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Shaman King is a manga and anime series that follows the adventures of Yuuto, an ordinary high school student who discovers he is the son of the world’s most powerful shaman.
The Shaman King relaunch in 2021 will be long-awaited and highly anticipated, to name a few adjectives. Many youngsters in the early 2000s enjoyed the series, which was first released as a manga by Hiroyuki Takei. It features a heartfelt theme song, a unique power system, and a diverse cast of characters. However, its awe-inspiring run came to an end long before anime and manga became mainstream pop cultural staples.
Imagine everyone’s surprise when, in early June 2020, a trailer for the near-impossible remake of Shaman King emerged. The first season of Netflix will be released on August 9, 2021, more than a year after the unexpected announcement. As a consequence of its widespread distribution, several concerns have been raised. Is there a new twist in the story? What makes this new rendition so special? Is it a better version of the original? Is it worth your time to watch, and, more importantly, is it worth your time to watch?
What exactly is a Shaman King?
To fully appreciate this revival, one must first understand the series’ central concept. It follows a little kid on a quest to become the ‘Shaman King,’ a title given only once every 500 years on those who win a tournament. Along the way, he meets others who are on the same path as him: shamans with the same objective. This is when the variety enters the picture. Characters from all over the globe compete in the tournament, from China to Germany, Egypt to England, and even fictional Native American tribes.
In the Past and Present, There Have Been Shaman Kings
Many of the good elements of this series are due to the nostalgia factor. The soundtrack, which is one of the most recognized elements of the film, borrows notes from the original series. Yuuki Hayashi, who is well known for his work on My Hero Academia and Haikyuu!, even throws in a nostalgic soundscape evocative of his previous works. In addition, Megumi Hayashibara reprises her 2001 performance of the new opening song, and some of the earlier theme songs are played throughout certain episodes.
Furthermore, both the Japanese and English dubs make a deliberate effort to bring back the original cast. Despite this, it is impossible to prevent particular changes in voice actors and voice instructions. Overall, it’s clear that everyone is trying hard to keep the same feel as the prior series. This is mostly successful on the Japanese side, particularly with Romi Park and Hayashibara portraying Ren Tao and Anna Kyouyama, respectively. Even Youko Hikasa, who takes over as Yoh Asakura’s voice from Yuuko Satou, tries her best to keep the character’s languid and relaxed drawl.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be true for their English adaptations, which include Tara Sands’ clumsy delivery as Anna and odd cadence choices for characters like Ryunosuke Umemiya. The voice changes for Yoh and Ren are some of the better choices for the English dub of this adaptation.
The music and performances of the Japanese voice actors keep the narrative’s emotional pulse alive. One thing this show excels at is setting the right tone. Thanks to brilliant colors and calming sounds, Shaman King conveys the idea of nature and spirituality via visuals and music with a little more refinement and complexity than the manga and its previous translation. Each scene’s tone is successfully established by the new visual design and Hayashi’s music.
The humor itself is decades outdated, filled with late 1990s and early 2000s clichés. Fortunately for this series, many of them are still as funny as they were when they first aired, and revisiting some of these gags is extremely refreshing. It helps a lot that both the Japanese and English voice actors execute their lines with the same confidence they did years ago, with the former being more effective than the latter. Other ancient jokes are occasionally cheesy and disturbing, but they are few and far between.
The tempo of Shaman King is fast, and one noteworthy production decision is that some episodes skip the end credit sequence in favor of more narrative space. Because it was a product of its time, I’ve heard that the 2001 anime included some additional padding. When compared to the 2011 version of Hunter Hunter, which also tried to speed over arcs that had already been covered in the 1999 edition, Shaman King falls into disarray owing to a lack of transitions.
Most conversations seem like an information dump because of the pace; every character line is exposition after exposition. There are moments when the pace drops to a more tolerable level. In the modern age of binge-watching, this allows viewers to quickly adapt to the pace of the narrative. The rapid pace, on the other hand, has the disadvantage of quickly tiring spectators.
Another major flaw in this series is the poor art and animation quality. Still frames and strangely proportioned individuals abound in Shaman King, as shown by acute facial features and bobbleheads in action scenes. There are a number of static images that have been used over and over again. While this isn’t uncommon in animation, it’s more apparent since it happens many times in a single episode, each just a few minutes apart. Even by anime standards, art distribution is poor, even when such issues are inevitable owing to budget limitations.
With its love of humor, there’s a lot to enjoy about this picture. Both the Japanese and English voice actors do a great job reviewing their roles and adding new twists to the characters when needed. In addition, the premise is an intriguing concept in and of itself. All of this is, unfortunately, completely overshadowed by bad production choices. Whether it’s worth seeing or not, I can assure you that reading the manga will be a far more enjoyable experience.
Shaman King is now available on Netflix to watch.
SCORE: 6 OUT OF 10
Shaman King is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiroyuki Takei. It was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1998 to 2004, with the individual chapters collected into 34 tankōbon volumes. Reference: shaman king original.
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