By Kellen Scrivens
13 October 2005 — There are many North American anime fans who absolutely hate Fox and 4Kids Entertainment due to the way they dub, edit and shuffle episodes — especially The Vision of Escaflowne — in order to make them more kid- and American-friendly. While that's all well and good, 4Kids really only winds up alienating the hardcore anime fans who want to see these cartoons as they were originally intended.
With that in mind, I was initially leery about Shaman King, a long running manga-turned-anime. However, it would up near the top of my favorites list, and that's why I'm reviewing it today.
In the first episode we're introduced, Morty — a young loner who believes in ghost stories and other undead phenomenon. After missing the bus home from school, he's forced to walk home and decides to take a shortcut through the cemetery. There, Yoh, a lonely child, asks Morty if he wants to stay and party. Confused, the loner asks who they're going to party with. Right about then he notices hundreds of spirits flanking him in all their ghostly glory.
The next day at school, Yoh is revealed to be a new student, and Morty goes nuts because, well, this kid hangs out with ghosts! Yoh, however, denies having ever met Morty. Later, Morty confronts Yoh and Yoh reveals that he lied because he didn't want to look weird in front of his new classmates. He then reveals that he is actually a Shaman who came to Tokyo to find a guardian ghost for the upcoming Shaman Tournament — a tournament that is held only once every 500 years. All revealed and the ball rolling, Yoh and Morty buddy-up and set out on their quest to find Yoh a guardian ghost. And that they do in the form of Amidamaru, a 600 year old samurai.
From then on it's all about Yoh becoming the Shaman King, and along the way they become rivals with quite a number of people, including Rio and his Dead Enders gang and Len Tao and his family.
Shortly after Yoh's first battle with Len (which landed him in the hospital) we are introduced to Anna, a girl who has been promised to be Yoh's wife. Much like Yoh wants to be the Shaman King, Anna longs to become the Shaman Queen and starts putting Yoh on a workout plan that would have Jack La Lanne begging for mercy.
As the shows go by Yoh amasses several allies. Most notably is Trey, a man with the same fun-loving attitude as Yoh — a man from the North who just so happens to carry a snowboard everywhere he goes, a snowboard which doubles as a weapon.
Eventually the Shaman Tournament begins and all shaman (including Yoh, Trey, Len and Rio) must pass a test administered by a shaman elder to move onto the qualifying round of the tournament. All of them naturally pass.
As the battles commence, these four actually befriend one another and band together after Len is captured by his uncle En. This leads to the great end of the first season as Yoh and the rest rally to free him and topple En's rule of the Tao dynasty. No longer enemies, the four are solidified as powerful allies.
As the second season opens, the gang is preparing to depart for Dobi Village: the site of Round Two of the Shaman Tournament. There they meet Zeke, an incredibly powerful man who just so happens to look exactly like Yoh. Before he departs, Zeke says he'll see them all again at the tournament.
On their way to Dobi, however, their plane crashes — due to sabotage — in the desert. Determined to make it to the village, they press onward by any means necessary. Along the way they meet up with Lyserg, a douser (RE: tracker), whose parents were killed by Zeke.
It isn't long before Lyserg begins to question Yoh's laidback, forgiving attitude and jockeys for leadership of the group. When push comes to shove, Lyserg abandons Yoh's group for their newfound enemies — the X-Laws.
While all this is happening, Anna and Morty (who are left behind because only potential Shamans are allowed in Dobi Village) dig into Zeke's past and come to realize just how powerful a foe he truly is.
With this knowledge revealed and round two of the tournament underway, the second season comes to a close and I must say it absolutely rocks!
Everything about Shaman King is incredible! In it's two-year, 60-plus episode run, it became my favorite Saturday morning show of all time; the storyline kept me coming back, and it has without question one of the greatest anime villains I've ever seen in Zeke. If you live in Canada, start watching this on YTV. If not, pick up the unedited DVDs: you will not be disappointed.
Grade: 5 out of 5