Episode 19: Inside the Battle
Shana has to protect her rival, Kazumi, and bring her to Khamsin to tune the city, while Professor Crazy and his sidekick, Lotus Domino, continue with their plan. Kazumi tells Yuuji in spite of everything she learned she still considers him human and he cries like a little girl, er, I mean, he cries Manly Tears. Khamsin blows up the Hindenberg that Professor Crazy was arriving in, and it looks like the Flame Hazes have won--but back at the Hall of Justice, Bel-Peol, Sydonay, and Hecate aren't concerned, with Professor Crazy reporting the preparations for the real plan are complete...
Margery must be taped in pretty good to keep from just falling the hell out of that yukata--if she ever has kids, they're going to be seriously well-fed. After initially folding like a deck of cards, Kazumi manages to pull herself together to her credit. Still don't like her though. While Shana was out of line earlier, it's hard not to be pissed off at Yuuji for making her cry, then not going with her when she went to fight Professor Crazy. About now is when Kamina needs to appear and knock some Manly Sense into Yuuji so he doesn't keep screwing around. Either he likes Kazumi or Shana, make a decision already...if you can't tell, I'm hoping the triangle doesn't feature prominently in season two...
Episode 20: Heartless Wilhelmina
Shana runs into Wilhelmina, who's not happy that Shana's upset about Yuuji instead of focusing on her mission of kicking Denizen ass. Wilhelmina and Shana end up at Yuuji's house, and Chigusa invites them in, but Chigusa's powers don't win over Wilhelmina, who's determined to be a bitch. Yuuji resolves to leave the city with Shana, but Wilhelmina is determined to end the rabu triangle by killing Yuuji, so Shana and Kazumi can get into some hot yuri action. Or she wants to kill Yuuji so the Ball Masque, a Denizen gang that Bel-Peol, Sydonay, and Hecate belong to, can't get the Reiji Maigo. Either way, Yuuji's going down. Oh, and Margery blows out of town and ditches her henchmen.
A good episode, as the drama kicks up, with Shana torn between her duty as a flame haze and loyalty to Wilhelmina and wanting to be with Yuuji (specifically, a not-killed-by-Wilhelmina Yuuji). I'm surprised Shana is taking this much time to think about it, but if I remember right next episode she comes to her senses. A little disappointed in Wilhelmina's attitude--she showed some signs in the flashback of caring about Shana, but now she's ready to kill the guy she likes, and doesn't seem to care about much of anything except for her mission as a Flame Haze.
On a side note, Wilhelmina can say it all she wants, but no one does -de arimasu like Keroro. No one.
Episode 21: Diverging Feelings
Shana stops Wilhelmina from killing Yuuji, and convinces her to let him live (for now), but Yuuji and Shana have an argument, as Yuuji tells her he wants to leave the city to protect everyone, while Shana wants him to leave the city for a different reason, namely the chance to get some Hot Flame Haze Action with her. Margery's henchmen offer to go with Yuuji when he leaves, and everyone gathers at the bonfire of the festival decorations to see if Yuuji's hunch about there being some other purpose for them is right. It turns out there is another purpose to the decorations, as when the flames reach them they activate a huge Unrestricted Method. The Palace of the Stars, Ball Masque HQ, appears over Misaki City, and Sydonay makes a move to grab Yuuji to get the Reiji Maigo--Wilhelmina moves to kill Yuuji so the Reiji Maigo won't fall into the wrong hands...but Shana gets in the way, getting run through and saving Yuuji yet again.
Ouch...Shana getting run through like that's definitely going to leave a mark. I'd say she should break out the neosporin, but this is a little beyond that... Any normal person would be dead before they hit the ground if they got run through like Shana did, but since she's a Flame Haze and there's three more episodes and a second season to go, I'm going to give her an excellent chance of survival. I don't think Wilhelmina looked sufficiently horrified at what happened--she seemed to view trying to kill Yuuji as necessary "collateral damage", but after gravely injuring Shana, who she helped raise, you'd think she'd have a bigger reaction. If Wilhelmina was ever going to break her cool exterior this would be the time, but I guess she really does have a heart of pure ice.
Episode 22: The Flickering Flame
Kazumi angsts again because--well, that's all she can do...meanwhile, Shana's recovering, and Wilhelmina thinks the best course of action is to go the Palace of the Stars and kill Yuuji. Margery's back in town, but she's got her hands full as Wilhelmina and Shana go to the Palace of the Stars, where Hecate is using Yuuji to make Reigi Maigo generate almost limitless power of existence, threatening the whole city...
