- RECENT REVIEWS: TENCHI UNIVERSE *** ONE PIECE *** WOLF CHILDREN *** RUROUNI KENSHIN
- [C]-CONTROL *** BLACK LAGOON *** SERIAL EXPERIMENT LAIN *** MASS EFFECT
- BOOGIEPOP PHANTOM *** A CERTAIN MAGICAL INDEX *** TORIKO *** RENTAL MAGICA *** SHINGU
- BOOGIEPOP & OTHERS *** EMMA *** BLOOD C *** HEAVEN'S LOST PROPERTY *** SWEET BLUE FLOWERS ***
- EMMA Vol. 2 *** A CERTAIN MAGICAL RAILGUN
Love triangles! Flame hazes! Intense supernatural battles! This is all very well and good, but what in the World of Crimson is actually going on here? I was handed the third and final season of SHAKUGAN NO SHANA Season 3 to review, and despite hazy flashbacks thrown in every episode or two, I’m still not quite sure who the good guys are, or why we care.
“Yuji doesn’t live here anymore.” How bleak.
The first episode starts with the complete absence of a beloved lead character, Yuji. His mother, his classmates... everyone has forgotten everything about him. Everyone, that is, save for two: Shana, the fiery, immortal supernatural being, and Kazumi, her human rival.
Through some minor sleuthing, I figured out that last season, Yuji was involved in an epic battle with Denizens - - creatures from another dimension who devour human “Power of Existence” to survive. Somehow, Yuji, formerly a "Torch" with the power of Midnight Lost Child (the power to reboot his own Power of Existence every night, don't you know) got swallowed up into the Crimson alternate universe and merged bodies with "Snake of the Festival," the big bad of SHAKUGAN NO SHANA.
The show also stars Alistor, Shana’s Crimson Lord, who takes the form of a sparkly pendant; Margery, a busty blonde Flame Haze with ample attitude; and Satou, her human buddy who seems to constantly be on a train. There's also a seemingly endless parade of Flame Hazes, Crimson Denizens, Crimson Lords, and more gods shaped in the form of various objects, and powers that manifest as giant, multicolored smoke animals, and... and...
Does any of this make sense to you yet?
At this point, recounting the plot seems a futile effort. If you’re familiar with the show, you don’t need my clumsy interpretation... and if you’re not, you should definitely not do what I did and start at the third season.
Here’s what I do know (at least, I think I do): Flame Hazes protect humans from Crimson Denizens. Good Crimson beings are known as Crimson Gods. When Yuji is transported to the Crimson Realm and merges with Snake of the Festival, he becomes leader of the Denizen gang, Bal Masqué and thus, Shana’s enemy.
With all the lovin’ that these two clearly feel for each other, this is a big no-no. And from what I’ve gleamed about the first two seasons, this twist is an interesting shift for the massive cast of characters. Yuji, our hero ‘til now, is something else - - but is he still in there? If I had more of an appreciation for the nuances of these relationships, I think I’d be interested in what happens to these powerful kids.
Though my confusion was a tad frustrating, there were a few saving graces. First off, Shana’s super slick Flame Haze powers. Her jet black hair turns - - you guessed it - - red as she manipulates fire and spouts impressive flame wings. Her adversaries also inhabit some place called the Palace of the Stars, a bizarre Labyrinth-esque sky castle that was a trip to watch. I found myself wishing the entire show was set there (perhaps we’d get a sneak peak of Bowie around the corner?).
And lastly, in theme with one of my favorite ‘80s fantasy flicks, Yuji/Snake are out to create a new world where Denizens no longer need to suck the life out of humans... a world called Xanadu.
Here’s where good vs. evil becomes a little less clear. These guys are trying to stop being evil, but the Flame Hazes are still out for blood. Either way, any show that has a utopia called Xanadu is A-OK in my book.
Am I the best person to be recommending SHAKUGAN NO SHANA? Probably not. But I do think it offers some interesting (if seriously convoluted) concepts, an increasingly blurred line between good and evil, and some majorly silly characters.
My advice: start from the beginning, take notes on Crimson genealogy, and if you get lost, just think like Margery. “You’re a god from an old fairy tale who was banished from eternity? So what are you doing here?”
Rachel Heine is an anime novice, film buff and food blogger based in Los Angeles. She writes and edits for arts & culture online magazine, Buzzine, and runs her own personal blog at PopandSizzle. Follow her Twitter: @RachelHeine