Shaman King

TV (64 eps)
2001 - 2002
Summer 2001
3.777 out of 5 from 19,022 votes
Rank #2,311

The time has come for the next Shaman King to be crowned in the great Shaman Fight. Yoh Asakura is one such hopeful, a kind-hearted boy with a hidden power... and a terrible secret. Now, the fate of all mankinds rests in the hands of Yoh and his companions as they must battle the most powerful shaman who ever lived!

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StoryI’m probably not the best person to review this – the target audience is 15 years younger, and I lack a penis, but I have been pleasantly surprised by shounen classics in the past: Hunter X Hunter had an alluring charm and One Piece is comedic action at its best. Unfortunately, Shaman King has a crawling tempo, a tediousness that lasts for 64 episode, or 1536 minutes of life wasted on animated mediocrity. The exciting fantasy action falls short of the mark, and you’re left with a lukewarm trickle of tiresome humdrum that never manages to find form or direction. As Shaman King attempts to gather some momentum, more characters are introduced to help bulk out the comprehensive cast. The back-story to each new inductee is handled reasonably well, giving every member a reason to fight alongside Yoh and gain a chance to become the number one shaman. With a blend of familiar personalities, it feels like the group is composed of the recycled off-cuts from shows such as Yu-gi-oh and nothing feels new or breaks any revolutionary barriers. With a spotlight on the clichéd “friends are stronger together than alone” ideology, the show sometimes misses out on playing on one of its strengths – a vast catalogue of enemies available for awesome battles. There is an initial promise of regular ass-kicking in the beginning as the characters struggle to enter the shaman tournament, something soon lost as the story bogs itself down with lessons in morality and inner strength. As the climax approaches, it all feels a little too late and the epic final struggle is nothing more than a wreck. Maybe I would enjoy the show more if I had less anime experience, however the more anime I watch, the more glaring the flaws in Shaman King become. The battle scenes are predictable and generic; characters discovering a new secret attack as they encounter stronger enemies is reminiscent of Bleach and the team dynamic is similar to that in Hunter X Hunter. Some jokes may occasionally raise a smile, but the overdose of childishness stop it being hilarious – an issue that plagues most of the show. Although being far from perfect, the story is at least consistent and does not get dragged down by filler episodes. Every small arc holds some importance on the journey the character’s take, even if not immediately apparent.AnimationThe quirky and angular faces are off-putting at first, however, a brash graffiti-style character design soon grows on you. With bold scenery true to the manga, the consideration given to character designs affords them a memorable and unique charm. Unfortunately, a limited appeal sees madcap power-up scenes looking awkward and overblown combat moves jerky.SoundA very strong and familiar sounding vocal cast bring the characters to life with some fitting acting. From the nasal and wimpish Manta to Ryu's manly grumblings, there is no character that is annoying or poorly voiced. Overall, Shaman King's music is enjoyable; emotive orchestral harmonies during the poignant scenes and buoyant salsa beats during the battles mean it all comes together beautifully. Unfortunately, the first opening track had me grasping for the remote in desperation to skip the grating refrain and “motivational” lyrics.CharactersWith a long list of players in the shaman fights, there are many standout personalities. Yoh is blase and uses his deadpan style to disarm enemies and bring them to fight for good, Ryu plays out as comic relief with a yakuza attitude and a bouffant quiff, and even the emotionally void doctor Faust makes for entertaining viewing. On the flip side of the coin is Anna, a girl whose sole purpose in life is to marry the shaman king and Chocolove, a pointless and unfunny brat who was blessed with the looks of Usopp from One Piece. Focused primarily on showing the male protagonists' development, the show attempts to bite off more than it can chew; lacking development of the interesting side characters, quantity takes precedent over quality. This is compounded by an overwhelming supporting cast; with a feel of a brain storming session gone wrong, the mishmash of comically powered villains was seemingly concocted by a room of designers on a sugar high.OverallOverall Shaman King isn’t bad; then again it isn’t good either. Instead, it sits balanced precariously on the fence; awesomeness lies on one side and an animated fiery hell on the other, but it doesn’t seem to lean towards either. With an excellent premise, I feel that this show could have been an appealing success to the general otaku viewer. As it stands, shounen fan-boys are the only ones I can see enjoying this - the rest of the anime community will simply be disappointed by another run-of-the-mill action flick that leaves them out in the cold.


