I have one question: who wrote this?
I'm very sure that back in 2011 after watching SNS season 2, that it wasn't horrible as what season 3 turned out. Only because I missed some Kugi-chan action did I opt to watch this now, and was nowhere near where season 2 left. Season 3 was all plot-driven, it was all dreadful.
STORY = 2
Yep. Dreadful it is. I took time to read some of the high-rated reviews here and I get their main point: read the light novel, my backside. Read, because that is the original version of the Shakugan no Shana storyline. However, that's just the same as telling me I should read the entire graphic novel of TheWalkingDead to enjoy its TV adaptation. But AMC and others concerned with the production didn't require us to do so, and the TWD TV version is as brilliant or acclaimed better than its original graphic novel. I could say JC Staff should have done something like that, too, which they didn't.
This is unexpectedly disappointing, however despite I understand the "original adaptation" thingy that Shanatards emphasize, the writer/JC Staff/whoever has the key role here did have three choices:
a. they could continue s1 and s2's efforts, solidifying the fans' expectations, nevermind those who had known the light novels;
b. They should have done this "true adaptation" back in season 1 so we won't be wasting our time;
c. They can choose to just f*ck this up. Who cares about plot and story? We want the money. They said.
And I guess they chose letter C.
The thing is about the entire SNShana installment, is whoever tried to deviate the animation story from the original should have bet his/her entire money on seeing it through. It's what's proper, it's what should have been done. Thanks to the "reverting to the original" efforts, SNShana ended up 100% plot-driven. Characters Yuji and Shana seemed to have ambivalent feelings towards their choices and decisions and still, they chose something their dialogues and scripts didn't state. That goes for the entire cast of characters as well.
Plus, what's worse than a plot-driven story is the "Deus ex Machina", and this element is as bountiful as their power of existence had been.
Also, what I can point out to the story, and sorry to say this, but I'm totally unimpressed and eye-rolling towards the entire "religious innuendos".
Most of the side of the Flame Hazes' specifically the Crimson Lords have devilish names such as "Behemoth" and "Alastor", whereas on the other side constitutes of the "Trinity" and the "god of creation", and the rapture and the apocalyptic---pah.
If I had known this was the entire plot of Shana all along, I should have watched this when I yet to age 12, because back then I enjoyed Gundam Wing and Angelic Layer, then I'm pretty sure I could have enjoyed SNShana season 3 very well; because by the time I turned 13, I know I would be focusing on better stories like Gurren Lagann for example.
Now that I'm older, I'm infuriating, and cussing, and pulling some of my hair, and calculating about 10hours of time wasted watching this, and 20hours more of watching both s1 and s2.
Shanatards would surely like to see all those explosions and fights, but only a child or a monkey can be fascinated by those, especially if you've spent watching season 1 and 2 with a regard of 7 or 8 rating, the "reverting-to-the-original season3" failed to impress even a tiny bit because it ruined the pace of execution of the story. I can assure you that even if this plot is added with the USS Enterprise, the Millennium Falcon, two Gundams, and alchemy, tyrant's eye---none of those will make me think otherwise, because the plot itself is beyond salvage, it's ruined.
ART = 10
yes, give this a 10. JC Staff's only good side.
SOUND = 7
Surely though, Kotoko and Mami Kawada music transmits that Shana-esque vibe, but that can't atone for the damage caused.
Also, even with Ai Kayano, Yuki Kaji, Marina Inoue and Natsumi Takamori were added on the seiyuu cast, none of them matters. I'm pretty sure that they were overjoyed being casts on SNShana 3, but I can bet you that by the time they finished their voice-recording, they've all realized what a complete waste of time it had been.
CHARACTERIZATION = 2
The plot is dreadful, moreso the characterization. With the "reverting of season 3 to light novel" as claimed by Shanatards went, the characterizations were all derailed and was cut off from the progress of what season 2 left which resulted to uneven pacing and deus ex machina, and the very fact that no matter what dialogues the characters were delivering, the plot just proceeds on itself, leaving the viewer wondering why and what happened.
