Shakugan no Shana III – 03-05 Review
The worst thing about this remark is that it wasn’t a meta-fictional joke – despite that it is one. This series takes itself far too serious overall forgetting how generic and cliché the whole plot actually is.
Episode 03: Yuuji In Search Of Lost Time
Episode 04: Yuuji Is… ‘Nobody’s Hero’ (A Generic Tale About Stuff Someone Does But Shouldn’t Actually)
Episode 05: Shana’s ‘I Need To Be Rescued’-Blues
Well, waiting some episodes to write a review of three episodes showed me that Shana III actually doesn’t go anywhere – except it will do just that… in the far distant future, that is. Yuuji probably must be the least evil villain of this season with his ignorant and naive attitude towards killing a few hundred people to change the world. Five episodes and the Great Epic War is still in planning. Why? Because it’s so exciting to debate endlessly apparently. The bad guys just enjoy debating endlessly about their strategy without ever doing anything. It’s just like they want to become a bunch of stoic philosophers sitting on their asses whining about the state of the world while pondering about the advantages of whining. Shana III won’t excite you but it will teach you that apparently love is a poor motivation for a war-story.
Yuuji has some fun taking a walk through his hometown imagining all the shit that has happened to him there since he met Shana. Now in retrospection these are events looked upon with a feeling that makes him fuzzy and warm. After kind-of forgetting how he was scared like shit in this life-threatening situations his introspections end when he meets Shana who’s still in denial regarding his recent career-move.
Shana and Yuuji begin to fight but it’s apparent that Shana is outclassed and even Margery and Willhemina can’t turn the tide. The good guys get pwned for real when Yuuji reveals to know the truth about the Silver Margery is searching. But the truth is that Margery was a big jerk in her younger days and that it’s her fault for summoning the Silver who massacred all the people who she secretly hated (since she is a jerk she couldn’t do it herself naturally). But somehow Margery forgot about that part of the story which causes her to fall into a coma. I guess nobody takes it very well to discover how much of a jerk one really can be. Yuuji departs without any resistance and takes the unconscious Shana with him to the magic map of the city. There he tells the other girl that she’s out of the race for his love and therefore irrelevant. He takes the magic map with him as he leaves for Bel Masque Mission Control Centre.
Shana is a prisoner in a golden cage bereft of her powers and Alastor. She sulks and the only thing keeping her spirits up are fluffy memories of the past telling her she actually managed to make friends at some point. Yuuji tries to explain to her what he wants to do but it doesn’t really sounds like the kind of plan anybody would root for because there’s no plan at all. Yuuji fancies himself some kind of wishing-cow changing the world just because he wishes it to be the way he wants it to be like. As he tries to show his feelings for Shana he gets rejected by her who has a panic-attack just because Yuuji is near her. The rest of Bel Masque meanwhile talks about their strategy for the coming war and sort-of forgets that they don’t have all the time in the world for discussing this shit. But it’s entertaining for them (and not the audience) and that’s why they do it.
It’s the only kind of entertainment you can find in this hell of boredom where seemingly nothing exciting will ever happen…
The final series really doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get where it wants to go. The pacing of Shana III is a slow walk getting to the inevitable. What makes this whole concept of slowly building up to this one event so tiresome is that we know where it’s going. There’s simply no excitement to be found watching the past three episodes. The first episode showed that Yuuji and Shana will fight in the end so of course the series has to do something really interesting in the meantime to keep it entertaining. But it doesn’t. Like it has all the time in the world (which it sort of does with 20+ episodes) it develops the story in very predictable ways and circles around ‘plottwists’ which after the first episode’s foreshadowing simply aren’t that anymore.
The third episode is basically a recap. I guess, it has some merit to have Yuuji look back on all the shit that happened to him and Shana. I have to admit that I had forgotten most of it and it certainly made me recall some of the things that happened in the past. But two things made this episode underwhelming for me: One, what I basically remembered was how boring the previous seasons were (there was a reason why I had forgotten what has happened in the first two seasons exactly); Two, well, why the hell does the story need this? Okay, a recap is something that happens for the sake of the audience and the best recaps try at least to integrate into the story like this episode does. But it still seems so unimportant. Yuuji just looks back getting all sentimental like this were the good ol’ times or something but we know that he’s unsatisfied with the world, that he’s willing to do something evil because of that. But you simply can’t hear that from the way he talks about his past. Just judging by his tone you might think he’s remembering pictures of puppies and not the life-threatening battles he was involved in. Yuuji’s character is a sentimental crybaby with a lot of power: that’s how he seems at the moment.
That’s probably one of the weirdest scenes I have seen in this season… What this scene wants to do is showing you how distressed Willhemina is by the kidnapping of Shana. What this scene actually shows you is this awkward out-of-the-blue moment of Willhemina asking this completely stupid question of where her backpack is but not only is the answer really obvious but her reaction to that is just “Oh…” and then she carries on as if nothing has happened. This is truly the epitome of Shana III’s bad storytelling.
