Whoa, now that Bleach is fading into classic status and fading from our regular scheduled program, it seems we have a bonafide copycat. Shakugan no Shana is JUST like Bleach. Yuji Sakai, a high school student, expected his very normal life to last forever. However, this expectation is quickly shattered one day while on his way home. The world suddenly freezes in time, leaving Yuji to watch in horror as blue flames engulf the people around him. Soon a monster resembling a large doll appears and begins sucking the flames into its mouth, until it notices Yuji. Surprised with Yuji’s insusceptibility to the time-stop (fuzetsu), it jumps with glee. Just as the monster prepares to consume Yuji, a sword-wielding girl in black attire with flaming red eyes and hair appears, swiftly and confidently destroys the monster, before noticing Yuji moving freely.
If you don’t know who Shana is…really? All you need to know is that she wields a really long katana and has blazing hair and burning eyes. If this means going to school together and even sharing the same bedroom, well, it’s going to be an uneasy existence. Pervert alert? Sure, there’s the whole “save the world” from evil thing, coupled with well done confrontations, battles and events, but it wraps it all up in one neat package. Some parts flicker with mediocracy however, as these episodes had the exact same issues as the last one – the show provides us with a little bit of what we WANT (The battle and development between Yuuji and Shana) and instead, gives us battles and scenes that are dragged out and completely irrelevant to the series as a whole. Oh, there’s also the fact that the anime does not take itself seriously, and very wisely so.
So, in the meat and potatoes of the series, to the part where they end up risking their lives to save the entire city, the anime is just well done. It is a really light series, no gore or anything like that. I found the openings superb but I have seen better animations and I got bored during a couple of chapters. Mainly because, as well done as it may seem, the villains come, they’re beaten, and at the end of the day, life resumes back to normal. This has a healthy mixture of all of those yet doesn’t cling to one or the other. The best part is you actually care for the characters and hope for the best for them as they make their transitions. But it is only in well-worn story elements and tropes that we can define Shakugan no Shana as average. Because in this case, it isn’t the originality, but rather the execution that makes the series worth watching.
While the opening episode felt fresh and at times even surprising as it introduced plot devices, as the series progressed it at some levels came to feel more and more like “been there, done that” in the arena of story. We’ve done the normal kid who has something special about him, the magical girl with a supernatural helper. Like I said earlier, it is pretty much Bleach. This is not a particularly original series, but like some typical but solidly written fantasy novel that owes much to Tolkien, Shakugan no Shana takes the familiar and makes it worthwhile through solid execution and good, sympathetic characters with whom we enjoy spending our time. Shana’s journey from hard-boiled and single-minded Flame Haze to a person with a growing realization of the need for interpersonal relationships makes her very human and ultimately, despite her hard exterior, very lovable. If you are not looking for something new and different, but can appreciate familiar themes executed skillfully, then this is definitely a show for you.