What They Say:
Wielding a blazing sword, Shana is a fiery huntress whose sole purpose is to fight demon-like beings that consume human lives. To reduce the impact on the human realm, Shana turns the slain into shadows of their former selves. Once a flame that represents their remaining life goes out, they fade from existence. This should have been Yuji’s fate, but when he discovers he holds a special power that ignites a newfound strength in Shana, they join forces in her ongoing mission to maintain the balance between the ordinary world and the supernatural.
Contains episodes 1-24.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get both the original Japanese language and the previous English language dub from the Geneon release. Both of these tracks are done in Dolby TrueHD lossless stereo so it’s definitely a big step up in overall quality here but the series is still fairly standard for the most part. It has a good mix of action and dialogue so that the forward soundstage gets a good workout overall when the action itself gets going. Dialogue is fairly standard and generally center channel based but it has a good, rich feeling for both of them. It’s not the kind of mix where it just sounds louder but the kind that has a a bit more warmth and impact to it. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally airing in 2005 and 2006, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in native 1080p using the AVC codec. The twenty-four episodes are spread over three Blu-ray discs with nine each on the first two and six on the last. The show is one that may feel a little dated in some ways with the character designs in a way, but the animation really shines through beautifully here, giving it a new lease on life. I enjoyed the presentation the firs time I saw it on DVD and here it’s like the colors are brighter, smoother and a heck of a lot more appealing. The detail is sharp but the series as a whole has a lot of good atmosphere to it as it shifts from big, dark action sequences to bright and bubbly water park adventures. The set isn’t without its flaws though in the source material, such as the last few episodes of the season where the Palace comes into the real world. With its digital paint/filter job here, you can see a lot of the banding that’s in the source which can get distracting with the blocky nature of it. While I had liked what I had seen before, this set overall is definitely is very appealing.
The packaging for this release is in a double width Blu-ray case that’s inside a DVD sized O-card so that it fits neatly on store shelves. The slipcover and the case artwork are the same and that’s definitely appealing as the front cover has a shot of Shana in her school uniform that’sflwoing in the breeze while the background is filled with flames. The back cover has a light look to it with a few shots from the show and a good larger image of Shana that’s appealing with its simplicity. The general concept of the series is laid out clearly without giving away too much and the discs extras are presented cleanly as well. The technical grid has a lot of ground to cover and it can be a bit overwhelming but everything is where it should be and listed accurately. The cover has artwork on the reverse side, though the left panel just breaks down all the episodes by number and title as well as all the extras episodes. The right side has an additional piece of character artwork that’s a bit soft but appealing. No show related inserts are included with the release.
The menu design for the release is simple and effective but it feels like it’s something from a bit of an earlier Blu-ray design release. The menu has the logo and the mystical/flame kind of approach for its main screen that doesn’t use any character artwork and just a bit of instrumental music. It’s not bad but it doesn’t sell the show too much. Where it feels clunky is in that the menu slides in from the left and has a bit of a judder to it rather than a smooth flow. Submensu load quickly but with that kind of shift to it and they’re easy to navigate and problem free. The discs default to the English language with sign/song subtitle track.
The extras for this release are all found on the third disc as we get the basics in the clean opening and closing which are definitely welcome. We also get the eight Naze Nani Shana shorts as well as the two Shana-Tan shorts which are hugely welcome to have here since they provide for some good if brief laughs.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the light novel series by Yashichiro Takahashi that ran for twenty-five volumes overall, Shakugan no Shana is a twenty-four episode first season (of three as of this writing) that deals with an interesting supernatural aspect. Animated by JC Staff, this series ran from late 2005 to early 2006 that was originally released in the US by Geneon Entertainment. FUNimation’s release here follows a previous DVD release but gives us the show in native HD and some good extras to be had. The series is one that has had a good following over the years and is one of those few that gets a few series over a couple of seasons of a good length as all the follow-ups ran for twenty-four episodes as well, which is pretty rare in the last few years.
