It’s time to jump into the world of Shaman King. This has really turned into quite the franchise with several manga titles in addition to the main one and more than one how. Who’d have thought that it would be so big right? Most of the manga titles are also building up to a whole new Shaman King fight that will be the biggest yet. I love the ambition but hope we will get there before long. This is a really solid setup manga to that event and it’s nice to see the characters and how their lives are going. I may have some power level issues here but we’ll get into that.
The title starts off with Horo Horo getting ready to visit his pal Ren to get some money. Ren is rich and Horo Horo is not so this makes sense. He hitches a ride but the driver turns out to be an evil shaman who tries to murder him. Horo Horo survives the encounter and Tao Jun shows up to take care of the villains. Basically the Red Crimson group wants to destroy the Tao family before the next tournament begins. They want revenge for years of oppression under the might of the Tao Family and this seems like the quickest way to do it. Can Tao Jun protect their family legacy?
Now you may figure that this should be an easy win for the heroes right? Horo Horo and Ren are both 2 of the 5 legendary warriors who went up against Hao. They should steamroll! Well it’s not quite that easy. See the villains have a lot of strong new members like Yohsuke, Yonhon, and Dehon who look suspiciously like characters from the Ultimo series. More on that later but they are really setting this up to be a fight where the villains have a massive advantage. Additionally Ren has turned into a bit of a pacifist. He will fight when the time is right but doesn’t want to get mixed up in fights that he doesn’t have to. Horo Horo has no excuse though and doesn’t look great here.
One of the overarching themes here is about not getting revenge. It’s a great moral of course but the series takes this to a bit of an extreme where I couldn’t buy it. Basically Ren’s wife, Lady Jeanne is a god class shaman with incredible abilities. In theory she can defeat most of her opponents but she willingly allows herself to be murdered by the villains so that they don’t get punished for failing their mission. Really now? I can’t get behind that and in a way she is trying to atone for her past as well but that’s just an awful way of doing this. It’s always sad when a character just ends up swinging too far on the pendulum when trying to be a hero now. So it wasn’t her best appearance.
I also think Ren should have absolutely gone for revenge there. That was the time to do it. I get that he doesn’t want to restart the cycle of violence but when your wife is attacked like that then you absolutely have to step in. There’s really not an option at that point. He still does have his rage moment but he doesn’t go through with it. It’s hinted that he may have lost to be honest but lets at least see him try to fight. Horo Horo shows more emotional and still gets to cut loose which isn’t always portrayed as a good thing but at least I like that he just goes forward with his feelings and doesn’t hold back. I just wish he would look more powerful because the guy has been through a whole lot over the course of the series. His mana and experience should put him at a really high level but he doesn’t worry anyone.
A good chunk of the series focuses on Tao Jun though and how she is also trying to escape her past. She used to be a rather cruel villain and got Pairon murdered so he could be her cursed spirit. It’s pretty messed up when you think about it. Keep in mind that he had a family too so any shipping here also feels very iffy by default. Fortunately I don’t think a romance will ever be fully in the cards there but even hinting at one is annoying. I like Pairon, he’s a standup guy who is trying to do the right thing. That’s very admirable and you like to see it. I’m glad he doesn’t hold a grudge and he is looking out for her but it better stay as just looking out for a friend.
Meanwhile Tao Jun is definitely very genuine in trying to be a better person. She definitely has to put up with a whole lot and it feels like the villains will keep giving her a tough time but she is trying to make sure that Ren doesn’t have to deal with the family darkness. I hope he does show up more often to directly help out because I like to think he’s not too oblivious though. They should have a really solid dynamic going right now. I feel like she’s not strong enough to really get a part in the tournament but should be a good support fighter.
Then we have Hon Hon who is one of the main villains here. She desperately wants revenge on the Tao Family but the more she thinks about it, the more this starts to feel a bit like manipulation. Hon Hon isn’t completely sure of herself as the series goes on and of course that will make her weaker since the series is all about having strong connections with your spirit that take you to the next level. Even so she puts up a great fight though and I look forward to seeing more of her. She is a solid addition to the series.
Now as for the Ultimo characters. I feel like the series is strongly going for a multiverse approach here. They seem really similar to the Ultimo cast but is seems clear that they are still different people. Of course it could just be the author having a little fun but then I don’t think the title would tease about their energy feeling like it’s from a different universe. Why would you bother with that right? No I think this is some multiversal kind of action where Ultimo is actually canon and there are things happening across all universes. If this is the case then I can actually see the main cast showing up at some point too and maybe even that Stan Lee villain will appear. There’s a whole lot of potential here.
It can be a trick thing to balance of course because multiverses are really ambitious but I’m ready to see how it pans out. I did mention the power leveling concern earlier though and the one thing the author needs to watch out for is the Ultimo trap. See one of the issues there was that the villain was too powerful to the point where the heroes couldn’t win. This is quickly starting to happen here as the pyramid villain working directly for the Yvs god can completely stop time to the point where even a god class shaman can’t resist. The main Ultimo guy also has time manipulation and if even the minions can beat the 5 legendary warriors then what hope do the heroes have?
It feels like the villains are quickly reaching unreasonable levels of power while the heroes are stagnant. Of course you can still write the heroes to get more power ups and win but that needs to happen soon. Otherwise you could do the whole plot of the villain winning again and everyone meets in the everafter but that feels like the kind of twist that can only happen once. Doing it again would feel like a whole retread. of course this series is essentially a spinoff/tie-in kind of adventure to the main tournament so we’ll see what happens once it is the main plot.
Overall, I feel like Shaman King is in a very unique spot right now where it is almost like DC or Marvel as a big umbrella franchise with a ton of tie-in adventures going on that are all leading up to a huge event like Secret Wars. This is just one more stone in the journey leading up to the road. It works both as a stand alone story because of Tao Jun’s character arc but also as an ingredient in the future adventure. I definitely had fun with it and would recommend reading the series. Because of the tie-in part though you’re looking forward to a lot of fights here that just don’t get to happen and so you really want to read the next installment which just isn’t around yet. If you enjoy big cliffhangers then that should definitely make this title even more appealing to you.