All the plans start to come together, but which one will take the day?
What They Say:
Misaki City becomes a battleground as the power struggle between paranormal armies rages on. The Flame Hazes face defeat as Yuji incites chaos in the last stages of his plan. Unshaken, Shana rallies her remaining allies with a spark of hope. As the Gods of the Earth add their firepower to the fray, Shana and Yuji clash once more in the ultimate battle that will either break their heated bond or save humanity from the grips of evil for good.
Contains episodes 13-24.
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 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.
While the first set had the limited edition aspect with its heavy chipboard box, what we get here is the standard sized Blu-ray case with a slipcover that holds it and replicates the artwork. The front cover is very appealing as it’s a close-up of Shana and Yuji embracing as they kiss, with a real sense of magic about them. It has a different look than most of the artwork that’s been used and definitely sets a particular tone. The back cover continues on with the white and provides for a good piece of character artwork of Shana with a surprised look to her face along with a small strip of shots from the show that focuses on the dark yet colorful action. The premise for this half is covered well enough and we get a clean listing of what’s included, both for episodes and extras. The technical grid is mostly easy to read as it has white text on green with a dash of blue and it lays out the specs clearly. The set has artwork on the reverse side where the left breaks down the episodes by number and title as well as the extras while the right side has a full panel piece of artwork with Hecate and a few others of her ilk there. 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, especially with this half of the series as there are six different closings that are thematic to what’s going on. In addition to a promo video, we get another Shana-Tan episode, which clocks in at just under ten minutes as it deals with the somewhat odd and silly side of the series in a cute way, especially considering how serious the series gets in this half of the season.
Going against the general grain, I really liked the first half of this season when I got my hands on it. After watching Shakugan no Shana years ago with its first season and enjoying the general pacing of it and the way it had several shorter arcs within it, the second season that I got to see for the first time a few months ago was quite different as it was rather slow and seemingly without a larger point at times. But the first half of the third season was just all out action without a lot of meaty story material. It’s focus was on just being like the third act of a movie where it just goes big, full of action and epic material.
And the second half is essentially more of the same when you get down to it, after a bit of calm material near the start. The general idea of the season is one that I definitely like as Yuji, having gone through a few changes that allowed him to become merged with the Snake of the Festival, does what he can through this particular bonding to find a way to live with Shana. While he came to grips with his being a Torch ages ago, albeit an unusual one because of the Midnight Lost Child, his realizations in the last season that he can become only so real in a way has him going to extremes. It’s just something that kind of works out with what the Creator God himself wants. The Yuji that we know is pretty much subsumed here, but we get glimpses of him and we do see that there are ways that he’s changed who the Snake of the Festival is as well.
While the set does start off with the finishing blows of the big fight that spilled over from the previous set, it does shift the dynamic pretty well. Bringing things to a sort of temporary stalemate after the way the battle went, there’s a real reorganizing of forces as the plans start to become clearer. We had a pretty good run of the Flame Hazes and their helpers going up against the Snake of the Festival, but the way the whole thing unfolded causes a lot of losses. The down time is good in that it allows Shana to take more of a central role in events since she’s the one that has come up with an idea on how to stop Yuji from what he’s doing. It’s not made clear for awhile since that’s part of the game, much how Snake of the Festival’s plan is kept simple until the end as well, but it works well enough.
Similar to the first half of the season, the majority of this set is all about the action as well. There’s about two episodes of relative downtime after the first one, but once you get past that it’s just a constant fight. With the Palace of the Stars showing up in a public way and Snake of the Festival putting it all into motion to drain Existence out of there in a big way, the action really does define it. But like the first half, it’s easy to get lost in the who is who aspect of it since so many people are running around here, fighting and attacking each other with a range of powers and Unrestricted Methods. But there’s just such a great sense of power about it and the variety is all over the map that it’s very easy to get drawn into all of it even if you treat the characters in a superficial way.
When the show does get down to the nuts and bolts of it, it’s a pretty big scale resolution to things that Snake of the Festival is attempting here. While he was initially intent, from the Flame Hazes point of view, of turning Japan into Xanadu and upsetting the balance of the world, the real goal of creating an entire new universe and world for the Denizen’s to go to. It’s an ambitious plan and one that has a lot of meaning to Yuji. What makes it really interesting is that it comes down to a slew of personal decisions. While the majority of the Denizen’s go, there are those that sneak away and stay behind. But it’s the number of Flame Hazes that opt to transform and go to this new world, to show how humanity and Denizens and Flame Hazes can live together, and to make sure that they don’t stage a massive comeback. And naturally, there’s some good emotional time at the end that focuses on the relationship between Yuji and Shana as they work through the meanings of their actions, what they’re willing to give up and just how true and deep their feelings are. It’s all very “third act” feeling in its nature, but it does it well and there’s some really good resolution to it all here that, while superficial in some ways, brings closure to much of what the three seasons have worked towrds.
Over three seasons, a few OVAs and a movie that retold part of the first season, Shakugan no Shana tells a pretty solid and engaging story. The first season won me over the first time around and on a repeat viewing. Going into all the newer material since just reinforced my views, especially when you stop and look at it as three phases of a large storyline. This set and this season is all about the action, emotion and big meanings at play and it does it all in an epic way. There’s a certain lightness to the plot here since it is so focused on the action, but the other seasons were very story driven to move it forwards to this point. Some aspects are lost a bit as it goes on, and the lack of interaction between Shan and Yuji for a lot of it is a sticking point, but for me I liked what they did and seeing the different sides to the characters. Shakugan no Shana caps everything off in a big way in this season and this set is no exception.
Japanese Dolby TrueHD 2.0 Language, English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Language, English Subtitles, Select Episode Commentaries, Shakugan no Shana-tan Final Destruction 2, Promotional Video, Textless Songs
Content Grade: B+
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.