Shaman King Part 01 of 04
-- Shaman King 1-9 --
by Hiroyuki Takei
Published by Shueisha
Translated and Distributed by VIZ Media
This is a show from my childhood, a series that I've sadly never seen the end of, though I have read the complete manga. So I want to relate my joy and passion for the series. I was a big fan, since Toonami got me into a lot of anime in my youth, so FoxKids was trying to do that to their audience, though that was after the success of WBKids and their hit show Yu-Gi-Oh. So those that watched FoxKids (later the FoxBox) got Fighting Foodons (In Japan it was called Kakutō Ryōri Densetsu Bisutoro Reshipi created by Naoto Tsushima) and Shaman King, there were other shows, but these are the one's that really brought me into the genre, well on Saturday mornings. Shaman King was that series that broke out from being one of those shows that was heavy and fun, it felt right for kids to enjoy, though it was a strong enough plot for someone that's older to get behind the dramatics. Here's the thing that really pulled me in, the tournament. I love anime with tournaments, two characters that should rightfully be the main character and here they are battling the worst of the worst and the best of the best, some of these fighters will become friends and others will suffer horrible punishments that we'll never see. That's what excited me, DragonBall was doing it, Yu Yu Hakusho was doing it, DragonBall Z, Yu-Gi-Oh was an endless tournament, it was prefect, since there was a lot of character building moments that built up the scenes of the characters, so when they lost it was a big deal, they died it was a big deal, they were killed it was a big deal, and the actors (both American and Japanese) brought that to the table and showed just how emotional this tournament was, how big the stakes were for there to be a Shaman King. Anyhow, let's focus on the first 9 volumes of the series and talk about the growth of our core cast.
Like all books there's a cover and with comics or manga there's always a pinup that the artist gets to either show off their talent as an artist or give hints to the volume in your hand. With this series it's always a character that's on the cover, it's more of a pinup to entertain those that like that character. So if you have a favorite there's a volume within the 32 in print that had their moment in the sun. There's not really much to comment on, though the chapter covers are always entertaining, since they tell a little more about the story you'll be reading and what to expect within the next few chapters. So again it's a pinup that is of a character that most of the time will be the focal point of the volume.
The beginning of the series talks about a boy that can see ghosts (Yoh) and (the assuming protagonist) Manta. In the first few chapters Manta is trying to figure out Yoh and his deal, though on the flip side of things Yoh is trying to make friends. Ryu is introduced early and as an antagonist, it's interesting that our characters are teenagers, all of them, even Ryu who looks like he's in his mid-20's. Manta is the protagonist throughout the series, though I guess he's more of the narrator, but the story does flip back and forth between Yoh's life and connecting Family as does Manta's life and connecting Family. Though I think that's the charming part about this series, he's not the focus, it's not the chosen one that's the creator of the tale. It's neat that we're following a character that's afraid of ghosts and ghouls, we're following Manta's discoveries within this world. I think that's the fun part, Manta is like Captain Cook or an Admiral General, that's seen the world and knows all about everything that makes sense, that everything is explained through science. Now Manta a student that needs to have friends, that needs to stop escaping through his studies and connect with allies. Speaking of, let's thumb through the cast for this part of the series we'll be covering.
Between this time we're introduced with;
Anna (Yoh's wife to be, we'll get into that later)
Ren (Yoh's Rival and like Vegeta will have the most interesting story for the majority of the series)
Ryu's Spirit Partner (Tokageroh)
Tao Family (they come in bursts, though mostly it's Ren's sister, Tao Jun)
Horo-Horo (Comedy relief that raises above, with time)
Faust (Based on classic fictional character who made a deal with a devil, though not in this series)
So that's the basic idea of the cast we'll be interacting with, there are other ghosts and characters, but we'll never see them again, so we're keeping it close to the fence. Like Yu Yu Hakusho there were many stories in the beginning that dealt with Yoh being a good person and Manta following the adventures of Yoh on his travels. It's a bit of a slower pace, though that's good since it allows the reader to get to know the characters and feel for them if they're hurt or celebrate a success.
Oona Kulte showing off her talent to control flames
(She can't really do this, she's just trying to impress the internet.)
Ryu became more than a friend in this series, well in the sense that he's not just an ally though is also a Shaman and becomes a strong character. I feel the author (Hiroyuki Takei) really enjoyed the character and didn't want him to just faze out as a nothing, a flavor of the week. Personally, from the anime I loved the character, one of the things I (still) wanted as a kid/teen was a pompadour, the design was interesting and his ideas about life felt familiar, though his choice in women was questionable. Again he seemed like a person that I wanted to be, when I grew up, though he was still a mid-30's man in my mind, so him hitting on 11-16 year old girls was odd, but he was 17-18 in the series.
