Today, we’re doing another throwback by looking at what is considered to be one of the best fantasy animes of all time: Shakugan no Shana.
The Story: Shakugan no Shana follows the story of Yuji Sakai, a seemingly normal high school teenager who’s life is turned upside down the day he meets a girl with burning hair and blazing eyes. Suddenly, he is engulfed in a ancient war between monsters from a parallel dimension, Crimson Denizens, who feed off what is called “the power of existence” found in all humans, and the Flame Hazes, immortal beings who fight against them. Oh, and did I mention that Yuji’s not alive? He’s what is called a torch, the remnant of a human who’s existence was consumed by a denizen.
The overarching premise is very complicated. What you have to know is that at its core, Shakugan no Shana is a magical girl anime, and it follows a nonlinear plot line similar to Familiar of Zero’s storyline. There’s not much foreshadowing and there’s no telling when a certain villain will die. At times, certain episodes could’ve passed for filler but instead, they lay down the foundation for certain plot devices that will play a role in a later episode or season, making this story intricate and tightly linked. However, particularly in the final season, pacing is a bit of an issue. A key plot element in the final season lasts only a few episodes and the first villain of the show dies in about four episodes or so. Let’s start by breaking down each of its three seasons
Season One: This first season simply lays out the whole premise and key concepts, such as torches, the crimson denizens, flame hazes, etc. Far from being simple explanation, this season has enough big action moments to keep viewers entertained while they go and explain everything.
Season Two: In season two, we have a bit of a lull. This part focuses more on the relationships between the characters. You don’t really see any action until the end, which might be a turn-off for some. This season is much more lighthearted and explores well, the romance aspect.
Season Three: Some people have considered this show one of the greatest animes they’ve seen; season three is the reason why. The finale to this show does not disappoint. While the first season was expositional, the second season was a break, the third season is explosive. It brings characters from the first two seasons back for one last hurrah, while bringing in other characters who were really unnecessary. This season also adds a level of complexity and ambiguity; it’s hard to tell who’s good and who’s evil. That’s something that people single out above all else in this show, yet it is a little overrated. Yes, there’s that level of complexity, but it really just robs the final season of direction. What are the two sides really fighting over? This season provides closure and grabs your attention the whole way through; it’s compelling, yet not as grand as people make it out to be.
The Characters: If there’s one thing J.C Staff, the producers, does really well, it would be the characters. Not all are great, but they’ve never really produced a horrible main character.
Yuji Sakai: The main character, Yuji’s more or less your lovable idiot. He’s a standard goody two shoes for the first two seasons. By the third season, he turns serious and much more enjoyable; he was one of the characters who really needed that third season to become a great character. Most other male protagonists in magical girl anime are bland; Yuji avoids this fate in the third season
Shana: The girl with the burning hair and blazing eyes, Shana’s easily the most interesting character in the whole show. She’s already a great character in the first two seasons, but, like Yuji, turns incredible in the final season as a female character because she’s able to balance being a badass while not being cold and heartless or bland, a rarity among badass characters. Out of all the strong female characters out there, Shana’s easily one of the best.
Kazumi Yoshida: Poor, poor Kazumi. Of the three main characters, they didn’t do her enough justice. Kazumi is Shana’s counterpart, shy and quiet when Shana’s loud. They give her certain plot elements, but left her lacking in character development, so most of the time, she’s just…. there. Out of the three main characters (I consider her a main character due to her prevalence in the show’s intros), Kazumi gets left in the dirt.
Final Verdict: Despite the trash I said about Shakugan no Shana, it really is a good show. Great characters and compelling story, particularly in the third season makes Shakugan no Shana certainly one of the better animes out there.