So when the fourth episode started with Shana and Yuuji starting a battle I expected some interesting displays of characterization here. But overall it wasn’t very impressive. It was the usual routine of the good guys having a mental breakdown and the unexpected traitor acting all high and mighty about his power which he uses for his new-found goal. Margery actually even had a real breakdown as it was revealed that the whole massacre done by Silver – was her fault. Man, really strange that she never remembered how she hated all these guys who got killed that time. She must’ve been in a state of denial of epic proportions! “Oh boy, now I remember, I actually shook Silver’s hand saying ‘Thank you.’ after he had killed all these people.” Is what she was thinking the moment Yuuji forced her to remember that event by – explaining it. Just by telling her what a jerk she really was for summoning unconsciously a mass-murdering supernatural creature (which really sounds like a reasonable explanation for the whole thing) – she collapses under the heavy weight of the truth.
So what Yuuji wants to do is kidnapping Shana. Why? Yeah, easy to guess, I know… He loves her. And the funny thing is: The story thinks that to be enough of an explanation. That’s what it all comes down to. Yuuji loves Shana and Shana loves him which makes the whole idea of a relationship a definite development. But Yuuji has an idea, the story actually made him basically the man for bright ideas since always when Shana was starting to lose, Yuuji had a good idea how to kick the enemies’ ass. But I guess he isn’t perfect because his newest idea is the kind of foolishness and megalomania you read about in cautionary tales. Yuuji’s wishy-washy business of creating a new world where flowers bloom, rainbows rule the sky and puppies run the government is the kind of juvenile wish every reasonable person would laugh about. But Yuuji is a really stupid guy if you think about it. He may have great ideas concerning how to kick someone’s ass – but he certainly can’t replace God.
But he’s unstoppable right now. Everyone’s in awe of his power and how his pinky-finger alone can dominate the world. And Bel Masque is right behind him planning to unleash a rain of fire and shit on the Flame Hazes and Outlaw. What makes this a really boring affair, though, is that they’re still talking about it right now – and nothing more. Five frigging episodes and we haven’t seen any real action! Episode 04 wasn’t real action, that should’ve been a character-moment but since Yuuji’s characterization is just dull and Shana’s typical it was wasted in that regard. This confrontation between Shana and Yuuji was of course not decisive since we know that both of them will fight in the end again so naturally this can’t be a decisive fight. Therefore its outcome was predictable and yet the fight was dragged out for an entire episode like I was supposed to care about it that much. It’s moments where Shana III’s tedious storytelling shows itself again. There’s really happening so much here that’s completely unnecessary, it simply has to be boring for anyone who isn’t a fanatical fan of the franchise.
After four episodes this series has a boring villain, a rather stereotypical plot and as good as no atmosphere whatsoever. Shana III is bland and things simply happen right now without any real momentum or any kind of impact on the audience. It’s boring. Naturally I didn’t expect much for episode 05 then when Shana was kidnapped. I men, even the preview sort-of told me nothing exciting would happen in this episode. I know that she won’t die, I know that Yuuji won’t die. So, how could this dull beginning could become interesting in the end? Well, actually I got a dozen ideas how Shana’s kidnapping could become interesting without letting Shana or Yuuji die. Shana could escape in a Mission-Impossible-Fashion trying to leave Bel Masque on her own surrounded by terrible monsters; Willhemina has to get help from a rogue Crimson Denizen to find Bel Masque although that creature isn’t really what you call a paragon of compassion and good-heartedness; Yuuji explains his vision to Shana indirectly revealing his megalomaniac madness caused by the influence of Snake of the Festival – and so on… Right now what this series would need is a sense of horror conveying how dark the whole situation right now is. Instead the series still keeps to this soapy vibe of laughable ‘tragedy’. There’s simply no darkness to be found here. The villains (except Yuuji) are dull simple-minded thugs who seemingly are evil for the sake of being evil. And Yuuji is a sappy romantic who already considers weeding out a garden to be an act of pure evil. If the bad guys seem neither threatening nor terrifying there isn’t really much of a conflict to be seen there. Sure, the fights will be flashy but they won’t be exciting that way.
But what happens in the fifth episode? Yuuji considers raping Shana for a brief moment. At least that’s my interpretation of a strange scene of Shana imagining how dangerous Yuuji is. Despite the whole tsundere-antics Shana is still pretty much a girl that’s easily frightened apparently. It’s really baffling again how much time is wasted by this episode on Shana having a monologue and a flashback – which ultimately contribute nothing significant to the plot. The flashbacks were pretty much crap. My reaction to them was “Yeah, whatever, good ol’ times, right… Aren’t you a prisoner or something? Isn’t there perhaps something else you should do besides getting all nostalgic?”. If I’m trying very hard (and I know I’m reaching here) I could interpret the flashbacks as Shana accepting that she isn’t alone in this world. Yeah, I know, a very unlikely interpretation – because it is frigging stupid. But no matter how far you’re prepared to suspense your disbelief in regards to this series’ soapy stupidity the plot actually is fairly solid. It isn’t really the plot itself and the setting which are doom of this series it’s the characters and how their interactions colour this series with their sentimental bickering. It simply takes all the excitement this generic shounen-series could offer.
With its slow pacing it’s hard to be entertained by this story where you actually already know its final destination. The characters are sentimental and lack any kind of subtlety and complexity. In that regard the plot follows pretty close the typical developments with the kinds of plothooks this series uses which makes the slow pacing even more hurtful for the series’ potential. Shana III knows where it’s going but it takes its time to get there – and does nothing to keep the journey there interesting.