Why Shaman King? The Reboot You Can't Missby Toby Adeyemi,
Shamans are human mediums between the living world and the dead, or more succinctly, people who can communicate with ghosts. It was a theme popularized in manga by Hiroyuki Takei's Shaman King in 1998. 4Kids released a dubbed version of the anime in 2003, and as a seven-year-old kid, the series immediately became a can't miss for me every Saturday morning. It was the first anime I fell in love with, and the cancelation of the series right as Shaman King started to enter its climax broke my heart. There have been rumors for the last three years, but it's official: nearly two decades after being canceled, Shaman King will return to television with a full reboot in April 2021.
So why Shaman King? What made this series so memorable? Why should I care about a canceled series almost 20 years later? First off, the series was removed from TV only. The manga originally finished in 2004, but Takei returned and created a new manga to wrap up the Shaman King story. So why should people watch this reboot? Shaman King shares a lot of characteristics with plenty of great anime: an interesting plot, a little humor, and an antagonist that wasn't really the bad guy all along. But where Shaman King stands out is in its characters and their development throughout the series.
The series primarily follows two friends: Manta or "Morty" in the English dub, and the shaman, Yoh Asakura. Their friendship begins one night when Ryu of the Wooden Sword and his gang catch Morty at a cemetery and beat him up. The next day Yoh takes Morty to confront them and this is the first time we witness Yoh's Shaman power. He fuses with a samurai spirit named Amidamaru and beats up Ryu and his entire gang. From there, Yoh secures Amidamaru as his spirit and the three of them begin Yoh's journey to become the Shaman King.
As the series progresses, Morty and Yoh meet many shamans along the way that either aid or push Yoh toward his goal. It's these characters and how they grow that make Shaman King such an interesting watch. Morty is a perfect example. He starts out as a wimpy kid who can see ghosts. Nobody believes him though, and at the beginning of the series, he always needs Yoh's protection. Within the first 10 episodes, you see Morty grow up. He even ends up taking a butt whooping just to save Yoh's life – something he never would've risked before meeting him. Ren is another character that changes drastically as the aforementioned "antagonist". He enters the series wanting to kill Yoh because he too desires the title of Shaman King. After a couple of tussles, he starts to see the good in himself and joins Yoh's cause, becoming not only his rival but arguably his strongest friend.
There are others too. Anna, Yoh's fiance, joins the squad early in the series. She is the one that trains Yoh and you see the development of their relationship go from an unhealthy fear to eventually love. Ryu, the guy who beat up Morty in the first episode, becomes one of Yoh's greatest allies, even saving his life from Ren on one occasion. Ryu joins the team because he wants to become a shaman, even going to the point of calling Yoh his master. He gives everything he has to become a shaman, narrowly avoiding death in the process thanks to his guardian spirit Tokageroh.
But nobody undergoes a greater change than Yoh himself. He starts out as the typical goofy, nonchalant, carefree shonen anime protagonist. We see from the beginning that he values friendship, which is also his main source of strength. Yoh sees the good in people, gaining friends along the way. It sometimes got the group in trouble, but of course he never fails to save the day. We see him mature throughout the series, become stronger, take on challenges, and make choices the Yoh of old would never have considered.
What I look forward to most in the reboot is that Shaman King will finally have a true ending. The anime ended in 2003 but Takei did not finish the manga for another six years, which led to the anime diverging away from its source material and putting together its own ending. The new anime picks up when Yoh and the gang end up in America for the second round of the Shaman Tournament. The tournament is kind of like Dragon Ball Z's Cell Games, and the shaman fight to advance to the final round. The chance to finally get to see the main battles animated will be amazing. The Shaman Final (spoilers incoming) will be what I look forward to most.
Yoh meets his evil twin/descendant, Hao, in a battle that has been destined for the last 5,000 years. Yoh is pretty much fighting to save the entire universe which Hao wants to destroy because of his hatred for humanity. The battle takes an unexpected turn and the outcome will surely blow your mind.
This reboot is one you cannot miss. It has a great storyline, lots of humor, and characters that you will fall in love with. If you don't love the goofiness of Yoh, there's the serious Ren as his foil that can you can root for during the series. If you don't like Ren, you'll love the comedy Ryu and his gang bring to the series. Shaman King has someone for everyone. The one thing it lacked is the quality fight scenes that you get from most action-adventure anime, but hopefully, that is something that will be revamped during the reboot. Shaman King is one of the most slept-on animes ever, and hopefully in April 2021, the entire world will wake up to it.
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