Full title: Shakugan no Shana
Author: Takahashi Yashichirou
Illustrator: Itou Noiji
Label: Dengeki Bunko
Year of publication: 2002
Pages: 293

It’s been a long month. Normally I’ll finish a book of this size in around ten hours, give or take a few depending on language level and page count. In the case of Zero no Tsukaima, the span of an entire novel can be cleared in one or two days’ time. With this first volume of Shakugan no Shana, it took me a full month. I know you’ve been worried in my absence, but there’s no need; I’m back now. I have served my time. And I can finally taste freedom again.

It’s futile to introduce Shana, since everyone and his grandmother knows about the series already, but for the sake of completion, I’ll do it anyway. After winning the Dengeki award and debuting with A/B Extreme in 2002, author Takahashi Yashichirou decided to write something easy to understand, and really hit the jackpot with Shakugan no Shana, which has been one of the absolute top sellers of this decade, amassing sales in the region of 6 million copies across the 18 volumes of the main story and several spin-offs. Amusingly, Haruhi is very close behind in terms of sales, and a factor they have in common is that Itou Noiji handles the illustration. Whether she’s the goose that lays the golden eggs, I’m not so sure, but her special brand of characters has certainly contributed to the massive popularity of the anime that popped up in 2005, and its sequel in 2007. In addition there are several games, a manga, a movie and whatever else you can think of, combining into a gigantic franchise.

The very first volume opens with protagonist Sakai Yuuji being eaten by a monster and thereby dying a horrible death. The end! But no, it turns out he’s actually a special Torch called a Mystes that carries a Treasure Tool, which means that the Midnight Lost Child within him keeps regenerating his Power of Existence that the evil Rinne sent by a Crimson Lord from the alternate world of the Crimson Realm wants in order to perform a Power of Unrestraint, and while these energies are being devoured in the temporal confinement Seal, the Flame Haze named Flame-Haired Red-Hot-Eyed Hunter Shana appears, carrying a necklace known as Cocytus, allowing Flame of Heavens Alastor to speak, and wielding the mighty sword Vairocana of the Offering Room, Shana rescues Yuuji, and the story of their romantic undulation can begin.

Oops, I spoiled it a bit there, didn’t I? But you already watched the anime and knew everything in the above paragraph, so I won’t apologize. The point I’m trying to make here is that the only way you can get through Shana is by keeping a special Shakugan no Shana dictionary at hand, or you’ll be lost or bored or probably both, as in my case. In fact, I gave up on the anime after four episodes, because of all the jargon. Yes, I am a fool of the highest order, but I was hoping the books might be better, and that the terms would be less confusing in writing. I was wrong, of course, because it’s much worse.

Yuuji spends half the book not wanting to die, and he moans and moans and it’s gloomy and dreary and incredibly boring. In the meantime, Shana explains what all the strange words mean, which is marginally more entertaining than studying for a history exam. Throughout, there are hints dropped that Shana and Yuuji might be falling for each other, but it’s constantly pushed back by the use of violence (Shana beating Yuuji), or insults (Yuuji calling Shana’s figure childish). This is a bit awkward, because Shana is described as looking like she’s 11 years old, yet Yuuji keeps thinking she’s beautiful whenever he catches a glimpse of her naked. He’s 15, though, so maybe that’s okay? Let’s see, the lower dating range is supposed to be Age/2+7, so that makes 14.5… oh shit!

Right, setting aside the pedophilia, Takahashi has a terrible habit of stuffing commas into his sentences. I’m decently fond of commas, admittedly, because they can be used to create a nice reading rhythm, or clear up long and complex sentences. However, Takahashi seems to think they’re some sort of magic literature tool that transforms your prose into shiny diamonds. The result is an incredibly annoying experience of reading two words, pausing mentally, then reading two more, pausing, reading a bit, pausing, and then you finally reach a blessed period and can attempt to extract the commas and parse it as a proper sentence. I’m surprised his editor didn’t strangle him after the first chapter, because I definitely would have.

It’s not all bad, unfortunately. I say unfortunately, since it would have been nice to be able to sum it all up as “Shana sucks” and be done with it. Toward the end, Yuuji shows a bit of courage, a willingness to sacrifice himself for the greater good, and Shana’s mask splits for a moment to show some fondness for him, and the final battle is quite decent. Then there’s a romantic comedy element at school, providing a nice change of mood. The trouble is, I’ve already seen this. About sixty times. I know exactly how it goes, because the series is 5000 pages long and counting. There’s no way that this couple will actually develop a relationship in the next book, or in the one after that, or even the 15th part, because the author will drag it out and reset everything with a stupid remark from the guy, tearing down all progress as the girl rips his head off. It’s like reading Zero no Tsukaima all over again, and after enjoying Toradora! I simply can’t stand this type of endless tsundere loop anymore, because now I know how good it can get if they just have the guts to end the damned thing.