Taking place in the present day world, the series introduces us to Misaki City high school student Yuji Sakai. He’s a pretty solid kid who only has a mother, some friends at school and a potential love interest that he’s interested in but hasn’t pursued solidly. While we get this solid footing for him, it doesn’t last long as a walk home that goes long has him caught up in a supernatural act. The sudden pause of time that doesn’t seem to effect him shows us creatures that are eating people left and right, causing destruction and living in glee. At least until a petite young woman shows up and summarily executes them. What we learn here is that they feed off of the life energy of people as they come from the Crimson Realm and are known as Denizens.
The problem is that once they eat the life force of people, ending the seal will cause a lot of problems in the real world. In order to alleviate this, the petite young woman is a Flame Haze, someone who hunts the Denizens that cause problems and fixes it afterward. What they do is to recreate the bodies of those killed as Torches, people whose existences are are what they were before, but fade out over time as everyone’s memories of them fades until it all breaks cleanly. It’s pretty disturbing when you think about it as these people simply slowly disappear. For Yuji, having been eaten and turned into a Torch, he’s getting a few explanations from the Flame Haze that he eventually names Shana and befriends in a pretty long and tedious way at times.
Yuji turns out to be a kind of exception to the rule though, which was a given since he was the only person moving around in the seal. As it turns out, his Torch is special in that it resets every night so that he could conceivably live for everyone. Because of the potential for him, how he impacts her abilities, they end up forming something of a relationship based on hunting the Denizens that are coming to the city. Shana takes over the name and position of a Torch that died in the initial attack that Yuji saw and ends up moving in with him, secretly at least, and they begin to understand each other. What helps to keep her rough and somewhat angry personality under control is that she’s tied to a pendant which contains the essence of a Crimson Lord, one of the powerful Denizens of that realm that uses his position and power to try and keep the human world safe.
Because of its light novel origins, the show works in a series of arcs as it progresses, though there is a larger story that’s dealt with overall as it comes to a conclusion for the season. The Denizens that come in are all pretty varied and interesting as they come along and through these encounters we see how Yuji and Shana connect more and understand each other. There is a good human supporting cast that comes into play as well with a romantic challenger that makes Shana feel threatened. Yoshida has a real interest in Yuji and is trying to understand the situation that Yuji seems to be in since he and Shana play a near-couple kind of thing but with Shana being indifferent towards him. It’s amusing to watch as it goes on and how it changes Yoshida herself as it progresses.
The most curious addition to the cast comes in the form of Margery Daw, a Flame Haze whose companion like Alastor is named Marcosis who takes on the form of a grimoire with a wicked sense of humor. Margery’s come to Misaki City to hunt a particular Denizen and ends up with something of a mildly adversarial relationship with Shana as Flame Hazes tend to not work together. While that initial case is dealt with, Margery ends up staying and picks up a pair of kids from Yuji’s class that end up being rather beholden to her since she’s loud, outgoing, busty as hell and loves to drink. It’s the kind of escape they’re looking from their lives and they form an interesting group that could certainly support its own show with how they get along. While they play big at first, they take on a support role as it goes on but still end up with some very good key scenes that helps a lot. The dialogue and banter between them all and especially between Margery and Marcosis was just a heck of a lot of fun.
Shakugan no Shana is a series that I definitely enjoyed when I saw it piecemeal when it first came out and appreciate it all the more in marathon form like this. While there’s a good bit of lightness and fun, character silliness and relationship material, it’s a series that I definitely find some depressing aspects about. The whole concept of Torches and how people disappear is something that has some strong moments here as Yuji grapples with his own existence as well as seeing others disappear. There’s a solid progression here throughout with the stories and the building of the characters as each arc brings something new but doesn’t necessarily carry characters forward, which is a welcome change of pace. The cast grows at a decent pace and feels natural, not forcing new girls into play. With new seasons ahead that I haven’t seen, this is a great re-introduction for me that looked great and is a pleaser in general with its story and characters.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Nani Naze Shana Shorts, Shana-Tan Shorts, Clean Openings & Closings
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: August 21st, 2012
Running Time: 600 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.