Title: Shakugan no Shana
Published by: Madman Entertainment (Australia / New Zealand)
Based on: The light novel series by Yashichiro Takahashi under the same name.
Genre: Action, Fantasy and Romance
Audio: English and Japanese Dubs
Aspect Ratio: Anamorphic Widescreen (16:9)
Runtime: 600 Minutes
Cost: $79.95 from the Madman Online Store
Classification: This title is classified M for *Takes a deep breath*: Moderate themes, Mild supernatural themes, Mild sexual references and Moderate animated violence.
Blurb: “Based in a town that is being affected by beings called Denizens that take the existence from people and leave them to slowly disappear from the world, Flame Hazes descend to prevent them ruining the balance of life. The storyline focuses on many different protagonists and antagonists and does very well as an action series, but is nothing more then generic in the romance genre. Whilst holding some high quality designs and musical tracks, has rather awful English voice acting.
Special Thanks: Special thanks goes to the Madman Entertainment PR Team for providing me with a review sample of this title.
Originally released in Japan in 2005, Shakugan no Shana has been what I would consider a successful anime series, spanning over two, hopefully three soon anime series, OVA series, manga and light novel series and you would be hard pressed not to find a fan of anime who has not heard of this series. That being said, whilst the Light Novels and Manga are well and truly underway at being published in English, complements to Viz Media, as of yet, this is the only anime series to be released with an official English dub. There has been word that Funimation will be releasing the other parts of the anime series at some point in the near future, and I assume Madman will follow suit shortly afterwards however for the most part, this series has a satisfactory conclusion, even if it were the only part in the series. Now, without further ado, please read on for my review of Shakugan no Shana Season 1 Collection.
Yuji Sakai is about to learn that there is more to the world then going to school and finding a girlfriend when he meets a sword-wielding girl with fiery red eyes and flame-coloured hair. Denizens of the Crimson Realm are invading our world and its up to the Flame Haze, Shana, to slay them. However, when Yuji gets in the way of her sword, he learns that death is very different from how he imagined it would be.
Experience their harrowing story as Yuji and Shana work together to fight the Denizens of the Crimson World, and learn more about each other and the worlds they are from.
The series works on the concept that there are infact two worlds, a world that we live in, and one known as the Crimson World, where some denizens of the world are crossing over to the human world in order to take what is known as the Power of Existence from the humans, whilst these people are replaced with torches which are a crude attempt at keeping their existence temporarily by slowly reducing their presence in the world until they disappear from all living memory. The story revolves around a young man named Yuji, who is a torch but has the mysterious ability of being able to regenerate his existence every midnight and a young Flame Haze (Those who fight against the Denizens) titled Shana who fights against these beings.
The storyline is varied in quality, depending on the genre it is trying to put across. As you can no doubt tell from even the DVD casing, this is a series primarily based around action, and this is where it shines the most. The series is built around the basic premise of )Group A vs Group B to save Innocent Citizens), it has a a good balance of conflict and downtime so as not to make the series feel like 6 DVD’s worth of exclusively action or exclusively slice-of-life, but instead keeps balance with both of these crossing over to the other. From the third episode onwards, Shana enrolls in the same school as Yuji, but keeping her fighting spirit instead of being a good little schoolgirl who does what she is told…. also known as torturing the teachers. The same goes for the other way, with Shana learning more about morales and teamwork from her new “friends” which in return, aids her in making decisions in the battlefield. If you like fast-paced, little-fuss action content in a storyline, you will be hardpressed not to enjoy the over the top battles that take place during the season, which only increase in magnitude as the episodes progress.
The other genre investigated in the story-line is romance, however is of a much lesser focus then action. Whilst the romance element does have some minor impact in the battles with Shana, acting to both the detriment and aid of Shana, the storyline focuses too much on love triangle between Shana and another girl named Kazumi which was rather generic, where they go as far as spending more then one episode on the persuit of Shana’s knowledge on kissing, also spiked by the fact that there is a set of young-looking denizens who share power through the magic of a french kiss. Whilst it was inevitable that there would be a romance element, I mean, yandere characters always seem to spawn them, more could have been done to make it less generic.
Looking more at the characters of the series, the characters range from interesting to pointless, however as this is only season one, this could change of course. With the exception of three or four characters, all the characters have some role in the battle against the Denizens to some degree, whether it is fighting, logistics or even the ability to perceive the world around them. As stated above, Yuji and Shana remain the two primary characters in the series, Yuji like most of the human characters in the story get very little in terms of background, and instead his development is based around his present personality, that goes from being more hesitant to becoming more bold and willing to fight himself. Shana on the other hand has significant development during the series, including a multiple-episode backstory to how she obtained possession of her blade and managed to become a skilled denizen-hunter.
Looking at the human characters in the series, which are primarily Yuji’s classmates, they hold a wide variety of roles to the storyline. Two of them remain completely pointless this series, two remain assistants starting in the earlier episodes to another Flame Haze and then you have the other friend, Kazumi who is hinted as being a character in the early episodes and acts as a foil to Shana’s romantic interests for Yuji. Whilst they necessarily have to be included, with the exception of the two assistants, Keisaku and Eita (Who form a smaller love triangle), the humans are not that important except for setting the scene for the next battle or for acting as minor characters in filler episodes.
On the other hand, the supernatural beings are of more interest and hold a number of…. unique personalities and fetishes. The only other Flame Haze that has any basis in the series from the early episodes is Margery, a boozing, yandere and well endowed character who yields a sarcastic grimoire that adds some much needed comic relief to the series, and is the only character that has some satisfactory character development in the series. The denizens are even more interesting, yielding fetishes for dolls and french kisses, are scheming and it is never really clear where their allegiances lie. Whilst the characters are interesting, as further characters are added in the later episodes, they do not get the attention that the characters earlier shown did, which made them uninteresting at best.
