"Damn, we're in a tight spot!" isn't Shana's infamous catchphrase, which is rather a shame as it would have segued in rather well with the start of this review of volume four of the series. The end of volume three left us with that archetypical cliffhanger, with our heroine captured and surely unable to escape and Yuji wandering around too far away to offer any direct help himself. Is this the end for our favourite brave and feisty, melon bread loving Flame Haze?
Of course not, we're only half way through the series! Thus, with Yuji teaming up with Margery Daw and Shana's own powers growing exponentially, I don't think it's too much of a spoiler to say that the day is saved, and with a handful of dei ex machinis in tow to make up for any shortfall in logic regarding this particular story arc, although to be fair given Shana's subject matter I can't really complain too bitterly about the slightly implausible manner in which victory is snatched from the jaws of defeat on this occasion.
From here, we move on to a batch of what can only be described as flashback episodes (with some flashbacks from those flashbacks thrown in for good measure). "Oh no!" I hear you cry, but don't worry, these episodes do actually give us some valuable insights into the story, such as the fact that Flame Hazes have microwaves too and that skeletons are allergic to tomato ketchup. Okay, I'm being a little faecitious here (although I'm serious about the ketchup!), these episodes are in fact included to give us a grounding into Shana's past, namely her training and acceptance as a Flame Haze, as well as how she managed to end up with that nifty sword.
To be quite honest, I'm really rather torn regarding these particular flashback episodes - On the one hand they act as about as good an insight into Shana's origins as you're going to get, as well as revealing a hugely important part of her contract with Alastor together with the pair's long-standing relationship. On the other, Shana becomes little more than just another run-of-the-mill action series once it's shorn of Shana's relationship with Yuji, and these episodes that take in a time before he was in the picture demonstrate this quite admirably as we're left with a series of inevitably more taxing battles without any real emotional involvement beyond a bunch of characters "doing their duty".
That said, if there's one thing that this volume of Shana on DVD has proved to me it's how my attitude towards the character of Shana herself has changed - While the first volume of the series left me cold on that count, I've slowly warmed towards her to the point where I actually care what happens to her, which is a very definite plus mark against this series as a whole.
In essence, for me personally Shana's story-telling success hinges largely on the relationship as it develops between the two main characters, and on this count much in the way of progress is notable by its absence beyond the opening episode on this disc, which rather spoils things for me I have to admit. Looking beyond the Shana and Yuji dynamic, I'd have to class the volume four's episodes as passable; no more, no less.
English and Japanese audio with English subtitles, production art gallery, "Naze nani Shana" ("Why? What? Shana") feature, textless second ending credits.