Shaman King was a great introduction to the shounen genre… to all 6 year old boys. Back when it aired to most countries’ televisions, there weren’t many good action or adventure animated series. It was very captivating with its colors and monster designs and it seemed like it would have a very epic story full of plot twists and stuff. And guess what, it ended up having none of the above. It is still considered a very good show by thousands of people today but if you pay attention almost all of them will be saying that only because of childhood nostalgia and not because the show is actually good. Try to show this anime to later kids who grew up with Naruto or One Piece and you will get nothing but apathy. Go further than back, to people like me who grew with Dragonball or Hokuto no Ken, and you will get grandpa loathing of the sort of “Pf, kids these days don’t know what good cartoons are. When I was a boy we killed dinosaurs with our bare hands, used dice and boards to kill monsters in dungeons, and television had good action anime.” PRODUCTION VALUES The show is animated by Xebec, and anyone with some experience in these sorts of things easily knows that there is no such thing as a good anime made by that studio. Their budgets are small, and their directors are lazy. And indeed, 5 minutes into the first episode and you already encounter major drawbacks. Just look at the character drawing complexity, the coloring layers and the fluent animation … You can’t see them? No surprise since THEY DON’T EXIST! Animation is like an endangered species in this show. And not because it’s old, they just had no budget to make stuff move. Thus you mostly get static people with flapping mouths, in a show that is supposed to be fighting tournament. Is beef their favorite food? I assume it is, since their motions are so jerky. Each battle consists of 80% people standing frozen and TALKING-TALKING-TALKING before finally exchanging a few energy beams or shaman clashes and it’s all over. If you expect exciting battles, you are looking at the wrong place. And then it’s the character figures, which have some really dull and stupid designs. Sometimes I couldn’t even tell if a character is a boy or a girl. Some of them look like aliens or goblins. One of the comic reliefs is a midget whose head is bigger than the rest of his body. Some hairstyles are spiky enough to poke someone’s eye out from a meter away, just by turning their heads. Hell man, how much hair spray do they use to keep it so poky? I guess they dive in glue and that is the reason they look like statues in the whole show. Thank goodness their mouths are immune to this or there wouldn’t be anything moving at all. And thank goodness the spirits are incorporeal and thus immune too so during the action scenes they move a bit better. So yeah, most of the action is done by spirits, who swing weapons and spells of all sorts and manage to be somewhat interesting. Sadly even there you barely get any decent fights. Most don’t last for more than 30 seconds of ACTUAL fighting; if you remove all the talking that is what it’s left. As for the visual effects, they are mostly cheap monochromatic computer generated flashes. Such money savers those buggers! Easy to produce too; even little kids can make them in Photoshop. If the visuals have something interesting, those would be the occasional spooky or gore scenes. They are underplayed and they are mostly censoring the blood compared to the manga version, but at some points you get someone’s belly opened up and his heart removed while still beating. Plus you get some really sick character designs, such as a little girl titled Iron Maiden who wears a chastity belt. Don’t ask me why she needs to wear it; this show is occasionally sick in its imagery. Not that sick makes it a better show though. The soundtrack is sung by a girl and it’s pop so it sucks… Ok, actually it is more than that; it has no memorable tunes. I don’t remember them so they were nothing much to remember. As for the dialogues… well ok, don’t go expecting a masterpiece of literature; it is more or less “My spirit is stronger than yours and let’s fight to prove it” or “friendship is magic” for 80% of the duration. YAWN! SCRIPT The best way to describe SK’s story is to think it’s like Yugioh with ghosts instead of cards. You have tournaments, you have weirdly dressed kids with superpowers, you