Ashita no Anime

Anime of Tomorrow

Tag Archives: Shakugan no Shana

Anime of the Year 2012 (6 to 12)

Fellow Aniblogger Justin at Anti-Social Geniuses has brought to my attention my need to network better with other bloggers.  He participated in a Bloggers’ Choice Best Anime of 2012 collaborative rating project done by another blogger, Kiddtic, and while it’s too late for me to enter according to his rules, I’ve still decided to expand my anime of the year list out to twelve titles for two reasons. The first being that it seems most other people have lists longer than a top five and so I’ve given in to peer pressure and I’m following suit.  The second reason is because reading some other anime of the year lists has reminded me just how important my existence in the AniBlogger community is, since I find myself agreeing with only one or two of the ten or so anime that most people seemed to have picked as their favorites for 2012.

Being that one of my missions here is to represent my own taste in anime when nobody else seems to be challenging the majority, I feel compelled to shine my own—admittedly small—spotlight on the series I feel deserved more credit than most Anibloggers were willing to give.  And so begins the bottom seven of my top twelve anime of 2012.

Misaki knows more than she lets on.12. Another

Most horror series don’t interest me in the slightest.  So when this well-written title actually gave me chills and tingled my spine, I can’t possibly fail to give my honors to an anime that I found to be genuinely scary. This one takes the title of Horror Anime of the Year.

 

Shana prepares her attack, looking every bit the beatiful fire angel11. Shakugan no Shana III (Final)

To say the last installment of the story about the flame-haired, burning-eyed hunter saved the franchise would be an overstatement. But it was definitely a sharp wrap-up to a truly rolling epic.

 

Ichika is straightforward and honest...most of the time.10. Ano Natsu de Matteru

I always have a soft spot for “summer adventure” stories and this one was really fun; filled with strong, kindhearted friends, humorous trouble-making, a difficult romance to sort out and…aliens. It’s the best Romance Anime of the Year.

 

Yuuko remains cheerful, despite not knowing her own past.9. Dusk Maiden of Amnesia

The literal “ghost president” of the occult club proved to be a playful, creative, ironic and perceptive look at people’s beliefs and reactions towards unexplained phenomenon.

 

Sakamoto returns in time to be a hero8. BTOOOM!

There have been survival game / battle royal anime a plenty over the past few years, but most have lacked this anime’s emotional psychology that really gets into the mind of people pushed to the edge.

 

Sweats Club spirit!7. Rinne no Lagrange

With a really strong story focused on the topsy-turvy, but bright friendship of the three leading ladies, colorful side characters and some well-paced battles, I pronounce this to be the Mecha Anime of the Year.

 

The Fire Sisters, Karen and Tsukihi6. Nisemonogatari

Nishio Ishin is a master at creating weirdly funny, twistedly creative and insightful adventures that really challenge us to look at the world in new ways.

 

 

This list continues with my top five here.

Advertisements

Shakugan no Shana III Final (review)

Impression – the end of a legend that unfortunately, may not endure (8/10)

Fall 2011 to winter 2012 (24 episodes) (title literal translation – Shana of Burning Eyes, English synonym – Shana the Fire-Eyed)

After Yuji recovered Reiji Maigo from Bal Masque he, Shana and Kazumi resumed their Christmas Eve. It was to be Yuji’s responsibility to choose between the two girls in order to settle their rivalry in romance once and for all. But something happened that neither of his wooing ladies expected. Yuji just disappeared. It was as if his existence as a torch had been snuffed out as all of his possessions and remnants of him through the memories of others simply vanished. But Shana sensed that he still existed…somewhere. So they had no choice but to resume their lives as best they could and wait for his return.

For all of you who were put off by Shana II much more than I was, let me start by saying that Shana III is undeniably better. Gone is the love triangle between Yuji, Shana and Kazumi…as well as pretty much everything else to do with school life in general. It’s back to the much more action-packed style we saw in the first season that favors story progression. Please do try to ignore the first three or so recap episodes that start Shana III in a pitiful attempt to get new viewers up to speed. Rest assured that the old format is finally back, but it’s much colder and calculated—fitting of two worlds on the brink of war.

Although it tries its best to bring back everything that made season 1 awesome, there are a lot of new problems in Shana III that just can’t be overlooked. The most difficult for me to grudgingly accept was probably unavoidable because of where the story needs to go—the ever-expanding cast that seems to grow by about five characters each episode for the first half of the series. It gets really hard to keep track of names and loyalties after a while, especially when they only get about a thirty second introduction and then reappear a few episodes later to finish the tasks they’ve been given—major, plot-altering assignments at that. Occasionally, I had to just sit back and let them do their thing and most of them are so poorly characterized their presence hardly seems necessary.