Overall however, the storyline was solid with some very enjoyable action sequences, however is let down by a number of one-dimensional characters and a romance aspect that drags on over the entire series and doesn’t get anywhere.
I have no major qualms with the overall design of the series, with high quality environmental designs and character designs that if I were to use one word to describe them, would use the word “Fancy”. Back to the environmental designs first, the detail isn’t the best I have seen, it is above average however lacks the attention to detail that would make it an impressive design choice. However, it is more the special effects used, alongside the lighting of the environment that makes it a pleasure to the eye. I have noticed that all battle environments look more epic when they have a different primary colour to the backdrop, just like how in the game Persona 3, the dark hour had the green theme which kept the eeriness of the environments and made the battles look more supernatural. The same stands here, with the red being an appropriate colour choice to make the battle environments more effective then a normal battle in the moonlight.
In terms of character designs, they are solid and every character does look unique and appropriate for their character, however it is more the outfits the Flame Hazes and Denizens use that really add the extra something. An evil looking cape for the evil dollmaster, the gothic lolita outfit for the twins who try to act both cute and devious and even a sexy but serious looking business outfit for a character that has multiple personalities and enjoys the booze. The designs do change for individual episodes, such as the obligatory beach fanservice episode or for school / non-school periods which make nice changes.
The animation of the battles was the series strong-point, with emphasis put on the individual special abilities of the characters such as spell use or specialized physical attacks. The one issue I did have was with the earlier DVD’s but resolved itself the later I got into the series. The collection from what I can tell, consists of six DVD’s, all of which are the exact same as the six volumes initially released to the market (As evidenced by trailers and extras). The issue was with the quality of the video footage and how the quality was initially rather average until later on it improved. As you can tell from the images in this review, the black borders around each of the images changes and improves the later the episodes are in the series. It is a minor issue however as it only has a small impact on the overall design quality.
Hishoku no Sora by Mami Kawada
Being by KOTOKO
As with the ending sequences, there are two in total, with the first one covering episodes 1 through to 16, and the second covering from episodes 17 to the end of the series. The first opening theme is brilliant, a nice fast paced song and a more serious tone to it, making it an overall enjoyable song complemented by some really good animation. The second sequence is average, as whilst there is the same good quality of animation, the song is softer, slower and not the song style I prefer.
Aka no Seijaku by Yoko Ishida
The ending sequences have the same basic animation structure, a pile of still images of Shana (1st) and the other characters in the series (2nd). Whilst it is nothing imaginative, in the event of Yowake Umare Kuru Shoujo, it complements the beat of the song and gives it an extra edge….. in the second song, it does not. The first ending theme will remain a personal favorite ending theme of mine as everything about the song is well suited to the series and my interests. The second one is worth a listen, but does not suit the action-oriented nature of the later episodes.
The music in this series was brilliant, with a varied composition ranging from tracks that are more orchestrated with a variety of instruments, in particular string instruments used which change often due to the fast paced flow of battle and are epic to say the least. As well, there is a small number of tracks that use vocal backing which add a nice tone to the songs. Whilst there are a number of slower paced tunes, the majority of the time you will be listing to the faster paced tracks which are enjoyable. Voice acting however is the thing that ruined the series for me. I will not deny that most of the cast had solid voice actors, but Tabitha St. Germain who voiced Shana didn’t really suit the role as much as I would have hoped and at times, sounded fake in comparison to other voices which felt more in tune to the characters personalities. As well, the quality of the recording was questionable at times, but that might be me being picky.
This complete collection is now available as a slimpack, in replacement of the 6 volumes they were originally released as. As with most slimpacks however, they are slightly bulkier due to it containing six DVD’s within it. The cover art is suitable, consisting of artwork of what I would consider the six “protagonist” characters in the series and is pleasing to the eye, even if the background could have been a bit more vivid then plain white. The back cover is more interesting, with the crimson backdrop, with screenshots of the battle theme, a small piece of art of the doll Marianne. The blurbs theme keeps the overall theme of the back cover, and there is the usual details at the bottom. The discs are stored well in the cover, and each of the six DVD’s has the artwork of one or more characters on them, with the crimson backdrop, which looks effective. The inner cover could be considered an alternate cover to the series, with the front artwork being exclusively of Shana and Yuji (Rather rare to see a protagonist male on the cover of a series dominated by females) and the same back cover as the outer cover. Overall, a decent package design that will not disappoint.
Over the course of the six DVD’s, there is a good amount of bonus content, some of which is rather enjoyable to watch. The following content is available in this set:
- Production Art Galleries – Not usually my thing, but it is a good watch the first time around.
- Naze nani Shana Video – Supposed to be a “Q&A” session on the show hosted by antagonists Friagne and Marianne, but due to the eccentric nature of them both, turns into more a half-Q&A half-comedy routine. Dubbed in English.
- Shana-tan Episodes 1-2 – A comedic mini-series totalling ten minutes of what Yuji’s life would be like if Shana was chibified and traveled on the top of his head. Enjoyable watch. Also dubbed in English.
- Textless Opening and Closing for all the sequences.
- Trailers, trailers and more trailers
Finally, I would like to conclude that Shakugan no Shana is not a flawless series, and hopefully will be improved upon when the second season is eventually released by Funimation and then Madman Entertainment in Australia. However, if you are into action series that involve an enjoyable character listing and lots of action, you will definately enjoy this series!
Character Development: C
OP/ED Sequences: B
Voice Acting: D+
Personal Opinion: A-
Overall Score: B+