Anime Reporter delves into the archives to take a look at Shaman King manga volumes 1-8 (Chapters 1-71), the first quarter of the spiritual saga from creator Hiroyuki Takei.
Shaman King was originally released in 1998 and grew in popularity to become a wildly popular and successful series for 300 chapters (referred to as ‘Reincarnations’) as well as two follow-up series, Shaman King Zero and Shaman King Flowers.
Shaman King focuses on Yoh Asukara, a young, easy-going boy who also happens to be able to see spirits. He’s a shaman. ‘Shaman’, in this series, takes on a specific meaning; a person who can communicate with the world of the dead and act as a medium between that world and this one. Yoh is a talented shaman, but he’s mainly interested in taking it easy and his ambition in life doesn’t stretch much further than lying around and listening to music. Despite his devotion to relaxation, Yoh insists on helping people and spirits he meets and he’s able to let spirits inhabit his body, making use of their skills, abilities and knowledge to do what needs doing. We first encounter Yoh through the eyes of a young student, Manta Oyamada, a short, sensible boy who uses a hefty encyclopaedia to tell him what he needs to know about the world… until Yoh shows him a few things which aren’t in his encyclopaedia.
The series uses Manta as a “civilian” set of eyes, to guide readers through the ins and outs of the shaman world. The series opens with several lighter episodes, detailing battles against street thugs by channelling the spirit of an ancient warrior or helping restless spirits to find peace, but an overarching plot soon takes hold by the end of volume three.
The time is right. The time is now. Every five hundred years, as signalled by great twin meteors, there is a contest to decide which shaman will get to commune with the Great Spirit and lead the world with great power. Essentially, it’s a giant fighting contest to decide the world’s next messiah and every shaman worth their salt wants a piece of this one. Having the Great Spirit on your side means vast reserves of power at your disposal and shamans from every part of the world see it as a way of making their dreams come true.
Naturally, we’re rooting for Yoh, but there’s some pretty stiff competition; from necromancers to shamans channelling the spirits of natural elements, Yoh might just have to work a hell of a lot harder than he ever wanted to in order to claim that prize. Luckily, that’s where Anna comes in. Anna Kyoyama is a gifted shaman in her own right and one with a strong investment in Yoh’s future success. Her harsh training style occasionally makes Yoh fear for his safety but it’s bound to get the job done! She and Manta make up Yoh’s cheering section initially, though he manages to gather allies both living and dead as the series progresses. Most of the remaining volumes from four to eight deal with the first round of the Shaman Fight and introduce us to a sample of what’s out there in the shaman world.
Shaman King’s premise is one which has vast potential, from banishing evil spirits to letting good spirits find rest and all manner of groovy battles and the series starts off by displaying a truly imaginative use of this potential. Fights and conflicts are never repetitive and, as with all great manga series, it’s truly a pleasure to watch characters growing and developing. The humour of the series is clear from the very start but it also offers tremendous heart when the story calls for it. Characters are imaginative and a pleasure to get to know. The charm of this series is undeniable from the beginning and it only gets better. Here’s hoping that the next 24 volumes won’t disappoint!
Shaman King is available in the UK and Ireland from VIZ Media and has been for quite some time!
82% – “Stellar” – Shaman King gets off to a great start, proving that a series from 15 years ago can easily keep up with the latest and greatest titles. Much more than a funny and interesting manga, Shaman King volumes 1-8 are a great read. And there’s plenty more to go