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I'll start out by saying I understand why many people have a problem with Final: Yuji's drastic characterization change and a bunch of characters and plot points introduced out of nowhere. But my defense is this: it is not Final's failing, but the prior two seasons'.
Final faithfully adapts its "span" of the light novels. The first two seasons, not so much, especially Season 2. Season 1 had an anime-original ending, and left out important parts of Friagne's plan and Yuji's character. Season 2 had the anime-only Konoe arc, an anime original ending, and an opening based on the PS2 game.
First off, let's look at Yuji's character. In Final, he seems to go from Nice Guy to Well-Intentioned Extremist with no foreshadowing, espousing a motive he seemed to develop overnight. In the novels, he develops aggressive traits very early on. Take for example, the moment in the first season in which Wilhelmina tries to kill him. In the anime, Yuji does little but wriggle helplessly. In the novel, Yuji takes advantage of Shana stopping her mentor to try to kill Wilhelmina. In Volume 8 (which should have been in Season 1), Yuji expresses frustration at the Flame Haze-Denizen war's unendingness, and expresses a desire to end it permanently. At this point, a mysterious figure begins to approach Yuji to tempt him.
This figure is the Snake of the Festival. That's right. The Big Bad that shows up out of nowhere in Final should have shown up in Season 1, and should have been mentioned as early as the Margery Daw arc. Bal Masqué's ill-defined goals were clear in the novels: resurrect Sot F to restart their master plan. Many of the characters that pop up in Final should have already appeared, because the novels focus on more than just Shana and Yuji, but the wider conflict.
They engage in important worldbuilding, covering things Révolution (important for understanding Yuji's ideals), the Great War (important for understanding what happened with Pheles and Johan at the end), Lamies' spell and Friagne's ring (important for understanding what happened to Yuji at the end), and the Civil War.
In short: Yuji's "Face-Heel Turn" is telegraphed well in advance and a logical conclusion to his character growth, and the groundwork for Season 3 was prepared. The previous seasons just failed to include it.
I have only seen the first season for Shakugan no Shana, but I honestly do not want to see any more episodes from this show ever again. I hated the entire experience. Let me tell you why.
If you're reading this, thinking this show will be interesting, I ask you to reconsider that opinion, and to stay away from this anime. I found it to be an unsatisfying waste of time that left me as a bitter mess of an anime fan. If you enjoy the show anyway, fine. But there are better anime out there than this, not to mention ones that are actually worth your time.
(A more in-depth review on my opinion on the show can be found here, if you want to read it.)
So, I have to sum up three full seasons in 400 words, huh? Okay.
The first season was fun. A relatively imaginative Urban Fantasy setting, a nice and memorable main cast, some nice existential pondering and philosophical thoughts every here and there and good action. The series developed the relationship between the the main couple pretty well, and even though the love-triangle often felt unneeded and distracting, at lest it was utilized well in character building. The series also kept a very good continuity, often utilizing the magical items previously gained in appropriate and intelligent ways.
However, it had quite a few problems as well, namely the overwhelming amount of specific terminology that could quickly become confusing, the repetitive and somewhat crude comic relief or the monster-of-the-week setup. Overall it was a nice show, nothing spectacular.
The second season was practically more of the same. The character interactions were still good, the fights were still flashy and epic and it had good character development for almost the entire cast. Sadly the season also retained the first one's flaws as well, but they were arguably toned down.
Then comes the third season, which is a confusing mess. It completely throws away the previously established setting and characters in favor of introducing an entire army of nobodies whose entire role is to fight in a literally pointless war, where the "good guys" are fighting the "bad guys" while all the "bad guys" want is to make their own world so that the "good guys" would finally leave them alone and they wouldn't have to fight anymore, and no one realizes this because they are too busy fighting.
The entire conflict is just brainless, where characters we don't give a rat's ass about are fighting while the actual main characters are often put on a bus, there are too many plotlines running at once, and it practically ends with the revelation that all those characters died for a small "don't eat humans" clause in the new world, which was achieved by just asking for it very nicely.
In short, the third season is just dumb divided into slow scenes contemplating over nothing, and action scenes that achieved nothing. It's worth the watch just to see the series conclude, but oh boy, it is one hell of a mess. -.-
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