Long-awaited, eagerly anticipated, these are just a few ways to define the Shaman King reboot in 2021. The series, initially published as a manga by Hiroyuki Takei, was a favorite of many children in the early 2000s. It has a soul-stirring theme tune, a one-of-a-kind power system, and a varied cast of characters. However, its awe-inspiring run ended long before anime and manga became widespread mainstays of current pop culture.
So imagine everyone’s astonishment when a trailer for the near-impossible remake of Shaman King appeared in early June 2020. Netflix’s first season will be published on August 9, 2021, more than a year after the surprising announcement. Many questions have been raised as a result of its dissemination. Has the plot shifted? How unique is this fresh remake? Is it superior to the original? And, most importantly, is it worth your time to watch?
What is Shaman King?
To properly appreciate this resurrection, one must first grasp the series’ core idea. It’s about a young child on a journey to become the ‘Shaman King,’ a title only bestowed upon those who win a once-in-500-years tournament. Along the road, he encounters others similar to him: shamans who are pursuing the same goal. This is where the variety comes into play. There are characters from all over the world — from China to Germany, Egypt to England, and even fictitious Native American tribes – all competing in the tournament.
Shaman King in the Past and Present
The nostalgia element contributes to a lot of the positive aspects of this series. With its direction, one of the most recognizable features, the music, pulls similar notes from the first series. Yuuki Hayashi, well known for his work on My Hero Academia and Haikyuu!, even adds his flare with a nostalgic soundscape reminiscent of his earlier works. In addition, Megumi Hayashibara performs the new opening song in the same way she did in 2001, while some of the previous theme songs play during specific episodes.
In addition, both the Japanese version and the English dub make a concerted attempt to resurrect the original cast. Despite this, specific changes in voice performers and voice directions are unavoidable. Overall, it’s apparent that everyone is working hard to give this new series the same vibe as the previous one. On the Japanese side, this is mainly effective, especially with Romi Park and Hayashibara playing Ren Tao and Anna Kyouyama, respectively. Even Youko Hikasa, who replaces Yuuko Satou as Yoh Asakura’s voice, does her best to maintain the character’s languid and comfortable drawl.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for their English equivalents, who have clunky delivery from Tara Sands as Anna and strange cadence choices for characters such as Ryunosuke Umemiya. Some of the better options for the English dub of this adaptation are the vocal alterations for Yoh and Ren.
The emotional heartbeat of the narrative is kept intact thanks to the music and performances of the Japanese voice actors. One thing this series excels at is creating the appropriate mood. Shaman King presents the concept of nature and spirituality through images and music with a bit more elegance and sophistication than the manga and its prior translation, thanks to bright colors and soothing instruments. The new graphic style, along with Hayashi’s soundtrack, effectively sets the tone for each scene.
The comedy itself is many decades old, replete with clichés from the late 1990s and early 2000s. Fortunately for this series, many of them are still as effective as ever in eliciting audience laughter, and reliving some of these jokes is very refreshing. It helps a lot that the voice performers on both ends of the Japanese and English translations deliver their lines with the same assurance they did years ago, with the former being more effective than the latter. Some of the other old jokes can be corny and unsettling at times, but they are few and far between.
Shaman King’s pacing is swift; one particularly notable production choice is that some episodes forego the end credit sequence in favor of additional storyline space. I’ve heard that the 2001 anime featured some extra padding due to being a product of its period. However, when contrasted to the 2011 version of Hunter Hunter, which similarly sought to rush over arcs previously covered in the 1999 incarnation, Shaman King slips into chaos due to the lack of transitions.
Because of the speed, most discussions feel like an information dump; every character line is exposition after exposition. There are times when the tempo slows down to something more manageable. This helps viewers rapidly adjust to the speed of the storyline in the contemporary era of binge-watching. This, however, has a drawback in that the fast pace can quickly wear viewers out.
Another big issue with this series is the low quality of the art and animation. Shaman King is full of still frames and oddly shaped people, as seen by sharp facial features and bobbleheads in action sequences. There are also a lot of static shots that have been repeated. While this is not unusual in animation, it is more noticeable since it occurs many times in one episode, just a few minutes apart. Even by anime standards, when such problems are unavoidable due to financial constraints, art distribution is relatively poor.
There’s a lot to like about this film, with its love of comedy,v. Both Japanese and English voice performers do an excellent job at revisiting their roles and giving the characters fresh twists when necessary. Furthermore, the premise is a fascinating notion in and of itself. All of this, however, is utterly eclipsed by poor production decisions. Whether it’s worth seeing or not, all I can say is that you’ll have a lot better time simply reading the manga.
Shaman King is now available to watch on Netflix.