Perhaps I’m being unfair comparing Shana to Zero no Tsukaima, since Shana came out two years earlier, but it doesn’t matter much when Zero no Tsukaima does it so much better. It’s more fun, exciting, sexy, less obscure, and contains a nicely thought out plot that unravels outward into a huge intrigue as you get through the volumes. I saw nothing in Shana to make me believe there’s anything in future parts to involve me, and life is far too short to read two of these infinite series.

Amazon link: English | Japanese


  1. Light Novels:

    ….–>>GUIN SAGA > Suzumiya Haruhi > To Aru > Shakugan no Shana >>>>>>….. (more Dangeki and Famitsu)>>> Zero no Tsukaima

    One of the few novels that I put in the recycle bin, but better than all this absurd fantasy that manages Harry Potter, Zero no Tsukaima is so light that sometimes makes me hesitate to take account of several volumes of arcane fantasy.

    Pd: the adaptation of Zero no Tsukaima sucks, he was integrally molded to the public “fapfapfap”

  2. Hehe, totally agree. well mostly.

    I thought learning the terminology was the fun part, after that was over, i found the shakugan plat was rather weak. The characters were also kindof uninteresting. and I abhored the flashbacks in later books. In fact, I gave up this series during one of the flashback periods, because it was taking up an entire novel…

    That said, Zero no Tsukaima is awesome. Easier to read, and very engaging.

  3. Eriol_elric, wow, massively dont agree. I gave up on Toaru: the weak scifi aspect of it sukked pretty hard. Zero no Tsukaima is clearly fantasy.
    Yes the author admits he gives in to the fetti sometimes: I really thought tabas shouldnt fall for saito… that was pandering.

    but if you ignore the obvious pandering, there is a good backbone to the story. one which shana and toaru just lack for. (imo)

  4. About time. This is the best anime/manga series EVER! And I’m dead serious about that. Incredible characters, good plot, not too much or too lacking in complications, very good twists, lots of destruction, awesome drama, much moe, decent comedy, a good balance between slice of life and action… I can keep on going!

  5. @ bananabanana

    To Aru although his handling of sci-fi diehards on premises, Zero is too light, up to now is predictable. the Hiatus handling script is not as solid when driving climax.
    Anyway yes, To Aru to overestimates because Touma is GAR D:

  6. I have read Shana and I agree with what you said about it. Despite the popularity and how it occasionally pretends to be ‘profound’, characters are rather 2 dimensional when you take a closer look and the story isn’t all that deep even though it likes to confuse you with terminologies and names. However, it is entertaining enough. Although it isn’t ‘that’ entertaining, I like to read this kind of stories in between heavy read since I just go through it quickly. But that is my case, which is different from yours because I read translated copies, and it usually takes me like 2 hours-ish (or less if I just fast forward past some less-interesting arts) to finish a book of Shana, so it works fine for me as a quick read. If I read it in the original language, and has to take the whole month to finish a book (of this series), I wouldn’t think that it is worthwhile.

    Looking forward to the next light novel review~

  7. I strongly suggest you read it again, but this time around, without your bias and glaring rant goggles. You might just see something new… maybe even discover a startling revelation. I mean it. Unless I misunderstood, you should stop with the pessimistic outlook, especially when it’s too early for you to judge ahead because of supposed format.

    Seemingly contrast to your thoughts, Shakugan no Shana is up there as high tier for me. I don’t claim to have read an abundant amount of LNs, but for the ones I have read, it’s up there with Kino’s Journey, Crest of the Stars, and Haruhi, imo. Shana and Yuji do have great development, and Shana’s tsundere personality is nicely justified.

    Shouldn’t let morality interrupt it your entertainment. If you want to get technically and anal about age, then Shana is supposed to be older than Yuji. Absolute age is unknown, but we know a consider amount of time has passed since she left Tendokyu.

  8. Aion, I have Slayers in my bookshelf, so I will definitely be reading it at some point. Already started on Bakemonogatari, however.

    Kaitune, for fluff, I’ve found both Zero no Tsukaima and Kanokon to be more entertaining than Shana. The problem isn’t that it takes long to read, but that I get so bored after 10 minutes that I have to quit and do something else.

    Imagine, while there’s a chance you’re right about that, I’d rather shave off my knees with a cheese grater than reread this volume. I was dumb enough to buy the sequel at the same time, so I’ll get to know them better eventually, whether I want to or not.

  9. @Kaitune I don’t think skimming over, skipping details or dialogues should really count for “I have read Shana”. I assume you’ve read translated copies on the series? I don’t know your native language, so I can’t be quick to assume anything. But if it’s English, then I might be doubting you unless you have your own personal source.

