While a threat looms in the background, the series focuses more on the banal this time around.
What They Say:
The heated bond between Shana and Yuji is tested as their paranormal adventures continue. The Flame Haze fends off supernatural foes by night, but by day, she contends with a classmate who’s also after Yuji’s heart. Emotions flare as a suspicious transfer student who resembles a recently defeated Denizen clings to Yuji. His training rises in intensity when they catch wind of a revered warrior in search of her lost lover, who will stop at nothing to extract the power keeping Yuji alive!
This limited edition includes an artbox sized to hold both part 1 and part 2 of Shakugan no Shana season 2.
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get both the original Japanese language and the new English language dub from FUNimation. 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 late 2007 and into 2008, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. This half of the series has twelve episodes to it that are spread across two discs with nine on the first and three on the second, which also has the extras that add a bit of time to things. The series definitely has a better sense of color definition this time compared to the first season, but partially because little of it takes place at night or in the darkened sealed zones that cause the purple glow throughout it. It’s more of a traditional school show in a lot of ways, but it has its moments of action as well. For the most part though, it’s brightly lit school scenes, outdoor pieces or just around the house kind of material. The overall look is good, clean and without much in the way of problems outside of some minor noise in the backgrounds.
The packaging for this release has the first part coming in a limited edition form which means we get a heavy chipboard box that will hold both parts of the season. The box is colorful and looks good as we get the main panel featuring a shot of a very serious Shana in her transformed mode with her sword out set against an indistinct hazy red background that adds to her darker colors. The back panel goes for a similar approach with a darker purple background for the sunset style scene but adds in a closer shot of Shana while including Yuji as well, both of which have plenty of black to add with their uniforms. The box also includes a spacer box that’s done in greyscale where one side gives us a good shot of Wilhelmina while the other brings in the brother/sister pairing from the first series.
Inside the box we get the standard sized Blu-ray case that holds the two DVDs and two Blu-ray discs that covers the combo release for the series. The front cover has a good trio of characters brought together with Yuji, Shana and Konoe with a white background that lets the character artwork stand out more. The back cover brings most of the supporting cast together, at least on the school level, which has a dark look to it overall since they’re also all in their school uniforms and set against the white background. The reverse side has some material to it where the left side breaks down the episodes by title and number as well as a clear listing of the extras involved. The right side has a red framed image of Margery in both her present form and how she was in the 30’s which is fun to see brought together. No show related inserts are included.
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 first disc only has one extra but it’s a solid one for the dub fans as we get a new commentary track with the new English language production team talking about the series and their approach. The majority of the extras are on the second disc and they’re all Japanese based, which is pretty solid and similar to the first season collection. The Naze Nani Shan shorts return here as we get four more of the Question Box pieces that are cute and fun to watch. There’s a selection of commercials for the original DVD release as well as the original promo videos from before the series originally aired. We also get the clean versions of the opening and closing as well as the trailer that FUNimation put together for the series.
The Shana-Tan material also returns here, which is utterly adorable. These were favorites from before so getting more material in this realm just makes the whole concept even cuter than it was. The “Begins” piece runs four minutes while the second one runs for nearly ten minutes as it mixes in more characters and just goes for the silly and fanservice in some great ways, especially since it reworks certain parts of the main series itself.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the original season of Shakugan no Shana, it was something that I really liked as I originally watched it across multiple discs and a lengthy release period. Revisiting the series after so many years recently with it being brought together into a single Blu-ray full season release, I appreciated it more for what it did and enjoyed the way it came together. With the second season, it’s not one that I’ve seen before so it’s welcome to go into it as something completely new to me but to have the foundation of having seen the first season so recently. It also helps a lot since it feels like a good portion of the first half is just simple school based romantic drama and comedy material at times.
After what Shana and Yuji dealt with at the end of the first season with the Palace of Stars, this season opens almost awkwardly as it feels like we’re in a weird recap sort of mode as Yuji finds himself reliving aspects of it in a form that’s accelerated. While Shana is going through the same motions before or saying little, it’s an opportunity that lets Yuji really stand alone in a way as he has to try and figure out what’s gone wrong with the world. That initial panic that he’s in some sort of time loop certainly surfaces and the idea of repeating the first season through a new way definitely is a bit worrisome. But it pivots well and shows us how Yuji is getting more intuitive about situations and able to be more reactive in a helpful way as he discovers what the Denizen has done to put him in this position before he can get it all back to normal.
