Shakugan no Shana III: Final – Review
So that’s why the series ignored common sense at every twist and turn…
Shakugan no Shana Final: Omnipotences As Plot-Device
Looking back I’m quite proud of myself to have gotten through three underwhelming seasons of Shana and Yuuji bitching around. Sensible people would probably have stopped watching this after the first episode of the first season but well, at some point you gotta commit yourself. You can’t just cop out in the middle of it and give up. I mean, I was curious as to see how the series would present the blatantly obvious happy ending and how it would explain it (and doing a bad job of doing that of course). But here we are at the end of the franchise (hopefully). I would even go so far as say that this is the best season of the three which doesn’t mean that it’s good in any way naturally.
Release-Date: Fall/Winter Season 2011/12
Number of Episodes: 24
Synopsis: Continuing from the events of the last series, both Shana and Kazumi stand at their respective locations waiting for Yuji to meet with one of them, only to discover that Yuji has disappeared, with not even the slightest evidence of his existence left behind. All is not lost however, as the letters the two of them sent to him still give hope of Yuji’s continued existence. As Shana and company search for answers on Yuji’s whereabouts, they soon find the truth staring back at them when Yuji reappears in front of them as the leader of Bal Masqué. Left with little choice, Shana must now confront her most unlikely adversary on the battlefield in her most difficult challenge yet.
Cheesiness ensues as love and epic decisions get mixed up in this series. Taking neither side of these topics serious it’s all just thrown into the plot as a convenient point of time.
If I learned anything in this series it’s that Flame Hazes are really mean jerks. Shakugan no Shana Final is pretty much one giant battle between ideas. On one side there are these monsters under the leadership of Yuuji trying to leave the world for a new dimension where they can start anew without resorting to their usual human-eating habits. On the other side are the Flame Hazes who are apparently enjoy grieving the hell out of those monsters because all they do is spending the entire time arguing why the ‘fancy new world’-solution doesn’t work. The Flame Hazes spend their entire lives fighting with these monsters to protect the people from them but the one time the monsters actually try to protect them as well, they’re all like “No. It’s fine that there are so many monsters attacking people in this world.”. The problem isn’t really that the Flame Hazes are necessarily wrong with their concerns. But the setting is an eternal conflict without a solution and now one side tries to change that because they think that this endless-war-thingy sucks and the other side who are supposed to be the good guys think that’s a bad idea. It’s like someone during WWI would’ve argued that it’s fine to just continuously throw people at the fronts to keep the stalemate because who knows what kind of atrocities without that war would happen. That’s the kind of situation you have in the first half of the series.
Another thing that makes this conflict even more idiotic is that following the ‘Fancy New World’-solution the monsters (the former evil guys) become far more human and that leaves the series with technically no villains. Fights between random Flame Hazes and random Big Monsters (gee, I know, the series has a term for those guys but let’s face it, the setting is pretty generic and uninspired) feel pointless since it’s not really clear who you’re supposed to root for. The lines between the factions are already clear-cut by the sole fact whether a character is a Flame Haze or a monster. There is one point where the Flame Hazes have a kind of spiritual crisis hearing what Yuuji wants to do but the series turns it into some kind of ‘bad thing’ as if it was a bad thing that the Flame Hazes started thinking for themselves instead of just following the lead. That way the character-interactions in this series are really boring. None of the characters in this series does anything interesting or memorable. It all just becomes forgettable at the end of the day buried by all the flashy fighting.
If anything the show knows how to deliver flashy action on a large scale. It’s a bit of a pity, though, that the action isn’t very thought-through and is often just flashy without substance.
One character-relationship that is important to the story and characterization-wise is of course the battle between Shana and Yuuji. The first strange thing is that their conflict is practically the arena for the discussion of the ‘Fancy New World’-solution because in every other scene the present characters are either for the solution or against it. So considering how confusingly fatalistic the Flame Hazes’ point-of-view is and how idealistic the monsters’ point-of-view is you’d think that at least Shana and Yuuji who respect and love each other would discuss the whole thing reasonably in some way. That’s not what they do. Their discussions are filled with all kinds of flimsy excuses but basically go like this:
Yuuji: I have to do this!
Shana: No, it’s wrong!
Yuuji: But it’s the only way!
Shana: It’s wrong, it’s just totally wrong!
Yuuji: What else is there to do then?! I have to do this!
Shana: No, you don’t have to do that!
From the very outset Shana (and the series) treats Yuuji’s solution as something wrong. But refusing to actually discuss it reasonably the discussions often go on to talk about Yuuji’s and Shana’s romantic relationship which then creates discussions like this:
Yuuji: I have to do this! The monsters need to have a new world where they can live without eating people!
Random Side-Character: But you love Shana, right…? So perhaps you shouldn’t do this.
There’s this strange logic going on where Yuuji’s point-of-view is proven wrong by the fact that he hasn’t married Shana already or something. And that’s the biggest problem I have with the conflict of this series: It wants to make you believe it’s morally ambiguous but at the same time it’s always forcing one position on you as being the right one. The positions in the conflict could be considered ambiguous but are treated as absolute choices where one can only be for it or against it. And that’s not what I would call moral ambiguity. There are also the sentimental overtones of Shana’s and Yuuji’s relationship that effortlessly become part of that discussion. Without any subtle characterization Yuuji’s and Shana’s relationship is impossible because their different point-of-views get the same black-and-white-treatment the rest of the conflict got.
So the entire series you have these two sides which apparently haven’t heard of diplomacy or the word compromise and everything is a constant barrage of flashy action but in the end… nothing of all that matters. Because fate already had a bigger plan in motion – that puts everything right. Shana Final has the kind of forced Happy End that not only has multiple Deus ex Machina’s to toss around but it also makes the entire conflict up to that point obsolete. The extreme conflict painted with black and white is resolved with a Deus ex Machina that tells you everything everybody has hoped for has come true. I don’t want to spoil the ending although… well, it’s not a great series so all I say is that in the end all that fatalistic crap about the ‘New Fancy World’-solution not working: simply wrong, the nagging Flame Hazes were proven wrong. Because you know, all you need is love and that shit. It really isn’t a very satisfying conclusion in my opinion.
I guess if you’ve come that far in the franchise you can stomach the third season. Most of the bad things I could say about this series are things I could say about the first series as well so if you hated the first season don’t expect anything different out of this. I would even go so far as to say it’s worse than the first two seasons because it’s so predictable and minimalistic in the character-department that all it has left are the flashy battles and central conflict. But the former is shallow and the latter is uninteresting and ultimately pointless.
As the conclusion to the trilogy it’s hard to imagine anyone would arrive at this point with the expectation that this would be a great experience. But still it’s disappointing to see how much of an underwhelming experience it is to watch the final epic battle in the Shana-universe. Neither caring about depth nor interesting characters the series is just one dull flashy battle after another. Only for completion’s sake one should watch this boring finale to a franchise with all the obnoxious qualities of a mainstream-shounen-series.