Shana Vol. #2 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Menus Rating: B+
  • Extras Rating: B
  • 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

Shana Vol. #2

By Chris Beveridge     November 17, 2006
Release Date: November 14, 2006


Shana Vol. #2
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
When Flame Hazes collide it isn't a very pretty sight. The first battle between Shana and Margery ended poorly for Shana and now she has to face Friagne and Margery in order to uphold her mission in life.

Meanwhile, Yuji begins to learn more and more of the world he has been thrown into as another Crimson Denizen explains more about Existences and the powers they hold. Unfortunately, Yuji doesn't seem to yet notice that a certain girl has taken an interest in him...

The Review!
Resolving at least three plotlines that the series kicked off with, Shana leaves you feeling satisfied and ready to tackle more of the larger mystery.

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 installment lets us have a look at the disparity between Shana and Margery, each of them definitely having their own appeal. I love that they kept Shana with her flame red hair for this. She looks great with the dark hair but this just has her looking really menacing. With the framed style and the less than distinct but spot on light background to it, this is a very striking cover that really just looks great. The back cover is a bit more subdued than this as its 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 Margery from the front cover. 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:
Though we lost the commentary tracks for this show, we do manage to score the very cute and mildly informative Naze Nani Shana videos, which are like little glossary pieces that have some of the cast talking about the terms. The first couple of them are included here and they're quite cute and add a bit of levity to a dark show. Also included is a clean version of the ending sequence and a new production gallery that includes full color pieces.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shana's opening volume really paved the way for something that seemed really interesting. With the focus initially in Yuji and his having to deal with the fact that he'd been dead for some time before he even came across Shana gave the show something of an edge over an otherwise seemingly standard story concept. The focus is spread out across more of the cast in this volume though Yuji's relevance " and existence " continues to be the central focus.

With the introductions in the first volume out of the way, we've been left with three or four plot areas going on. The first one, and most prominent, is that of Friagne along with Marianne as they work towards their mysterious goal. The encounters so far between Friagne and Shana have not gone well and the additional conflict of having to deal with Margery has left Shana in a really bad spot. This storyline runs through the first couple of episodes on this volume as Shana realizes that things are changing for her because of her ties to Yuji. She's been intent on simply protecting him for now but she's coming to the realization that he's much more useful to her, not only in giving her more confidence but also boosting her innate abilities.

Another plot line that converges with the Friagne one continues to involve Lamies and his method of slowly capturing Torches that are about to wink out of existence. This places him in a different category than other Denizen's for a few reasons, since he's not altering reality by upsetting the balance. Another reason that we learn is that he has been doing this for centuries in order to achieve his unstated objectives, and he's built up an immense amount of power because of it. If he should be struck down, it would likely be catastrophic on not only the city he's in but the region in general. While Lamies isn't exactly a benevolent Denizen, he is the type that you have to make sure fits within the rules of how a Flame Haze acts since it's not black and white.

The third major plotline, and one that is resolved in some ways but open in others, revolves around Yuji and his relationship with Shana. With his being a Torch, it provided for an interesting angle on the character, though not something unique since we've seen people with short lives as lead characters. Where things change for Yuji during this set of episodes is that he has to deal with the realization more that who he is now really is a Torch but it's someone who can still make a difference. What he doesn't understand yet is that his presence, potentially the Mystes inside him, serves to give Shana more power. His personality and companionship with her has brought about a raised confidence but there's much more to the relationship. As he now feels that he must fight by her side, provide real help to her, it's turning into something that may be a first for a Flame Haze.

While it isn't a major plot point during these episodes, Margery Daw gets a bit more exposition here as we get a quick glimpse of her past but also a bit more about her methodology. Her companion Marcosias is also quite amusing and the pair provide a good violence-lusting angle to the show. Most everyone else so far has been precise and articulate about what they're after and in their methods whereas these two simple go for the jugular. But even there, she's starting to change a bit after dealing with a couple of humans for awhile. Margery seems to fill the role of a catalyst in these early episodes as she causes quite a lot to happen in her thirst for eliminating the Denizens. .

In Summary:
Shana is a show that is growing and evolving but doing it a bit more slowly than some other shows. It's done a wonderful job in breaking some of the tradition of drawing out initial plotlines for the entire series by actually wrapping up a few things so quickly. It continues to keep its atmosphere very intriguing and has a very distinct feel and flow to it. Shana isn't a groundbreaking show but it's a very solid piece of entertainment that uses an interesting hook in its first couple of episodes and manages to hold you well long afterwards.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Clean Ending,
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.

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