WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Shaman King (2021), now streaming on Netflix.
The newly released Shaman King anime reboot is enticing to watch, both for newcomers or old fans of the 2001 original. While it may be most intriguing to those with no recollection of the franchise, there's still a lot to see for fans who grew up with Shaman King 20 years ago. This is all due to the latter diverging heavily at a certain point from the then-concurrent manga, resulting in an anime adaptation that told its own story.
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Shaman King (2021) features some significant differences from its predecessor, namely in its pacing and how much of the manga it pulls from. Let's take a look at some of the most important changes of all.
Shaman King (2021)'s Pacing Is Faster
Shaman King (2021)'s biggest change is how much faster the anime moves in telling the manga's story. Short arcs or plot points that were previously spread around three or more episodes now take up only one. For instance, the fights with Ren Tao and his sister spanned Episodes 3-5 of the 2001 Shaman King, while the reboot wraps this up in Episodes 2 and 3.
The original show's pacing was an in-vain effort to extend the storyline as much as possible to avoid catching up with the manga. As the reboot doesn't have that problem and simply wishes to tell the complete story, it can blow through the source material pretty quickly without extra padding. Fight scenes, while still heavily dramatic, aren't nearly as drawn out as before. This means the original Shaman King's filler is all gone, making for a leaner show that might be deemed more worthwhile to old and new anime fans alike. That said, some of this content did help flesh out side characters like Ryu and Tokageroh, making it somewhat missed.
Shaman King's Anime Adapatations' Fidelity to the Manga
As mentioned, the Shaman King reboot sticks much closer to the manga's plotlines and characterizations than the original, resulting in some scenes and wholesale character introductions that weren't in the 2001 series. This includes Manta's family, who are seen when they try to get their son to stop hanging out with protagonist Yoh Asakura. They weren't present in the original series, despite Manta's defense of his only real friend being an important part of his character.
The early engagement of Yoh and Anna is also expanded in the reboot, having been rendered as more of a throwaway line in 2001. This change favors Anna's characterization, deepening her bond with Yoh by showing how far they go back -- and how much she truly cares for Yoh in spite of all her abuse toward him.
There's No Censorship or Americanization in the Shaman King Reboot
Though it surprisingly got off easy compared to other shows, the original Shaman King anime had a dub handled by 4Kids that removed what might be deemed as offensive elements. It also switched up the names of characters and concepts to make them arguably more palatable to American audiences, earning the ire of some fans.
The 2021 reboot isn't changed or censored to be a Saturday morning cartoon, so elements of violence, gore and language are kept even in the dub. Character names are the same as in Japan, so Manta is still referred to as Manta rather than the old show's localization name, Morty.
Shaman King (2021)'s New Animation and Cast Members
While the actual character designs are pretty much the same (later characters like Chocolove being exceptions), the difference in 20 years makes for hugely updated animation quality. The original Shaman King was produced by Xebec, while the reboot is handled by Bridge. Likewise, in both the Japanese and English versions of the show, some characters retain their original voice actors while others have new ones.
For instance, Yoh was originally voiced by Yūko Satō and Sebastian Arcelus, whereas Yōko Hikasa and Abby Trott voice him in the reboot. Manta, on the other hand, is still voiced by Inuko Inuyama and Oliver Wyman, keeping things exactly the same as two decades ago. When Shaman King returns from its current break, it's sure to make even more changes from the old show as it continues to adapt the manga in its own way.