Yes, I understand that this is war and there’s a hierarchy of commander and subordinates all playing their part in the big picture that needs to be established. But a lot of this is fine details that I feel could have been done without. It leads to getting things spread too thin and I wish Shana and Yuji could have had a stronger presence. Either that, or some of the bigger players should have been allowed a more gradual introduction so we could get to know them better and care about why they’re taking part in this endeavor—even if they’re just going to die in a few episodes. At least then it wouldn’t have felt like such a waste.

But as I said in my Shana II review, the amount of dead time back in the second season starts to show very clearly in the third because so much material is getting crammed in to make a mad rush to the conclusion. So while Shana II was painfully slow, Shana III has the exact opposite problem of being almost too fast to keep up.

But there’s a lot of high points, too. The psychological attributes of season 1 that had been mostly absent in season 2 have made a strong comeback. It’s also managed to up the ante from Shana I and push the limits a lot higher. Shana I simply dealt with the nature of existence on a very platonic level. But Shana III addresses a deeper theme in the purpose of existence. There are some very strong concepts dealing with loss of direction in one’s life as everything you devoted yourself to becomes irrelevant and a future full of nothing but aimless emptiness is all that waits after several lifetimes devoted to a single-minded cause that has suddenly disappeared. But if freed from this burden, there is also a chance to discover a new, greater cause if you manage to not despair and broaden your focus to look at the big picture.

One thing that has always endured through the Shana story is the very clear understanding that the Crimson Denizens are not all evil. Just as you wouldn’t call a lion evil for killing a zebra, the bad guys have always been simply acting on their nature, even if at times the terms excess and greed could be applied to their methods. Particularly in Shana III we are given a difficult-to-handle dilemma of just who is actually on the right side during this war—the Denizens attempting to achieve their own, personal paradise or the Flame Hazes who zealously deem such a paradise nothing but a dangerous delusion.

The ending manages to find a compromise between these two extremes, but it doesn’t feel half-hearted or conciliatory. It instead goes for a tone of understanding and inevitability even if that isn’t something that adequately ties up every loose end. And as much as I like the characters of Shana and Yuji as separate entities, the two could have avoided a lot of pain and suffering they inflicted on each other unnecessarily if they had just sat down and talked things through honestly, which is a sad little detail that undermines a lot of the dramatic strife of this series.

I’ll say it again, Shana III is better than Shana II because it takes a lot of cues from Shana I, making itself into a nice wrap-up to a really great franchise. The battles are suitably epic in the smart, well-composed flow that is a hallmark of the action sequences in the Shana series. It’s let down by a few writing and pacing problems, but overall is a solid and thought-provoking anime.

Shakugan no Shana II Second (review)

Impression – an epic fumble that does manage to recover a little (7/10)

Fall 2007 to winter 2008 (24 episodes) (title literal translation – Shana of Burning Eyes, English synonym – Shana the Fire-Eyed)

Picking up right where Shana I left off Yuji, Shana and Kazumi are confronted by a new classmate whose appearance so closely resembles Hecate—a powerful Crimson Lord they recently faced—that it goes beyond mere coincidence.  However, after their suspicions turn out to be unfounded, Fumina Konoe is found to be a rather nice, if simple-minded girl from a wealthy family who needs a friend.  Much to the dismay of Shana and Kazumi she attaches herself to Yuji and the four friends indulge in enjoying the summertime youth of their first year in high school.  But a few other strange occurrences surrounding Fumina keep them on edge and only time will reveal her true nature.

After such a spectacular first season, it was always going to be hard for a sequel to live up to that kind of quality, but to fall this far was truly sad.  It goes from a psychological, action series with romance elements to a low-key aimless high school drama (at least for the first half).  Season one dealt with big issues such as the nature of existence and season two’s change of tone is so jarring it doesn’t even feel like the same anime anymore.  The characters have also taken on such a wishy-washy passive-aggressive attitude it’s hard to believe the half-baked romantic rivalries that dominate much of this second season.  It’s clear that Yuji wants to be with Shana, but combined with his gentle nature and Kazumi’s home wrecker attitude that just won’t let him go, there’s no shortage of frustration in the direction of the plot.  And if this love triangle that’s already been well established wasn’t bad enough, Hecate’s way-to-obvious clone Fumina Konoe turns the triangle into a pyramid with the all-too-trusty Yuji being exploited left and right because he can’t find his backbone.

