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Shakugan no Shana - vol.2

November 2008 SITE MAP   SEARCH

Shakugan no Shana - volumes one + two
voice cast: Rie Kugimiya/ Tabitha St. Germain, Satoshi Hino/ Kristian Ayre

director: Takashi Watanabe

200 minutes (12) 2006
widescreen ratio 16:9
MVM DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 6/10
reviewed by Michael Bunning
Sakai Yuuji is walking home from his high school one day when suddenly the world turns red and everyone around him freezes and blue flames begin burning in their chests. Understandably, he's more than a little confused, and that confusion turns to terror when two monsters - one looking like a giant baby and the other like a floating ball made of human heads - appear and start devouring all the flames. Just as the monsters turn their attention to Yuuji, a girl dressed all in black, with flaming red eyes and hair that seems to burn, jumps in front of him, pulls out a sword and chops the monsters to pieces.

When the monsters are gone, the world returns to normal and the girl in black walks off, ignoring Yuuji. He runs after her and persuades her to tell him what's going on. The monsters are creatures from another world (the Crimson Realm, hence the world turning red when they appear) that feed off human souls. However, our world needs to stay in balance, and the sudden loss of souls that occurs when the monsters feed would change the balance, so the universe creates temporary replacements for the eaten humans. The girl calls these replacements 'torches', because the flames inside the torches fade out gradually, allowing the universe to remain in balance. She explains that she's a 'Flame Haze': someone who hunts the monsters and tries to keep them from eating too many souls. She also tells Yuuji that he's a torch and will burn out in a couple of days.

As anime set-ups go, it's far from the worst. It doesn't make a great deal of sense (especially the 'balance' mechanic: if the universe has to remain in balance, how can it cope with natural disasters that kill thousands, but not monsters eating a couple of dozen people?) but then these types of series rarely do. It moves along at a pace that's brisk enough and, unsurprisingly, Yuuji turns out to have some special power that means he won't burn out after all. He swiftly partners up with the girl (who he names Shana) and, because his special power attracts monsters, she sets herself up as a student at his school. There's plenty of nascent romance between the two characters, plenty of fan-service with Yuuji accidentally seeing Shana in various states of undress, and plenty of massive fights as new monsters and rival Flame Hazes are introduced and dispatched fairly frequently.

None of it feels especially new, though. The set-up feels like a cross between Bleach (soul-eating monsters from another world) and Shuffle! (regular high-school student starting tentative romance with a super-powered girl from another world), and while this isn't necessarily a bad thing, if you've seen either of those series, Shakugan no Shana will feel a little like a retread.

The animation is extremely capable, as you'd expect from Geneon, and the subtitling is of a high standard. There's nothing especially wrong with the English dub either, though as with all anime dubs, it's nowhere near as good as the subtitled version. The special features are decidedly lacking though: just a couple of trailers and text-less credits (both of which are so standard nowadays that they shouldn't even be classed as special features).

This is a shame, as with the inclusion of some top-notch special features (concept art, cast interviews, character profiles and so on), these discs could have been very tempting purchases. As it is though, they're only really worth picking up if you haven't seen the other series mentioned here, or if you don't mind watching more of the same.

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