Posted on April 5, 2013 AT 07:12pm
Holy hell, been awhile since an anime review was last posted here. Let’s call it a minor snafu with our supplier which we hope will be resolved soon.
Shakugan no Shana is a media franchise over in Japanland. It began with a light novel series, as many of media franchises seem to start with these days, and has since expanded into two manga series, a video game, a movie, three 24-episode anime series, plus an extra OVA series. The first two series, Shakugan no Shana and Shakugan no Shana: Second, were reviewed here months ago, so this shall cover the third and final season. For a bit more background though on the other anime parts, the movie is a retelling of the anime’s first major story arc. It expands in areas the anime didn’t touch on, while omitting other parts for the sake of time. If you’re a fan of the series, I can recommend it. The OVAs are side stories that take place at different times in the anime time line, but due to a lack continuity among the OVAs, it can be hard to place them, and personally, I saw them as a waste of time. Anyways. ONWARDS WITH THE REVIEW.
Shakugan no Shana: Final is the third and final anime series in the Shakugan anime. To give a quick recap, at the end of Shakugan no Shana: Second, main series villains from the Denizen group, Bal Masqué, attempted to use Yuji Sakai’s treasure tool, the Midnight Lost Child, to create a new Crimson Lord that would be born in our world, with The Silver at its core, and the Midnight Lost Child for its heart. Shana and Sakai, with the help of Wilhelmina Carmel and Margery Daw managed to foil Bal Masque’s plans and destroy the new Lord. With Bal Masque gone, the Flame Hazes restored Misaki City back to the state before things went to hell. Which means Shana and Yoshida go back to waiting for Sakai to choose between them by waiting in the snow at different entrances to the city’s central clock tower. It seems on that day, Sakai never did choose, and moments after restoring Misaki City, his presence disappeared from the world, as if his flame of existence had been extinguished. This is where Final‘s story begins.
The story starts with Shana and Yoshida slightly depressed by Sakai’s disappearance, but still optimistic he’s not really dead, due to the fact that they received letters from him a day after he disappeared. The other adults in their lives though, like Wilhelmina, believe this optimism might be misplaced and pray the girls will move on. Now, obviously, Sakai is still alive and kicking, or there wouldn’t too much of a story to tell in 24 episodes. In fact, we’re even shown a quick battle scene between Shana and Sakai at the very start of episode 1. So right from the start we know Sakai has gone to the douche side and it’s pretty obvious how this whole story will play out, but nonetheless it is a more then enough of a entertaining and compelling ride to the end. Just like with the other two series, Bal Masque is once again making vile plots, with Sakai at the center of it all. And once more we have the relationship between Sakai and Shana put to the test. It’s the return of the BS love triangle, and so the battles begin.
Final actually does an excellent job of downplaying that BS love-triangle-drama idiocy among Sakai, Yoshida and Shana that was a little too prevalent in the previous two series for my liking. The issue of “Love” is obviously still a theme, but I feel Final takes a more mature, less teen drama approach to the issue. In Final we see the three characters actually affirm their feelings, making them much more real.The concept of “love” is even noticeably distorted, driving our main villain to commit heinous acts for his lady, and in the end, after realizing what he has done, he tries to punish himself by forcing her away so that he may atone for his sins in solitude.
Not only that, but Yoshida finally accepts Sakai will never choose her, though she doesn’t give up on him, she does learn to live with unrequited love. And that was freakn awesome, because up until Final, she was a rather useless character, in my opinion.
Shana, though experiences even more growth then Yoshida. Shana really matures and comes into her own as both a woman and a Flame Haze. In the first two series, Shana was constantly frustrated with herself, being unable to contemplate her feelings for Sakai, and as a result she would constantly yell out “SHUT UP! SHUT UP! SHUT UP!” whenever the issue came up. In Final though, she finally figures things out and is stronger for it. In fact she never once utters her famous line of frustration until the last episode. Her love for Sakai becomes her absolute resolve, driving her to battle on, and becoming truly worthy of the God of Atonement’s contract.
