Apr 1, 2018
At the end of my review for the original printing of Shaman King, I wrote that it was perhaps a blessing that Takei wasn’t able to give the series a proper ending under the assumption that it would only lead to further disappointment in the manga’s declining quality. Four years later, Takei resurrects the series and proves me right. Shaman King’s downward spiral picks up right where it left off – or if anything, it accelerated. This makes the rushed, evolving train wreck of the second half of the manga look like a brilliant masterpiece. There’s so much to go over here in the broad
strokes, but to avoid laying down the same bricks just apply absolutely everything I said negatively about the original series to this one and add the following.
The most immediate assault of this manga on your senses is of course directed at your eyes. Takei’s initial graffiti-inspired art style of the original manga deteriorated over the course of its run into something blander, but it was still always pleasant to look at and distinct. In these additional chapters, it’s as if Takei’s hands have gotten amnesia. It’s one thing to lose your tempo a bit after not drawing these characters for a few years, but this art looks like it was drawn by an entirely different person. It’s practically sketchbook quality, like something you’d find on storyboards rather than a final publication. The shading, if it can be called such, is truly horrendous. Nearly every page is illustrated in only pitch black or the pure white of the background. The old images of Shaman King look like “bootleg” variations now and seeing the fights we missed is actually a curse considering their incomprehensible ink blot choreography.
If one thing hasn’t changed, it’s that describing these action sequences as “fights” is still very generous. Takei gets the great opportunity to not have to rush the finale of his popular manga, and he takes full advantage of that opportunity by rushing it harder than ever before. It’s downright comical at this point how rote this series has become for its author, with foreshadowed conflicts being settled in a single chapter or skipped in their entirety. The payoff in this revised climax is every bit as unsatisfying as it was originally, only far longer in its delivery. Numerous supporting cast characters never get their motivations or previous actions properly explained if at all, and bearing special mention is the main villain of all possible people. Hao’s entire motivation being explained in a side chapter is an absolute joke, and his actions in the final chapters of this series contradict a hundred things he said or did prior. His subtle guidance or support of Yoh and any possible nuance to his morality is thrown out the window in order to indulge in a stock maniacal evil antagonist. The final battle between him and Yoh’s group after he has literally become God and the justification for how everything is resolved doesn’t even deserve to be called “nonsense”. You have plenty of time to realize how absurdly forced it all is as you get to see Takei draw every single character in the entire series again looking uglier than ever and spouting platitudes about the power of love defeating actual omnipotence. It’s a real family reunion.
This is truly awful. If I can’t persuade someone to not read the entirety of the Shaman King manga, hopefully I can’t at least persuade them not to read this. It’s not worth it. This fails to live up to any standards of the original series. It’s ugly, stupid, meandering, redundant, and a complete waste of an opportunity to set things right. It’s impossible for me to believe Takei put the passion behind this he claims in the afterword, as it fails and cuts corners in every way conceivable. Any good will I had towards the original manga for its likable cast and good moments is utterly sapped from this addendum. Don’t spend your valuable time on this one. After all, the author sure didn’t.
Despite my borderline hatred for this entry, props to Mankin-Trad for picking up Viz’s slack and translating the remainder of the franchise. It’s a fine translation, though far from ideal. It was frustrating going from Viz’s high quality localization to this. After 32 officially translated volumes, it was somehow found fit to throw readers a curveball by using completely different terminology, name spellings, and untranslated bits like honorifics. Sound effects are left untranslated, which makes following the hideous action scenes even more difficult. But above all else, the most egregious thing was the embarrassing addition of harsh swearing to all of the characters. And with all that goddamn shit, I’m fucking out.
What did you think of this review?