Exactly twenty years have passed since the debut of the first television adaptation of Shaman King, two long decades in which fans of the charismatic characters born from Hiroyuki Takei’s pencils have never stopped clamoring for a complete and faithful makeover of the original manga (for all the details on the work we suggest you consult our special on the Shaman King manga). It took some time, but also thanks to the considerable popularity found by the multiple spin-offs of the series, that apparently impossible dream is finally becoming a reality.
Apparently consisting of only 52 episodes, the remake of Shaman King landed on the Japanese television circuit last April 1st and soon. will also appear on Netflix Italy, although at the moment we do not yet know if the work will only be subtitled or if it will even present the dubbing in Italian. While waiting for the streaming platform to officially start Shaman Fight also in the Bel Paese, we have watched the first episode in Japanese and below we offer you our preliminary impressions on the makeover made by the studio. Bridge.
The shaman, the nerd and the legendary samurai
Following the example of the remake of Dragon Quest: Come on – The Great Adventure (by the way, here you will find our preview of Dragon Quest: Dai – The Great Adventure), the first episode of the new anime of Shaman King opens with one of the most important scenes of the manga, anticipating the introduction of the main antagonist of the story by several episodes: a very powerful shaman who lived a thousand years before the events told in the series and reincarnated in one of the two children born from the slender Asakura Keiko.
Fearing that one of the twins will harbor the soul of the evil ancestor Hao, wise householder Asakura Yohmei reluctantly attempts to kill both grandchildren, but a fatal moment of hesitation allows the first unborn child to summon the invincible Spirit of Fire to defend himself from his grandfather’s attack and vanish without a trace. A fatality, as we said, that Takei’s comic even referred to chapter 143, but which on balance represented the triggering event of the whole story, as it indelibly traced the destinies that from that moment would touch both the protagonist Asakura Yoh than to evil brother Hao.
The true story of Shaman King begins thirteen years later, when a late student breaks into the Saigan Temple cemetery in hopes of taking a shortcut and making it to the preparatory school in time. Low, brilliant and constantly dedicated to studying, Oyamada Manta comes across the carefree Yoh almost by chance, who already during their first meeting proves to be able to being able to converse with the spirits of the dead.
Terrified, the student decides to run away, but the following day the poor Manta realizes that the weird boy he saw the previous night is his new classmate, who nevertheless pretends not to know him so as not to reveal his secret to the whole class. . More and more determined to discover the true identity of his companion, Manta therefore decides to follow him and, once away from prying eyes, Yoh presents himself to him as a shaman, that is one of the individuals who they act as a link between the earthly world and the afterlife.
In fact, the boy can merge and possess the spirits of the deceased, which once inside his body allow him to temporarily exploit the skills and fighting techniques that they possessed when they were still alive. That’s exactly what happens with the spirit of Kubizuka Amidamaru, a legendary samurai who 600 years earlier was sentenced to be beheaded for killing numerous people, and who, following a curious chain of events, will decide to become the partner of Yoh himself in the upcoming Shaman Fight.
An encouraging new beginning
Viewing the first episode of Shaman King, the intention to modernize Takei’s work and streamline it where possible, without giving up on make a faithful adaptation of the comic. Not surprisingly, the staff wisely used the available time to unify the first two chapters of the manga, summarizing the basic passages and eliminating the superfluous or even repetitive ones.
An operation that judging from the title of the second episode, which suggests the exclusion of three entire chapters after all “fillers”, we are sure it will not prove to be an isolated case at all. If on the one hand these authentic cuts can be traced back to the need to contain the number of episodes and consequently the budget to be allocated to the series, on the other hand there is the concrete possibility that the Bridge studio wants to give the story a new and less rambling look. On the other hand, we are talking about a work that has more than two decades on its shoulders, and that already at the time was struggling to take a clear and precise direction, continually and often unjustified altering the role of the supporting characters. In this regard, the choice to introduce in advance the key figure of Asakura Hao, who will act as the main antagonist for the whole story, could prove to be apt, as the scene of his stormy resurrection it anticipates shocking revelations and potentially dramatic developments. A juicy appetizer of what’s to come, and which therefore manages to capture the viewer’s attention and intrigue him about the fate of the twins from the very first minutes of the vision.
Despite the tweaks aimed at making the script more serious, convincing and above all smooth, the remake of Shaman King however, he has not given up on his original comic streak, which in the funny character of Manta has always found its maximum expression. Very short and punctually armed with a dictionary, the shy and cowardly high school student acts as a rational observer of events and being completely alien to spirits and shamanism, his reactions to the oddities that crowd Yoh’s world are exaggerated and hilarious as we remembered them. Like the fights, the exchanges between the carefree Yoh and the rational Manta were one of the winning elements of the product.
If we feel more than satisfied with the work done on the script and on the characters, whose characterization has been perfectly respected, the elements currently in our possession do not allow us to unbalance ourselves with judgments about the animations, also because this first episode does not present sequences. particularly excited. On the other hand, the character design has already convinced us, as the clean line of Toshihiko Sano suits and reproduces with absolute precision the delicate features of the main actors, which instead appeared too crude and disproportionate in the television series produced in 2001.
The level of detail will not be very high, but after all Takei’s own drawing style has always been moderate, so much so that his characters appeared too thin and caricatured even in the most serious tables. Effective chiaroscuro and pleasant plays of light contribute in any case to shape an enjoyable and fascinating product, whose quality is above average.
Nothing to complain, at the moment, on the track dubbed in Japanese, which to the delight of historical fans involves the same vocal interpreters who participated in the anime of 2001. So far the only character to boast a different voice is the same Yoh, voiced this time by the talented Yoko Hikasa (Pitohui / Elsa Kanzaki in Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online). As we had hypothesized in our previous article, the new vocal combination seems to us much more correct than the previous one, as Hikasa has a youthful, calm tone and perfectly in line with the tones generally used by the gentle and quiet Asakura Yoh.
If the opening and closing themes seemed less inspired to us than those that accompanied the previous television adaptation of Shaman King, the same cannot be said for the soundtrack composed by Yuuki Hayashi, which includes some somewhat engaging songs.