    Titles/terminology = pretending to be profound now? That’s pretty silly. They are merely titles to objectively describe Lords and others. It’s how they recognize one another. How is that trying to be profound? if anything, it gives a sense of nobility of a powerful presence. Although, I’d agree that some characters are quite lacking, the Yuji and Shana are far from 2 dimensional characters. Shana and Yuji’s mindset and struggle gives them distinction and a close to believable personality.

    @Patrik Well, I won’t try to persuade you to do anything you don’t want to… At least try reading up to volume 5, dammit. Anyways, how long did it took you to read volume 1? It’s definitely one of the hardest to read (outside of puns/jokes/wordplay series) due to the kanji overload. Definitely not recommended for the more younger readers…which is why it’s in a seinen mag.

    I’d love to see your take with To Aru Majutsu no Index. I love technobabble; you read it for the technobabble.

  10. Imagine, it’s in the first goddamn paragraph, you know. It took me a month, which is twice as long as I spent on Kubikiri Cycle, which has about twice the text. It was just too dull to read for long sessions. I admit it picked up toward the end, and I read the final quarter in less than a day, but the first half of the book is such a struggle due to all the explanations. I explained this in the review, btw.

  11. Patrik My blunder there, sorry. I forgot that detail due to over thinking some things. An entire month…was that with breaks and a bit of dejection now and then, or with great effort? I’m sure frustration came to you many times. I just hope it didn’t play a part in your review. Yes. Noted.

    Oh? Did you enjoy Kubikiri Cycle? I have to say, Ishin is definitely one of my favorite writers. And I’ve only read the first volume! That’s how much his writing sticks to me. Gah, Tomo is love.

  12. Imagine, usually I pick a book and read it whenever I decide it’s “reading time”, and spend 1-2 hours per day on average working through the pages. If it’s a simple book (ZnT) or a really good one (Toradora) it can rise to 8 hours in a day, which in some cases means I finish the title the day I start it. When I read Shana I simply lost interest after a few pages and watched TV or played a game instead, which made it take so long. I got stuck with Persona 4 (currently 72 hours in), which delayed me a bit as well. And then Prototype.

    I loved Kubikiri, one of the best light novels I’ve read, and I think Nishio is a brilliant writer, especially considering how young he was at the time. I’m a mystery nut, though, so that helped a bit.

  13. Patrik
    Unless one is a completionist… that sounds like pretty casual/normal to do. I do that too when I start to lose interest. I eventually do finish what I started, though. But it takes time. It’s funny, but I start reading again, and compared to last time, my interest gets piqued and it gets all interesting again. I guess it just depends on my mood, really.

    I think so too. I don’t have any certain dislike (so far) for a particular genre, so I love mystery all the same. I wish his work is more out there so there will be more discussions floating around. I’d kill for an anime adaptation on just the first book. And it has to be done by Shaft.

  14. True, you really do need patience to put up with all the jargon of the Shana-verse that Takahashi throws at you. And Takahashi does tend to be very long-winded for certain scenes when it can be completed in less words and paragraphs.

    I’m still amazed I managed to read up to volume 13 (still haven’t read 14 and 15). Sometimes I take so long a gap between volumes that it’s a pain to try and recall what this jargon meant, what Alastor’s “other name” was, what this “Treasure Tool” contains, or what that “Self Manipulation” spell does, and that’s not including the side-stories and prequels with forgettable characters (*cough* Volumes 5 and 10*cough*).

    And though she’s “young” by Flame Haze standards (they’re all immortal and don’t age), Shana is much older than she looks, probably around Yuuji’s age, though the debate rages on on whether lusting at a 16-18 year-old but with a body that looks younger (depending on your country’s age of consent law) count as “pedophilia”. 😉

    Kinny Riddle
  15. @Patrik
    I heard that Zero (the novel, I never like the Anime much) is nice, but it isn’t yet translated in my country. I have taken Japanese class before, but my Japanese sucks. (Unless you think that it is easy enough for me to try. I passed the 3rd level exam, but I barely passed it. If that sounds good enough, then I might see how it goes.) I heard that it may be out by Christmas, which is around the time I would be back there, so I am looking forward to read it. I did read Kanokon, and I quite like it too, but I prefer Shana a bit more because I am more into action/fantasy.

    It’s my fault that I didn’t make myself clear in that regard. Yes, I skimp through books, but that is only after I have FINISHED it at least once. There are some books that I always feel that I have to read through the whole thing every times I read it, and there are some that I can skimp through like a light brief snack. It may sound weird to you, but that is my personal taste. However, even though I skimped through Shana in my second or forth read because I don’t like to read a section and just drop it, I have to finish the book. There are times when I read through it again carefully for the sake of reading it carefully, which I do with all my books (unless it sucks so hard I don’t want to read it again). So I DIDN’T just skimp through Shana and criticized it as if I have read it properly.