The second half of this series does manage to head back in the right direction and attempts to recapture the spirit of its predecessor, but by then it’s really nothing more than a simple matter of too little too late.  To its credit, the ending is spectacular; crowned by an epic battle that really satisfies with its brilliantly constructed flow and amazingly intelligent strategy as characters on both sides take advantage of the changing battlefield.  Also satisfactory is the final scene that, while a bit of a cliffhanger, at least gives the distinct impression that the indecisive romance that plagued the rest of this season has finally come to an end.

The most telling failing of the second season really gets revealed in the third season because it highlights how little actually happened in Shana II, making everything feel empty and futile.  What was the purpose of this series in the grand picture of the whole Shana franchise?  If it was to establish Shana as Yuji’s official love interest, we pretty much already figured that at the end of season one.  The cool, insightful Yuji of the previous season who was Shana’s greatest pillar of support also stagnates horribly—making him into a football that the characters good and bad pass around and occasionally punt to satisfy their own objectives.

All this negativity could easily be misinterpreted that Shana II is a bad anime, when it is absolutely nothing of the sort.  It’s just…well…a little above average…and that makes it pale in comparison to the awesomeness that was Shana I.  It’s really just an unacceptable fall from grace that highlights the wasted potential that deserved much better than this.

Anime of the Week (3/25 – 3/31)

Anime of the Week – Zero no Tsukaima F
I’ve always been enamored by the undeniable charm of this series. Though occasionally romantic, sometimes ecchi and often hokey doesn’t sound like the best formula, it’s a really fun story.
March 25 Zero F Ep. 12 It was a bumpy road for Saito and Louise, but the final season of the series got it right and gave them a great finale.
Shana III Ep. 24 It was a nice ending to a roller coaster of a series. But it also squished in a lot of story that really needed more time.
March 26 Rinne Ep. 12 I didn’t care for the flashback-style order of events in this episode, but it was a nice send off while we wait for season 2.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 23 There seems to be a lot of shadowy motives floating around in this series. But I’m glad Yukiteru now knows the truth.
March 27 Another Ep. 12 As much of an exaggerated slasher this series turned into, it continued to be smart about how it dealt with the curse of 3-3.
Ano Natsu Ep. 12 As smooth as this anime was, the ending was really hokey. It completely did not match the tone of the rest of the series.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Shakugan no Shana (review)

Final impression – a triumphant beginning (10/10)

Autumn 2005 to winter 2006 (24 episodes + 1 OVA) (title literal translation – Shana of Burning Eyes, English synonym – Shana the Fire-Eyed)

High school has started and Yuji Sakai is already making the most of his youth.  But on his way home one day he steps into a sealed zone that is separated from the normal flow of time.  In here, he is attacked by monsters intent on devouring this strange human who can move within their trap.  But at the last second he is saved by a beautiful girl with flaming red hair; easily overpowering his attackers.  But despite protecting him from the monsters, it turns out Yuji Sakai is already dead.  His existence was eaten by a denizen of the Crimson World some time ago and all that remains of him is a tiny spark that will soon burn out.  He decides to spend his last few days before he disappears in the company of his savior, aiding her in any way that he can before he is gone without a trace.  However, a fortunate turn of events may give him an unexpected reprieve from oblivion.

Shakugan no Shana is a spectacular story.  It starts with the initial, horrifying concept of the enemies of humanity consuming people’s very existence as energy, leaving nothing behind to remember them by.  It’s a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness that is dramatically mitigated by Yuji’s ability to keep a positive attitude about the whole situation.  He never despairs and is always thinking about how he can best make use of his limited potential.  It’s a testament to the tremendous strength of character people can exhibit when cornered by the most trying circumstances.  The series expands on its intellectual, action-filled beginning and moves into a more romantic theme as the steely Shana realizes that she’s not an emotionless killing machine and her feelings for Yuji go beyond mere camaraderie.  Even the final battle is more than it superficially appears to be because the plot never misses a chance to include a thought-provoking discussion about the characters’ inner motives.  And then to top of the amazing writing is the gorgeous art style of Ito Noizi and excellent music courtesy of Mami Kawada, KOTOKO and several other bands and singers who knew just the right style to set the mood for this epic series.  In short, the first season of Shakugan no Shana struck a perfect balance between fighting, philosophy, artistic tone and romance to create an amazingly profound first season.

