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  Shana Flame-haired femme fataleBuy this film here.
Year: 2005
Director: Takashi Watanabe
Stars: Rie Kugimiya, Satoshi Hino, Ayako Kawasumi, Hitomi Nabatame, Kenji Nojima, Masashi Ebara, Mitsuo Iwata, Shizuka Itou, Takayuki Kondou, Akemi Okamura, Akeno Watanabe, Atsushi Ono
Genre: Animated, Fantasy, TV Series, Adventure
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Struck dead on his way home, average high school schmuck Yuuji Sakai (Satoshi Hino) glimpses the world around him is frozen and engulfed by blue flames. A giant, doll-like monster stands poised to devour him, but suddenly a flame-haired, sword-wielding heroine (Rie Kugimiya) saves his life. Calling herself a “Flame Haze”, the girl revives Yuuji as a “Torch” (a temporary spirit being) and enlists him in her mystical battle against the “Guze no Tomogara”, or “denizens of the Crimson World.” Yuuji in turn names this mysterious girl, “Shana.”

Whilst battling creepy, doll fetishist supervillain Friagne, Shana discovers Yuuji is a “Midnight Lost Child”, a torch who recovers his powers instead of fading away. Later, she loses a battle against rival Flame Haze, Margery Daw (Hitomi Nabatame). Armed with a talking spell book (Mitsuo Iwata) that periodically transforms into a giant, blue wolf that shoots flame from its paws, the sexy blonde wages war against the otherworldly monsters, whereas Shana seeks to preserve the balance between Earth and the Crimson World. Margery sets her sights on the ominously named, but actually benevolent Corpse Collector. Rejuvenated by her newfound bond with Yuuji, Shana sets out for round two.

Hot schoolgirls, monsters from another dimension, adolescent romance? Must another teen-oriented anime. High on imagination, but also heavy on exposition, Shakugen no Shana has a dense mythology that proves somewhat impenetrable for casual viewers. Terms like “mystes”, “torches” and “spiral organs” are babbled out at lightning speed, to occasional bewilderment. Nevertheless this pitches successfully to its target audience, with scenes of high school heartbreak (a subplot involves Kazumi Yoshida (Ayako Kawasumi) a painfully shy schoolgirl with a crush on Yuuji) and videogame style fantasy battles, propelled by inventive animation and delirious colours. The story features an interesting, existentialist bent wherein characters ponder the transient nature of existence. In spite of monsters and demons, Yuuji’s major preoccupation in early episodes is what will be left of him when he dies. What memories will he leave behind. At heart though the show revolves around a reoccurring anime trope: the gradual warming/humanisation of an icy, aloof heroine by love. Shana finds her powers grow stronger when Yuuji is near, illustrated in an explosive final battle where she sprouts fiery angel wings.

Mai Otsuka’s character designs are somewhat generic, but cute, while the end credits idolize the sultry-eyed heroine in typical teen anime fashion. The creators have a lot of fun with Margery Daw (yes, named after the nursery rhyme), a brash westerner whose heavy drinking affronts the straight-laced Japanese. She looks set to be a reoccurring character, as flashbacks reveal the blood splattered Silver Knight murdered her family and instilled a lifelong hatred of creatures from the Crimson World. As an ongoing adventure serial, this shows potential. The theme song, “Scarlet Colour Sky”, composed and performed by Mami Kawada, is also very engaging.
Reviewer: Andrew Pragasam


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