WORST SEASON EVER. Right from the beginning, nothing in this third season makes sense. Nothing from the previous seasons suggested any of the new events. The change in the main character doesn't make sense. I don't care what they claim the reason to be, the fact is, in the situation they described, it is highly unlikely that there would be such a dramatic change in him. I'm a psych major and I'm telling you right now, nothing from the previous seasons suggested his character would ever change like that in such a situation. Not to mention, the change in him is lame and annoying. I just want to punch the kid a hundred times everytime he showed up on my screen. Alot of the events were just confusing and hard to keep up with too. I just kept clicking the next episode button because I felt obliged to see it till the end, not because I actually wanted to watch it. Technically, I turned it off a few episodes before finishing it. I just couldn't take it anymore, and that's just sad. I can't say this show was ever very good and it certainly didn't meet my expectations. It was hard to get in to and stay in to since the beginning of season one. It had it's interesting moments, and it had a lot of moments where I just couldn't get interested in it at all. The animation is great, but the story and characters need some help. With this third season though, it's beyond hope. There is no redemption in my opinion.
Overall, I say, DON'T BOTHER WATCHING! Just stick with the ending to season two. The ending for that season was actually decent. Season three will just ruin the whole thing. Better to just remember season twos seemingly nice ending.
(I originally wrote this review at another site when I had seen 22/24 episodes-I added in stuff on 23-24 at the end)
Oh Shana, how low could you have gotten?
I was a big Shana fan three years ago, and after hearing of the news of when season 3 was going to premier last Summer, I was overjoyed. Boy was I in for a surprise, massive disappointment.
Shakugan no Shana III (Final) is J.C. Staff's third and final adaption of the popular Shakugan no Shana light novel series written by Yashichiro Takahashi. Shakugan no Shana is a hot series for J.C. Staff, with each volume of season 1 and season 2 having sold 10,000+ copies total, and with great reason. Shakugan no Shana was a very entertaining and interesting series with the first two seasons. Season 3 however, is a whole different beast (It's even selling on average 4,000 copies per volume on average, not 10,000+ like the successful first two seasons.).
We start off with how Yuji has disappeared, and whether or not if he truly has had his flame burn out. This was interesting...for a while. One of the biggest issues early on with season 3 is time. They make no effort to explain when season 3 takes place (I.E. How long after the end of season 2.), and it proves to be a problem that just gets worse, confusing the viewer. Not to mention, something always associated with time, pacing. Shana III has an issue of making events either occur way too fast, or way too slow (Like slower than Dragon Ball Z almost at times.). This is very apparent during much of the first half, the war between the Flame Hazes, and the Bal Masque which also happens to be one of the most boring, if not the most boring war I've ever seen in an anime.
Another problem with the series is character development, and lack of explanations as to what's going on. Season 3's biggest issue is adding too many characters at once, and then not even bothering to provide any back-story, thus causing the viewer to hardly care about them. They'll only really be attached to the characters they know and love from the first two seasons, except of course Yuji (I'll get to this later.). As the show goes on, this only gets worse and worse as they try to make you care with touching moments, but due to the lack of proper character development, this does nothing.
The lack of explanations really is one of the biggest issues. It makes the show quite confusing, and leads to the viewer being quite bored. There are also many contradictions thanks to this.
Now, Yuji. The Yuji you knew from seasons 1 and 2 is completely gone. For some, this may be a good thing, but for others, it's quite a bad thing. Basically early on he has The Snake of the Festival take over his body. We have no idea where Yuji was, or where The Snake of the Festival came in which goes back to the issue of the lack of explanations and time. The Snake of the Festival later takes over as leader of the Bal Masque (As he was their former boss before he was sealed away.), and his goal first is to free his old body (Which of course, is a giant snake.), and he has another thing up his sleeve (He reveals this during the war.) which I won't post about due to spoilers.
The sound and art (Well, it's not as good, but it works.) are pretty much on par with the first two seasons, and they're what help hold this show up from being a 3/10 show or lower. It helps make the show still somewhat enjoyable. They're the best things about the show, which is such a shame. The entertainment value is there, but not much. A few episodes I've found have been quite a chore to watch even.
Overall, Shana III is a massive disappointment, and only devoted Shana fans will really have any reason to watch this, the main one being just to finish the story (This is the only reason why I haven't dropped it, I really want to see the end.). I may edit this after I see the end, but I don't expect this show to get much better.
Edit 3/30/2012 after seeing episodes 23 and 24 (The original part of the review was on 1-22):
Episode 23 didn't really help the show (It suffered from the same problems that are very apparent in the series), but episode 24 was worth watching (It's pretty much the only episode really worth watching). We get a decent enough ending which actually resulted in some decent character development.
I felt compelled to watch this anime since I watched the previous two seasons. The reason I felt compelled to watch it is because I needed closure on the magnetic love between Yuji and Shana.
I thought the previous two seasons were great. The setting where Yuji struggles against his fate as a torch was simply gutwrenching and I could feel the terror of his existence vanishing. The story continually degraded in the third series until every episode seemed randomly inserted, improvised, and impossible to follow.
