Since I really enjoyed the Shakugan no Shana television series I was eager to see the movie. Unfortunately it was a bit of a letdown.
The movie turns out to be a retelling of the first story arc of the TV series (the Friagne arc.) I’m OK with that in principle. That arc is a powerful story; some people consider it the best part of the series. I’m willing to judge the movie on its own terms without comparing it to the series–if they’ll let me.
The obvious problem in an exercise like this is to take a story that originally fit into six 24-minute episodes and squeeze it into a 90-minute move without the result feel rushed and losing much of the emotional impact. They don’t entirely succeed.
If I were doing this I would ruthlessly cut out three of the major characters: Kazumi, Margery Daw and Lamies. They aren’t really needed for the first story (they weren’t in the original novel) and they are included in the TV series to lay the groundwork for later story arcs.
They do remove Lamies, but Kazumi and Margery actually get their parts expanded. This is not to Kazumi’s benefit; she is made into even more of a pitiful wimp. I really felt like throwing things at her. Margery is made into a good guy who starts cooperating with Shana the moment they meet, which actually makes her totally superfluous.
The ending is changed to something closer to the original novel (with the pointless addition of Margery.) This is actually more spectacular than the TV series, but it didn’t touch me nearly as much. It seemed like more pyrotechnics and less feeling.
The things they leave out include the initial “first day of school” sequence from the series. This is not necessary to the plot, but the contrast between Yuuji’s initial naive hopes and the horror that follows greatly increases the emotional impact of the TV series. The movie is left weaker as a result.
Infuriatingly they waste time on two sequences whose only purpose is to show us glimpses of Wilhelmina Carmel, who has no role at all in this story.
I see a pattern here. Kazumi, Margery and Wilhelmina are here wasting precious screen time because they are popular with fans of the TV series. So the purpose of the movie is to get fans of the TV series to go to the theater and pay to see a story that they have already seen on TV. They don’t really care about making a movie for people who haven’t seen the TV series.
If that is the goal, it would have been much fairer to tell a new story, a sequel to the TV series. As it is, fans would be much wiser to get out the DVDs of the TV series and rewatch the Friagne arc on them.