The second season of Shakugan no Shana shares a lot of the same problems as the first. About half the cast of characters are highly irritating, although I did find myself warming to the main trio of Yuji, Shana and Kazumi more and more over time. There is also still the same inconsistent mix of relationship drama and sci-fi/fantasy action. We get several episodes that focus on the character dynamics, and then all of a sudden there will be a big dramatic moment like an enemy arriving on the scene, and then all the relationship stuff gets abandoned in favour of an episode or two of battle sequences. I suspect that more viewers will enjoy the big battles than the relationship dynamics (although I’m the opposite), but either way it seems like an odd approach, which must surely satisfy nobody.
There are 24 episodes in the second season, which is roughly divided down the middle by the presence of new character Fumina in the first half. She turns up as a new kid in school, looking exactly like old enemy Hecate. She’s obviously going to have some sort of a secret, and we spend many episodes waiting for something to happen, but in the meantime we are firmly in the realms of the relationship dynamics between the main characters, so this was the half of the season I enjoyed the most, by far. Fumina is a great addition to the line-up, quiet and almost emotionless, apart from developing an obsessive attachment to Yuji. That turns the already established love triangle into a love… well, square, I suppose, shaking things up nicely and moving the series more towards a harem anime. It doesn’t last, though, and we have just enough time to get attached to the new character and care about her, before everything changes. The one area I would most fault this season is that it doesn’t focus enough on the emotional impact of the loss of Fumina from the group of friends. She clearly meant a lot to Yuji, but to a large extent everything just resets to the way it was before she arrived on the scene. Before that happens, there’s a great little storyline centring on the cultural festival, which includes a parade where everyone dresses up as fictional characters.
Also in the first half of the season we get a flashback episode that explores Margery’s past, which ties in nicely with the rest of the season but I didn’t enjoy it because Margery is probably the most irritating character in this whole thing, so she’s the last person I want to be the star of the show for an episode. There are also a couple of episodes devoted to a trip to an amusement park, which is a lot more fun, marred slightly by the focus on bespectacled loser Hayato, who is trying to impress Kazumi and just makes a fool of himself by generally trying to be in charge of everything and coming very close to sucking all the fun out of the day. His friends are frustratingly tolerant of him, and I just wanted Kazumi to tell him to get lost, but she’s too nice a person for that, of course.
The second half of the season builds up to a huge battle, but there is still time to focus on some strong character drama. Eita, one of the two followers of Margery, decides that his priorities have to change, after falling in love and also seeing the consequences of the world he’s involved in. It’s a worthwhile storyline, although it’s a bit frustrating when the focus moves entirely away from the main characters and onto Eita, who happens to be the worst example of character animation on the show (well, apart from one of the villains who looks like he has just stepped out of a Scooby Doo cartoon). He is nearly always drawn with what looks like closed eyes, which gets really distracting and annoying, and I just wanted him to trip over or something, and somebody to tell him he might see where he is going a bit better if he doesn’t walk around all the time with his eyes shut.
Yuji’s dad shows up for the first time, although he’s a relatively dull character, but he does give Yuji some news that strengthens his resolve to protect his town and his family and friends. His arrival is also an important moment for Shana, whom Yuji’s mother has taken under her wing. It’s lovely to see the growing attachment between Shana and Yuji’s family. The love triangle between Yuji, Shana and Kazumi moves along at a snail’s pace, with endless frustrating delaying tactics from the writers, but by the end of the series it does feel like we are finally reaching a resolution to this plot strand, and at least everyone has finally laid their cards on the table. There was only ever going to be one winner in this triangle, and it was pretty obvious who that was going to be, but if you are in any doubt then the reactions of the two girls at the end of the final episode surely make it clear which way Yuji has turned, faced with a literal crossroads in his life.
There is still a short OVA season and a full final season I need to track down. Despite its many frustrations, I’m looking forward to completing this journey. RP