    I am Thai and I read Shana in that language. I have seen an English copy, and I read through it a bit in the book shop just out of curiosity to compare the translation, but I didn’t buy it nor ever read the English copy clearly so I don’t have much to say about that. However, the Thai translator has done quite a good work with other series, so I would trust the Thai translation.

    For terminology (I didn’t pick the right word for this, and I am sorry for your misunderstanding), I am not talking about the use of titles and such, but I am talking more about the use of language. By my own personal taste, it sometimes feel like the writer is going for something grand and poetic (I can’t cite an example here because I don’t have the book with me, but I have the feeling quite a lot when I was reading it) but doesn’t really make it. It doesn’t mean that the use of language is bad though.

    In term of characters, Yuji and Shana are a bit more developed (although not really enough to feel that much for them. I still always feel that their love is flat. Especially the love triangle. But that is my opinion), but many other characters aren’t really that well thought out (well, they are entertaining, but hardly more than a 2-d character. I won’t mind this issue that much if not too many of them fall into the same old cliches). It does affect a lot more when the story goes for a dramatic scene. This is all my personal taste and opinion. Yet, I have read five books so far, so the story and the development of characters may change my opinion after this.

    However, while I don’t consider it to be among my favorite or my better read, I still read all the five books and I like it enough to continue to buy it.

    Out of the topic though, my personal favorite is also Kubikiri.

  16. Here is some major spoilers of how interesting Shakugan no Shana can be. Show Spoiler ▼

    Well thats an extremely rough summarry of on of the twists in the series and I don’t really know what happens from there.

  17. Yo there…
    I’m not really a LNs reader, but since I follow many of the Anime based from these badass (in the good way) stories, I usually try to get more data from the original work so as to certify certain things that may get me confused when watching the series or to compare both versions.

    These topics are very good, because there are guys here who give nice hints to the comparisions that I try to do by myself but I usually don’t go too far because, even getting the translated stories from places like Baka-Tsuki, I end up not reading a line of them (I’m really dumb, aren’t I? LOL XD

    Anyway, about Shana I kinda know already how J.C. screwed up with the story (and I just want to put some bullets in their heads whenever I think of it…), but about others like Kanokon or Tsukaima, I don’t know that much.
    Could someone point some minor spoilers of stuff with which I may make a point for myself?

  18. Also, I gotta say (as a portuguese) that I’m trying by myself to write a LN-like story, and it’s taking a short while, but my wish to write it all up and my dream of seeing it published are enough to keep me glued to it (and I think I’ll always be LOL)…

  19. i really thought shana really sucked….just another tsundere story, omg, we know whats gona hapen. protaganist is 100 percent useless and its extremely boring, my opinion…

    sorry 4 the spelling, im just use to it

  20. X-Rick, I didn’t watch the anime for Zero no Tsukaima or Kanokon, so I don’t know how they differ. It’s also been a year since I touched the books, so I don’t remember enough to write a useful summary of events, not to mention that it’d be way too much work.

  21. Well, nor am I asking to any of you to do it, just a basic idea of it would be enough for the time being.

    But, what about any comments sbout my personal aspiration? I thought someone would at the very least say something about it…

  22. X-Rick, you’re really asking in the wrong place. I’m not an author, so I don’t know what’s required to become one. We’re all human, though, so I don’t see a reason you couldn’t write a novel and get it published. It probably takes a lot of work, dedication and patience, mind you.

  23. I am mostly agree with Kaitune except some points, as I have read those 5 volumes in Thai also.

    From my point of view, looking at the first parts of the story you can catch a glimpse of what the author might want to portray in this story – suggesting how fragile a human’s existence is. I decided to keep this thought in mind as I read through the early volumes, and that is why I started to get more and more disappointed as the story kind of care less on this theme.

    However, character-wise, apart from some plot flows that the writer might have put in there just to let the volume ends, I really think he concentrate a lot of work at Yuuji’s character, so much to the point that sometime I think Yuuji is too unrealistic to perceive such abnormalities around him so easily. As the volumes go by, I am amazed by how further his perception can develop, which cannot be seen in the past 2 anime seasons. In the meantime, that superb perception of situation also rival with his own typical guy’s thought of “wanting to be strong and ignore other circumstance” that appears to balance it out. To be honest, I read Shana’s novel not for the sake of Shana’s character, but rather to watch Yuuji’s character grows.

    Apart from that, too many flashbacks, too relying on the so-called “Moe factor” to create a character later on, and some what repetitive story plot. I agree that after around volume 11-13 the story turns big time, but spending 10 volumes to get there? It makes me think if the author just want to drag the story on and on.

    @X-Rick : Keep up your dream, motivation, and ideas 😀 They are all it takes to make a novel of your own, really.


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