Anime of the Week (3/18 – 3/24)

Anime of the Week – Black★Rock Shooter
Ever since it debuted halfway through the winter 2012 season, this series has been far and beyond the best in so many ways.
March 18 Nisemonogatari Ep. 11 This series always performs well when it focuses on its strong point. Its intellectual dialogue is always awesome.
Zero F Ep. 11 If your loved one sent you away to protect you, would you honor their protective wishes or do everything you could to return?
March 19 Mirai Nikki Ep. 22 This was a brutal episode. But all these cliffhangers and mysteries are starting to annoy me. Are they really necessary?
Rinne Ep. 11 Sure enough, Madoka went berserk in Vox Aura. But I’m confused. When a pilot loses control don’t bad things usually happen?
March 20 Another Ep. 11 It seems we’ve reached the breaking point of sanity. How will this curse be brought to an end and what will be the cost?
Shana III Ep. 23 In some ways the battle is over and in other ways this is just a minor change in the status quo, but it was most elegant.
Ano Natsu Ep. 11 Seriously!! Just who is Remon? Things are getting a little ridiculous, but it’s still a lot of fun so I’m not too annoyed.
March 23 Guilty Crown Ep. 22 Talk about crunch time. A pretty series with an interesting concept falls flat with a rushed and empty ending. =(
March 24 BRS Ep. 8 The winding path this series takes belies its actual simplicity. Telling such a straightforward story so beautifully is amazing.
Persona 4 Ep. 24 Ah… all the secrets are getting revealed. I really love this part since all the subtle clues were there all along.
Amagami+ Ep. 12 It seems the Morishima family is full of bad girls. After jumping through all those hoops I’m glad he got the good ending.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week (3/11 – 3/17)

Anime of the Week – Black★Rock Shooter
This series has been fantastic; touching on intellectual insights and covering the difficult intricacies of relationships, all while creatively slipping in some epic fight scenes. But now that Mato has to face herself, what will the ending yield?
March 11 Persona 4 Ep. 22 How will the anime address the video game’s bad ending? Will there be a new spin or will it just cut right to the good end?
Nisemonogatari Ep. 10 As this series winds down, it’s turning away from the intellectual tone that made Bakemonogatari so philosophical.
Zero F Ep. 10 The current plot point serves no other purpose than to put Louise and Saito’s love in jeopardy, which makes it feel hollow.
March 12 Rinne Ep. 10 More team building followed by a threat of war and losing something precious as well. But what’s at stake is still unknown.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 21 This was such a satisfying episode that was well worth the wait. But, why do new mysteries suddenly keep appearing?
March 13 Another Ep. 10 When desperate people get cornered, there’s no telling what they’ll do. What will be the result of their hasty conclusions?
March 14 Ano Natsu Ep. 10 Things feel like they’re wrapping up nicely. A little love and a little heartbreak leads into this anime’s last segment.
Shana III Ep. 22 What tricks does Yuji have to pull this turn of events back in his favor? Will his last resort be venting his frustration?
March 16 Guilty Crown Ep. 21 As the story winds down, everyone puts their faith in Shu while he honors their trust by praising their humanity.
BRS Ep. 7 Things are really starting to move. How will Mato resolve her fight with Yuu? And how will Yomi play a role in wrapping things up?
March 17 Amagami+ Ep. 11 Haruka is such a bad girl. The way that Junichi plays along with her silly, often frightening antics is hilarious to watch.
Persona 4 Ep. 23 Now that the mysteries are getting solved, I’m suddenly getting a desire to replay the last few battles of the video game.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 2/26 – 3/3

Anime of the Week – Black★Rock Shooter
How does the link between the real world characters and the other selves work? The connection is taking shape and the consequences of actions in the other world reveal something far bigger than initially expected.
February 26 Zero F Ep. 8 This was a rather ordinary episode to lead into the next segment of the series. How will these loose ends get sewn up?
February 27 Shana III Ep. 20 The series just seems to be driving along at a steady pace without any bumps in the road to make things more exciting.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 8 It’s all part of the fun of watching this anime, but sometimes I don’t understand how what’s going on is relevant.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 20 The survival game is almost over. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the for-TV censoring that appears a lot in this anime.
Rinne Ep. 8 I’m glad to see this series has addressed the issue of where the humans who are living on other planets originally came from.
Feburary 28 Another Ep. 8 It’s starting to strike me that the writing is getting more and more contrived in its ways to get Misaki into the story. Hmmm
February 29 Ano Natsu Ep. 8 This episode was a lot of fun. Some big secrets got revealed, but there’s still more—Lemon’s identity being one of them.
Persona 4 Ep. 19 Why are the side stories more interesting than the main plot? It must be how well the bonus material adds to video game.
Persona 4 Ep. 20 The past few episodes were a nice diversion with good timing since there’s nobody to rescue. But it’s time for some action.
March 2 Amagami+ Ep. 9 I think I’d like Sae’s story much better if it wasn’t for that annoying narrator. He’s funny at times, but too obvious.
Guilty Crown Ep. 19 The climax of this episode was way too predictable. This was merely a pathway to the trials that are coming next.
BRS Ep. 5 Why is this show so good? The formula is simple, but there’s majesty in watching this visual metaphor reveal its deeper meaning.
March 3 Shana III Ep. 21 I’m glad to see more subtly in this battle than I’d originally assumed. Conflict other than physical violence adds depth.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 2/5 – 2/11

