Shakugan no Shana III – 02 Review
Oh, cry me a river… Just get on with it, goddamnit! You’re trying to kill her, you know! And that has nothing to do with having a polite conversation about the good ol’ times…
Well, imagine someone tries to give you really good advice and tells you: ‘Compare cheese and sushi, it’s often the latter that smells worse if you give it some time. But smell it the day each of them is created – and you may think different.’. So ponder about that for a while and what kind of advice this is. Let’s not make it too exciting and let me just tell you what it means: Time changes things. Simple as that. And this is the kind of dialogue you get to hear in Shakugan no Shana III’s second episode. So, if you like persons who when they want to tell you simple facts about time start talking about cheese and sushi then this very well may be the kind of episode you like to see. For the rest I can just advise to be patient because Yuuji has a plan – and it doesn’t involve the Toothfairy and the Marshmallow Man.
Shanghai’s Outlaw-branch gets massacred but nobody’s disturbed because they were always the creepy outsiders of the Outlaw-organization. After that Sophie writes Shana in a letter of this and tells her to “become one with herself” which baffled Shana enough to distract her from concentrating on the training. Meanwhile over at Bel Masque Mission Control Centre, Yuuji together with his staff ponder about the appeal of winter as he prepares to give an audience. Starting the audience, he’s interrupted by “Little Billy” who can’t believe how a weak Mystes could become their leader so he attacks Yuuji – and gets his ass handed to him on a silver-plate. Shana after pondering the appeal of listening figures out what she has to do by having Margery and Wilhemina tell her what Sophie actually wanted to tell her. The following morning Saeki departs taking a special sensor with him telling him when a Crimson Denizen is near. On the train to Tokyo the sensor already activates telling him of the presence of a strong Crimson Denizen but panicked Saeki realizes that it’s hard to escape from a driving train. But the problem is solved as the Evil Dude was luckily on the other train driving towards the good guys town. And as the passengers exit the Evil Dude is revealed to be – Yuuji! Exactly, Yuuji’s back in town!
I actually thought that she meant for Shana to quite the lame Tsundere-act… Tsundere generally aren’t quite that ‘one with themselves’, right?
Shakugan no Shana III doesn’t make it easy for the audience to take it seriously. The second episode tries to continue its build-up for the promised fight between Yuuji and Shana but do we stick with the series because of the end or the journey? That’s what everyone should ask himself while watching this episode.
Sympathy is a resource nearly every series tries to build up with its characters to make their actions exciting and the audience interested in their fate. Only natural that a series that used over fifty episodes to use the obvious potential of having likely an audience that feels sympathetic towards the characters but as the series tries to concentrate on things like that ‘spotlights’ are created. ‘Spotlights’ that try to highlight the characters the audience has learned to love and care for so what happens is that the entire ‘stage’ is clouded in darkness just so that the characters are even more outstanding and easy to see. One thing you notice when something’s like this is done when characters walk around like their birth was the second coming of Jesus or something. Overpowered by rising up to the challenge again and again can be done only so often without reaching ridiculous heights of power-demonstration when this is done on the sole basis of just making everything stronger. In the end the plot doesn’t even need a setting anymore what it really comes down at such a point is the personal bickering between ‘spot-lighted’ characters. So when Yuuji faces a challenger who doubts his power it isn’t really used for anything noteworthy besides telling us what this is really about – Yuuji. And that all the other monsters are basically expendable.
The second episode tries to make out of this some kind of epic world-changing conflict but the story that’s told here isn’t epic at all. This story is about the relationship between Shana and Yuuji, the action is only the popcorn for the sentimentality at the heart of this series. And it’s not only sentimental, it’s also really goddamn soapy. These dialogues! Seriously, I love Lord of the Rings as much as the next person but there’s a point where these theatricals just become a waste of time. Such things should be used only to express complexity but as simple as the story of Shakugan no Shana is it’s just a cheap spice to make the whole thing seem epic. The best example is Shana’s predicament in this episode as she got the tip ‘to become one with herself’. And Shana is asking herself: ‘What does that mean?’ And well, you know what? It can mean an awful lot from where I’m standing! If trying to sound theatrical means that the dialogue sounds unpractical then it’s just too much. I know, some will say that no good drama likes to be straightforward with its meaning but there you can figure the meaning out by looking at the context and what the general message is. It’s just useless when the dialogue becomes an exchange of Delphic oracle-quotes that I only can figure out by someone saying later what actually this person wanted to say. If it’s a oracle-character, okay, fine with me, it’s obvious why such a character would talk like that but when normal characters try to give advice like that I seriously doubt that the story is trying to stay plausible. Instead it all gets a soapy mess of theatricals.
With the second episode it usually is… But I guess it’s a nice notion that it will all end with a big party. At least, it would explain why nobody’s having fun in this series right now: they all save up their funny jokes for the big party at the end!
What this soapy mess also does is making simple dialogues time-wasting exercises. The second episode is still very slow and I’m kinda happy that there’s no training Yuuji despite what was said in last week’s preview. Well, he does get some training but it’s more a kind of farce telling us that he has the power of God and the resilience of a cockroach. As for Shana, her training wasn’t very entertaining. I mean, it was just her pondering about what the words of the ‘oracle’ meant and as soon as she had hit the jackpot (after someone explained it in simpler terms than the ‘oracle’ naturally) she got a power-up. I just love it when strength is just a matter of attitude… The earth would be ruled by optimists and directed by idealists but I guess fluffy clouds and rainbows are all we get to see from that dream in this reality.
What I liked about the episode were just little moments that I think could become something interesting hopefully. The way the Crimson Denizens interacted could become an interesting way of making the evil guys something else besides a part of the play ‘Rambo vs. the universe’. I’m a great fan of these stories that try to paint a picture full of moral ambiguity and humanizing the evil dudes is a step into the right direction. Of course, it shouldn’t go so far as that I’m expected to cry when one of them dies. And Saeki is still my favourite character of the bunch because he has an interesting story to share with his will to make a difference in a world that could eat him at any moment. Now that’s the kind of ambiance I’m talking about when I mean ‘exciting’. Seeing Shana ponder about conundrums and Yuuji being a prick with his power isn’t really that exciting… Ah, and the fight the episode opened with was just light and colours supported by meaningless banter.
The episode continues its slow build-up towards the final fight between Shana and Yuuji. A theatrical ambiance throughout the episode may test the patience of some as it’s often needlessly exaggerated and far too soapy. But the plot moves forward and it’s inevitable that we get to see real action at some point. In the end it could’ve been worse with the flaws this episode showed.