Shana Vol. #6 (of 6) (

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, July 16, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What They Say
The Ball Masque's horrific plans come to fruition, spelling the end for everyone in Misaki City. As Kazumi, Eita, and Sato helplessly watch the world crumble, Shana risks her life to save them and the person whom she has come to truly care for. Will Yuji live long enough to finally understand what it means to be a Mystes and what it means to the world? More importantly, will he learn what matters the most to him personally before it's too late?

Contains episodes 21-24.

The Review!
Members of the Ball Masque have arrived and their plans to upset the balance of the world are underway as the series draws to a close.

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.

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.

Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, the pairings end as we get the three main Ball Masque characters posing together with Hecate as the central focus. Similar to previous covers, everything looks very detailed and attractive here in its overall design. 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 the front cover. The insert has new character artwork on one side while the reverse lists the what's available for the series.

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.

The final volume brings in some of the best extras of the series with the Shana-tan videos. Running about ten minutes between the two, Shana gets pint-sized and the show goes for the risqué comedy €“ complete with appropriate elephant sounds. These extras are worth the price of admission alone for this volume, never mind the show itself. Also 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 last one is included here and it's quite cute and adds a bit of levity to a dark show. Rounding out the extras is the third ending sequence in its clean format.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shakugan no Shan draws to a close with the final four episodes but I have to admit that the seriousness of it was all completely offset by the Shana-tan videos in the extras after watching it. The series has had a very serious atmosphere for the majority of it and has avoided playing to the gags and lighter side for the most part, much to its advantage. While they could have gone to a wider audience by inserting more light material throughout it, they instead kept to the core material and brought about a wonderfully dark and enjoyable series.

The final four episodes revolve around a couple of key issues that are intertwined as it plays out. The recent arrival of Wirhelmina, one of the worst characters I can recall in some time, has put Shana in the odd position of being deferential to her while wanting to disobey her. Shana's relationship with Yuji has really changed who Shana is, in that she's no longer just a Flame Haze. With Wirhelmina intent on killing Yuji so that the Midnight Lost Child cannot be used by the Ball Masque, Shana naturally doesn't want to do that but has a hard time resisting Wirhelmina. Even worse, Wirhelmina isn't above twisting words and situations to her advantage to convince Yuji that Shana is fine with his being killed. The real surprise is how Alastor reacts to much of this when the chips are down and the real fight between the group is ready to happen.

As always seems to happen, in-group fighting occurs when they should all be looking outwards to see what they may have missed from the Professor's mad attacks with the Rissei. Events do lean towards that direction which invariably leads to the big closing for the series as the Ball Masque members arrive to create a Fountain of Existence on Earth. Capitalizing any series of words always works to give it more importance and that's something that this series has done almost too heavy handedly throughout. The arrival of Hecate with Thousand Changes trying to keep her pure is set to disrupt the balance of the world by creating this Fountain of Existence. Using Yuji as the way to activate her and imprint her with his memories, Yuji's importance goes up several more notches. Of course, Wirhelmina simply wants to kill him to end the problem while Shana has larger goals to deal with.

Like any series that comes to a close with a big event, Shana does so with a lot of emphasis on drama and action. The series has done a good job of finding a balance between the two during the previous arcs while slowly expanding the cast. The addition of Margery and her two underlings has been quite a good example of this. The various Denizen's that have cropped up have provided stories that don't feel like they're there to just expand the overall world but rather to tell that actual tale. The arrival of the Ball Masque at the end of the series isn't a surprise nor that it's something that could be world shattering. To have such stories earlier on in the series was surprising as well as the way it wrapped up each arc rather neatly with enough to tie it to future stories.

In Summary:
Shakugan no Shana hits plenty of high marks in these episodes as the core cast has to deal with a Fountain of Existence being called out that could destroy the world. Relationships are key to motivations at times but they take the appropriate backseat when necessary. The cast has grown well over the series run but it never got too big and it always kept its real focus on the core characters. Wonderfully dark and minimalist, Shakugan no Shana felt like a mature series without the need for a lot of sex and vulgarities to show that it's being mature. Even with its leads being students, they managed to have the right atmosphere and angle to work with. Though I wouldn't want to see a lot of series like this, the world could stand to see several more being produced that don't rely on fanservice and other similar elements to tell a serious tale. This is a good show with a lot to offer for those wanting more than the basics and some skin flashing at them.

Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Naze Nani Shana Video, Shana-tan Video Extras.

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via HDMI -> DVI set to 480p, 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: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Menus Rating: B+
Extras Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & 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