Once again I am led to the conclusion that if you start a franchise off with novels instead of manga, the end result will most often be fantastic. In this case, Shakugan no Shana is the franchise in question and it delivers a great story with great characters in a great way. For an anime I had never heard of and decided to watch because I saw a picture on 4-chan of Shana and thought she was cute with a sword, this turned out to be a true diamond in the rough. Spoilers: Yuji is dead and red is not her natural color.

Shakugan no Shana is the story of a boy and girl. Except in this case, the boy happens to be dead and the girl happens to be a warrior under contract of a king from an other universe to kill creatures who devour existences. Yuji meets the Flame Haze, known only as the Slayer with Flaming Hair and Blazing Eyes, when he is about to be (re)killed by a denizen who eats human existence. He is told after being rescued that he is a torch, a replacement being brought to life for a short time to replace a human and that gradually fades out of existence to lessen the impact on the world. The rest of the story revolves around Yuji’s acceptance of this fact and his growing relationship with the girl with no name who he calls Shana.

Shana ready to fightThe story behind this anime is pretty good and unique. Kings from other universes, creatures who feed on existences, replacement beings who are supposed to fade out to lessen the shock of having things simply vanish, and of course pseudo-loli girls with swords who kill things. Throughout the show, I tried very hard to second guess what was going to happen, but always found myself being pleasantly surprised by the turn of events. The plot is not a “save the world” type plot. Instead it is a slice of a war that has been raging for centuries and we only see the battles relevant to Shana and Yuji.

The cast in chibi formThe characters in the story were all great. All the characters grow to some extent, and some a lot more than others. Yuji proves that he is not simply another torch by putting others before himself and wanting to protect Shana even though he is well aware that he is nearly powerless. Shana, while being close to Yuji, turns from being a callous warrior to showing a lot of her human side to him and his friends. Margerie Daw, another Flame Haze, develops from being a berzerker type fighter to gaining friends in her “henchmen” she acquires while in the city. Every character in the story that you meet ends up surpassing themselves by the end of the show.

ShanaOne of the best aspects of the show, and I’ll even admit this, is the relationship between Shana and Yuji. Differing from normal high school love dramas, this relationship is unique in that Shana was never told what love was and therefore has no idea how to react to the feelings of closeness she has for Yuji and that Yuji is dead and also a hunted individual who can not form normal relationships with anyone else now that he knows the truth. The series shows Shana battling with her feelings and with her rival for Yuji, Kazumi Yoshida. The relationship triangle reaches a fever pitch in the second half when Shana has to decide if she must put her human side or her Flame Haze side first in regards to Yuji. For several straight episodes I had no idea how things would work out, or even if they would as it wasn’t just “Should I leave him?” it was “Should I kill him?”

Shana and Hacate in the Hacatetan OmakeAfter the amazing final battle of the series there are several issues left unresolved but I was able to get over it because of the way they handled it. Not giving anything away, certain tensions are reset, akin to beginning round 2. Thankfully though, I had the three omake episodes and the OVA to watch afterwards. The omake, which feature prominent scenes of the show redone with Shana in chibi form, were absolutely hilarious. The one with Hacate in the same fashion was doubly funny as it took a few scenes where, as a viewer, you had some joke in your head about that scene being sexual and redid them as such (with chibis).

Overall, Shakugan no Shana delivered action, romance, characters I loved, and humor in proportions that kept me excited and ready to watch more. Im thrilled there are novels coming to the states and a movie (even though its just a redo of the first book or eps 1-6) coming out in April. For being so fun and exciting to watch, Shakugan no Shana gets 4.5 out of 5 stars. Urusai urusai urusai!

Rating: ★★★★½

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