“Overture Part 2”
Picking up right where we left off, Shana is continuing her search for the rouge Tomogara that attacked Junko. We got another brief showcasing of Shana using her powers as a Flame Haze to go through Junko’s memories, which still looks as cool and fresh as it did in the previous episode. I’m still a little bullish on the fact that we never saw this kind of sequence in the series before, but better late than never I suppose. As a result of that search, we were teased by a few glimpses of Junko and Yukio’s time together, from the beginning of their relationship when Yukio asked Junko out on a bridge right up to when Junko was turned into a Torch by the mysterious Tomogara. The sweet little date between Yukio and Junko was a delight to watch, and seeing them sit on a bench together planning out their next date made it even cuter. Of course, all this nice chemistry culminated into their first kiss, which Junko’s mother witnessed and promptly went nuclear over. To be honest, I find it a bit strange that it’s the MOM who is worrying over a boy talking up her daughter and not the dad, who is the usual cockblock master when it comes to these sort of things. That’s just speaking out of my own personal experience of course, but it seems damn strange that the dad was pretty relaxed about Junko having a boyfriend last episode while the mom was freaking out, telling Junko to break up with Yukio. I suppose it worked out for a daughter/mother bonding theme, but still an odd choice of context to use. That said, after getting over her boy fear, the mother’s imagination started moving a bit too fast when she imagined the day Junko would be walking down the isle. Well, at least she has mood swings like a mother.
After getting past all of the fluff, we finally get to the meat of Shana’s search, when Yukio meets a disturbing man who calls himself a professional photographer. The shady man asks Yukio if he could spare a bit of time to take a photo-shoot, as he’s been searching for a “beautiful young boy” such as Yukio (his words, not mine) to model for him. Using the rationale that as long as Junko isn’t back yet he can spare some time for the seemingly legit photographer, he accepts the request. Now, I don’t know about you, but the last thing I would do is accept some request from a guy in a trench coat in the middle of the night, especially if that request is to model for him in the middle of a park. Forget that he has a supposedly certified card(after all, anyone can get one forged for the right price) the fact that he’s asking for me to model for him at night in the middle of a deserted park because I’m a beautiful boy should set off alarms. Whatever was coming to him, Yukio was begging for it. Even so, it appears he got off easy, with the mysteriously creepy man asking Yukio to pose for him one more time in a different outfit to better bring out the “beauty” in him. Yes, raging fire alarms should have been going off.
So, following up on this bit of retrieved info, Shana embarks on her set date with Yukio to meet the “photographer”. Naturally, she has her mind so set on the mission that she ignores Yukio, who notices that she is acting weird and suggests she’s not happy to be there with him. I found it amusing that in her effort to not seem strange, Shana thought of something that would make her seem happy and like she was having fun, and the first thing that immediately came to her her mind was holding hands with Wilhelmina, which prompts her to grab Yukio’s hand on impulse. I’m sure the ShanaxYuuji fans were raging at this, but I found it more of an expression of Shana’s naive character than anything. Her grabbing his hand was meant to be completely platonic on her side, with the thought that him and Junko were going out probably never even crossing her mind. It makes me chuckle to think of how the Shana at the end of season two would react to grabbing Yuuji’s hand, in comparison to this one.
Finally, after arriving at the park and losing Yukio when she took her eyes off of him for three seconds, Shana gets her first physical lead on the rouge Tomogara, going into her Flame Haze mode and giving chase. Almost immediately, she comes across a run away truck in which a Fuzetsu activates. Admittedly, my estimation that we wouldn’t be getting any action scenes in this OVA was slightly off, with Shana fighting back the nasty Tomogara who turned out to be the mysterious photographer (surprise). As it turns out, this Tomogara feeds off of the existence of “beautiful boys” and is always in search of them, thus his alias as a photographer. Despite it being a rather weak Tomogara, as stated brilliantly by Shana, it was definitely creepy enough to compete with the best of them, almost slobbering over itself while talking about it’s fascination with beautiful men. Of course, it’s understandable why he’d be so obsessed with beautiful people, considering his own form is hideously disfigured and as a human he was most likely not the best looking guy on the street. It surprised me a bit that the antagonist who caused so much trouble for Shana turned out to be nothing more than a deranged pseudo-pedophile who couldn’t even hold his own in a fight for three seconds, but as I said before, the purpose of this OVA is not to show an epic battle between Shana and an uber-powerful Tomogara, but to show a day in the life of Shana before she met Yuuji. In that context the episode certainly served it’s purpose, with Shana solving the case and continuing onto her next job, but not before reflecting on the “lessons” she learned from inhabiting Junko’s existence.
So the ending to this OVA was definitely bitter sweet, with Junko simply fading out of existence and Shana moving onto the next job like it was just another case closed. Judging this OVA purely off of content, it can be considered a let down. We didn’t get any new developments in terms of the story, nor did we get a super awesome finale with beautifully animated battle scenes and an epic conflict. However, judging it that way would be taking the purpose of this OVA out of context. As I continue to say, this OVA is first and foremost a venture meant to explore the characters’ relationships and interactions in the story, not to progress the plot itself nor to provide any amazing action service. Looking at the OVA from that point of view, I’d say it accomplished it’s goal fairly well, fleshing out the dynamic between Wilhelmina and Yuuji and showing us a glimpse of the Flame Haze Shana was before she met Yuuji.
Now, as for whether I enjoyed the OVA personally, I’d say it was a relaxing watch every few months just as a Shana fan, which is really what this is meant for. Watching the characters interact in their day to day lives within the OVA was certainly interesting for me, as usually we’re watching them fight against super powerful Tomogara or entangle themselves in love triangles. It felt as if I was catching a breath from all the drama that took place in the season prior to this OVA, which I can appreciate as a Shana fan. With that said, I would not recommend this OVA to anyone who knows nothing to very little about the Shana series, as you will be lost very quickly and miss many of the nuances between the characters that make their interactions in this OVA interesting in comparison to their usual roles in the seasonal anime. Likewise, I would not recommend this to anyone who cannot appreciate a simple, interval story and only wants pure plot progression and action. This OVA is simply not it. However, if you’re a fairly knowledgeable Shana fan and have no problem with watching a laid back, progression-lite OVA, then this is for you.
*Note: The epilogue contained a slight teaser to a third season, showing Shana reflecting on the events that happened in the first two seasons of the anime and ending with Yuuji and Shana facing each other on opposite sides of a bridge, which is eerily reminiscent of a certain scene in the Shana novels.