... Dear God, what the hell was this? I thought the action shonen genre had reached its bottom level with the embodiment of cheesiness that is Flame of Recca, but this show proved to be in a whole new league of its own. It's easy for an anime to be bad or even awful, but... to always manage to get even worse over the course of 64 episodes? Now that's more rare - in a terrible way.
It's impossible to convey just how impressively bad I think Shaman King is, but I'll do my best to explain its sheer retardedness in a few hateful, ranty paragraphs.
For starters, the condensed version:
And now the long version:
The series starts off in a very simplistic manner, as it's common for the shonen demography. Our protagonist - Asakura Yoh - is a ''shaman'', a person who fights by using spirits, and he wants to become the Shaman King to acquire the Great Spirits and thus ''lead an easy life''. This is achieved by winning a tournament which I'll talk about later. Soon we get introduced to the mechanisms of the battles, the spirits, the first enemies, and all those generally boring themes usually portrayed in this type of anime.
The beginning is, thus, lackluster as expected. I never anticipate much from a shonen from the get-go because I know most of them start being published as mere ideas that have yet to be polished. However, you can always appreciate whether or not the series has potential for improving, and that's seen e.g. in the characters, their interactions and some glimpses of brilliance in the fights. I could barely see any potential in Shaman King to become BIG in the first ten or so episodes. My suspicions were proven right when twenty-five episodes in nothing had changed and I was still being treated to lame fights, cheesy dialogues, corny morals, melodrama and uninteresting attempts at character development or story building.
Those first 25 episodes conclude the first ''part'' of the preliminaries for the tournament, and so the next part begins: our dull protagonists have to reach a certain village in three months, village in which the actual tournament will take place.
This is where I, far from merely disliking/being bored at the show, had started to downright hating it. This amazingly boring journey lasted for no less than TWENTY EPISODES, twenty damn unexciting episodes full of fillers, lame introductions of lame characters (the main villain as one of many examples), stupid trainings accompanied by stupid, overly convenient power-ups, comedy that's not freaking funny and some of the lamest fights I've had the disgrace to watch in my life. This all may sound just terrible but in fact it is SO much worse, since the journey drags on and on and on with barely any progress at all... and when there is, it is facepalm-worthy. Like the tens of thousands of idiotic encounters with Hao, the antagonist, and his bunch of retarded minions. Truly hellish episodes to skim through, I tell you. But that's not the worst of it because, hey! We've fucking finally arrived at the tournament grounds! Yippeee!!
The tournament concept in action shonen is, per se, a very tired and cheap idea to conduct the story's plot, but even so, it may be moderately entertaining to watch. So perhaps you'd think that would be the case with Shaman King. Well, you're WRONG on too many levels. This tournament is officially the dullest I've ever seen (and I thought Flame of Recca's was bad!). Besides the super uneventful presentation of it all, we have the actual battles and the preludes for them. In each episode we'll be introduced to a trio of fillerish generic idiots which allow my give-a-fuck sensors to keep gathering dust. These are the next opponents for our almost equally comma-inducing protagonists. Oh, the thrills!!! And despite the fights being 3-to-3 we'll always have ONE of them doing ''all the work'', a.k.a. exchanging a few cheap lines with the enemies, then a couple hits and... there! Yet another duel is over in such a cheesy manner it makes me want to cry out of despair.
That goes on for like 10 more episodes, then the usual meh twist happens and the show quickly raises the tournament the middle finger. A lot of cheap clashes between the three main groups (Yoh's, Hao's and the X-Laws) go on endlessly with a lower entertainment value than a funeral's, the final fight ensues until its *yawn* climax and the story is over in a flash without any actual closure, after which there's a poor excuse of an epilogue that sucks hard as well.
So basically Shaman King's plot is a clusterfuck of shonen tropes, terrible storytelling, laughable characterisation, awfully-integrated comedy (also awful per se) and pointless repetitive fights. I'm so glad it's finally over...
Everything about it is failtastic, from the ridiculously ugly character designs to the poor shading and battle effects.
''Unconventional'' character designs are not necessarily a bad thing as long as you can make the characters themselves shine in the characterisation department, be it by making them engaging, awesome or simply fun. Needless to say, this is not achieved here, so the weird/offbeat designs come off as a means of harassment to the viewer in an already terrible show. I don't know about everyone else, but to me Chocolove and Opacho's ugly mugs and that other minion of Hao that looks like Captain Falcon's retarded cousin feel pretty insulting. But those are just some examples because really, only Anna is slightly pleasant to the eye. And she's not even a major character.
As stated earlier, the fights are lame. They mostly consist of two or three blow exchanges among huge-ass spirits that look like mechas while the fighters and the viewers keep on talking and talking like maddened parrots... all of this orchestrated as skillfully as Beethoven's 9th Symphony by a gorilla in heat.
