The Shonen manga series Shaman King recently announced a new anime adaptation. Very few manga like Full Metal Alchemist and Fruit Basket has gotten more than one opportunity to have an anime adaptation, and Shaman King is ready to join the elite list. It is hard to recall any series that is more deserving; the manga is one of a kind and continues to hold on to its fanbase worldwide.
The protagonist, Yoh Asakura, is a young boy who hangs around a graveyard. The world of Shaman King is exceptional, and some people can communicate to spirits in this world. Yoh is a shaman, and he too is able to interact with spirits. He is unlike the usual Shonen mainstay archetype. He is tranquil and stays calm in all situations. He goes with the flow and does not force others to get what he wants. Yoh is stoic, and he has no obsession with becoming the strongest; instead he likes to listen to favourite music and just chill out.
An excellent description of his character is given in chapter 27 when Yoh and his friends get to know about the Shaman Fight, a competition that decides the Shaman King and is held every 500 years. On a beautiful night when he is stargazing with his spirit companion Amidamaru, a samurai who passed away 600 years ago. Amidamaru confesses to Yoh that he will never get stronger than he is right now so he wants Yoh to grow to confront the challenges that he will have to face in the future. The spirit companion clearly seems worried about Yoh’s safety. But Yoh is not bothered as he tells Amidamaru that it is the present moment that matters the most and worrying about the future is futile. This speaks volumes about the wisdom and calmness of the 14-year-old shaman who is able to comfort a 600-year-old samurai with his wise words.
The manga is made more interactive by Takei’s art which is overflowing with style and individuality. The characters stand out as he gives them large expressive eyes and thick outlines which differentiates his work from his contemporaries. Yoh can be easily identified because of his headphones and relaxed posture while his fiancé, Anna wears a bead necklace and has a stern glare. But his finest work is Tokagero, the bandit spirit who amazingly encapsulates the peculiarities of his character exceptionally well.
Takei’s background work is just as impressive and the dramatic scenes with night skies in the background add the elements of mystery and astonishment. The amount of hard work that he would have to put in is praiseworthy. There is no doubt that he has a great understanding of character design and background art, but still to do it consistently with such precision? It’s a miracle in itself.
Just like Naruto that had ninjas and One Piece that had pirates, Shaman King is about shamans, but Takei takes the plot beyond just that. Since the shamans have existed across different periods and cultures, Takei uses this to his advantages and creates some unique characters. Once Yoh had to fight a Chinese Taoist names Tao Jun, who can resurrect corpses that follow every order which is different from shamans who communicate with spirits to borrow their power. Tao Jun is not the only shaman with unusual abilities. Yoh’s fiancée, is an itako which means she can not only communicate with the spirits of those who has passed on, but she can also summon them anywhere and anytime she wishes. Takei’s masterful characterization and amazing art are not the only things unique about his work; he is very dexterous in creating fight scenes as well.
Every single fight is unique and refreshing as Takei does a fantastic job of creating the most competitive high-stake fights. One can literally feel the tension and excitement of the fight scenes. When Amidamaru and Yoh face the Native American shaman, the nervousness and pressure are high as they know if they fail to damage Silva their journey will end abruptly. Their fight with Faust VIII whose ancestor was a German Alchemist is even more intriguing. It turns out that he is a necromancer who can change corpses to zombies. This gives him a huge advantage since they are fighting in a cemetery. The fight scenes such as ones mentioned were unique and therefore able to hold on to the audience’s interest, but that should not give the wrong impression that the series was not without its fair share of flaws.
One of the biggest complaints of anyone reading the manga for the first time is probably going to be Manta, who is a prominent character. Manta becomes friends with Yoh very early on in the series, but the issue is how Takei has used his character throughout the manga. The fight scenes are fast, but their flow is often broken up by Manta’s irksome reactions to what is happening. He does have his moments like he competes with Ryu to get a sword for Yoh, but those events happen much later in the series.
The second big problem is the underutilized female characters, which is a common issue with Shonen. Although Yoh’s fiancée has an exciting personality, she is given more of a supporting role. Same for Jun and Tamao who are very infrequent throughout the manga. But that aside Shaman King continues to be one of a kind, it’s disappointing that it never got the recognition and success like its contemporaries. But with the new anime adaptation, there is still hope that the show will get due attention and respect that it deserves.
Source-Why Shaman King Still Stands