Understanding Yuuji’s Drastic Change in Shakugan no Shana III ~Final~. Or, Why Yuuji Sakai is an Oblivious Dick.
Similarly to my first blog post, this post is taken from a comment I made in response to a review on Amazon. However, unlike my first blog post, this post is much more of a rewrite, as opposed to an edit.
As this is an analysis, it will not be spoiler-free.
When I first watched Shakugan no Shana III ~Final~, I was really puzzled by Yuuji’s drastic change from the previous two seasons. It didn’t make sense. He was a pretty nice guy, even if he was really dense. Even though he had merged with Snake of the Festival, why would he become such a jerk? I couldn’t make sense of it. Quite a while after that viewing, I re-watched the second season, which refreshed my memory and, along with a subsequent re-watch of the third season, helped illuminate some things about Yuuji’s character that I hadn’t picked up on before.
In both the first and second seasons, Yuuji is depicted as being incredibly, painfully oblivious to not only the feelings of others, but also to his own feelings somewhat. For example, in the second season he doesn’t even realize he’s lying to himself about wanting to leave Misaki City. In either season two or three (I don’t remember which), there’s a moment where he’s thinking to himself, saying that he’s only just now realizing that it’s okay to love. He’s so wrapped up in certain aspects of himself that he’s completely blind to virtually everything else.
A large part of Yuuji’s character in the second season centers around his fear of losing the Midnight Lost Child. This fear is exacerbated by his helplessness when confronted with the overwhelming power and mystery of characters like Pheles and the Silver, and it comes to a head when the Midnight Lost Child is taken from him by Bal Masque. The other half of this is his continued training with Shana, and then with Margery Daw. He realizes he is powerless, and takes steps to try to change that. This leads us to realize that Yuuji is not humble. He’s not arrogant, but he can become overconfident easily, as seen when he talks back to Margery Daw after improving only slightly through her training. Still, it is understandable that he would let his inner feelings show, given the relief he must have felt at his improvement.
To summarize up to this point, Yuuji is very oblivious to the feelings of others and even to his own feelings sometimes. He is also afraid of losing the Midnight Lost Child and disappearing as a result of his power of existence running out, and this fear is exacerbated by his powerlessness. Finally, he’s not the most humble person, and can easily become overconfident.
Now we get to season three. Yuuji merges with Snake of the Festival. He has power, and lots of it. He has access to the immense amount of power of existence that Snake of the Festival possesses, as well as control of Bal Masque. He has nothing to be afraid of anymore. This, combined with his lack of self-awareness and lack of humility, results in him becoming overly assured of himself. He becomes very cocky and haughty. He becomes even further divorced from the thoughts and feelings of the people he cares about and focuses solely on his goals. This is why he does things like abducting Shana and breaking Margery Daw by telling her the truth about the Silver.
Yuuji’s demeanor and actions are also influenced by being merged with Snake of the Festival. Snake tends to be more outwardly confident and expressive, and this affects Yuuji. At the end of the series, after Snake leaves Yuuji’s body, Yuuji returns to being more serious and subdued, like he was before.
In conclusion, while Yuuji’s character does change drastically in season three, it doesn’t happen out of nowhere and makes sense given what is learned about him up to that point.
The problem I see with this is in how it was executed. Shakugan no Shana is not a subtle series. To have aspects of Yuuji’s character be hinted at in bits and pieces throughout the first two seasons, and finally built upon in the third is inconsistent with the show’s MO. If this had been a subtle series from the get go, or even if it had other elements subtly portrayed, that would be fine. But that’s not what they did. People don’t watch Shakugan no Shana expecting subtlety. They don’t look for it, which makes changes like what Yuuji goes through in the third season seem to come out of nowhere. It’s unnecessarily frustrating and confusing. It would have been so easy to avoid, too. All you would need to do is to have a conversation between Yuuji and Snake before they merge showing their discussion, thereby revealing everything I talked about above.
To be clear, I don’t feel the need or desire to be handed all the information on a silver platter. I don’t dislike subtlety or being made to think about what I watch. I love it. It’s why I started this blog. I also really like Shakugan no Shana. But I can’t deny that the inconsistency of including such a level of subtlety in a show that otherwise has very little of it makes no sense. That’s what I take issue with.
What do you think about how these changes were set up and portrayed? Do you think their execution should have been handled differently? Do you think it’s perfectly fine as is?