The Raging, Fire-Eyed tsundere loli, Shana.
Alright, translate the title however you want; the dust jacket on the Japanese manga that I’m holding reads ‘SHANAtheRagingFireEYED‘, so I’m gonna go with that. Shakugan no Shana is a series that needs little introduction to anime fans, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock. A rock that’s concealing the sealed trap door to a nuclear fallout shelter. One of the most popular light novel series to hit Japan, the anime started airing way back in Fall 2005. After many, many years, the third and last season, Shakugan no Shana Final, finished this winter. So there’s no better time to talk about the hit series that practically redefined the term tsundere.
Sakai Yuji is just a normal guy in highschool. But when he is suddenly attacked by a bizarre monster, he is rescued at the last moment by a cloaked and red-haired girl wielding a katana. Yuji is saved, but the girl reveals that he does not truly exist; he is a Torch, a substitute existence for the real Sakai Yuji who is already dead. Torches contain a small amount of Power of Existence, which allows their existence to be validated by the rest of the world. In time, however, all Torches eventually fade away and are lost to the world forever: any trace, any memory of the Torch is completely wiped from the universe. But Yuji is special; he is a Mystes — vessels that contain powerful magic items that are highly prized and sought after by Crimson Denizens, beings from another dimension. To fuel their existence in this world, Crimson Denizens must consume humans and take their Power of Existence. Certain Denizens, known as Crimson Lords, are among the most powerful of these extra-dimensional beings, and some of them lend their power to humans in order to combat their sinister brethren. Humans contracted to these Crimson Lords are called Flame Hazes, and the red-haired girl, who wields the mystic sword Nietono no Shana, is among the most powerful in the organization.
The lore of Shakugan no Shana is extremely rich, drawing on 25 novels of content. The anime definitely gets to (and does) take its time bringing events to fruition throughout its three-series run. Shana, the titular character, is an absolute tsundere goddess. She basically rewrote the book on it: she’s young, she’s tough, she’s got attitude, she’s moe, she has a very obvious crush on the main lead, she physically hurts said crush whilst still protecting his life in dire situations, and she runs with either Class A or Class B Zettai Ryouiki. She’s pretty much the template for every tsundere-loli character voiced by Kugimiya Rie (yes, she voices Shana).
Not to say that Yuji is a terrible main character, but he’s totally overshadowed by the supporting cast (most of which actually have superpowers that are useful) for the better part of the first two series. He’s definitely on the low end of the ‘characters with no spine,’ which only serves to enhance Shana’s coolness. Things take a turn around series three, where Yuji undergoes a drastic personality change and really starts screwing with the power-balancing as far as the action goes.
Fortunately, the supporting cast is pretty gripping, at least for the first two seasons. There’s a strong sense of camaraderie among the mains and primary supporting cast, so when the story really branches out in the final season, all the new characters seem like fluff not adding to the story.
Which brings me to a love/hate relationship with titles and translations. When addressing a Flame Haze, you have to choose between their given name, their title, and the Crimson Lord that the Flame Haze is contracted to. In Shana’s case:
Shana, The Raging, Fire-Eyed Hunter, contracted to Alastor, the Flame of Heaven.
This is a nightmare when it comes to translations. I’ve seen upwards of 4 different translations for both the Haze’s title and the Lord’s title, and it gets old, very quickly. Especially when new characters are introduced and you have dialogue that swaps between referring to Hazes with their given names, titles, Lords, and so forth. The titles sound pretty awesome, especially when they’re first presented, but it’s not something that needs to get repeated every episode.
Action throughout the series is top-notch — each Haze and Denizen have their own unique powers (though curiously, Shana is the only one that really emphasizes the fire part of the Flame Haze title), and the designs for the Crimson Lord avatars (those contracted to Flame Hazes are carried as tiny trinkets by the Haze) are pretty interesting. I question the choice of avatar for some characters, though. Shana does fine with her Alastor-pendant, and Margerie makes good use of her Marchosias-book, but for all practical purposes, I’d probably go with a ring. I know it’d be a lot easier to lose a pendant during a fight than a ring.
The series also has an adequate amount of romance in it. There are a few love triangles thrown in from the get-go, as well as awkward friendships turning to romantic relationships throughout the story, though it isn’t a something that absolutely drives the narrative until the last season (and at that point, you can really throw logic and reason out the door). Shippers will have a blast with this one, especially the primary triangle.
Given that Shakugan no Shana ran its course over nearly six years, there’s a difference in quality between the three series. The first does an excellent job establishing characters and setting the tone of the story, while the second one more or less degenerated into a cash-cow milking session considering that the series strayed very far from the original content in the light novel. Season 2 also decided it would be a great time to spend an unnecessarily long time focusing on Hecate, a quiet loli character voiced by Noto Mamiko. Yeah, I felt really used by the time that season was over. Fortunately, the last season redeems itself; it’s got the most action of the series, and it’s absolutely frantic with the sheer amount of characters present at that point. And for once, a long-running series finishes on (what I feel to be) a very good ending, so that’s something to look forward to for viewers that invest in the 72-episode run.
Really, there isn’t much else I can say about Shakugan no Shana. It deserves to be read or watched. Either way you do it, I’m sure it’ll be a blast; the source material is so good it would be very difficult to turn this into a bad series, so long as the plot kept progressing at a pace only slightly faster than your standard adaptation of a long-running shounen manga. It’s easily one of the best series of the 2000s, and as an action series definitely stands out in a sea of slice-of-life moeblobs.
Character Ranking – Shakugan no Shana
- Wilhelmina Carmel
- Margery Daw
- Chiara Toscana
- Sairei no Hebi
- Khamsin Nbhw