Shakugan no Shana Final–Midseason Comments

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So far I’ve been pretty pleased with the third season. It doesn’t suffer from the second season’s weak opening. I’ve seen complaints that they skipped over some of the light novels, but for the most part I haven’t felt that I was missing much. The only point where I was taken aback was when Shana produced a new tool called the Eye of Judgement with no explanation of where or how she acquired it. (On the other hand, those who haven’t seen the first two seasons of the anime will be totally lost. That’s the breaks I guess.)

However in watching the third season I have come to understand something that seemed “off” about this series from the beginning, and which may partly explain why some people love it and some people hate it. This is really, in essence, a shoujo story. Sure it looks and feels like a shounen series. (Technically I think the light novels are seinen, but that’s close enough.) It even has shounen-style fan service, though it’s presented rather ironically. But the fundamental structure is more like a shoujo story.

For one thing, it was obvious even in the first season that this story is mainly about Shana, the challenges she has faced and her personal growth. Yuuji is the viewpoint character in the first two seasons (he has spent much of the third season offscreen) but his role is basically that of a typical shoujo boyfriend: on one hand impossibly idealized, but also often frustrating or even scary.

Let’s consider the basic plot of the story so far, and you can decide whether is sounds shounen or shoujo. (Major spoilers follow.)

To begin with we have Shana, a heroine with a Tragic Destiny. (Sounds pretty shoujo already, doesn’t it?) She knows about the Tragic Destiny and she accepts it proudly. (Some things are worth dying for.) But she also feels a deep emptiness. There is something missing which she cannot even name.

Then she meets Yuuji. At first she dismisses him–she has been brought up to assume that ordinary humans are contemptible. Gradually she comes to appreciate his basic goodness and his hidden talents. But at first this makes her feel threatened. She even contemplates killing him. Yet she comes to terms with her new feelings, accepting him as an ally and finally realizing that he is her soulmate. Suddenly she feels liberated. With Yuuji she feels much stronger, able to overcome any challenge.

But her problems are not over. Her lack of social skills makes her unable to declare her love for Yuuji. Kasumi, an ordinary human girl, declares herself a rival for Yuuji’s affections. [End of Season 1.]

Gradually Shana’s social skills improve as she builds relationships with Yuuji’s mother and his classmates. But her relationship with Yuuji seems to deteriorate as he becomes troubled and distant. But she perseveres, her faith never wavering. By treating Kasumi honorably she turns her into a friend. Finally her faith is rewarded when Yuuji declares his love for her. [End of Season 2.]

But at the moment of her triumph, Yuuji is snatched away. Unable to accept her Tragic Destiny, he declares his intention to change her fate, and for some reason forms an alliance with the Chief Bad Guy. Yuuji and Shana fight; he defeats her and imprisons her. He doesn’t quite rape her, but he comes close.

Defeated, isolated and powerless, Shana sinks into depression. But she refuses to accept this. Summoning her inner strength she breaks free and rises into the sky like a blazing star. She declares her undying love for Yuuji and her determination to forcibly drag him back to the path of righteousness. And off she goes for a final showdown with her beloved nemesis.