Anime of the Week – Another
As more of the history behind the strangeness of class 3-3 gets revealed, the mystery evolves just enough to hold your interest but still keep you filled with anticipation.
February 5 Amagami+ Ep. 3 There’s something refreshing about the personalities of the girls in this anime. They’re all so unique and likeable.
Inu x Boku SS Ep. 4 Natsume is really creepy. If the purpose of this episode was to introduce some new characters it wasn’t done well.
February 6 Rinne Ep. 5 I like these moments in stories when people’s true nature gets revealed. This was a cool twist setting up what will come next.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 5 I think we’re starting to get into the meat of the plot. Sadly, there was a serious lack of cleverness this episode.
Feburary 7 Mirai Nikki Ep. 15 I totally knew that was going to happen based on the large amount of foreshadowing. That was dissatisfyingly predictable.
Black★Rock Shooter Ep. 1 Initial impression – a rough diamond http://wp.me/p1Gaby-hz
Another Ep. 5 It’s finally making sense, but it’s still far from finished. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see what happens next.
February 8 Mirai Nikki Ep. 16 Yukiteru’s dad is too desperate and selfish. But I’d really like to understand why Minene is acting so altruistic.
Mirai Nikki Ep. 17 The line between action and inaction and the associated guilt or innocence of being a bystander is not clearly defined.
Zero F Ep. 2 What this series lacks in complexity, it makes up for with a compelling pace that makes you want to keep watching.
February 9 Shana III Ep. 16 I want to know what role Pheres will play in the upcoming battle. She’s a random element that will make things interesting.
Shana III Ep. 17 I love these kinds of meaningful conflicts in which each side is principled and neither has clearly good or evil motives.
Ano Natsu Ep. 5 How fast will the story proceed now that the secrets are getting revealed? Next is the obligatory swimsuit episode. -_-
February 11 Amagami+ Ep. 4 Ordinary girl Rihoko gets a fairly simple ending to her love story. It’s happy and elegant without being sappy.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.

Anime of the Week 1/29 – 2/4

Anime of the Week – Nisemonogatari
Despite the very different direction of its plot, the writing of Nisemonogatari is living up to the standard of excellence that made Bakemonogatari awesome.
January 29 Amagami+ Ep. 2 A somewhat ordinary, but cute conclusion. I’m a big fan of those moments when an icy girl’s personality starts to melt.
Mashiro-iro Ep. 9 Panya is supposed to be a cat, but why does she look nothing like the other cats in this series? It’s somewhat disturbing.
January 30 Mashiro-iro Ep. 10 That was an exciting, emotional twist. My interest in this series almost reached the point that I was going to drop it.
Mashiro-iro Ep. 11 This anime handles its romance pretty cowardly. At this point I’m not sure what compelled me to continue this series.
Mashiro-iro Ep. 12 After watching a generally mediocre anime, it felt really rewarding to have such an awesome finale. Bye bye Pannya! ^_^
January 31 Another Ep. 4 I totally knew that was going to happen based on the large amount of foreshadowing. That was dissatisfyingly predictable.
Ano Natsu Ep. 4 The setup has now finished. The mishaps of the first three episodes have been cleared and the real story can finally start.
February 1 Rinne Ep. 3 How serious does this anime want to be? At first it’s mecha in rather slow battles, then it tries too hard to be uplifting.
Rinne Ep. 4 Oh c’mon…did they seriously continue the swimming race while someone was drowning right in the middle of the course?
February 2 Nisemonogatari Ep. 2 Gosh this anime is a master of language. The poetic meanderings of twisting conversation is amazing in its complexity.
February 3 Guilty Crown Ep. 15 This was an episode filled with big transformations. How will this new Shu deal with the trials that he’s going to face?
Nisemonogatari Ep. 3 As the plot thickens I’m increasingly absorbed. This anime creates its own powerful gravity and I’m rendered helpless.
February 4 Shana III Ep. 15 There were some really brilliant moments in the battle, but I feel it was far too complicated to have been so effective.
Nisemonogatari Ep. 4 I can’t recall Shinobu talking much in Bakemonogatari, but I like her character after her conversation with Araragi.

*You could have read these tweets in real time as I updated my status by following me on Twitter.