The calm before the storm is brief as this season appears to be all about the war.
What They Say:
Yuji disappeared the fateful night he was supposed to choose between a life combatting evil by Shana’s side or as a normal teenager. He returns from near-death to lead the Crimson Denizens in a dubious plot to bring peace to the universe – but Shana isn’t fooled. In an explosive reunion, the fiery warrior faces her unlikeliest of foes while Flame Hazes from across the world join forces to ignite a war that will determine the fate of all supernatural kind.
This limited edition includes a chipboard art box sized to hold both parts 1 and 2 of Shakugan no Shana season 3.
Contains episodes 1-12.
The audio presentation for this release is pretty solid as we get both the original Japanese language and the English language dub done by FUNimation with the new cast. Both of these tracks are done in Dolby TrueHD lossless where the Japanese is in stereo and the English gets a 5.1 bump. That 5.1 makes some decent use in this season in terms of overall oomph since it’s so chuck full of action. 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 2011 and into 2012, 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 and even second season, but partially because little of it takes place at night or in the darkened sealed zones that cause the purple glow throughout it. 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 school uniform with her hair whipping around that feels like she’s just a bit more mature. The back panel goes for a similar approach with a darker red background for the flame filled scene but adds in a closer shot of Shana with a more serious look about her that is pretty good with the flames crackling about her. The box also includes a spacer box that’s done in greyscale where one side gives us a good shot of Shana with Sophia while the other has Wilhelmina with a few other Flame Hazes.
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 great wraparound illustration image with a white background where the front half has Shana with a big smile as she’s in her school uniform while the back cover provides a look at some of the other women of the series 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 an earth toned image of Yuji and Shana against each other with serious looks to them. 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 extras for this release are once again pretty decent as we get a couple more commentary tracks on the first disc for a pair of episodes with the English language cast and crew talking about things. We also get the clean versions of the opening and closing songs, which are always appreciated. We also get one more Shana-Tan episode, clocking in at just under nine minutes, which mixes humor with the somber side of things going on here.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
In going across the three Shana seasons, some OVAs and a movie in the last couple of months, there’s definitely been a really interesting progression in watching the show unfold. With the start of this third season, being the most recent having started in 2011, there’s a definite growth in terms of animation quality which is really striking when you go back against the earlier seasons. Yet it all still retains the same feel and flow, but it’s like it’s grown up over the years in a way that shows how fans do expect more out of a show and JC Staff delivers that handily here. But there’s also a change in how each season tells its story, and going by what I see of a lot of fans, the third season falls short. And I can see that, though I can’t agree with it when it comes to this first half. Here, Shakugan no Shana delivers what I wanted.
With Ball Masque introduced in the first season and then expanded on in the second with a copious amount of character material for Yuji along the way, it all drew to a close with Yuji going missing and a kind of uncertainty about events that was more of a downer than you would have expected. This season picks up some time after that and we see more of how Yuji has simply been wiped from memory like most Torches do and that’s having an impact on everyone, though some more than others. For Shana, she’s in denial because she knows Yuji will come back and she keeps training as usual and spends time checking in on his mother, since she’s pregnant and has lost memory of her son. Yoshida remembers but isn’t sure that she can do anything. Tanaka has kept low for the most part, not wanting to draw his girlfriend into the fire and Margery has just spent her time drinking and sleeping. The only other proactive one has been Keisaku as he’s made it clear he wants to be an Outlaw and has managed to start down that path in a good way with a little help from Margery.
This kind of material makes up the first two episodes or so with a mild recap here and there along the way. This is most notable in the second episode as Yuji comes walking back into Misaki City, though it’s not what anyone expects. In fact, his arrival is viewed as the sense of a major Denizen arriving, which makes sense as Yuji has effectively been claimed by Snake of the Festival, aka the Creator God, the Crimson Lord who runs Ball Masque. He has his own goals, somewhat tied to Yuji’s feelings for reshaping the world to protect and spend his time with Shana, but mostly he’s intent on following through on what Ball Masque has been doing all this time in bringing a massive amount of attention to Misaki City as it’s a Maelstrom area that draws in so much power and personality.
Snake of the Festival really does blur the line when it comes to who is who when you see him on the screen as there are edges of Yuji in him throughout, but it’s changed enough because of his appearance and having different voice actors play the character. His intention here is to go as big as possible, requiring an immense amount of Power of Existence, and it brings back elements from the previous two seasons with the Palace of the Stars and how it’s going to be used to achieve his ends, using his own Divine Summoning. We don’t get a lot of Snake of the Festival’s past here, but it’s made clear he’s been sealed for a long time before recently getting out of it and even Alastor has a real fear of him because of his true identity and what he’s capable of. But like a good villain, he doesn’t see himself as that and he doesn’t spend his time being overly dramatic either, but rather calm, cool and effective in what he’s doing.
And that effectiveness is what dominates this set as it really gets going here. Once it’s made clear that there will be war, there’s pretty much ten episodes of it that unfold here. We’ve gotten hints in the previous season about what operates on Earth to support the Flame Hazes with the Outlaws, and one of the first steps of Ball Masque here is to try and divide and conquer, eliminating numerous Outlaw stations around the world (which in turn gets Keisuke drawn in more formally) and putting up a firewall so that the big events can play out in Tokyo as the major Outlaw facility there is dealt with. What works so effectively with all of this, and it’s kind of cheap on my part I’ll admit, is that they introduce so many characters on both sides that are fighting (and a few returning characters from past seasons) that it’s very easy to disconnect from it with who is who. I imagine they’re a bit more detailed in the original light novels, but here they’re just waves of unique and interesting forces battling across the landscape in various sealed areas and so forth as it spills into the floating Palaces.
Because of the nature of the story, I also really appreciated that it was largely action piece upon action piece as it goes along. It doesn’t spend a few episodes with lots of back story or foolish subplots that make you roll your eyes when you’re waiting to get back to the good stuff. For me, it’s just filled with good stuff. And very strong looking animation to support it as well with fantastic backgrounds, plenty of destruction and a slew of intense character battles that really drives home what’s going on. It gets to be a bit much at times just because of the length of the names that get used, which is what makes it a little easy to disconnect, but it also knows when to draw the right people in and expand it, particularly with the problematic way that Shana is placed in custody for several episodes and Yuji is off screen as well, allowing for all these new characters to swarm about. But I absolutely loved it. And I loved the brief but excellent bit done with Keisaku and Margery that finally changed at least one dynamic for the season so far.
Considering the generally negative attitude fans hold towards this season, I was prepared for the worst. But instead I found in this first half a show that works beautifully as the third act of the property. The first season was the foundation, the second the movement of plots and expansion of characters and connections and the third is just all out war. Beautifully animated and thoroughly engaging war. This set just kept going and going once the war starts and it draws in the right characters to propel it to be a big level. I can understand some of the frustrations fans will have, but what this set gave me was exactly what it needed. Not just one or two people fighting against the darkness that’s going to overwhelm, but rather the full force of an expansive organization designed to stop such things being put into action. It keeps its ties to the characters we know, and they grow in prominence as it goes on, but this is all about going big. And it does so wonderfully.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Select Episode Commentaries, Shakugan no Shana-tan Final Destruction, Textless Songs
Content Grade: A-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B-
Extras Grade: B+
Released By: FUNimation
Release Date: March 26th, 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.