An Ancient Evil Has Returned in Shaman King (2021)

We’ve commenced the resident tournament in the Shaman King universe, the Shaman Fight, and quite a lot has happened in this show since the Shaman Fight qualifiers. The most important development so far has to be the introduction, or rather, the reintroduction of Asakura Yoh’s true foil in the series, his brother Hao. If you don’t remember, Asakura Yoh was actually an identical twin, which was a bad omen according to the elders in his family. The firstborn, Hao, turned out to be some kind of malicious entity incarnate, while Yoh is seen as the hope of not only the Asakura family but of the world. So, how has Shaman King (2021) shaped up since Yoh, Ren, Horohoro and even Ryu qualified for the Shaman Fight? Read on to find out!

Nakama Power

As a shounen anime, it goes without saying that Shaman King is heavy on emphasizing the importance of friendship. However, it takes it near One Piece levels, as the spirit of companionship gets the main characters out of many a bind and rallies them better than anything else can. These guys are so heavy with the friendship that they become indignant at the idea of their enemies killing their own companions, as seen with the death of the Dracula lookalike who was killed by his friend, the actual Dracula.

The general idea is that anyone who comes into opposition with Asakura Yoh and his buddies tends to be someone who is a loner, or someone who doesn’t value friendship, or even a combination of the two. Yoh was livid with Lyserg for injuring Horohoro and ended up shattering Lyserg’s weapon and resolve in one blow. However, when Dracula literally sucks Lyserg’s blood and leaves him incapacitated, Yoh, Ren, Horohoro, and Ryu don’t hesitate to get hostile, but it’s eventually Ryu who gets the actual fight.

After a scrap with Yoh and his buddies, enemies tend to be changed forever, which is also partly because of Yoh and Amidamaru’s ability to tap into the heart of a ghost and convince them to follow a different path. This pattern is central to Shaman King (2021), and to some extent, it’s how Yoh becomes friends with his literal opposite and the Vegeta to his Goku, Tao Ren, as well as characters like Wooden Sword Ryu and Lyserg. He also uses that effect on hostile ghosts, breaking their will to fight with kind words. This even goes as far as the allies of the main boss of this series, Asakura Hao (we’re getting to that), like Big Guy Bill and even the aforementioned Dracula. Hao himself is surrounded by hordes of loyal followers, indicating a special charisma that he seems to share with Yoh.

Character Development

A lot of things happen in the episodes between the last Shaman Fight preliminary, and the introduction of Lyserg in episode 14. Particularly a whole mini-arc based in China, where Tao Ren attempts to take out his dad. This arc follows Tao more closely and sets him up to be the deuteragonist of the series. Most of his initial characteristics are shown to be mirror opposites of Yoh, but after having his mindset changed after losing to Yoh, we’re seeing Ren portray something akin to a Vegeta-esque archetype. It helps to explain it that way since shounen anime is a consistent reimagination of a lot of the same tropes and character archetypes.

Other developments include Umemiya “Wooden Sword” Ryu, the strange, pompadour-donning, wooden sword-toting former gangster turned follower of Yoh. His most fundamental aspect hasn’t changed – he’s very concerned with the concept of finding where one belongs, but ever since meeting Yoh, he’s even gone as far as becoming a Shaman himself, with the former evil spirit Tokagerou as his Guardian Spirit.

The Big (and Really) Bad

So, let’s talk about the very first episode of this show. Izumo, 1985. Stormy. A child is being born to the Asakura family, a clan with a long history of Shamanism and spirituality, but things are looking bleak. Everybody present for the birth is on edge, clinging to the small hope that it somehow wouldn’t be twins, but twins it was. And, when the first baby was born, it was immediately ordered that he be killed. The moment the child appeared, everybody in that room, including his own father and grandfather, became hostile.

Naturally, since the baby that was born was a reincarnation of an evil so old and so complete, it’s been driving fear into the hearts of spirits and humans alike for over 1000 years. Asakura Hao is an entity driven by his desire to eliminate humans and leave no one but Shamans in the world. His ambition is one dating back to his first incarnation, and since then, he’s returned multiple times and caused all kinds of catastrophes that have affected many major events across time. This guy is so evil, dying doesn’t really mean anything, he’ll just come back to do fresher evil later!

About 500 years ago, this guy returned as a member of the Patch Tribe, then he effectively genocided the Seminoa Clan to steal their God-Level elemental Guardian Spirit—the Spirit of Fire. Due to this great catastrophe, Lilirara, a surviving descendent of the Seminoa Clan, believes her aggressors to be the Patch Tribe from whence her ancestors’ assailant hailed. However, she, just like everybody else, has been done absolutely dirty by none other than Asakura Hao. Spirit of Fire is to Hao what Amidamaru is to Yoh, and it’s through SoF’s power that Hao was able to throw hands against his family at birth.

Hao Aren’t They Seeing This?

So, here’s the thing: twins were considered to be a bad omen by one of the Asakura elders. Yoh was born after Hao engaged in combat (yes, as a newborn) against his family, very narrowly sparing their lives, if we’re being honest. After Hao is carried away by his Guardian Spirits, the Asakuras note that there is still another child to be born. While Hao becomes OP off-screen, there’s a 13 year time skip, and the events as we have been following them commence. Yoh and Hao are twins, like we said, moreover, they’re identical twins.

Hao is just a taller Yoh with longer hair, a twisted personality, and fans instead of friends —so why on earth is everybody, except for two people in the entire series, not really taking note of it or just mentioning a casual resemblance in passing? When two people look exactly like the other, it’s really hard not to jump to the conclusion that they’re twins, so the supposed mystery of Hao’s identity and his fondness for Yoh just seems contrived. It’s supposed to be a big secret that only we as the audience and maybe some Asakura relations should know, but it’s too obvious for the other characters to be as oblivious as they are, most of all, Yoh. Another thing is that Yoh’s grandfather seemed surprised to hear that Hao has returned, like he didn’t have a full-on brawl with Hao before the guy had even taken a proper breath! Is there something we’re missing, perhaps?

Final Thoughts

It seems that Shaman King (2021) has really found its tempo and it’s charging on ahead in a pretty good way. Fans of the original series; however, may have a lot of gripes about this reboot; however, people who have never experienced any Shaman King media and enjoy a good shounen – particularly those who enjoyed a lot of anime in their childhood – would probably really like this. The current arc is incredibly important to the storyline as it involves the next part of the Shaman Fight tournament, as well as showing us the developing threat that is Hao. It has some pretty cool concepts and it looks pleasing to the eye, although fight scenes can lack a bit of sauce. Don’t ask what that means. Overall, we think this show is looking good so far – what did you think of Shaman King (2021)? Drop a comment below and tell us your thoughts!

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Author: Hoshi-kun

I’m South African, harbouring an obsession for anything remotely related to Japan, mostly anime, of course. I draw sometimes. Some people call me Naledi, it’s my real name, or something like that. People think I’m stoic because I don’t smile often (I do sometimes). I like languages. Hoshi-kun and Naledi are the same side of the same coin.

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