Monday, March 26, 2012

Shakugan no Shana III – 24 (End) and Series Review

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So in the end, Shana III was true to its grandiose, bloated, histrionic, frustrating and oversized self.  But I guess that’s not all a bad thing.

Given that this entire season on “Shana” has pretty much been one giant fan wank, I’m not too surprised to see the ending pander pretty hard to the base.  There were elements of this that actually worked quite well for me, starting with the resolution to Pheles and Johann’s story (which was always more elegant and interesting than the main arc anyway).  I like the notion that they combined their lives in the act of creating a new one, as a way of “cheating death” – and with the creating of a new type of being altogether in the process.  It was the ultimate gesture of love, and it gives poor Wilhelmina the chance to do what she clearly loves best – raise a child.  I’m sure Justus will prove quite a handful, but Carmel-san wouldn’t be happy otherwise.

What else happened?  Well, lest you be worried that things were going to be too peaceful in Xanadu, 1200+ flame hazes and the surviving (how I hate that) Earth Gods are going over there to make sure the new world isn’t free of pointless warfare.  Carmel-san is going, too, to raise the child in the new subdivision of reality (better schools) rather than the old run-down neighborhood.  In fact a whole lot of cast members seem to be headed in that direction, though I guess you can’t blame them.  Fortunately Yuji had a plan for Masaki City, and Lamies was at the heart of it – creating an unrestricted spell out of all the power of existence left behind by the crimson denizens to restore the city, with Yoshida’s help (poor girl has to give the entire city a free look up her skirt in the process, though).

As for Yuji himself, the whole premise of his plan at the end seems to be to punish himself for perceived wrongs by going off to Xanadu (sans Masaki City) by himself to try and help engineer a world where crimson denizens and humans really do get along (and with all those flame hazes and the loathsome Earth Gods along it’ll need all the help it can get).  Self-loathing is a pretty thin veneer to drive this grand a plot, to be honest, and the whole thing comes off seeming rather silly to me.  As Sydonay and Margery square off in their monstrous battle forms Yuji and Shana have a verbal battle where she goes all tsundere and tries to convince him that he doesn’t need to force himself to be alone for all eternity - though she does relent to the essence of his plan by relinquishing Yukari’s torch (now there’s a blast from the past).  Even though I knew based on how this season has gone that Sydonay was going to die there and it was engineered to give him his touching moment with Hecate, I was rooting for him.

In the end things fell into place pretty much as expected.  Yuji was conveniently turned back into a human by Lamies, and Shana managed to break him and win the day, there was forgiveness and a kiss.  They zap off to Xanadu together (poor Yoshida, definitively jilted at last).  I wish I could say the whole thing gave me more of an emotional jolt than it did, but I think by now this season has left me pretty well exhausted.  More than anything there wasn’t so much sentimentality for me, but relief that it was over and that Yuji hadn’t died. There was so much killing, so many characters and so much irritating nonsense this season that I don’t think I had the capacity to feel much of anything once the issue of Pheles and Johann (the real love story in this series) was settled.

And in the end that, for me, sums up why I think the first season of this series was the best.  I really liked Shana when it focused on characters, before the story became bloated and unmanageable.  There were the makings of an interested moral dilemma in the third-season struggle between Yuji and Shana’s ideals, but it was handled in a rather clumsy manner, relying far too heavily on huge battle montages and throwing a veritable encyclopedia of characters at us that no one who wasn’t a devotee of the novels could easily keep straight.  Certainly, that interesting conflict made this season a stronger one than the generally disastrous second, but I’m still very much partial to the first – I don’t think the story ever achieved the same emotional power that it did when focused on the character dynamics of that season. 

I can’t honestly say I feel a strong emotional tug now that it’s over, but it has been quite a ride for me with this property – and the first season was important to me in some small way in that stage of my development as an anime fan.  And at the least, this season did something to restore a little luster to the franchise after it suffered a fair bit of damage in the aftermath of the disappointing middle season.  Shana certainly deserved to go out with dignity, and for the most part I’d say it did – even achieving some legitimate emotional highs and asking some interesting philosophical questions in the process.  It may not have gone out in a blaze of glory, but Shana at least leaves on something of a high note.  Given my modest expectations for this season and the fact that I was clearly not the target audience, I can’t ask for much more than that.

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11 comments:

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    1. Personally this is one of the series that I had been eagerly waiting for every week. I didn't really have any problems related to fan pandering or whatsoever. Personally if I find something to be good then I'll like it regardless of whether it is a fine one time crafted Ghibli series or a mass produced moe JC staff series. Then again I've found throughout the years that my standards are really low (or weird? ) compared to other people despite the amount of series I've seen

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    2. You know, we all have our own tastes. I enjoyed this season but there were just way too many times that it felt me completely confused or irritated for it to add up to more than a mild affection. I really feel like this season was intended for the hard-core fan of the series more than the casual viewer, though.

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  2. I've been watching Shana since day one, and I think I feel more emotional about the fact that it's over than anything else. I always get sad when something I love ends - even though all good things must.

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  3. It's over? It's really over? Holy shit, I've been waiting for a conclusion to this freaking show for 6 years, and it's finally here. The ending went more or less as expected. With the sacrifice of Khamsin last week to remind the viewers that the show isn't all rainbows and unicorns, everybody else gets their happy ending. At first I was really depressed that everyone was like "Wilhelmina, go raise the baby in the new world, get on your way woman!" But then seeing that most of the other main characters ended up going too that made it okay (for a while it looked like everyone was trying to get rid of her haha). A rather predictable ending to a show that realistically has probably had more episodes than it really needed to.

    Also, this season needed more Margery, she totally deserves her own spinoff series. The Wacky Adventures of Margery and Marco. I can just see it now!

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  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this season, but it certainly had a myriad of flaws.

    Honestly, the best the franchise ever was was in the very beginning of the first season, and again in the 3rd and 4th episodes of Shakugan no Shana S, where the fundamental horror of what happens when a Tomogara eats someone and they are turned into a Torch was really explored. There is potential for a really good series in the vein of Jigoku Shoujo (early Jigoku Shoujo...), Vampire Princess Miyu TV or Mushishi. A wandering Flame Haze, who enters the life of a torch for a few days to track down the Tomogara hunting in the area. Full of melancholy and knowledge that their efforts, like the lives of the Torches they barge into, will never be remembered at all.

    But that wasn't what we had. Oh well.

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  5. Beckett, I tend to agree about the "too many episodes" part. This season would have been better told in one cour, and the second in less than that. I think 39 episodes for the whole run would have been about right, based on the amount of wasted time in the anime. Maybe a more faithful novel adaptation could have justified the added time.

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    1. enzo actully the first season and the third season was follow exactly acording the novels in third season they even said the same lines they said in the novels even the new characters was in the novels only the second season was have lot of filler episodes and i think that why this third season was less emotin

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  6. They actually skipped over both of the prequel chapters that introduced some of the characters and concepts in the third series. (The First War where the first of Alastor's contractor participated and when the first of Bale Masque could be seen, and the war against Revolution where several characters like Ribesal, the four gods, Chiara and Sale where introduced.) I'm corssing my fingers for an OVA release.

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  7. It's not clear even in the novels if Yuuji became a human again.. He has a new existance that's all we know and they never said "human" ,It was a bad translation...

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  8. So somehow magery could defeat sydonnay... Now that was new.
    Last ep made a turn for the better. Could have happened sooner though

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