Shakugan no Shana
Alternative Titles: Burning-Eyed Shana, 灼眼のシャナ, SnS
Episodes: 72 (3 seasons), 4 (OVA)
Genres: Action, Drama, Fantasy, Romance, Supernatural
Shakugan no Shana is one of those lengthy anime that needs its audience to invest time on the series to thoroughly enjoy its rich, well-developed world. Though typical in a sense that it is predominantly in the supernatural action genre where a high school student eventfully gets involved in the conflict between keepers of balance (Flame Haze) and greedy villainous entities (Crimson Denizens/Tomogara) that collect as much power as they can, SnS stood out with its careful character development, clear introduction of the basic concepts of its fictional world, and action scenes with fluid animation.
Mixed with the expected action and introductions of new throw-in enemies to fight, SnS maximized its twenty-four episodes per season to host a multitude of character developments. This was evident all throughout the first two seasons, and perhaps even the 4-episode OVA series after. At one point of the series, it focuses on the growth of its main female protagonist, Shana, in both mind and strength as a Flame Haze. The focus then shifts to development of the main male protagonist, Yuji, from being a passive factor in Shana’s battles into someone being able to utilize what power and resources he has to help out in the cause of the Flame Haze.
After numerous battles, romance and drama eventually gets thrown in to further develop the two main characters. A love triangle approach was also used on the romantic aspect of the anime, leading to various developments to the characters involved. Sandwiched within these developments are the interactions of the normal human characters and how the main conflict affected their lives, and other Flame Haze’s interactions with these humans and fellow Flame Haze. Every now and then, flashbacks are shown to further supplement the background of some characters.
Even when the first two seasons introduced throw-in villains, they are not really thrown in as just filler. They drive the plot, get referenced after they are defeated and leave behind items of great value that could either help the main characters or lure the interest of stronger enemies, putting Misaki City in jeopardy.
The third season, however, didn’t have the same vibe as the two prior to it. Still at twenty-four episodes, Shakugan no Shana Final had issues with pacing the plot. New characters get introduced one after another causing confusion and a notorious lack of character development on otherwise interesting characters since each Flame Haze and Crimson Denizen has their unique appearance and quirks in their personality. However, the multitude of characters that are relatively undeveloped when compared to the characters that have always been there in the past two seasons might just be highlighting how grand the SnS universe actually is, and that the story is merely just focusing on a meager number of lives who are involved in the grand scale of things between the Flame Haze and the Crimson Denizens.
As expected of an action anime, most of the splendid art in the series are perceived in the action scenes. These scenes take place inside dimensional shells known as Seals or Fuuzetsu. Visual effects of Seals include (usually) reddish coloring all over, and a fire-like effect on its boundaries. In fact, flames are an overused power or accessory on almost all of the characters and with the clean and realistically drawn and animated flames, they really are pleasing to the eyes. Another notable feature in the animation is Shana’s hair during battles. It turns from jet black hair to a glowing red with fiery sparks falling about.
Outside of the fight scenes, a lot of things are splendidly drawn too, from food to garments and accessories. Moreover, most of the Flame Haze and Crimson Denizens have a wide array of nationalities and monstrous appearances, respectively; SnS hosts a versatile selection of designs.
VOICE ACTING [7/10]
Aside from Rie Kugimiya’s iconic “Urusai! Urusai! Urusai!”, SnS hosts a wide variety of voices, including Wilhelmina and Tiamat’s monotony, drunken Margery, typical deep evil voices, wackiness courtesy of Marchosias and the duo of Dantalion and Domino, and perhaps even more. The narration for the series is also good. However, even though the voice acting is satisfying and with a great cast, the script seems to be lacking for the subjects tackled by the story, from the simplistic romance element to the large-scale issue on the protection of the balance of the world through wars.
The opening and ending themes, whatever season it may be, are very catchy and powerful as expected of an action shounen anime. There’s that. It’s another story when those themes are inserted in the fight scenes. They set the bar higher in making the scene much more engaging.
The gothic instrumentals also complement the fantasy aspects of the anime such as flashbacks situated hundreds or thousands of years in the past, and the gloomy overall vibe inside a Seal.
The characters, at least the main ones you get to see every episode or two, are well-made on their own. They have an initial first impression to give that gets improved or negated by character development. They have intricate backstories that give that all-important fullness to the character. The human characters, however, lack these backstories since they pretty much have normal lives before being sucked into the grand conflict.
If these characters are scrutinized in relation to the story and the script, they would be underwhelming since the story, at the very least the third season, is plagued by underdeveloped throw-in characters, and the script lacks depth in the romance and drama aspects.
The main appeal of Shakugan no Shana would primarily be its action scenes backed up by a very expansive lore. However, it has issues in portraying the romance element amidst the shounen-ness it radiates.