Shana Vol. #5 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • 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. #5

By Chris Beveridge     May 10, 2007
Release Date: May 01, 2007


Shana Vol. #5
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
Kazumi Yoshida was just an ordinary girl in love and that was the extent of her trouble. That is until she meets Khamsin, the Flame Haze that shows her what the real world is like. Her relationship with Yuji is about to tackle new obstacles as Shana fights with her own growing sense of self and her feelings towards Yuji. Then when Wirhelmina re-appears, Shana's life begins to fall into place, however, there are some things that were never meant to be...


The Review!
Struggling with plans for the future amidst teenage angst, the mad Professor makes his play for power with a truly mad experiment.

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, the pairings continue with the very Lolita-like designs being accented heavily. This time around it's Kazumi and Kashim together in their standard apparel. It's very detailed and wonderfully designed as it fits the way these two characters are presented. 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 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 and a clean version of the second opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As Shana progresses along we get to see some fair growth among the many characters that now populate this world. In between the main arcs which are very well wrapped up each time there are quiet moments that build up who these people really are as they discover themselves. This time around though, the character growth is tied directly to the main storyline as the future beckons for several of them.

With the general idea that it's getting close to the time when Shana has to leave Misaki City, the question that's up in the air for her is whether or not Yuji will come with her. Her growing feelings for him are naturally confusing for her but she continues to try and go with what she feels is right. The amusing part is how much it seems to domesticate her she has Yuji's mother teach her things like cooking and proper dress. Having to compete against Kazumi certainly gives her the motivation though she's not handled her interactions with her well. Shana's style and personality make the moments where she goes through these situations particularly amusing.

At the time that she's doing that, Kazumi is struggling with similar emotions as she doesn't want to lose out to Shana over Yuji. That's given her the confidence to express her feelings to him and she intends to do just that at the festival that's a couple of days away. For Kazumi however, an encounter with Kashim brings a new perspective to her world. Kashim has formalized his plans to tune the city and he requires someone with an honest and emotional view of the city to help bring it back into balance. He's drawn to Kazumi over this due to the resonance she now has in dealing with Yuji and Shana. Using her isn't a bad thing but to do so he has to awaken her to the reality of how many people have been lost. With the help of a Treasure, she's able to see what's really going on though she's afraid to check out where Yuji stands in this manner.

Not unlike earlier volumes however, Margery and her cohorts provide some of the best material to watch. The relationship she has with the two young men has proven to be the most unusual one in the series. With the time drawing near to move on to another city that has Denizens in it, she's working things in a way to let them off as easily as possible since she's become so close to them. They don't quite realize it and see the incentive being given to them as a means through which they can continue on with her. They aren't thralls in the technical sense but they are so drawn to her and want to help that they'll go to whatever lengths she tells them. With their lives being so useless in their minds, Margery has given them purpose and they've really worked to provide her with the support she's likely never had before.

As much character growth and key moments as there are in here, particularly as Yuji confronts the reality of the emotions the women around him have, there is also a good deal of action. The arrival of the mad Professor and his plans provide some great looking visuals as he's intent on doing something that none of them have seen before. When you have people like Shana, Margery and Kashim looking blankly at what he's unleashed it becomes obvious that he's gifted in his own way. With the distortion in the city being as bad as it is, his move puts the entire city at risk. Having seen most of the sides of working either against each other or grudgingly with each other up through now, seeing them all work together while grappling with emotional issues at the same time makes for a solid experience. The heart strings get tugged but not in a way that feels so wholly intentional.

In Summary:
The nature of storytelling in Shana continues to set it apart from most other series. At the same time, having characters like these will give the impression that it's just another show with stereotypical characters. Yet when you have someone like Yuji who doesn't fall into the typical milksop lead right from the start or someone like Margery who has some real affection for her underlings, it's able to move and grow in other ways. There continues to be some enjoyable comedy mixed into the show but in general it manages to play that balance just right while keeping it a mostly serious series. Shana stands out as a very enjoyable show that doesn't try and dumb itself down or appeal to the widest audience possible. With a concept that has a lead character that's essentially dead, it has plenty of dark material to work with and does so just right. This set of episodes has some great payoff as well as setting the stage for the finale where anything can happen.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production Art Gallery, 'Textless 2nd Ending Animation,Naze Nani Shana Video extra


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.

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