An Accelerated Course in Shana, Part II - the Movie

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Having read the light novel a few months ago, the manga a few days ago, and with the second season just getting underway, Shakugan no Shana fever is in full fury.

Perhaps curiosity is a better descriptor, since as much as two manga volumes and one light novel can teach you, one can imagine a gaping hole in the plotline, a huge amount of something missing, that can only be found in sinking large amounts of time and, since we are relatively moralistic around here, money into watching the entire first season of Shana.

There's no doubt that a show like this can be easily picked up upon in the first few episodes of the sequel, being what seems to be of the general type 'boy meets supernatural girl, action romance ensues', but naturally there are a few nuances that are missed here and there, some twists, character development, and in the case of the Shana series, confusing jargon.

Now turning to an hour-and-a-half movie may not be the best way to cover what I presume is a large part of the 12-hour, 24-episode series, but as the cliches go, 1) any port in a storm, and 2) watch first, ask questions later.

What follows is an impression of the Shana movie from a relative newbie to the series; it seems to reprise much of the storyline from the first light novel, so I can't claim that it's totally new content, but there certainly will be a lack of comparisons to how the anime handled the same content.

Ironically enough it feels like the movie would have been better off, as a dramatic work, watched before the light novel. Devout Shana fans might have a lot to like about all the plot twists and cliffhanger-type material that they've seen already in the first season, but to one who's just skimmed the light novel and got the gist of the story, it's hard to either be completely surprised or entertained by such content.

It's sort of that gray zone that no place wants to hit; it's not new enough to surprise me, yet it's not familiar enough to endear itself to me. As such, some of the most "dramatic" moments of the film were of the feeling that I should be shedding a tear, but just couldn't bring myself to take it seriously enough.

This may also be the fault of the second season existing, which gave birth to many wisecracks as "Yuuji / Shana can't die, they have to show up in the second season after all."

But then again, a lot of this is my own fault, and besides...who really believes that the protagonist is going to die? That wouldn't be a very pleasant ending (stop looking at me like that, Key series). But maybe, like they said in The Prestige, we want to be fooled. We want to pretend that all hope is lost, just so that when the hero makes a Shocking Comeback, we can cheer and cry happy tears.

To that meta regard the Shana movie isn't too bad, in that it at least shifts expectations from "oh my God they killed Shana" to "how are they going to make her live this time". Shana feels like the type of show that lays out its point A and point B quite blatantly, yet still has a fun time drawing the line connecting the two.

Sure you know Friange is going to get pwned, Busty Meganekko Rival is going to concede defeat, and Shana is going to go all tsundere love-love towards Yuji, but you can't tell quite exactly how it's going to happen or play out.

Unless you're actually intimate with the source material, in which case you'll probably enjoy the movie more for the execution than for the surprise, in the same way that visual novel remakes and adaptations manage to work so well.

In any case the Shana movie probably has something to offer for everyone, although it certainly seems to tilt toward the seasoned viewer more if only because of the high learning curve of the show, or should I say, it's vocabulary.

I'm never any good with keeping up with names (hint: look up 3 paragraphs) and so action shows with lots of fancy terminology and special move names always tend to be extremely confusing. As such a lot of the complexity of Shana goes over my head, but what I did catch was quite interesting.

Moving on to the actual movie, the opening part with the Torch concept wasn't one that I recalled quite well from other work and as such was a very entertaining and piece about existentialism...in a way.

Yuuji's struggle with the carelessness with which Flame Hazes snuff out 'fake' lives, as well as the actual concept of a Torch 'being' someone they're not, someone who will eventually never be remembered, was really almost touching in a way. This was especially so when combined with the slow 'death' of Yukari, the unfortunate Red Shirt who only got to endear herself to the audience for a few minutes.

Isn't it sad, Yukari.

It was a topic discussed perhaps once before in sola and it still hits hard now; one can hardly deny that they want to leave a mark on the world before they depart, especially if they have an anime blog with 100+ posts on it. It's something that I wish could be brought up more in Shana, but naturally going way deep and, one might almost say, depressing, is not something this show aims to be; rather, it's an action/romance with a touch of depth. Best of both worlds, or something.

Although again the movie, being what I imagine is an essential time-compression of a lot of the original series, loses a few of the more basic aspects that I enjoyed in the manga. A lot of the school life / love triangle parts of Shana got cut out in favor of the action and actual plot-line.

It's a sensible decision when you only have 90 minutes to cover an entire light novel, but I really wish that Kazumi had a little bit more screentime; maybe I'm a sucker for blushing, stammering, and moe in general, but Kazumi really was an adorable character from the manga that needs more attention, even if you know she's going to lose, if indeed, Yuuji does ever 'pick' someone.

Even on the less fanboyish side of things, such amusing scenes as Yukari-Shana making herself known in the class by getting one up on the gym teacher, Shana's melon pan proclamation in the store, or pretty much any light-hearted interaction at school really are something I would've liked to see a bit more of. In the end, I guess that's what the anime seasons are for.

But what the movie does, it does in a decent manner. Friange was a relatively well-developed, almost tragic villain; while he does make a couple stupid Bad Guy Moves such as letting Shana / Yuuji go early on with a promise of a later Big Battle, he does have a defined motive, a decent personality, and quite good fighting skills as well with all the varied power-ups (em, treasure tools) he has.

The battles were passable as well; it feels like the characters have a greater sense of mortality than usual. It's always been a sticky point that a lot of characters in most fighting shows can take ridiculous amounts of hits and not really show any signs of slowing, but one gets the feeling in Shana that while Flame Hazes are perhaps more durable than most humans, they don't reach hax levels of defense.

Perhaps Friange did too; usually the ones with a lot of clever attacks have low defense (perhaps symbolic of his whole character type), but of course, we didn't get a lot of time to see how well Friange stands up against attacks, because he got eradicated in quite brilliant fashion by the God of Whatever Fiery Death. That's how you kill villains, kids. Leave no mark behind.

Shakugan no Shana the Movie definitely doesn't feel like it'd be a crash course in Shanaism, with a lot of non-essential, and perhaps thus the most important, content missing the cut, but with any luck a lot of this intrapersonal and lighthearted stuff will either be inferred or shown in the second season anyway.

In a sense it's not going to get you fully up to speed with the series but it will be enough to get the proverbial engine firing if you're a complete greenhorn to the Shana series. But if you're familiar with the current English manga and visual novel releases, you might as well go straight for the anime series.



Very timely, and well put. It's quite funny to see another Shana post within a day of mine, though, so check that out if you haven't already.