In large part due to Riyoga’s prodding, I finally up and finished the second season in the Shakugan no Shana anime franchise. I had attempted it when the show first aired, but quickly lost interest midway after the school festival and Pheles arc. This second attempt at viewing also took much longer than usual for me when watching completely aired anime; I think I re-started it sometime in the winter of 2012, and only just finished a week ago in mid-July. There were several factors that contributed to the slow following, but I think the simplest explanation boils down to the fact that I was bored.
Compared to the first season, the second took much more time on the various love and identity struggles of both main and side characters, a development pushed forward by the introduction of a “new” character, Fumina Konoe. I thought I hated the love triangle in the first season, but the sudden love square annoyed me even more. Konoe’s similarity to Hecate, a character I also don’t find interesting, wasn’t the problem; what bugged me was her complete dependency on Yuuji and his equally tiresome inability to just leave her to her own devices. Yuuji steps up his game as biggest punching bag alive, playing the hero by always helping those in need and disregarding his own personal agendas.
I actually came to appreciate the truce between Shana and Kazumi, who changed from their overly loud, passionate displays to ones of a quiet constant type of love. Their patience and loyalty boggles my mind given the utterly dense mind of Yuuji, but instead of passively taking the backseat by waiting for him to come to them, they agree to confront him. I have to admire the courage such an act as confessing love must demand, having never really done so myself face-to-face before starting a relationship.
Yuuji also changes for the better as well after facing some of his own character weaknesses, mainly that of ignoring his true feelings about leaving his hometown. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he’s gained my affections, but I do acknowledge that his physical and mental training have both paid off to make the battles in this season much less painful to watch. In the midst of his training and all the chaos that keeps coming to Misaki City, it’s easy to see why he’d start shutting himself off from all the emotions regarding his family and friends. All the time spent worrying and feeling sad about leaving them behind is time seemingly not spent strengthening and preparing himself for the many battles ahead. But by not accepting that pain, he deadens himself to the entire reason for fighting in the first place.
It’s important to note here the significance of the title, which chooses “Second” instead of some other name. We later find out through a discussion with Yuuji’s father that he is actually the second-born in the Sakai family, following an older brother who died at birth. His given name reflects the fact that not only is he the second child, but a wish for him to live a long life after the first sibling who was unable to. The discussion comes at the perfect time when Yuuji is struggling to come to terms with his responsibilities and personal attachments.
Baddies Never Die
What is with Shana’s aversion to killing its villains? I don’t think I see a single major villain in the entire second season die, and so never get the satisfaction of a sure win. This is probably the worst way of keeping my attention since not only am I shackled with disliking the supposedly good guys, but I end up becoming equally annoyed with the staying power of the bad guys. JUST DIE! DIE ALREADY!
The Middle Ground
Being the middle series in a trilogy, it makes sense that the second season would focus so much time on building up its characters’ backgrounds and developing them in preparation for what will hopefully be an action-packed and conclusive third season. I just wish it had stood out positively a bit more like some middle movies like The Empire Strikes Back or The Dark Knight, both of which I prefer to the other movies in their franchises. I guess the character building worked well enough to keep me invested in the series for Shana Final, where I hope to see the Silver really work on Yuuji’s capabilities. I also approved of the extreme downscaling in Shana’s infamous line, “Urusai, urusai, ursusai!”
On to the third and final season!