When I first heard that Shaman King would get an anime remake, I instantly became super hyped. I watched the 2001 adaptation back in 2003 when the English dub first came out. Even though I was very young at the time, the anime drew me in with the intense shaman fights and the cool concept of deliberately possessing yourself or a weapon with a spirit for a massive power up.
After 64 episodes, the anime finished on an open-ended note. I hoped that it would eventually pick up where it left off, but it never happened. That was when I learned that Shaman King is originally a manga, so I proceeded to read through all the chapters. At the beginning, the events between the anime adaptation and manga were similar. However, as I read further in, I noticed huge discrepancies to the point that the events in the anime never happened in the manga. I was quite bewildered as to why the anime decided to put in completely different material.
When I finally finished the 300th chapter, I hoped that someday Shaman King would get another adaptation and this time, a faithful one. Unfortunately, I would go through high school, college, and grad school, and not hear a peep or rumor of a potential return. When I saw this PV last year, I jumped for joy:
Almost two decades later and the Shaman King adaptation remake is real. I watched the first episode and it did not disappoint.
This episode interleaves events from Chapter 2 with Chapter 1 instead of going in chronological order. In addition, it included Yoh and Hao's birth which happens way later in the manga.
The Asakura family discovers that the series main antagonist, Hao Asakura, will reincarnate into the family as one of Keiko Asakura's twins. Because they have no way to determine which of the twins will be Hao, they agree to kill both children at birth. However, the Spirit of Fire intervenes and Hao proclaims that he will one day reclaim his other half, Yoh, before disappearing.
The Spirit of Fire holding the baby Hao Asakura.
After the OP, we begin where the manga starts off. Manta is walking home very late due to cram school going overtime, so he decides to use the graveyard as a shortcut. He sees Yoh who sits all alone at the top of the hill. Manta tries to not grab his attention, but Yoh tells him to stick around before a bunch of spirits appear in front of Manta, freaking him out.
Manta about to run away after seeing a bunch of spirits at the graveyard.
The next day, Manta insists to his classmates at school that he saw ghosts at the graveyard, but they do not believe him. In another turn of events, Yoh transfers to his school and class. Manta tells everyone that Yoh can also see ghosts of which the latter pretends that they don't exist. Frustrated, Manta tails Yoh after class in an attempt to "catch him on the act", but it backfired when Yoh spent hours staring off to the horizon, doing absolutely nothing.
Manta accidentally gives himself away from his frustration. They have a small conversation where Yoh reveals that he is a shaman and he asks Manta if he knows who Amidamaru is. The latter affirms Yoh's question, sharing that the local museum also holds Amidamaru's relics. Yoh later visits the museum and finds a mourning spirit named Mosuke. He asks the ghost what is he mourning about to which he replies that he killed his friend.
Yoh meets Mosuke at the local museum.
Manta visits the graveyard again, but it is now taken over by a group of delinquents. Ryu, the leader of the group, overhears his gang talking about a kid roaming around his "Best Place". As he explains how he would beat the crap out of that kid, he broke Amidamaru's burial stone in the process. This freaks out his gang as they fear Amidamaru's spirit will haunt their leader, but Ryu shrugs it off. Meanwhile, Manta accidentally makes some noise, revealing his location. Thinking that Manta was the kid that was hanging around the graveyard, the gang proceeds to beat him up.
Ryu destroying Amidamaru's tombstone.
The next morning, Manta is in bandages and a sling. His classmates laugh at him for his appearance before Yoh intervenes and offers to help Manta get back at Ryu. Both arrive at the graveyard where Ryu and his gang are waiting. Amidamaru appears behind Yoh, eager to punish Ryu for disrespecting him. Yoh performs hyoui gattai (i.e. spirit unity), letting Amidamaru's spirit possess his body. Acting as one, they easily dispatch the delinquents and defeat Ryu.
Amidamaru appears behind Yoh, eager to punish Ryu for destroying his tombstone.
After the fight, Yoh asks Amidamaru if he wants to become his spirit guardian, but the latter declines, revealing that he has been waiting 600 years for his friend. Yoh knows that the samurai has been waiting for Mosuke. Back then, Amidamaru and Mosuke were best friends. Once orphans, they made it big, serving a daimyo as samurai and swordsmith, respectively. However, the lord later ordered Amidamaru to kill his friend so that he would never be able to make a better sword.
This put Amidamaru in a bind as he did not want to kill his best friend. He decided to leave, but Mosuke told him to give him a day so that he could give him the finest sword to date. However, the daimyo's men spied on the pair's conversation and the next day, Amidamaru was met with the lord's warriors. The samurai fought them all, but he eventually died from exhaustion.
Back at the present, Yoh presents the newly forged Harusame to Amidamaru. Yoh performed hyoui gattai with Mosuke in order to repair the sword to its former glory. Happy that his 600 year wait was not for nothing, Amidamaru agrees to join Yoh. The episode ends with Tao Ren spying on Yoh from a distance.
Amidamaru's 600 year wait finally ends.
As mentioned earlier, the first episode spreads out the events of Chapter 2 throughout Chapter 1. The 2001 adaptation had them separate, with Episode 1 adapting the first chapter and Episode 2 adapting the second chapter. I also found it interesting how the 2021 adaptation decided to reveal Hao and Yoh Asakura's births at the very beginning.
Despite the condensed nature and small chronological changes, the first episode remains faithful to the source material. It didn't feel rushed, in my opinion, as the events flowed together pretty well.
The animation and color palette were also visually pleasing. While there weren't any impressive animation techniques, I didn't see anything that felt jarring or janky.
Overall, it's a great start for the remake and we have another 51 episodes to go. Hopefully, the adaptation keeps it up to the very end!