Yoh's progression is reflected by his friends and not his character, though that's not entirely true, since there's been a lot of growth with him, though he's stayed pretty even as a person within the series. There's been relatively no change for him. It's hard to see the true self of Yoh in these volumes, you see a caring character, though that's the point, he's a one dimensional person. Pretty much he's a bit of a slacker, though he puts in a lot of heart in what he does as the series progresses. I guess this is a fictional series that shows the age of the character and less about what the author wants them to be, that's what makes this so thick in character creation and development.
That's the thing about this Manta was a main character within the series, though with Anne and Ren and all the rest flowing in and out of the series. Manta became more of a story device, able to give us the best story, though that's the problem about it, he faded more to the back, but these first 9 volumes had him grow as a character and make him a presence that would allow his tale to be told and the readers to care about.
Though I forgot to mention the most important thing about the Shaman King series, it's that it's an all out fight between Shaman from all over the world. And Yoh's first bout is with another Shaman from Japan, Horo-Horo. He's a snowboarder from the North, his sister follows him, though falls quickly to the side. Training happens after their duel, it's interesting to see that two unique dreams are held within this world. Though that comes to an end with the next contestant. Mind you when all of this is taking place there's school, so Manta has to go to school and worry about his friend, where he is and what's happening within his life. It's scary and something that's new to him and his life time of learning. So when Yoh shows up back at school it's a joyous day for him, but is quickly darkened by the appearance of the next fight in the Shaman King Tournament. That's why during the fight with Faust it was a pinnacle point in the series.
Faust has always been my favorite character next to Ryu, though Faust as a fiction character or an homage to a fictitious character. He's a beautiful monster, a being that's so wrapped up in his past, in the one woman that he loves. Though this is where things get a little real, where it's not all gags or cartoonish violence or attacks that only hit spirits. Faust finds Manta interesting, and by researching (filleting Mant's skin) Yoh can't focus and Faust over powers him. They go their separate ways, but Manta realizes that Yoh was pushing him away, then Ryu takes Manta to his new master, to the cave that Yoh will appear.
Anyhow, the theme of a lot of the story is the parallels between Manta, Yoh, and Ren since family is an important subject matter between all of them. Yoh trying to have a family, since he's been training and friendless all his life, though is the most friendly person. Ren is a person who's family has beat into him that people are the worst and existence for Shamans or people with Shamanic power aren't worth living. Ren's life reflects Yoh's life only if his training went in a darker path. It's interesting how the symbol of yin and yang come into the series so often. Manta is the only one that has a different life style, who seems to be the nexus of all of them. Ryu's life is about being alone and finding a place that allows one to be with others peacefully. And this all combined is the mind of the author, really these are all things that effect a mind when going through life. Can I make my family happy, can I find a place to make me happy, can I bring peace to people and the World, can I bring honor and respect to my name and way of life. It's all of these things combined into one long endless story, that I would love to see the end of one day. Oh and HoroHoro has a fantastic family life, though he's very close with his family, it's interesting to see that he's the only character in the series that really has a close family and loves each member.
Don't play with fire kids, really you will get burned.
Tea Steeping is wrapping Oona's hands while Gom helps by cooling them off.
Moving on this part of the series ends with Ren Horo Ryu and Yoh all landing in America to fight in the Shaman battle at the patch village, also we met Hao, this guy that looks just like Yoh and has his personality, though is the evil version of our hero. One thing I felt was weird was how out of the blue the whole Shaman King fight seemed, like there wasn't any implication that there was anything like that since book one or anywhere else. Yes, Yoh was being trained for something, though it wasn't brought up if that something was important or what that something could be. Don't get me wrong, it did come along in a sudden matter, but that could be because it needed to seem sudden, since we are living through Manta. A lot of the actions and adventures we're learning through his imagination, though in the long run it seems that he's learning about this like we are, from vivid interpretations from his friends.
In short if you're like me you're gonna be obsessed with this show, humming the theme songs, thinking about what kinda spirit would compliment your life. Then you might want to read this series, and let it take over a part of your philosophy. That's the one thing I love the most about this, it talks about both sides of the spectrum, the good and the bad and the emotions that come with the gradient between. It's not all about fighting spirits and spirited fighters with pointy hair, it talks about a way of life and cultural moral visions of life. Anyhow this is how you grab people into a series, you start with a fun premise and make things more intense as the plot progresses. If you're a casual reader, this will seem interesting, because of the cover and the story, since it flows in and out of a slice of life story. If you're someone that loves Anime, this is one of those series that you need to read not watch, there's a lot that happens between the show and the comic. Personally it's a better ride through the manga than it is in the Anime, but good acting is something to take in account. See you all in Part 02, protect what's most important to you and project your oversoul to its full potential.
I trust you enjoyed the inspection, thank you for reading.
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Keep well and Stay well.