Shana Vol. #3 (of 6) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, January 09, 2007



What They Say
After setting Margery straight, Shana tackles her next obstacle. Unfortunately, she is unable to understand her feelings towards Yuji and fights a losing battle with Kazumi at the waterland park. Will Shana be able to pull herself together in order to face the deadly twins, a pair of morally corrupt denizens who are after Shana and the things she holds dear.


The Review!
With the opening arc behind them, Shana spends time getting acclimated to life with Yuji as the next round of Denizen's begin their move.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. It and the English language track are done in a very good stereo mix that really works well with the dialogue and some of the music which really plays up the stereo channels well in how it balances things out. This is a very laid back series for the most part so the music fits in with it in that it's very mellow and doesn't overpower outside of a couple of scenes and the strong opening and closing sequences. Dialogue is treated much the same way and comes across great on both tracks. We didn't have any noticeable problems during regular playback with dropouts or distortions.

Video:
Originally airing in 2005, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. JC Staff has created a really slick looking show here with great looking animation and designs for both characters and layouts. The sense of composition is very strong throughout this as the show really takes advantage of the larger canvas to work with and they don't skimp on backgrounds or details in character designs. The colors look very strong here with a lot of vibrant moments across almost all shades. When it comes to the darker colors and the important purples here from sealed world moments, they maintain a very solid look. The transfer is free from just about all problems from what I can see here and simply looks gorgeous.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, this release goes for the (less than) pure fanservice as it provides Yoshida and Shana together in their swimsuits. Shana ends up looking even younger than usual here which really makes the whole thing fairly creepy no matter how great the illustration. With the framed style and the less than distinct but spot on light background to it, this is a very striking cover. The back cover is a bit more subdued than this as it's mostly a flame background that's somewhat muted with darker reds and it has a decent summary of the premise but the font makes it a touch difficult to read. Episodes are broken down by title and a shot with each of them while the bottom has the production and technical information, which is again well placed inside a grid format. The keepcase for this is clear and the reverse side has an image on each side, with the left being the logo and a silhouette shot of Shana against flames while the right is a light purple image that has a close-up of Yoshida. The insert replicates the front cover artwork on one side while the reverse lists the release months for the remaining volumes in the series.

Menu:
The menu design for this volume is really nice as it uses presumably an illustration from the Japanese releases that has Shana with her sword and in the school uniform mixed with the logo and the navigation selections while the background uses imagery from the opening sequence and other spots with a dark red background. Mix in some floating flames and the moody music and this is something you don't mind have sitting on in the background for awhile and it looks great as well. Access times are nice and fast and the layout very easy to navigate, though I'm still not keen on setup/extra combination menus. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and played accordingly.

Extras:
The main extra that's included here are the mildly informative Naze Nani Shana videos, which are like little glossary pieces that have some of the cast talking about the terms. The latest one is included here and it's quite cute and adds a bit of levity to a dark show. Also included is a new production gallery that includes full color pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shana as a series has been interesting to watch as it is rather focused in what it wants to get across. Within the first eight episodes across the first two volumes of the series it established a lot of basics, set up the characters and completed a number of storylines that were running concurrently. If the show had ended there it wouldn't have been complete but you wouldn't have been left with anything truly unresolved.

With this volume, the four episodes get things rolling towards the next arc and once again work towards presenting multiple interesting storylines. All of them tend to have tangents with each other as they build towards something so it doesn't leave you feeling like one of them is useless or a waste of time. As the arc moves along, there is plenty of interesting material that gets covered but not without a price. And that price is the "humanizing" of Shana. That in and of itself is not a bad thing but what it does mean is that it delves into the world of high school romance. On the plus side it doesn't come across as cloying or comical as many other series are as they work hard to keep a straight and mostly realistic feel to it. Shana's nature simply won't let her be anything but serious which helps balance the teen angst.

The downside is that we have to go through a couple of clichés in order to get to the really good moments. One of the worst clichés, and one that's somewhat hard to watch with this show, is when the small group of quasi-involved characters end up going to a water park for the day. That means cute young girls in skimpy clothes that are shy about revealing how hot they are because they believe that they're unattractive. The mix of relationships is simple but cute as we watch Shana and Yuji trying to figure out whether they're really into each other or not while Yoshida is a complete schoolgirl in love in regards to Yuji. Add in Ike who is helping Yoshida realize her crush while he quietly pines for her himself and it's a basic setup.

Where it manages to work a fair bit better than normal, particularly once we get past the water park episode and the fun of Margery and her thralls being there, is that Shana is so untrained in the ways of relationships that instead of blurting it out or being weird she bottles it all up. Her angst over it comes out in the training that she puts Yuji through and he ends up just becoming a bit more interested in her because of it. Each of them really aren't sure about how they feel about each other and are having a difficult time realizing it about themselves. Shana and Yoshida have a really good encounter over the whole thing that doesn't feel forced and ends up putting the cards on the table instead of just dancing around it.

That sort of sums up the overall feeling about the show. It has plenty to tantalize with and teases it nicely when appropriate, but things like the relationships or particular story arcs aren't dragged out longer than they need to be. The opening arc with the first Denizen could have easily covered a thirteen episode series or more but they wrapped it up pretty quickly. The same with Margery as a character in that they settled some of their basics issues right from the start but left room for more interesting material to follow. The show also manages to bring in the right amount of humor to it so that it doesn't dominate. There are light moments and areas where you smile about how it plays out, such as Chigusa talking to "Alas Toru" on the phone about how she wants to be involved in making sure Shana doesn't make a mistake, but they don't come across as wild-take moments or overly animated physical comedy. Shana's a serious show but it doesn't become unwatchable because of it. It has some angst but doesn't dramatize it to maximum levels. They've really found a great balance between those areas and the action that just lets it all work beautifully.

In Summary:
Just about everything in these four episodes is pure setup for the next volume as it delves into the relationships of those around Shana as well as fortifying the way Margery and her servants operate. As all of this plays out there are some tantalizing scenes that involve a pair of new childlike Denizens who are making a side trip to the town in order to get something from Shana. It isn't a hugely layered show with too many plots to follow, but it has a real sense of planning and structure to it that makes even filler style episodes key to the overall development. I may not care for some of the fanservice moments that are brought in here early on but once again Shana has proven to be a real solid title and one that only gets better and better.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Naze Nani Shana

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI with upconversion set to 1080i, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B+
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Shana