Though Shana and Yoshida’s love grew, there was another couple’s whose love was confirmed in Final as well, and I apologize for spoilers, which was Margery and her former whipping boy, Keisaku Satou. I’m sorry, but that pairing didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Sure it’s logical since the two spent so much time together, but I always saw Satou’s feelings for Margery as more puppy love then anything real and concrete. Also, though Margery did start to acknowledge him as a friend and equal during Second, there was never any indication given that she actually loved him. So it seemed really out of place for her to suddenly be in love with the boy, and remember, he is only fifteen. Perhaps it was a cultural difference, or my own American preconceptions, but I just didn’t see their love as being completely relevant to the story at hand. Furthermore, Margery does lose her will to fight after learning the truth about The Silver, threatening to lose her contract to Marchosias, and its her love for Satou that gives her a new legitimate reason to fight for. But in that case, such an important love story deserved more build up, and less of that puppy love bull crap. Fortunately, this love tempers Margery, making her less of an ass.
Then there’s the kings and queens of the asses, the Crimson Denizen organization, Bal Masque. They’re the still the villains to the Flame Hazes, but as viewers, we get to see a different, less villainous side. Throughout the first two series, Bal Masque came up with some pretty devilishly clever plans. Though they were constantly foiled, the heroes could never figure anything out until the last minutes. However, in Final, Bal Masque reveals all their cards almost from the start, and makes the Flame Hazes understand how futile their battle really is. Bal Masque is aware the Denizens are doing some bad shit in our world, so they decide to call upon their god to make a new world with Power of Existence where the Denizens can roam free and not bother our world’s balance any longer. Through this plan, we are shown a more idealistic side of the nefarious Denizens. Even if the plan is chalked full of holes and would never work in practice, as many of the older, wiser Flame Hazes try to point out, that doesn’t stop the Denizens from trying. The series is crafted in such away you almost feel okay with cheering on the “bad guys” because they’re really not so bad. Sure they’ve killed millions of humans and caused more then their share of destruction, but at least they’re trying to do something about it. The Flame Hazes’s solution is to just KILL THEM ALL, and that’s really not so different from how the Denizens once thought.
Through the Denizens, and even some of the older Flame Hazes that introduced, Final shows just how long this battle between Denizens and Flame Hazes has been waged. We already knew from context in the first series and somewhat from the second series that this war has been going on at least a few thousand years, but as the Denizen’s God, Snake of the Festival tells us, it’s been going on longer then that. In fact the two sides have been at each others throats since before even Alastor came into being, which gives the Denizens all the more reason to want a new world so they can finally put down their arms and live in peace.
The Denizens also still seem to be fighting for their right to “exist”, a concept which has remained a constant in the Shakugan anime series. The primary villain, despite being an idiot and douche, is still trying to prove to the world that he existed so that people will remember him when he’s gone. This was an issue for Sakai in the beginning of season 1 and I was pleasantly surprised they brought things back in a full circle by reenforcing this idea of “existing”.
Another excellent thing about this series is that all loose ends get tied up in the final episode. The series really felt “finished” by the end, with no unnecessary cliffhangers and anything along those lines. I feel this to be important because all too often, animes will end on BS cliffhangers, leaving the story wide up for a sequel that never happens. So it was nice to watch a series that did none of that and left us with the characters looking forward to a bright future.
So with all that said, here’s the final verdict. Shakugan no Shana: Final is possibly the better of the three Shakugan series. It builds on what was already there from the first two, and expand further on concepts and ideas that previously introduced. There’s a cast of new characters, and each is given decent screen time, but the focus remains on Shana and Sakai. This is their story, after all. Additionally, the BS love-drama-triangle introduced in series 1 is basically dissolved. There were still a few unnecessary elements such as a sudden love story between Margery Daw and Keisaku Satou, but it wasn’t enough to bring the series down, and in fact, ended up working for the better.
Summary: An excellent conclusion to an excellent anime series. Everything worked beautifully, including the philosophy and that wonderful teen love story. Bella and Edward be damned.
Pros: The series builds on and expands concepts and ideas from first two series, and ties up all the loose ends in a neat little bow. Shana stops being a frustrated bitch and takes charge of herself, making her into an excellent character. Sakai becomes a douche, but has good reasons, which further builds his relationship between him and Shana. Yoshida stops being a useless idiot. Keisaku gets laid. Bal Masque continues to be a pack of devious bastards.
Cons: The love story between Keisaku and Margery could have used a lot more build up from the other two series with much less puppy love. There’s also the whole thing where Margery’s centuries old and Keisaku’s only fifteen years old.
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