At the end of the second season of Shakugan no Shana, we were left with a cliffhanger of sorts, with the love triangle between Yuji, Shana and Kazumi about to be resolved. It was pretty obvious which way Yuji was going to jump (well, walk), but even so it is frustrating to see that the cliffhanger ending is not resolved at the start of this, the OVA series that followed. Instead, we head off on three different tangents.
There are just four episodes to this OVA series. The first, titled Reshuffle is a body swap episode. It’s a common trope in sci-fi, and I’ve seen several of them, but this does have a fresh approach because it isn’t entirely played for laughs. Instead, Yuji and Shana’s immediate concern is to make sure nobody discovers what has happened, which could compromise their safety, and pretending to be somebody you are not is obviously not an easy thing. It is interesting to see the two characters experience something of each other’s lives, and the episodes steers refreshingly clear of any fanservice shenanigans. That’s admirable, considering the obvious opportunities the body swap idea presents, and how OVA episodes are not generally known for their restraint in that respect. This remains a high quality series, committed to a tight focus on telling good stories.
The second episode is the most disposable of the four. Titled Domicile, it centres around Yuji and Wilhemina worrying about Shana’s odd behaviour. The explanation is not particularly interesting. This is a good point at which to mention that you may be disappointed in this OVA season if you are invested in the wider ensemble cast of Shana. Several of the regular characters make little or no appearance, with a very tight focus on Shana herself. Kazumi is absent, and even Yuji drops out of the narrative for the last half of the season, although that does allow a tease after the end credits of the last episode, with Shana and Yuji reuniting.
The last two episodes are a two-part story titled Overture, and these are by far the highlight of the season. A couple of new characters are introduced, so for the first time this feels like it is really moving the story forwards. Junko is a Torch (if you’ve forgotten, that means she’s dead but doesn’t realise it, until she will eventually fade away and be completely forgotten), whom Shana swiftly dispatches. It’s hard to love Shana as a character when she is dispassionately ending the lives of Torches in this manner, although it is a necessary part of her job. Shana has to take Junko’s place as part of an investigation, fitting awkwardly into her family and school life (very awkwardly, in fact). This continues the theme from earlier in the season of Shana unable to convincingly play the part of somebody else, and also struggling to fit in with a traditional family life. She just can’t fake the way a close family talks to each other, having had little of that kind of experience. We go on a journey with Shana of discovering Junko’s recent history, helped by some flashback sequences.
Junko is a great character, and her final days are filled with drama, sadness and great joy. She was embarking on a new relationship with a boy named Yukio (whom Shana has to track down and find out why he wasn’t turned into a Torch as well), and her mother caught them kissing on a park bench. It’s an emotional examination of how a parent can react badly when trying to protect a child and then feel guilty about it. Parents are human beings, and they are not perfect. That’s a difficult lesson every child has to learn, sooner or later. Much mileage is made in these episodes from the look of disgust and betrayal Junko shoots at her mother, which is a pivotal moment, and a broken bracelet in need of repair is used as an effective metaphor for a broken relationship.
The final episode gives us a great action sequence, with Shana battling the Denizen who killed Junko. He is a creepy character, who lures his victims by pretending to be a professional photographer looking for models as a distraction technique. That’s a real-world danger, so it’s quite disturbing to watch.
I enjoyed this short season, particularly the last two episodes, which stirred the emotions and were also a very well-written story. There is one final season of Shana to go, and it’s a full run of 24 episodes. I’m diving straight into that, so look out for a review here soon. RP
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