For example, how did Sakai Yuji ever reached the conclusion that the best way to help Shana is to side with the Denizens and the trinity and a new snake-guy never heard of in season 1 and 2? If this is the s1-s2 Yuji, you know that he won't decide on that. But the s3 version of him is just what the author penned him to without a care of what/who he used to.
Then there's worse. Adding too many characters as extras for the "great war" proved to be useless, unnecessary and out of context. Because here we know that there were thousands of Flame Hazes as "merely mentioned" in season 1, but we caught a glimpse this season 3 that apart from the main and supporting characters, these extra flame hazes are nothing more but salarymen, housewives, and otakus. They couldn't even transform into something else (yes it might be expensive to animate but this is Shana, if they could make a ton of magic circle, they could easily animate anything and anyone else more) and was not even clear if they had their own vessel/crimson lord or they were just wielding swords to look like the part. Then because there were so many extras, everyone should just have to have a screentime of 3mins and needs to die after.
Supporting antagonists also suffered the 3mins-fate, very few died while some others forgot they used to have roles back in season 2 and 1---and whatever happened to Hecate's feelings, all these were a gigantic pile of mess.
As if the mess wasn't bad enough, some characters suddenly had too much of too many powers/abilities that even if a Gundam, Saitama, Ryuuko, the Jedi council will pass in the middle of their so-called war, you'll certainly not notice them because of the barrage of whatnot powers been already displayed. Of course, the premise goes to that they had these powers inside them for a thousand years or more, but that's a flimsy and childish excuse, too lazy to elaborate and was just all too wonky to convince, unless you're a kid or those who are easily impressed.
ENJOYMENT = 1
This is the first time I ever tried to take breaks upon finishing an episode. Usually I could finish 3-5eps straight; even Glasslip got me about 2eps before breathing out. But here in SNShana s3, I longed for the day to get this thing done, finished, and reviewed here in MAL to warn others that you go waste your time in some anime else. I mean, I watched Tamayura just to ease my mind in this SNShana s3, re-played NFSMW (2005), and listened/discovered more David Bowie songs---all these while dreading that I was about to watch the next episode soon. Now, glad that's over.
OVERALL = 3
The power of existence of season 3 proved to be like a Ford Fiesta that was placed with a Mustang engine, in which the Ford engineers patted themselves on the back for a job well done, but Ford fans knew better as to what a Fiesta would look like with a V8. If in reality they did do something like this, Ford fans might chase them out with Camaros and Corvettes.
However, what about a Focus on Mustang V8 engine? Sounds good, eh?
Hence, like the analogy of the Focus bridging the Fiesta to the Mustang, this is what I could have strongly suggested on SNShana 3: this could have been a season 4, or a Shana movie that bridges the gap of season 2 to 3, or some OVAs to do just those---anything that can "bridge" and "provide information" on events that will lead to season 3, not just taking the premise and leaving it out to the viewer's imagiation.
Instead, JC Staff and whoever wrote this proceeded that putting a great war and misaligned characters will be a huge hit, and it will be the greatest epic Shana season ever.
No it isn't.
A monkey can clap hands on the explosions, kids can cheer on the fights, but to Shana fans (not necessarily Shanatards), this is an insult. We could have started watching season 1 as the "default, original intended light-novel version" and I know I'll give this an 8-10 rating; however putting a different s3 from s1 and s2 where Shana and the others' characterizations have been popularized, loved, and respected, this was a disaster in storytelling. Shana and Yuji's and the rest's power of existence were basically disregarded and ripped to be replaced with "plot-driven characters" who kept saying craps and pieces to which the plot just took them to what the author decided-- not from the causes and effects of their decisions. Thus, the characters you know from s1 and s2 left their souls on those previous seasons.
VERDICT: could have been great, if only the storytelling of the season 3 were all made to be parallel and connecting to the previous seasons.