Shading is cheap. Movement has the fluenty of mud. Effects are Paint level. Backgrounds... were there backgrounds?
Oh, you know what? Screw this. The animation sucked, period. And don't give me it's the budget's fault because even with a low budget animators can pull off something decent if they enjoy what they're working in... Personally I can only begin to fathom their pain.
The only parts of the OST I somewhat enjoyed were the opening themes by Megumi Hayashibara. The insert songs by her were also decent, but they were used so indiscriminately often and wrong that I ended up annoyed with them and whenever they started sounding I would be like ''oh shit, not this again''. The instrumental pieces (by that I mean synthetised crap) were all repetitive as hell, the only good one was the X-Laws' theme, but again it was terribly used every time.
Voice acting is okay, but nothing special as there is obviously not real feeling put into any of the performances. Otherwise superb seiyus like Takehiko Koyasu, Romi Park or Yuji Ueda sounded as no more than the standard of a Japanese cast.
Probably my biggest gripe. I could write a waterfall of complaints about each and every last one of them, but I'll try to keep it short (to no avail I guess).
Let's start with the protagonist, Yoh. He's the most generic and overused archetype of a shonen hero: kind, selfless, humble, worries about his friends, gets stronger to protect them, thinks that even the biggest scumbag is a good person, forgives everyone, doesn't let anyone die, etcetera. Except that... he is even more boring than that. His passive personality is supposed to portray him as an easy-going, cool individual, but instead this is so overdone and tiring that he becomes a bothersome pain in the arse for me.
Hao, the antagonist, is pretty much the exact opposite, but he's a bad character for different reasons. For one thing, his presentation in the story is totally lackluster and uneventful, with no impact whatsoever, and his continuous silly encounters with Yoh and the others make him and his group lose every last ounce of menacing aura they could have ever had. His attitude never changes, his backstory is as short and poorly told as it is disappointing and his reasons for doing what he does are uninteresting BS.
But still these two characters are ''good'' (beware the marks!!) if compared to the rest of the cast. It is chock full of meaningless shamans and bystanders with no repercussion over the story at all and no individual worth either. Yoh's useless sidekick, Manta, is a good example. Oh, and ''manta'' may mean something like ''clumsy idiot'' in Spanish so his name is fitting at least. For enemy groups like Hao's or the X-Laws the author takes the easy route and makes everyone just cannon fodder with absolutely no depth whose only action is to participate in the boring battles and be killed/defeated eventually. As for women, they barely have any role (except for a quintet of comic stress relief girls and the blank walls in Hao's and the X-Laws' groups), but I guess this isn't a surprise after reading Anna's most retarded line ever above, right?
My most hated character in the show (and perhaps they finest example of why they are all horrible) is Lyzerg. This stupid green-haired brat is introduced during the super tedious journey towards the Patch village that lasts twenty episodes. He's looking for strong allies to beat Hao (who killed his parents, what an original, heartwrenching setting!) because he is weak as hell, and the way he ''asks'' people for it is by attacking them. Guess who picked such a retard? Why yes, it was Yoh. After constantly bitching during the journey about every single thing he suddenly joins the X-Laws because... they're stronger! And yet the MC's group keeps considering him a friend. Even though he never did anything to earn any kind of friendship. Seriously, screw these people. Anyway, this is just the prelude of the annoyance this piece of trash is. In a nutshell, he's idiotic, useless, melodramatic, emo, whiny, backstabbing, hypocritical, weak, illogical and the hugest reason why I hate this failure of a shonen. Also I bet his mouth stinks like shit.
Then there's Chocolove who would place second in my most hated list. His main contribution to the show is telling retarded puns constantly and they're SO not funny. Think of Krusty the Clown but without any of his amusing traits outside the gags. He's simply terrible and I honestly can't guess why the author put him in the series. But then again, the author has never done anything right, so figures.
Oh yeah, Yoh's companions are all uninteresting too. I almost forgot to mention them because they made close to zero impression on me.
Long story short, the characters in Shaman King are all one-trick ponies (or no-tricks ponies as a matter of fact) with mostly zero character development, and when they do have some it is usually stupid and incoherent as heck, full of clichés and cheesiness and lacking any sense of transition.
As I was saying, Shaman King supposes for me a new quality pit in the action shonen genre. It is THAT bad. And I feel I've failed at conveying even a tenth of that awfulness in this rant, but at least now I feel more satisfied.
I wouldn't recommend this to anyone and I'm really appalled this is actually a successful manganime in Japan. Every copy of the original work should be burned in a thousand fires with the heat of a thousand suns.
If this had been only, say, 26 episodes long I would have rated it 2/5 and be done with it, but due to its rather monstruous length it had plenty of time to get progressively and systematically worse.
-It could have been longer.
-It could have been even worse. *coughs up blood*
-After watching it you'll learn to appreciate much more the other shonen titles you've watched.
-I'll mock you if you actually watch it out of curiosity.