Well, as normal as things can be for Yuji after what happened at the Palace of Stars. His time with Shana is essentially what it was before, but he knows she said something to him when it seemed like everything was going to end, but he’s not sure what. She, of course, doesn’t want to say that she told him how she felt about him and that serves as a background piece for much of the first half of the season here. A lot of that tension comes from the fact that she and Yoshida now have a sort of rivalry that’s clearer since Yoshida became involved in the events of what Yuji really is at this point and hasn’t run away screaming from it. It doesn’t help that Yoshida’s also more “normal” and does things to wiggle her way into Yuji’s life more, often seen through various school activities, including making him boxed lunches. That, of course, leads to Shana trying to figure out how to do it herself and that has the competitive side picking up. It’s not dominant overall, but this rivalry exists through a good part of the season until they really come to an understanding that both of them truly care for him and will compete a bit more honestly.
While the romantic dramedy plays out fairly predictably here, we do see that Yuji is also taking his training seriously when it comes to being a true partner to Shana as the mystes that he is. It’s really a lot of fun overall as he’s pushing himself in a lot of ways and we’re continually seeing that there are new aspects to him that allows him to expand his role beyond what it is. It may be a bit much at ways, but with his being a Midnight Lost Child is rare enough that having more rare aspects to him come to light, such as there being a Keeper within him that protects him even more from some of the Denizen’s and their peculiar attacks, work better than it would otherwise. Suffice to say, there is something quite unique about Yuji that gets explored more later on (though I don’t know whether it’s animated at this stage or not, considering there are twenty-six light novels out there).
While there are a few things moving along here, including the idea that the Palace of Stars is slowly going to work on reforming, we get some good back story that’s slowly going to have an impact in the present. There are two episodes devoted to showing Margery’s past when she had arrived in New York City after the Great Depression. This shows us a different version of her in some ways when it comes to her personality, such as it seems like she doesn’t drink quite as much, and works alone as we’re used to. Her reputation precedes her but we see how some Denizen’s are intent on wrecking havoc on the city that’s attempting to get itself back on track after the collapse. The two parter seeds some interesting ideas that you can see reflected with Yuji, particularly that with the silver flame aspect.
If there’s a downside to the set, beyond the heavier romantic dramedy aspect, it’s that it spends some time on the whole culture festival aspect. That does have the romantic side to it because the two student parade aspects deals with Romeo & Juliet and Wizard of Oz and the girls compete a fair bit about it and there’s just some plain silliness. It’s like a lot of culture festival aspects so you know what to expect and it doesn’t really challenge itself all that much, though I like that they did a parade around part of the city as well to shake it up a bit. The show also has another weak side as early on it introduces a new mysterious transfer student named Konoe who looks exactly like Hecate from the Palace of Stars that Yuji got involved with briefly. They play up the mystery of it a good deal for a bit, but then it just peters out which makes you uncertain of what it is they’ll do with it. What Konoe becomes for the first half of the season is essentially a new girl that Yuji helps out a lot as a “caretaker” student and that just makes Yoshida and Shana jealous, which gets old quickly.
With the way the first season worked through some distinct arcs that lead up to a big finale, the second season of Shakugan no Shana feels much weaker in this area. We get a few Denizen’s along the way and some interesting ideas seeded when it comes to what else is going on inside of Yuji, but far too much of it is focused on the whole romantic drama side. Far too much. The show does open well overall and there’s some good stuff to be had throughout here, especially when you look at the way that Shana and Yoshida are coming to terms with their rivalry. I also raeally like the way that we’re seeing Keisuke getting more serious about how to work with Margery while his cohort is getting closer to a romance with another classmate. The small moments are really nicely done but the season so far is one that’s more mellow, relaxed and school based than I expected after the way the first season played out.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: December 18th, 2012
Running Time: 300 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.