I’ve got a decent pile of shounen manga here that I just want to get through already, so today I’ll be doing a couple of short(er) reviews for two of the titles I’ve got sitting around. We’ll call it a “shounen dump,” and today we’ll look at two supernatural series. So get ready for the third volume of Kurozakuro and the final volume of Shaman King.
Author: Yoshinori Natsume
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volume 3 (of 7), $9.99
Vintage: 2004 by Shogakukan in Japan, March 2011 (out now) by Viz Media
Genre: Action, supernatural
Mikito Sakurai was frequently bullied at school. His gentle nature made him an easy target. One night, everything changed. During a dream, Mikito met with a mysterious child called Zakuro, who made him swallow a small orb. When Mikito awoke, he found he had enhanced physical abilities and strange, violent impulses, accompanied by urges to eat his friends and family. Mikito was slowly changing into a man-eating ogre. A group of hunters pledged to protect humans from such ogres learns about Mikito. He is tracked down by the hunter Kugai, and convinces the hunter to allow him to team up with him, hoping to find a way to restore his humanity. As they journey together, they come across a massive ogre outbreak and a strange young man who eats ogres, named Suguri. The powerful Suguri is able to destroy ogres with his bare hands, and with just a single strike he rips into them and pulls out their…what I guess are soul stones or ogre seeds, and then eats them. Baffled by the strange being’s power, Mikito freezes in fear, while Kugai attempts but fails to attack him. Suguri advances on Mikito and looks into his soul to find who gave him his power. He recognizes Zakuro’s spirit, and decides to leave them be for the time being. In a dream, Zakuro confesses that Mikito is his last hope, and that he plans to use Mikito’s body to regain his powers. When an injured Kugai awakes, he confesses to Mikito that he’s been working without official orders, and that a group of special hunters will be arriving to punish him. Gogyo, Kaya, and Choji easily track them down with Gogyo’s serpensynth eye, and a battle for survival begins. The sadistic Kaya revels in punishing wayward hunters, but when Mikito reveals the previous opponent that injured Kugai, even she stops cold. Mikito and Kugai are packed up to be delivered to an unspecified location. Along the way, they are attacked by Suguri. Kaya and Choji abandon Mikito and Kugai to their fate, but remarkably, Gogyo stays behind to help his old friend, Kugai. Distressed by watching his friend get beaten trying to protect him, Mikito transforms to take on Suguri himself.
I don’t have much to say about this one. It’s more interesting than I was expecting, I’ll give it that. Gogyo is the most interesting character right now, at least in this volume. The hierarchy within the ogre hunter society is strict, and its laws are absolute. Hunters exist to follow orders, and if they go outside of that limited sphere, they’re automatically considered rogue and must be brought in for punishment, no matter what their reason. As a hunter of hunters, Gogyo is very well aware of this, but in the end he allows his lingering feelings for Kugai and his personal curiosity to sway him into breaking the rules and working for himself. Kugai, of course, has already done this, by protecting and traveling with Mikito, thinking that Mikito’s unique situation could help the society learn how to save humans from ogres. Though given the society’s ruthless nature, I wonder if they’d even care about saving lives. The quality of the art is inconsistent. Sometimes it looks amazing, other times it looks quite amateurish. The story isn’t too complex, and it’s a short series, so I don’t think it would be too difficult to jump into the series here, rather than track down the first two volumes.
Title: Shaman King
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Jump)
Volume: Volume 32 (final volume), $9.99
Vintage: 2005 by Shueisha in Japan, January 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Action, supernatural
From the inside summary: “Yoh Asakura not only sees dead people, he talks and fights with them too. That’s because Yoh is a shaman, a traditional holy man able to interact with the spirit world. Yoh is now a competitor in the Shaman Fight, a tournament held every 500 years to decide who will become the Shaman King and shape humanity’s future.”
I was a little worried how to go about this review without revealing the story’s conclusion, but after reading the volume I realized it doesn’t matter. There is no conclusion. It just…stops. The volume opens with the continuation of Ren and Magna’s fight from the previous volume. Ren goes all out, but in the meantime, Hao has reached the Final Plant and will soon enter the final stage to become the Shaman King. Next up, the gang has to fight someone they’ve come to know well – the MC of the Shaman Fight, Radim. Radim tries to talk them out of it, but of course Yoh and his friends desire to press on. It’s not an easy battle, of course, and there are casualties, but Yoh’s group manages to continue on. Meanwhile, the siblings Salerm and Ludsev launch a surprise, direct attack against Hao with the Golem, but it has heartbreaking consequences. The next Plant, the Highlands Plant, is guarded by another familiar face, Horohoro’s Patch officiant, Kalim. Unfortunately, everyone is too worn out to put up an efficient fight, so Kalim suggests that if they insist on fighting him, they rest first. They settle in for a good night’s sleep, and then…nothing. Story over. The end. There’s a short prologue at the end, featuring the child of…I think Yoh and Anna, as the Funbari Hot Springs inn is getting ready for some sort of anniversary. Hana Asakura travels around with Ryu to gather nearby members of the old team together for a reunion.
I’d like to go ahead and note that I’ve never read Shaman King before, so I apologize if my assessment is off base because this is the only volume I’ve seen. But…what the hell is this? What kind of conclusion is that? It’s either one of the worst finales I’ve ever seen, or Takei pulled a Dallas on all his fans. There’s apparently a reprint of the entire series which has a real ending, so why does this one end this way? It doesn’t even really end, it just stops mid-story. I’d wait and see if Viz picks up the “true ending” books before bothering with this, because it’s only frustrating to have things leave off in this manner. I don’t have much else to say about it. There’s a pretty large mythology here that I’m obviously not familiar with, but honestly, the set up isn’t anything new. The character designs make everyone look like ten-year-old kids (and maybe they actually are), though they are well designed as individuals. If you’ve been following the series, I imagine the conclusion will be rather disappointing. I know it would be for me. It’s a fighting manga, and there’s no big, ultimate showdown. Unfortunately, I don’t know if Viz has plans to license the redux editions.
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Review copies provided by Viz Media.