WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Shaman King (2021), now streaming on Netflix.
The new Shaman King anime is finally available on Netflix, bringing to international audiences a new take on a modern classic anime from the early 2000s. The original series was known from diverging from the manga quite a bit by its halfway point due to the source material still being in production, resulting in their endings being entirely different. The Shonen Jump Shaman King eventually went on to have several manga follow ups, but its the new anime that's bringing mainstream attention to the franchise once more.
The rebooted Shaman King is meant to be more accurate to the manga than the first series was, but its first episode alone already breaks that rule. Showing the truth behind Yoh and Hao's relationship from the beginning, Shaman King (2021) tells its story at a much brisker pace than some fans may have expected.
Shaman King (2021) Reveals Yoh & Hao Asakura's Relationship From Episode 1
In the original anime and the manga that Shaman King (2021) has adapted, it's not explained at first how or why protagonist Yoh and antagonist Hao are so physically similar -- a similarity that is almost uncanny. It's eventually revealed during the current Shaman Fight, however, that Yoh and Hao have a closer relationship than anyone thought. Not only was Hao Yoh's ancestor in a past life, but in his current incarnation, he's also Yoh's twin brother.
This is a huge deal, especially considering that Hao is the villain of the original Shaman King. As such, the long-withheld information is a big deal and treated as such (at least, in the series' trademark, easygoing way) in both the anime and the manga. That's not the case in the new anime, however, as shown in the first episode.
In the new version of Shaman King, the connection between Hao and Yoh is shown right from the beginning before the show's current events even begin. This is a huge change of pace -- literally -- and it cements the type of direction that the show will be going in.
How Showing Hao's Origins Changes Everything In Shaman King (2021)
As mentioned, this change in Shaman King (2021) makes the origin of Hao abundantly clear from the get-go, changing things a bit and making the audiences privy to one of the narrative's secrets. To some extent, this actually makes a ton of sense, as many of those who will watch the new series are those who will have either seen the old one or at least read the manga, and now want to see a more accurate adaptation. Therefore, it doesn't exactly make sense to hold back information that they already know and act like it's a big reveal.
It does, however, question the reboot's pacing quality and how well it will adapt the source material. Many have noted how much quicker this version's telling of the story is being told, with some criticizing how fast things are being handled. Keep in mind also that the show is meant to be 52 episodes, which is actually 12 less than the original series.
The idea may be to quickly handle all of the old material and generate interest in order to finally adapt all of the Shaman King manga sequels and spinoffs into anime form. While that will certainly entice fans who want to see this put into animated form, it's disappointing that the first manga is being so swiftly sifted through to get there.