Shaman King is a manga and anime series written and illustrated by Hiroyuki Takei, about a shaman named Yoh Asakura and his journey to become Shaman King by winning the Shaman Fight. The Shaman Fight occurs every 500 years; the winning shaman is crowned Shaman King, merges with the Great Spirit, and is then able to reshape the world in any way they desire.
Shaman King starts out introducing the main characters, the concept of shamans (a shaman is one who can channel spirits – a medium between the world of the living and the world of the dead), the role of the Shaman King, and the setting of the Shaman Fight which is held every 500 years.
Shaman King has a compelling cast of characters, each with their own dreams and reasons for competing, including: Yoh – a lazy, but kind shaman; Amidamaru – an ancient samurai spirit; Manta/Morty – a short, studious human who can see ghosts; Ryu/Rio – an older teen gang leader, looking for his Best Place; Ren/Len – a tough, powerful shaman from the ancient Chinese Tao family; Horo Horo/Trey – a snowboarding, nature loving shaman; Anna – a spirit medium, and Yoh’s fiancée; Hao/Zeke – an ultra powerful shaman who hates humans, whose guardian spirit is the Spirit of Fire; Faust – a necromancer shaman whose only wish is to see his beloved deceased wife Eliza; Lyserg – a shaman who seeks revenge for the death of his parents by Hao’s hand; and Chocolove/Joco – a comedienne who wants to blow away all hatred in the world with the Wind of Laughter.
Yoh gains his guardian spirit Amidamaru, meets several new friends, and begins his Shaman Fight training. There are battles along the way as shamans try to eliminate each other to cut down on the competition ahead of the Shaman Fight. Yoh and his friends meet Hao/Zeke, who wants to become Shaman King to create a shaman only world and eradicate humans; his interest in Yoh, along with a startling resemblance to each other is a mystery. Yoh’s group also meets the X-Laws, (with their leader Iron Maiden Jeanne) a group of shamans who will stop at nothing in their singular task to terminate the evil Hao/Zeke. There are the preliminary rounds which must be passed, to receive an Oracle Bell and proceed to the second round of the Shaman Fight. Part of the second round includes finding the location of Patch/Dobi village, which is the location for the second round fights. Hao/Zeke continually sends his minion shamans to test Yoh, and tells him to get stronger.
Originally airing in 2001-2003, there are 64 episodes of Shaman King, and you can choose to watch them in Japanese with English subs (Japanese voice actors with English subtitles) or watch the English dubs (dubbed with English voice actors).
I initially watched with English subs, and now I’m watching the English dub with all the kids. It takes a little while to get used to the difference between the Japanese/English. Names are changed: Ren to Len, Horo Horo to Trey, Manta to Morty, Hao to Zeke, Patch Village to Dobi Village, and of course all the attacks change (Hyoi Gattai to Spirit Unity.) They change Ryu to Rio, and give him a Spanish accent. Probably the toughest part to take is Ren to Len with a British accent and his upper crust speech at the beginning, and when they say Yoh wants to be Shaman King so he can be a Rock Star, when really his goal is simply a lazy, easy and carefree life. The English version also has Horo Horo with a crush on Anna, and then they mess with the sword names (unforgiveable!) changing Harusame to The Sword of Light, and Futsu-no-Mitama no Tsurugito to The Antiquity. I mean, really, “Amidamaru into the sword!” sounds a bit lame.
Sites where you can watch Shaman King online:
Originally published in Shonen Jump, from 1998-2004, there are 300 chapters in 32 volumes of Shaman King. The final volume 32 was released in the U.S. on January 4, 2011 (translated version; does not have the Kang Zeng Bang chapters released in Japan).
Sites where you can read Shaman King online:
Differences between the anime and manga
There are many differences between the anime and manga story lines, and also many differences between the Japanese and American/English anime. The anime and manga endings are so completely different – the story takes completely different directions. Either story ending is acceptable, but they are worlds apart.
I won’t give out many spoilers, but in the anime, Yoh becomes powerful, and with the help of his guardian spirit, all his friends, and all the other people in Dobi village that wish for Yoh to win and Hao/Zeke to lose, Yoh is able to defeat the evil Hao.
In the manga, Yoh becomes part of the group of the Five Legendary Spirits, and realizes the only way to truly stop Hao and his cycle of reincarnation is to save him. What is Hao’s reason for being evil? Can he be changed back to the side of good, like Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker?
I would recommend Shaman King for age 7 and up. It’s an inspiring story – fun, exciting, with lots of battling (pokemon style – with no blood), and no foul language or nudity.
Themes include what is good and what is evil? Does any mean justify the desired end? What is justice, and who has the right to judge? What does it mean to be true to yourself? And does having friends make you weaker (what Hao believes), or stronger (what Yoh believes)? As Yoh goes on his Shaman King adventure, he must confront many challenges, fight difficult battles, learn of a secret past, and face his destiny.
Lastly, according to shamanking-nation.com, Takei is planning on a new Shaman King project for 2011:
“On January 6th, 2011 on Hiroyuki Takei’s official Twitter account he has made several announcements about the new year. His original Tweet follows: Happy new year and thank your for your patronage of Hiroyuki Takei’s works last year. The planning this year: Karakuridôji Ultimo, Jumbor, Shaman King and an unseen new project, it works to add more Take_pro staff, best regards and thank you. (See the Tweet in Japanese)”
UPDATE: November 2011
According to Shaman King Nation, Hiroyuki Takei spoke on Japanese radio about the return of Shaman King:
“The start of these events began on last Saturday (9/10/2011) in Aomori, Japan. At 18:30 on the radio channel FM AOMORI, Hiroyuki Takei personally went on the radio to talk about his manga series. Prior to this, the last time his words were on the radio was in a letter spoken by Megumi Hayashibara shortly after the cancellation of the Shaman King manga series in Weekly Shonen Jump. While the entire transcript of this conversation was not recorded, there were two annoucements Hiroyuki Takei announced: 1. Shaman King will be continuing in March 2012 and 2.) Hiroyuki Takei is working on another project.”
SKN also reveals a new action figure of Asakura Yoh soon to be released (parts are grey, as this is a prototype):
According to TheAkiba, expect a preliminary treat in November 2011:
“According to the 4th volume of Jump X magazine, Manga series Shaman King is about to return and will be published with a new 44-page story in the next volume on November 10. The short story will present us an untold so called Zero Story about the protagonist Yoh Asakura.”
The big question is, what’s coming in March 2012 – will it be manga or anime or a movie or something else?
I can’t wait to see the new Shaman King manga on November 10, Zero Story about Yoh, and as soon as I find an English translation I will post a link.
For the latest information on the new Shaman King 2012: Zero Story, and more, check out my post here.