Shakugan no Shana Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: C
  • Age Rating: All
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £15.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shana

Shakugan no Shana Vol. #1

By Bryan Morton     April 11, 2008
Release Date: May 12, 2008


Shakugan no Shana Vol. #1
© MVM Entertainment


What They Say
Yuji Sakai is about to learn that there is more to the world than going to school and finding a girlfriend when he meets a sword-wielding girl with fiery red eyes and flame colored hair. Denizens of the Crimson Realm are invading our world and its up to the Flame Haze, Shana to slay them. However, when Yuji gets in the way of her sword, he learns that death is much more different than he imagined it would be.

Experience their story as Yuji and Shana work together to defeat the Denizens of the Crimson World and learn more about each other and the worlds they are from.

Episodes Comprise
1 - The End to Everything, the One Beginning
2 - The Lit Flame
3 - The Torch and the Flame Haze
4 - The Confused Flame Haze


The Review!
Must be tough being a lead character who gets killed in the first five minutes of your show - that's what poor Yuji Sakai has to deal with, but he takes it surprisingly well. Being able to see others around him suffering the same fate, however, isn't so easy - and that's where Flame Haze Shana comes in...

Audio:
Audio is presented in both English and Japanese 2.0 version - I listened to the Japanese track for this review. If anything the soundtrack for Shana is quite understated - it doesn't go out its way to impress other that during action scenes - but it's clear, effects and dialogue are easy to pick out, and when it does make an effort there's full use made of the available channels. There were no obvious problems.

Video:
Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen, the video here is a visual treat, with plenty of use of vibrant colours and some good use of background detail & nice touches such as the shower of sparks that surrounds Shana when she's in her 'battle mode'. Animation quality is also good, and the transfer here does full justice to the materials. There were no encoding problems that I could spot on my setup.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
The main menu is a simple affair, typical of MVM's releases, with Shana standing against a suitably fiery background, her hair and eyes in their flame-red battle style. The opening themes play over the top. Options are provided for Play All, Episode Select, Setup and Extras, and with no transition animations to sit through it's quick and painless to use.

Extras:
Disappointingly, all there is here is a creditless version of the opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Yuji Sakai, as with so many anime male leads, is a normal high-school kid - until one day, while walking to school, time seems to stop around him. Frozen in place, the people around him are devoured by a giant doll-like creature. Just as it looks like it's his turn to be eaten, a girl appears, with eyes and hair the colour of flame. Using her katana, she defeats the creature - then slices poor Yuji almost in two. There's just enough time for him to ponder how high school didn't seem so bad - before finding out he's not really alive and, in his current form, was never really human anyway...

It's the story of the dead boy and the Flame Haze who initially treats him as thought he isn't there - mainly because technically, he isn't. It's the end of episode two before our heroine's name is revealed, and that's only because it's Yuji who names her: Shana, after her sword. Flame Haze's don't usually take names since they're sort of in the same state of non-being as Torches, but Yuji figures that since it seems they're going to be spending some time together, he needs to call her something. The rest of the opening two episodes fills in the mythology of the show - the existence and purpose of the Crimson Denizens and Flame Hazes (Shana's not the only one, as we find out later in the disc), the purpose of Torches and Mystes, and the introduction of one particular Crimson Denizen who's clearly going to present problems to our lead duo. There's also the clear hint that, if these episodes are representative, the appearance of Denizens and the resulting wholesale killing of humans isn't anything unusual.

With the background neatly filled in, the remaining two episodes move on to more mundane stuff: the everyday life of Yuji and Shana as they begin to work together - very reluctantly, on Shana's part - to defeat the threat posed by the Denizens. It's really a story of two parts - about two-thirds slice-of-life, and the rest more action-oriented. I'm really enjoying the slice-of-life side, as Shana's personality just opens up so many story opportunities that come from being a warrior - she's never really had to interact with people before coming into contact with Yuji, and her social skills are woefully inadequate for being dumped into a high-school setting. If that sounds a bit familiar to Full Metal Panic's Sagara, it is, and that's not bad comparison. Shana is just a lot more subtle with the humour, which mostly comes from Shana not understanding the concepts of tact & diplomacy. There's a running gag through the latter episodes of her giving teachers a hard time - completely in opposition to the personality of Hirai, whose place she's taken - that kept me well amused.

Yuji, on the other hand, is almost too caring for his own good, and his reaction to Hirai's fate in episode 2 points that out well. After being filled in by Shana on what happens to Torches when their flame burns out, Yuji's determined not to let Hirai be forgotten - but no matter what he does he can't change fate. As well as fleshing out his personality it's a very direct little reminder of what's due to happen to him in time, and although so far there's no indication of how long Yuji's torch will burn we already know that, unless there's something very special about him, it's going to burn out at some point and that's something that's bound to be difficult for him to deal with.

The show's action scenes, on the other hand, have something of the feel of Bleach about them, but with added visual style. Lead villain Friagne has a real sense of the sinister about him, helped along by his worrying obsession with talking doll Marianne, while Shana's fellow Flame Haze Margery Daw (say that without nursery rhymes jumping into your head) and her talking book Marco seem to be almost as dangerous - and since Flame Haze's don't seem to mix well, that's dangerous to both sides. Margery is your stereotypically heavy-drinking woman, but her sheer over-the-top approach to everything makes her great fun to watch - and at the risk of showing my age, Marco reminds me a lot of Claptrap from Chorlton and the Wheelies. Go look it up. :)

In summary:
For all that its subject matter - death, destruction and the fleeting nature of "being" - has the potential to be dark & heavy-going, Shana manages to be a lot of fun, with Shana herself doing a lot to lighten the tone. There's a good mix of humour and action, and high production values make it a joy to watch in visual terms as well. I know some people feel the more serious side of the show can get too morbid for comfort at times - I didn't have that problem, but that may be one reason to give the show a try before you buy. Personally, though, I can't wait to see more and can easily give Shana a big thumbs-up.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Creditless Opening

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.

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