(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.