Intrigued by the power of the fade-in? Shakugan no Shana III has all your answers. If an ending transition exists, Shana III has used it (spoiler warnings):
1. No fade-in, standard ending sequence: episodes 5–7 and 9. The kind of ending you’ll find in most shows, and, unfortunately, the only kind of ending you’ll find in most shows. Can be very enjoyable, just in a manner independent of the episode content before it. Useful for sudden transitions, though rarely used exclusively or even primarily to this end. Can be used in earlier episodes to contrast with more powerful endings in later episodes. Fansubbers used to cut this kind of ending to save disk space and bandwidth.
2. Fade-in, standard ending sequence: episodes 2–4, 11, 16, and 18–23. The good stuff. Makes the ending sequence more than an AMV. Adds drama/tension/feel-goodness/slice-of-livelihood/etc. directly into the episode itself. Creates a smooth transition between the episode content and the ending sequence. Great for cliffhangers because it makes you realize it’s a cliffhanger as you’re watching it. Even for non-cliffhangers, makes you savor the last few moments since you know the episode is coming to a close. Can be used as much as desired without losing its impact. Makes you feel like listening to the whole song since you’re already part-way through it. Sets up a potential fourth-wall-breaking fakeout ending. Can’t be cut, not even by Adult Swim (though they may speed up the ending visuals like they did with FMA’s Tobira no Mukou he).
3. Episode continues through standard ending song: episodes 1, 8, 10, 12–14, and 17. Could simply be an extra treat. More often means serious business. A powerful tool that loses impact if used too frequently. Particularly successful if previous episodes had fade-ins, thus tricking you into thinking you’ll get the ending visuals again, then BAM! You realize the episode will keep going, which is awesome if you actually like the show you’re watching.
4. Episode continues through special ending song: episodes 15 and 24. The ultimate dramatic play. Usually reserved for a special occasion, such as a mid-season turning point or an end-of-season climax. Use more than twice at your own risk.
What makes Shana III’s fade-ins so impressive is the amount of fine-tuning that went into them. Whether a measure was added, two measures were taken out, lyrics were switched up, vocals were removed, or the entry point of the ending visuals was shifted, you rarely got the exact same fade-in twice. Nor did it hurt that the endings were done by Altima, a group featuring the vocal talents of Maon Kurosaki and Mototaka Segawa. In case you know even less about the Japanese music industry than I do, that means each episode of Shana III ended with a mix of High School of the Dead and Initial D.
Why bother with all this effort? Because I’m the only one who liked Shana II, or at least the only one who liked it and wasn’t after Shana’s panties. After all the complaints about Shana II being too slow, Shana III had little choice but to try to be epic. Shana’s lack of “urusai urusai urusai” set the tone perhaps more than anything else. We heard it only twice, both times for dramatic, not comedic, effect. The first came in the middle of a serious battle with each urusai being separated by tense dialogue and growing progressively more emphatic.
Yuuji: blah blah blah
Yuuji: blah blah blah blah
Yuuji: blah blah blah blah blah blah
The second urusai x3 came in the final episode right before the first season’s first opening plays through the final battle. (The show also sort of passed the pregnancy test.)
I’m still surprised and impressed by Shana III’s many ambitious creative decisions. However, some of its ambition backfired, for example, introducing a shitload of new side characters and giving them each their own fight. A final season is when you need to focus on what you’ve already built, not bring in tons of new material. It’s also annoying to think that the entire conflict was rooted in misunderstanding, not fundamental disagreement, and that it all could’ve been easily cleared up if Shana and Yuuji went on a date or something.
Missed me this past month? Then you must’ve missed me on Digibro Never Shuts Up Episode 4.
You can listen to me live on Anime Talk on Tuesday, December 4th at 11 P.M. U.S. Eastern Time. If you’re unfamiliar with American timekeeping, you’ll probably want to check for your metric conversion. My Twitter account will have a link to the live stream when the time comes.
UPDATE: Podcast available here