Shaman King Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: FUNimation Entertainment, Ltd.
  • MSRP: 19.98
  • Running time: 70
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Shaman King

Shaman King Vol. #01

By Chris Beveridge     October 20, 2004
Release Date: October 19, 2004



What They Say
Contains 3 fully UNCUT episodes!

A Boy Who Dances With Ghosts
Yoh Asakura, a young shaman, comes to town to prepare for the twice-a-millennium Shaman tournament. Yoh has a unique temperament – part warrior, part slacker. He meets his first friend, Morty, a funny, short kid who can see ghosts. When Morty is beat up by Rio and his Dead Ender Gang, Yoh teams up with Amidamaru, a 600 year old Samurai to teach Rio a lesson.

Waiting Samurai Morty's growing curiosity about Yoh prompts him to study "The Knucklehead's Guide to Shamans and Spirits". Together they begin the journey to find Yoh's guardian ghost – the spirit that will be his partner in the World Shaman Tournament. Along the way they discover an ancient secret about Amidamaru and set out to right a centuries old wrong. Amidamaru agrees to join Yoh in his quest to become Shaman King.

Tao Len
Part one of a two-parter: Morty receives a telepathic threatening message from Lenny, a new Shaman in town. Lenny wants to be King of the Shamans and vows to destroy Yoh. When Yoh and Amidamaru battle Lenny and his Guardian Ghost, a giant Chinese warrior named Bason, they go down in defeat.

The Review!
Despite the fears of many, 4Kids works with FUNimation to bring out a series that was otherwise destined to be an edited dub only release in its original and uncut format.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this series in its original language of Japanese. The show sports a pretty solid stereo mix that makes good use for the forward soundstage both in terms of dialogue and for action effects. The music track fills the stereo channels well but during the action sequences the sound effects from there produce some good directionality at times and sound solid. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no problems with dropouts or distortions on either language track.

Video:
Originally airing in 2001, this series is presented in its original full frame format. The transfer here looks really good for the bulk of the show with some very smooth looking colors that avoid any noticeable color gradation issues as well as cross coloration. There's some minor aliasing going on in a few scenes with some fast panning motion but that's fairly minimal. The color palette is fairly rich and mixes with some rather detailed backgrounds in a number of scenes giving the show a very lush feel at times. There's a touch of blockiness in a few areas throughout the three episodes but that's with the upconversion set so it's not visible at all without it.

Packaging:
The cover for this release looks good with a pairing shot of Yoh and Amidamaru together with the graveyard and hazy blue moon imagery mixed between them to give the eerie feel to it. The clean artwork and bold colors contrast nicely with it and the layout, while pretty standard, works well here. The back cover works similar with a larger view of the graveyard and a bigger shot of Amidamaru while listing the volumes episode numbers and titles. The summary isn't any more than one explanatory line and it's amusing that they list the Japanese language and subtitles as a bonus feature but that they also list the English dub as a bonus feature. Unfortunately there are no volume numbers listed anywhere so the episode numbers is the only way to tell where you are. The insert is completely useless as it's just a single page of advertisements for other shows.

Menu:
The menu layout for this release is very simple and straightforward with a static menu that has a shot of a graveyard with a hazy blue backdrop to it and the image of Amidamaru along one side while the selections and series logo is on the other, all set to a brief loop of instrumental music from the show. Access times are nice and fast and the layout very simple and easy to navigate as there's nothing here but the show itself really. Our language presets failed completely due to improper labeling of the tracks on the disc. The Japanese language track is given *** instead of JPN and there are three English subtitle tracks; a dubtitle, a true subtitle and a sign/song track. The dubtitle track is listed first as ENG so it got picked up instead.

Extras:
None.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Shaman King, licensed by 4 Kids and released on DVD through a partnership with FUNimation, is one of the latest Shonen Jump shows that's come over and it's popularity in Japan ensured that it was the kind of show that would be looked at by those not normally in the anime game since there is some widespread appeal potential for the property. Since it was picked up by those who most people wouldn't have any real issue with, we'll allay the fears right off the bat:

This is a good release. There are things people won't like, but the real core of things is that this is a good release. The show is presented here with its original openings and endings in Japanese, it's got the eye-catches and it has what appears to not only be a faithful subtitle track but also a very faithful new dub script with it. Other than a couple of name changes, the two tracks are very close to each other through out the bulk of these episodes. What's not good? The complete lack of any credits – Japanese production/actors or even those who work on the English release. None at all. The so-so part of the release is the episode count as it'll annoy some but others will feel it's not that bad due to the price. I picked this up for just under twelve bucks for three episodes. I'd rather have more but if the choice is this format or no show, I'll take the show.

But how is the show? It's a bit of a quirky one and I figure the character designs aren't exactly going to alienate anyone but they're part of a time from Shonen Jump where the more angular designs of YuGiOh were popular so there's a strange mix of characters here. The show focuses on a young lad named Yoh who has just arrived in Tokyo from the countryside. He's a really laid back kind of kid who does much of his napping in school. During his arrival in Tokyo he runs into a fellow classmate named Manta (Morty in the dub), a pint sized and we mean pint sized studious type who ends up becoming friends with Yoh. One of the main reasons for this is that Manta can see all the ghosts that surround Yoh.

As we learn, Yoh is a shaman in training and his goal is to become the Shaman King, which is the most powerful of the shamans and the one that is able to perform some really interesting things when reaching that level. In order to get himself into the best position to become the Shaman King, he's come to Tokyo where he figures all the best ghosts are and make friends with them. Being a shaman, Yoh is able to allow the ghosts and spirits to channel through his body to do various things. For example, he ends up befriending a samurai who died six hundred years prior and when he allows him to enter his body, Yoh gains the skills of the samurai, though he still has to deal with the reality of lifting the sword or whatever else. And since some of these ghosts work hard when performing in a body again, it can wear Yoh out pretty fast, which is one reason he sleeps so much during the day.

Since Manta can see the ghosts, he ends up being friends with Yoh and generally tries to understand what's going on, though he's not terribly keen on seeing ghosts and all. Manta's your general wuss character, which means he does a lot of cowering and screaming, especially when dealing with the local gang that's trying to find a new place to call home. This group is amusing in general, especially their leader with his wonderful over-exaggerated hairdo. Then there's also the fact that Yoh isn't the only one trying to become the Shaman King so he ends up with a competitor arriving who is much more serious about getting the title and wants to eliminate someone like Yoh quickly since Yoh befriends the ghosts while this one considers them nothing more than tools.

Shaman King is a good bit of fun, though with just three episodes it goes by pretty fast and you can get a disc done in just under an hour if you skip the openings and endings. While I can see why some of the shows style, particularly in character designs, would be off-putting to some I actually like the change from the norm of what a lot of series have been like lately, particularly with so many having a shojo bent to them. This goes back to being what a boys show is all about but it's done well enough to have plenty of crossover. I was surprised to find my eldest daughter sitting next to me for a couple of episodes and paying close attention and not saying a word when we check it out in English for the second round.

In Summary:
While three episodes is too short in my book for a series of this length and the lack of any kind of credits is mystifying and just plain wrong, I have hopes that at least that part will get fixed. This is a fun little show so far with some interesting style and while it uses something familiar in the cultural/occult storytelling world, it's nicely executed for the opening episodes and I'm curious to see how it goes – once it gets past stories I'm familiar with from the manga. Shaman King's not a show for everyone but I'm glad that it's managed to come out uncut and bilingual, a real victory considering just how opposed 4Kids seemed at one point to even admitting that these shows were Japanese at all.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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jnager 3/13/2012 10:43:33 PM

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