Anime Reporter tries to keep up with the ever rising stakes of the last quarter of Shaman King (Volumes 25-32).
Needless to say, if you’re unfamiliar with Shaman King, the final eight volumes of the series are perhaps not the place to start and you might benefit slightly more from a look at the first eight volumes.
When last we left Yoh and friends, things had become pretty tense, with several life and death battles and the occasional trip to hell and back. Well, you can expect a lot more of the same as the plot more or less develops into a series of escalating battles with tension and drama galore. Unlikely partnerships must be made in what is now a fight to bring down Hao more than anything else. Unfortunately, this means that a lot of the previous conflicts are rendered moot and the remainder of the story is a colossal build-up to a final showdown. The team dynamic of Yoh and his allies goes through peaks and troughs of interest, eventually kind of trailing off and becoming fairly irrelevant.
The most interesting aspects of the final leg of the series are the twists and turns coming from Hao himself, who seems entirely aware of everyone’s plan to single him out as the number one threat and who does very little to dissuade or intimidate, often being confusingly civil and nonchalant with his would be assassins. A close second for most interesting portion of the tale are a series of battles against the Patch judges themselves. These fights put the characters through their paces more than ever before and make for some pretty interesting drama, though the fights themselves are just a few among many, many others and at this point of the story, what’s really keeping interest going is just wanting to see how it all ends.
And end it does, though not in the most satisfying way. Without giving away too much information, the final resolution feels more than a little flimsy and contradicts a couple of things that the series has been proclaiming since its early days. Readers might find themselves wondering what all the fuss was about when they reach the final pages of volume 32.
Action scenes are explosive, focusing a lot more on dynamic splash pages and powerful super-moves rather than the more subtle exchanges of earlier chapters. These splash pages look impressive, but it’s easy to feel detached as gigantic explosion follows tremendous laser blast and it’s hard to keep track of just how impressive characters’ strength is supposed to be. The intimacy and the sense of peril from the earlier matches is replaced by sheer spectacle, driving up the tension but making each fight feel less and less like a part of the narrative. The main exceptions to this rule are some of the Patch fights which manage to introduce an element of pain and regret into many scenes as characters face down their judges and friends from the early rounds of the Shaman Fight.
Overall, Volumes 25-29 offer up a series of clashes, using dramatic twists to pump up the tension, but ultimately not moving the story along very much. Volumes 30-32 are more or less one big buildup to a climactic showdown, which proves to be much less climactic than one would hope, ultimately feeling like a rushed attempt to insert an ending into the few remaining pages.
Shaman King Volumes 25-32 bring the series to an ending that feels just a little half-hearted and little bit too sentimental for the series more recent, violent tones.
Shaman King Volumes 25-32 are all currently available from Viz Media. For more reviews and updates, stick with us here at Anime Reporter.
Character Development: 6.5
70% – “Rest in Peace”– Shaman King comes to an end and it’s sad to say goodbye to such an enjoyable series. It’s slightly sadder that it didn’t manage to end on a higher note.