When I reviewed Episode 3 of Shaman King, the biggest issue I had with the adaptation thus far was the fast pacing. While Shaman King does have some cool action and supernatural powers, in my opinion, the series' strongest points are the emotional aspects. Because Episode 3 basically spedrun through 8 chapters' worth of content, Li Pailong and Jun's character development felt incredibly rushed.
However, when I watched Episode 4 of the rebooted adaptation, I was honestly surprised at the better execution even though it adapted the same amount of chapters as the previous episode.
The episode covered the events from Chapters 18 - 24. The main conflict was Tokageroh, a thief spirit, wanting to get revenge on Amidamaru who killed him 600 years ago. Yoh managed to resolve the conflict with his compassion as it reminded Tokageroh of his mother.
The leadup to the conflict began when Ryu tried to woo Anna (it looked creepy, but he was actually 'only' 17), but was immediately shut down when she commented on his weird hair. He followed her home only to find out that she and Yoh were living together. Upset, Ryu ran to the Funbari Bowl Alley and encountered Tokageroh, who possessed him to get revenge on Amidamaru.
Ryu shocked to learn that Anna and Yoh live together.
Tokageroh about to possess Ryu.
Tokageroh used Ryu and his gang to steal Harusame from the local museum and use the sword as leverage against Amidamaru when they trespassed into Yoh and Anna's home. Amidamaru was initially hesitant to ruin his best friend's blade and the episode revealed how Harusame came to be during his and Mosuke's childhood. Mosuke used the steel from his father's keepsake knife to make the best sword for his friend.
Tokageroh using Harusame to attack Yoh and Amidamaru.
Young Amidamaru finding out young Mosuke used his father's keepsake knife to make the sword.
Yoh and Amidamaru resolved to break the sword to save Manta, surprising Tokageroh. However, the former thief was still defiant. He revealed his backstory of how he ate his mother's flesh to survive the famine and how he did not want his mother's death to be in vain, hence why he held such resentment against Amidamaru.
A young Tokageroh embraced by his loving mother.
When Anna was about to send the former thief to hell, Yoh offered to let Tokageroh possess him. The spirit gladly took the offer to take out Amidamaru's master. However, when he fully integrated with Yoh, the latter's compassion reminded the former thief of his mother's. Amidamaru and Tokageroh also had a heart-to-heart where the former admitted that without Mosuke, he would've suffered a worse fate than Tokageroh's. The episode ends with the former thief finally letting his resentment go.
Tokageroh unable to kill Yoh.
Amidamaru and Tokageroh having a heart-to-heart.
As I stated in the introduction, I was pleasantly surprised as how Episode 4 adapted the same number of chapters as Episode 3, but executed it better. The minimal amount of actual fighting served to be great benefit, allowing the episode to place a larger focus on the emotional aspects. As a result, Tokageroh's character development felt less contrived than Li Pailong's or Jun's.
Of course, the dangers from leaning on less action are that the episode can potentially become boring. However, the voice acting from characters like Tokageroh, Ryu, and Anna carried the show for me. Megumi Hayashibara, the VA for Anna, did a great job portraying a variety of emotions from stoic to frantic. Wataru Takagi, Tokageroh's VA, and Masahiko Tanaka, Ryu's VA, also held convincing performances.
The episode also did well at building up on Ryu's character even though he technically did not have development. Up until this point, Ryu has been portrayed as this assholey thug. He beat up Manta at the graveyard and when Manta asked for his wooden sword in Episode 3, Ryu just punched him in the face.
The anime cleverly used the main conflict to reveal more about Ryu's background and personality. Two main examples included his friends pointing out at his rash behavior when he was possessed and revealing his big brother character at Yoh and Anna's house. These scenes were very effective at changing the audience's perception from Ryu the Thug to Ryu the Misunderstood.
So far, I have been pretty happy of how the anime has adapted the manga. While it does have some flaws, Episode 4 shows what the anime is capable to achieving. Another good piece of news is that not every episode will adapt 8 chapter's worth of content. The adaptation will have a total of 52 episodes; thus far, the first 4 episodes have covered 24 out of 300 chapters. As a result, the average remaining episode will adapt less chapters, theoretically meaning less pacing issues.