Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shaman King vol. 16 Impression

Alliances are questioned and true origins revealed in Shaman King volume 16 from Viz. As the fights continue Yoh approaches the X-Laws, to visit with Lyserg and address their desire for his membership. As he declines, and it appears a conflict is inevitable the Iron Maiden reveals herself and prevents the X-Laws from challenging Yoh as he is not the true enemy. Lyserg meanwhile begins to wonder if he sided with the right shamans. This doubt is only increased as team Hoshi-Gumi takes on team X-III. All three X-Laws, Meene, Cebin and Venstar are killed by Hao and his oversoul, a sacrifice they knew they would make to reveal Hao’s true power for the remaining members of their team. The level of his powers, the fate of those he kills and his true origin leave everyone involved shaken, even Ren who is Hao’s next recruit. The shaman fights continue, but will they reach their conclusion?

Let me get something out of the way right now. Like One Piece and Dragon Ball Z before it the animated version of Shaman King got the raw deal. The manga is not for kiddies, neither was the true anime, but of course this was seen as a kids show and … well you know the rest. Volume 16 of the Shaman King manga hammers home the point that this is not a kids show. Death, murder, revenge, attempt to kill a child, yeah this manga has some twisted content. The story is deeper than just a fight with shamans. We’ve got the character growth, friends becoming enemies and vice-versa. What I enjoy the most is Yoh’s growth and how he attracts others, not to his cause but rather just to him. The art style is unique and quite easy on the eyes. It’s easy to see how someone could mistake this for a younger series. I love how each oversoul looks, especially the baby Spirit of Fire, but more on the story in a minute. The art style relays a slick and fast paced action that makes turning the page a chore you want to accomplish ASAP. Seeing the Spirit of Fire unleash its power, the Iron Maiden and her simple innocence, yeah it’s the perfect style.

Good art is nothing without the story and this volume of Shaman King delivers. The humor seen in the series is still present, but toned down due to a few, four really, events that unfold. First up (oh, watch for spoilers), First, Yoh’s encounter with the X-Laws. Yes each is out to stop Hao, but their methods are vastly different. We see the X-Laws for what they are, murderers bent on nothing but revenge. Second story aspect, Hao’s failed attempt at recruiting Ren, one in which Ren see real power, scary power. Third is the fight where Hao’s power is teased at, not only does he have control of fire but of all elements. His elimination of the X-Law team and consumption of their spirits ups the ante just a bit. The best, fourth, story element in this volume is the extra story at the end where Yoh reveals who Hao really is. Yes we all know he is an ancestor, but we learn he is the reincarnated, twin brother of Yoh, born with the intent of being killed to prevent the terror he would bring. One small catch, the spirit of fire is born with him, as a baby itself in fact, and protects Hao and steals him away. It’s at this time Yoh is taken and trained with the intention of stopping his brother. Yeah, lots going on and all well told. Each of these story elements unfold without interruption. The flow is not interrupted and nothing is lost in each story pieces impact. This is good versus evil, but there are many shades of gray mixed in and these shades have never looked more appealing to this manga fan.

Shaman King is heating up; the action is on par with any manga out now even if the art does not always relay this fact. Here’s to hoping volume 17 is just as solid.

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