer expectations were naturally high due to the quality of series one, so perhaps one can assume this was also felt by Kobayashi who possibly crumbled under the pressure. But its success in its native Japan, along with the cliffhanger ending, lead to the third and final outing (with a standalone four OVA series bridging the gap) which aired in Japan last year.
While this concluding volume of Shana II is a welcome improvement on the first it is still not without its flaws. The compensation for the poor first volume of pedestrian and flaccid chapters with the far more energetic and action packed final batch of episodes coming a little too late, series two is sadly unable to capture the imagination in the same way its fun and exciting predecessor. If Shana III makes it to our shores maybe we’ll be rewarded with a fitting conclusion to this otherwise enjoyable and inventive fantasy saga.
English 5.1 Surround
Disc 2 Only:
Episode 21 Commentary
Naze Nani Shana II
Shakugan no Shana-tan Revenge
Textless Opening Song – Joint
Textless Opening Song – Blaze
Textless Closing Song – Triangle
Textless Closing Song – Sociometry
Textless Closing Song – Sense
Rating – ***
Man In Black