Those of you entirely unfamiliar with Shaman King can check out our review of the first eight volumes here and should otherwise look no further. There be spoilers in these waters.
As those who’ve read the first eight volumes will recall, Volume 8 ended with Yoh and crew on their way to save Ren from the tyrannical clutches of his family all the way in China before returning for the second round of the Shaman Tournament. The battles against all the forces of Ren’s family lasts well into Volume 9 and makes for some pretty interesting fight scenes, allowing some of the supporting cast to demonstrate some of their own skills and growth without being overshadowed by Yoh. It’s a nice, straightforward storyline and takes a nice break from the escalating nature of the tournament as well as neatly allowing Ren to make the transition from nemesis to rival as the scale of the competition becomes more intimidating.
Volume 9 rounds to a close with the very beginnings of the second round of the tournament and one which will put the shamans through their paces, testing much more than just their combat skills. It also introduces a new character for readers to keep their eyes on, a familiar-looking lad named Hao who nonchalantly declares himself to be the future Shaman King. Oh dear, and just as Ren had started to behave himself, a new problem arises.
That’s the least of the team’s worries however, as their soon dropped, (quite literally) into unfamiliar territory and they enter the next phase of the contest; a cross country race to the home of the Patch Tribe. Along the way, they encounter a few new faces, some of whom shed some light on the Patch and on the history of the Shaman Tournament.
Among these new faces are the X-Laws, a team of puritanical shamans determined to rid the world of evil, even through the most brutal of means, including crushes any competition. The contest has reached lethal new levels and only promises to continue.
After the journey to the Patch Tribe has reached its conclusion and the contestants are given suitable time to recover, it’s on to part 3, a fighting tournament, but with a distinct difference this time. Contestants are no longer fighting one-on-one but this time, in three person teams, meaning that not only are the fights much more complex and dangerous, but that Yoh’s team will have to recruit and split into two in order to progress. Get ready to meet some new characters and encounter a couple of familiar faces for the action-heavy third round of the Shaman Tournament!
Volume 16 comes to a close very much in the midst of the third round, with plenty of tension and intrigue to keep us coming back for more.
The second quarter of the Shaman King series manages to feel like things are really reaching a close, with escalation and tension pouring out of each chapter. Read in succession, everything appears to be moving pretty rapidly so it’s worth keeping in mind that these eight volumes took over a year to be published in their original form. It’s difficult to see how the stakes can reach any higher, though Hiroyuki Takei, the series’ creator, certainly hasn’t let us down so far. Yoh’s kind heart and pleasant nature are as endearing and entertaining as ever and the series loses none of its rich humour, even as the tension and violence escalate to new levels. Characterisation is used nicely so that Yoh’s teammates and adversaries are every bit as human and complex as Yoh’s own tale. Or close enough.
Shaman King volumes 9-16 are currently available from Viz Media and are just as worthy a read as the first eight proved to be.
85% –“Superb!” Shaman King volumes 9-16 take the story well beyond its beginnings and manage to up the action, the heart and the stakes all at once. A great manga series for those who want some warm smiles with their action.