I'm noticing a pattern here--whatever the situation, Wilhelmina thinks the best solution is to kill Yuuji. Ball Masque's in town? Kill Yuuji! Ball Masque captured him? Well, we could go and rescue him but--nope, kill Yuuji! We're out of orange juice? Kill Yuuji! What did he ever do to her? Did Yuuji run over Wilhelmina's puppy with a truck, then back over it again for good measure while she watched in horror? I know she doesn't want Ball Masque to use Reigi Maigo, but how about rescuing him and then hiding him or something?
Anyway, a solid episode as we get closer to the conclusion.
Episode 23: Battle at the Dawn Star Temple
Shana and Wilhelmina reach the Palace of the Stars and run into their first obstacle--an army of Tetsu-jin 27 1/5ths produced by Professor Crazy and a machine that sucks away their power of existance, making it harder to fight. Wilhelmina gets an arrow in the shoulder and Shana gets shot right in the zettai ryouiki, but they keep fighting and Margery shows up to blow up Professor Crazy's machine, enabling Shana and Wilhelmina to fight at full power again. Wilhelmina asks Shana if she'll kill Yuuji, and she says no--she'll fight to save Yuuji and prevent the world's balance from being disrupted, as Shana and as a Flame Haze.
A good episode, as the smackdown at the Palace of the Stars begins. Although I almost wish they hadn't translated the name in the DVD subs, because 'Palace of the Stars' sounds too much like something you'd find in Las Vegas. Wilhelmina redeems herself a little here, respecting Shana's decision and telling her she believes in her, -de arimasu.
Episode 24: Crimson Thoughts
The Final Battle--Margery faces off against Sydonay, with Wilhelmina taking on Bel-Peol, as Shana confronts Hecate. Hecate orgasms while 'touching vessels' to Yuuji to copy his memories, but Yuuji can tell Shana is there to save him, and tells Hecate she can't be fulfilled just by borrowing memories from someone else. Shana frees Yuuji, and Hecate goes batshit insane like Shiro, releasing enough power of existence to destroy Misaki City. Shana and Alastor can only find one way to absorb it all before the city is destroyed--have Alastor manifest in this world to consume it, although that would have the side-effect of killing Shana. Yuuji can't escape either, but he takes Shana's hand and tells her he'd decided a long time back to go wherever she did--and as they walk into what looks like oblivion together, Shana tells Yuuji she loves him...
Of course, she doesn't die--she just wakes up on the school roof, and Alastor says her 'vessel' turned out to be big enough that she didn't get destroyed after all, while Yuuji was protected by Friagne's ring. Cue the ending credits and epilogue...
A good final episode, with some panty shots thrown in for fanservice during the Shana-Hecate fight--the "oh wait, turns out you didn't die after all" at the end seemed a little contrived, but it was much better than the series ending with Shana and Yuuji dying, so I can't complain too much. The moment where Shana and Yuuji were walking into the firestorm hand in hand was really well done. I remember the first time I watched this I was surprised they ended the arc with Bel-Peol, Sydonay, Hecate, and Professor Crazy all just getting away unscathed--even Lotus Domino got away. I was just waiting to hear Bel-Peol say "I'll get you next time" or something, followed by maniacal laughter as she disappeared. Now I'm wondering if they'll finally get what's coming to them in Shana II, namely a chance to check out the sharp side of Nietono no Shana up close, or if they'll just be forgotten, living out the rest of their days in some Denizen Retirement Community.
While it wasn't perfect, overall Shakugan no Shana was a fun series to watch--it passed the re-watch test well, and had a good mix of action, character development, drama, and romance. A few random thoughts:
- The Shana-tan Specials are just awesome, especially Evil Kazumi: "I'm definitely going to kill her..." or "Good luck then, Shana-tan" with an evil smirk. Chibi-Shana sitting on Yuuji's head eating melon pan, while he complains about all the crumbs, is just classic. Alastor ending up at the South Pole was good too--I'm hoping with Shana II we get some more short specials like this when the DVDs come out.
- Especially watching on DVD, there are a couple work-saving measures JC Staff took that get old--Alastor's 15-second spiel at the start of every ep before the OP, and the up to a minute-long recap of the previous episode before the title screen after the OP. It reminds me a little of Hayate no Gotoku, with the easy-to-animate 'Butler Network' taking out time at the end of every episode they'd otherwise have to fill with real animation and plot. I guess if you're watching on TV and you forget what happens week to week the recap is nice, but most other series get by without one fine...not a big deal, though, since that's what fast-forwarding is for.
- I know Noiji Itou illustrates a billion light novels and games and I really want to like her drawing, but I have to admit I just don't like her character designs as much as the anime's. Unfortunately for me, the region 1 DVDs all have her representations of the characters on the covers, while I'd much rather see the anime versions. In a perfect world, the covers would be reversible and you could pick, but no such luck.