What They Say
Flame Haze history revealed!
The Denizens have begun their final plans and with Shana ensnared it appears that her end is imminent. Shana's history as a Flame Haze is now revealed as we see how her earlier life progressed, training to become the greatest Flame Haze to bond with the Flame of the Heavens and acquire the Nietono no Shana from the deadly Tennmokuikko...
13 -Declaration of Love Behind the School
14 -A Great Person
15 -The Day the Flame was Born
16 -The Flame-Haired, Burning-Eyed Hunter
Ever wondered how a Flame Haze gets to be a Flame Haze? Despite what the early episodes may have made you think, they don't magically just happen and this volume of Shakugan no Shana lets us see Shana's journey to becoming one. Before then, though, there are some demented twins to deal with.
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.
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.
No packaging was provided with our review copy.
The main menu is a simple affair, typical of MVM's releases, with Sorath and Tiriel draped down the right-hand side of the main screen. The opening theme plays 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.
A little bit more this volume, with a production artwork gallery presented as a 3-minute video slideshow and, bringing back happy memories of Nadesico for me, a Naze Nani Shana segment, where chibi-versions of Friagne and Marianne explain all you ever wanted to know about Rinne. There's also a creditless version of the closing animation.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Sorath & Tiriel seem to have claimed the upper hand in their battle with Shana, as the Flame Haze has been trapped - all they have to do now is claim her sword, and their mission is complete. Elsewhere, Margery runs into Yuji - with a particularly powerful Unrestricted Method in play, she's finally taken an interest in what's going on, and decides to make use of Yuji's abilities to deal with the problem, even though that will mean helping Shana in the process. Meanwhile, Shana's facing a horrible death at the hands of the twins, if they're allowed to have their way - but she's more interested in analysing their behaviour. According to what she's learnt lately, their kissing should be a sign of love, but Shana's quick to realise that's not what's going on here, and tries to use that knowledge to her advantage.
Later, Yuji realises that there are only two things that he really knows for sure about Shana: that she's a Flame Haze, and that she loves melon bread. The first of those needs no explanation - it's just what she is, and it's the core of her existence - but he can't help feeling that there's a story behind her love of melon bread. He's right, and it goes back to her time at the Palace of Heaven's Road, where she was trained in the ways of being a Flame Haze. Her mentor there, Wirhelmina, always used to buy melon bread for her - until the Palace was targetted by a Crimzon Denizen, Orgon...
The twins get their moment of glory in the first episode of the volume, where being on the wrong end of a kicking from their "minder" sees Margery rediscover the will to fight and join the fray. She's still not back to full strength, but she's got enough ability left to play her part. This is an out-and-out action episode, with not much time for the niceties of plot - but sometimes that's just what you're looking for, and the episode delivers nicely, with one or two surprises thrown in along the way to keep you on your toes.
The rest of the disc is given over to a history lesson. From the way Shana first introduced herself to Yuji, it was easy to get the impression that Flame Haze's just "were" from nowhere, going nowhere, somehow apart from reality while fighting creatures and entities that reality can't see. This arc lets you know that that isn't the case. Instead, she's a orphan picked up by another Flame Haze and brought to the Palace a little slice of unreality, if you like to be trained and tested for suitability. Right from the beginning, she showed remarkable ability and remarkable loyalty, until events conspire to bring her training to a premature end and see her complete the contract with Alastor.
To a certain extent, the story seems to have been pulled from nowhere, but it also goes a long way to explaining how Shana grew up to be the girl she is Wirhelmina, while being shown to have some affection for her charge, isn't the most emotional of people, and throughout the arc Shana is never once referred to by a name. Flame Hazes are, after all, just tools or weapons, and have no need for such things and so when Shana joins up with Yuji, we get the nameless, endearingly innocent girl we all know and love. As a piece of character development, it's hard to beat.
There's still some action scattered in along the way to make sure that no-one loses interest, but really the history lesson is fascinating enough to carry the story without it it's just an added bonus and seeing Shana willingly accept her destiny, positively looking forward to the battles ahead of her, is a fitting climax to the story.
That said, I'm also looking forward to getting back our regularly scheduled programming I've missed the Shana / Kazumi rivarly, Shana's clueless handling of things romantic, and Yuji's contribution to the story. The past: it's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there��
Shakugan no Shana continues to be entertaining, and this disc's trip into the past details how Shana became the girl and fighter she is. I'm a fan of character development, and this volume delivers it in spades, interspersed with enough combat to keep more action-oriented fans happy too. I've enjoyed Shakugan no Shana from the start, and this volume continues the trend. Well worth seeing.
Japanese Language 2.0, English Language 2.0, English Subtitles, Production Art Gallery, Naze Nani Shana Video, Textless Closing
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.