Title: Shakugan no Shana Final aka Shakugan no Shana III
Company: J.C Staff
Format: 24 episodes
Dates: 7 Oct 2011 – 23 Mar 2012
Synopsis: In the fading glow of Christmas lights, Sakai Yuji has mysteriously vanished from the world. Yuji’s flame haired lover Shana searches through the faint clues at her disposal but has difficulty finding results. Her search abruptly ends when Yuji mysteriously reappears as the leader of the much reviled Bal Masque. What has caused this sudden change of heart? Regardless of the reason, Shana must now fight Yuji in order to protect humanity from one of its own.
Plot: Has some really good ideas that break apart in execution.
Character motivations: Should have been unveiled very early in the story.
As a finale: Sadly, the safer route would have yielded better results.
Now how in the world did this show get so complicated?
At its core Shakugan no Shana is an interesting hybrid of a high school harem drama with a shounen action anime that has just right art assets and characters to make it a hit. Shakugan no Shana Final completely flips the tables when the main character Yuji mysteriously joins Bal Masqué, the former antagonists of the series, and fights against the Flame Hazes, the former protagonists. This puts Yuji in direct odds against his crimson haired lover Shana. Thus, the primary conflict for this third and final season boils down to the question “why did Yuji join the bad guys?” Much to the detriment of this series, the show basically waits until the 24th episode to unveil its full answer.
I cannot fault Shakugan no Shana Final for lack of ambition. No other harem drama or even shounen action series in recent memory has so drastically changed direction in the final third that it upsets the old character dynamics and wholly readjusts a viewer’s perspective of a show. Structurally. Shakugan no Shana Final is a completely different show than Shana and Shana Second. The major problem is that the show doesn’t really give good insight into where the main character stands for almost the entire 24 episodes. This is a mystery that should have been resolved in the first few episodes, so that the audience could emotionally invest on a side, but in Shana Final there is no clear grasp of the thought process behind certain events occur leaving viewers disoriented and detached from the drama.
Compounding these problems is the whole slew of new characters that get little development but eat up lots of camera time. Shana Final seems to want to hammer down that this is the penultimate finale by bringing every single Flame Haze and Denizen in existence and have them duke it out to the death. That means 95% of deaths mean nothing to the audience and borders X/1999 in “what the hell is happening here?”
The visuals and audio are as good as any other season of the show. The problem is that fight scenes have become so frequent and the set pieces have become so massive that the animation budget simply does not keep pace and some scenes end up looking cheap as a result. Though there are some truly dazzling pieces of scenery, character poses and occasionally animation, there a lot of pan shots and prolonged conversations to fund those moments.
Shakugan no Shana Final is an ambitious departure from the norm that sadly bites off more than it can chew. Neither the presentation nor the underlying story is quite at the level needed to build a compelling narrative off of its plot twist. While the franchise started out with a bang, the final stretch did not end with one, but I must tip my hat towards its rather audacious attempt.
The Rating: 5
Reviewed by: Shadowmage