have monsters, you have world threats, and everything is resolved by talking in battles. Insert a ton of “friendship is the most powerful thing in the universe” themes ala Tia, a super bad guy that everyone must team against, and you have yourself the usual stuff as always… No wait, you don’t. But more on that later.It seems like it’s going to be complicating and exciting at first, having hundreds of people with all sorts of spirits going for the grand price of becoming the Shaman King, but the plot is simply not there. Most of the episodes are either pointless fillers or spars with unimportant secondary characters who have little to no purpose in the plot. You will literally be waiting for dozens of episodes for something to happen, and when it does it’s going to be all “What, it’s over already?” And to think that you would at least get a decent closure if you showed patience? You don’t! 64 episodes of fillers, snail slow plot, endless talking, and you are rewarded with an open ending. Nobody becomes the Shaman King, ok? And even the tournament is canceled; imagine that! An applause for the creators’ brilliance please! This of course happened because the anime caught up with the manga and wrapped things up in a sloppy way. The manga is finished now but this does not excuse what they did to its adaptation.You can blame the director too if you like. Although Mizushima Seiji has produced some interesting in themes shows over the years (Dai-Guard, Oh! Edo Rocket, Gundam 00, UN-GO) he managed to ruin them all with loose plot and inconsistencies. And that included even the first version of FMA, which is clearly inferior compared to the newer one. CAST Let’s skip all the unnecessary parts and go straight to the point. It’s a shounen, so all the personalities can be described in two lines at the most. Nobody is original or for the same reason memorable. There is no character development for almost everybody, and the major ones only get a few crumbs of that. Some have very tragic and violent backdrops, but because of the loose plot and the open ending, all that are going to waste. There are hundreds of characters, yet besides the major three teams, the rest are all unimportant. And of course women are useless, just there as platonic girlfriends and emotional support. The protagonist is somewhat unconventional for a shonen lead, since he is not a screaming idiot but an easy going boy who wants a carefree life and acts cool or like he doesn’t care much about what others have to say to him. He even has a wife! Other than that, his behavior is not that different from the norm, since he still wants to make friends and protect selflessly all those close to him, even if becoming the Shaman King is supposed to be a pretty selfish goal that means trampling all others to get there. Kinda contradicts his goal in a way. Oh, and as usual don’t go asking how parents and the police are allowing 8 year olds traveling alone and trashing every place they go to with ghosts and nobody seems to mind. Not even the Ghostbusters. LEGACY SK is not a good anime. It never was and the several problems I mentioned prove that beyond doubt. Its fame comes purely from kids who watched that and not something better. Not recommended, not even for the curious or the nostalgic ones.And now for some excused scorings. ART SECTION: 3/10 General Artwork 1/2 (typical) Character Figures 0/2 (ugly) Backgrounds 1/2 (basic) Animation 0/2 (close to none) Visual Effects 1/2 (cheap) SOUND SECTION: 5/10 Voice Acting 1/3 (corny and silly) Music Themes 2/4 (typical) Sound Effects 2/3 (ok I guess) STORY SECTION: 2/10 Premise 1/2 (typical) Pacing 0/2 (slow as hell) Complexity 1/2 (not much) Plausibility 0/2 (none) Conclusion 0/2 (doesn’t exist) CHARACTER SECTION: 2/10 Presence 0/2 (stupid or dull) Personality 1/2 (basic) Backdrop 1/2 (generic and simplistic but it’s there) Development 0/2 (close to zero) Catharsis 0/2 (doesn’t exist) VALUE SECTION: 3/10 Historical Value 1/3 (still remembered by the nostalgic ones) Rewatchability 0/3 (none because of the terrible pacing) Memorability 2/4 (it occasionally has some creepy ideas but does nothing with them) ENJOYMENT SECTION: 1/10 Art 0/1 (looks lazy) Sound 0/2 (sounds meh) Story 0/3 (feels generic) Characters 1/4 (some have hints of interest but the pacing ruins everything) VERDICT: 3/10

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