I first encountered this highly-addictive anime through FUNimation Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of Shakugan no Shana’s first season, repackaging the same portion previously released by Geneon with the original dub and all. That release, while collecting 24 episodes of an absolutely terrific series, left me wanting a bit more from FUNimation’s future releases of the title, and boy how they deliver! Some of the shots in the first season transfer looked downright ugly even for an SD release, which it was not. This, of course, was no doubt due to the quality of the materials they bought off Geneon, but still, I’ve come to expect better of a FUNimation Blu-ray than that. Their two-part Blu-ray release of Shakugan no Shana II, however, looks absolutely spectacular, and each of the two sets boasts more special features than the entire first season release had. So put your qualms about the combined price aside, because you absolutely get what you pay for when you buy Shakugan no Shana: Season II Parts 1 & 2 from FUNimation!
The stakes in the second season, needless to say, are higher than ever, and that means that even our protagonist Yuji finds himself locking swords with Crimson Denizens. This season finds Yuji not only deftly wielding a sword, but throwing fireballs as well, something you sure as hell didn’t see in the first season. With the exception of one notable stumble, this season is a categorical improvement upon the first. The rivalry between Shana and Yoshida for Yuji’s affections in the first season was rich, character-driven, and well-developed in most every way. In season II, however, this rivalry is further complicated by the introduction of Fumina Konoe. Given her overall incompetence at life and the other girls’ previously well-established relationships with Yuji, Shana and Yoshida’s aggravation with Yuji over his forced friendliness with Konoe seems overly petty to me.
This is not to say that the love rectangle (?) here comes off petty in an unrealistic way. After all, they are all high schoolers, and young folk, as we all know, can become needlessly upset over trivial things. To this end, the dynamic here indeed comes off as realistic, but it lacks the dramatic intensity exemplified by the aforementioned love triangle in the previous season, not to mention the eternal war between the Flame Hazes and the Crimson Denizens. Such extreme pettiness seems out-of-place in this regard, especially when it’s the focus of some three or four episodes in a row and there’s no way in hell Yuji would end up with Konoe in the first place!
Before anyone makes such an absurd claim, I swear I’m not averse to character-driven narratives. That’s not really my problem with this storyline. What bothers me is that it upends the previous trajectory of the narrative, which had consistently balanced relationship troubles with Crimson Denizen troubles, and it did so in favor of really forced melodrama. It in no way improves upon the previous season’s formula. Fortunately, while the intrusion of Konoe into the Yuji/Shana/Yoshida dynamic indeed seems a huge misstep to me, it only persists for some five episodes and then the series is back to its former, ass-kicking self. Additionally, the developments of this arc are put to good use as the season develops, especially where the relationship between Shana and Yoshida are concerned. And this only makes the season’s climax that much more exciting.
If you watched the first season dubbed, you should note that the dub on FUNimation’s first season release had been carried over from the Geneon release. Dubs are expensive to produce, after all. FUNimation dubbed the second season themselves, however, and the cast changes here entirely, so far as I could tell from the credits. I watched a good portion of the series with the dubs so I could speak to them here, and I have to say that I vastly prefer the FUNimation dub. A lot of the minor characters especially are more interesting to me in the FUNimation dub and tend to bleed together less vocally than they do at times in the Geneon dub. So fret not if you’re fretting, for the dub, I assure you, is a good one.