It looked okay and sounded good. I can't give it a superb mark because there aren't any scenes I feel like rewatching. The fight scenes were fine; I didn't notice any major problems with consistent quality. The show isn't SAO or Attack on Titan eyecandy.
Most importantly Yuji seemed very unintelligent despite his great planning and motivation. I feel like Shana, and numerous other characters, completely lost their ability to communicate with each other. The constant introduction of new characters that I didn't care for was entirely irritating. The poor attempts at suddenly introducing characters that I didn't like and trying to make me sympathize with them was upsetting.
It wasn't satisfying. The characters were botched. I didn't like it so I'll pretend that this was not the final season that I watched. I'll replace it in my mind with a new reality that did end up satisfying me.
Warning: I will mention spoilers here and there, so read at your own peril.
This season was interesting because for the majority of the season I was rooting for the "wrong" side, the Denizens. It's still a good season, but the execution could have been better. The simple fact was, I found their plan and most of their side more sympathetic than the "good" guys, the Flame Hazes. As you know it starts with Yuji suddenly switching sides at the beginning of the season. Generally a stand up character, one of the main characters no less, like Yuji only does this if he is brainwashed/controlled, actaully supports the plan, or is infultrating the organization. Since it is made very clear early on that Yuji is doing this under his own violition and it isn't the kind of anime where he would be the mole, his cause has to have a VERY good reason for him to defect. So I decided that his plan had to be pretty damn good and decided to root for the Denizens.
Cue a few more episodes in where you find out that he is planning to create a new world for the Denizens. That? A plan I can support, especially when you find out that it will have no real reprocussions on the real world. This is where the anime messed up a bit and failed to get me back on the "good" guys side (because the episode descriptions clearly favor the Flame Hazes as the "good" guys). First, they failed to specify initially that the unlimited source of Existance was still going to be people, something you don't find out until later. This was something that would have probably have put me in the "good" guys camp, but by the time you figure it out, the Flame Hazes motivations for opposing them is so weak I decided that I'd rather root for someone with some real convictions. By this point, you quickly find out afterwards that Yuji has some sort of far reaching plan to change the Denizens so you assume the guy is probably going to address the eating people thing as well.
Second, the threat the Grand Order poses is really, really, and I mean really, nebulous at first. Essentially when the rain god of earth outlines every thing, it seems to boil down to: we don't like the God of Creation cause we think we have the right to police thier world too, because its part of "The World;" plus we think he's a dick. So by the time the writers bother to actually let you know the score, I'm firmly in the Denizen camp cause they took too long to explain why I should give a damn about the good guys and their concerns (this is 15+ episodes in). I'm not saying the denizens were saints through out all of this, in fact my loyality to their side was tested when they didn't let the routed Flame Hazes go instead of hunting them down and trying to kill them. Unfortunately by that point, the Haze's motivations were just too weak to root for, plus I could understand why they did that (sure some were doing it because they were evil, but in a way it was their revenge for the Hazes actions during the last ceremony).
Last, they introduce a horde of new Flame Hazes right as the battles start. I, as the viewer, have no attachment to these guys. I have never seen them before, know nothing about them, and really couldn't care less. It doesn't help that when they introduce the other three Gods of the Earth that the majority of them come off as giant a-holes. Again, it isn't until later that you find out they have a reason to be slaughtering everyone willy-nilly. Of course, most of them are still doing it because they like to kill so it makes it kind of hard to agree with them, especailly after they've made their side so unsympathetic.
Now don't get me wrong, it was a great anime. I just jumped sides early due to genre-savviness and stayed there. Also it really appears that for the final battle the writers intended to blur the lines between the two sides and let the veiwer decided who to root for, so I can't fault them for that. In my case, I was simply on the Denizen's side from the start so all the sympathy they were trying to build for the Denizens to blur the lines just put me further in their camp instead of making me question why I was rooting for the Flame Hazes.
This one ends up as the lowest ranked of the three seasons. It is still very entertaining to watch, primarily if you love action and lots of fight scenes. This season loses the charm that the first two had by giving barely any screen time to many characters that we knew well from the first two seasons. The school / daily life theme vanishes as every episode after the first six is pretty consistant fighting.
The ending (last 5 minutes) of episode 24 is epic and those who have been wanting to see the romantic outcome get to finally see it after three seasons of curiosity. This is one of the best endings to an anime. The quick change in situations towards those last 5 minutes is a bit too quick though and feels like something was skipped over to reach it.
The season is still good overall though as long as you are able to switch the mindset of how it has shifted. Definitely the most action packed I have seen in an anime. Paying close attention to the goals of the Bal Masque leader is important as the cause does make sense. He is not nearly as evil as it may seem. There is a good chance of wanting to support them even instead of siding with the flame haze.
The most unfortunate thing about this season ends up being that Shakugan no Shana ends with it. There was great potential to continue on with how things turned out and go back to how it was in season 1/2, shame. One of the better anime series overall.