Anime Reporter returns for the third quart of the otherworldly Shaman King series with volumes 17-24 (Chapters 144-215). If you missed out on the first two instalments, you can find them here: Volumes 01-08, Volumes 09-16.
If you aren’t up to date with the Shaman King series, please, please, please, do yourself a nice big favour and turn back now because there are some serious spoilers from some of the earlier volumes which you won’t want to ruin for yourself!
I’m serious. I’m so serious, I’m putting down another spoiler warning, so consider yourself warned.
Okay, we’re good? Excellent.
How was that for a cliff-hanger ending? Yoh’s mysterious link with Hao revealed at last, (totally explaining their uncanny resemblance too). That was something else and if you’re eager to launch onwards with the story and find out what happens next, then… well then there’s a little bit of disappointing news because what follows with Volume 17 is a story focusing on Ren’s team encountering a mysterious figure, also from Yoh’s past, with some intense battle scenes that will push Ren far beyond his own levels. Most of the remaining competitors are more than willing to take the lives of anyone standing in their way and they’re not necessarily going to wait until the next round of the fights to do it. This storyline continues well into Volume 18, revealing a lot about Tao Ren’s character and forcing Yoh to make a fiendishly difficult decision.
Volumes 19 and 20 take the story back about five years, detailing the first meeting of Yoh and Anna, as well as introducing an old friend of Yoh’s, his first spirit companion, a two-tailed cat by the name of Matamune. This storyline reveals not only a lot about Yoh’s relationship with Anna but also a lot about how his character developed to where it is today and just why he truly entered the Shaman Fight. This storyline focuses mainly on character development and emotional scenes, but there is also a lot of great action as a young, inexperienced Yoh learns some of the finer points of fighting as a shaman.
Volumes 21 – 24 deal a lot with the fallout of Yoh’s vital decision and sees a lot of side characters growing and developing as their own stories develop and more about their histories are revealed. In particular, Chocolove receives a much greater level of attention than in previous arcs, though his character remains underdeveloped in comparison to many of those who appeared earlier and he feels like a missed opportunity, largely wasted on comic relief.
Lyserg, whose decision to join up with the X-Laws came as a crushing betrayal to Ryu, though perhaps not to readers who had barely had a chance to get to know the character, shows up again to agonise over his decision to join up with a fairly sadistic bunch of self-declared good guys.
While we get to see some elements of character growth, particularly with regard to powers and battle tactics, a lot of the supporting cast feel like hollow attempts to flesh out Yoh’s crew rather than characters in their own rights.
The battles scenes surrounding the X-Laws and the brand new powers of several characters make for some truly explosive action on a much larger scale. While these amped-up fights make for more impressive gasps from spectators within the series, some of these fights can be much less captivating than the earlier days when Yoh and Amidamaru were fighting off spirits with a wooden sword. Much of the heart and engagement of the action is lost while angels and demons thrash it out on an epic scale. There has been a noticeable shift in the series towards stronger violence and greater shocks, meaning that much of the story now comes from putting the familiar and loveable characters through hell and back again.
Shaman King Volumes 17-24 see the stakes rise much higher as Yoh’s past is revealed in much greater detail and everything builds up to a showdown with the enigmatic Hao.
Shaman King Volumes 17-24 are all available from Viz Media.
Plot Development: 8
76% – “Going Strong”– Shaman King sacrifices some of the familiarity and great personality which were so abundant in its early chapters as it takes the fight to darker, much more dangerous places. Still eight volumes to go!