Shaman King was one of the bigger Shonen Jump manga in the late 90s into the early 2000s. Maybe it was never as big as One Piece or Naruto, but the spiritual battle comic was definitely on a par in popularity with Rurouni Kenshin and Yu Yu Hakusho at its prime. Unfortunately, Shaman King hasn’t shared in their staying power.
The manga was somewhat left field for a Jump battle manga, breaking convention in a number of ways, especially in its cast. You had a lead character who was by no means a Goku clone which especially in the Mid 90s wasn’t so common. Including so many characters from different places and with a vast web of cultural and spiritual beliefs made for plenty of difference from the norm.
Originally created by Hiroyuki Takei, who would later go onto work with the late great Stan Lee on Ultimo, the series has some stylish art to depict its cross-cultural battles. Before creating Shaman King Takei worked as an assistant on Rurouni Kenshin, another less convention Shonen Jump Manga, which may explain why he felt compelled a different king of Shonen story.
The series had a turbulent history including a premature cancellation and eventually jumping ship to an entirely different publisher. As in, legally speaking, Shaman King is no longer a Shonen Jump or Shueisha series. That’s pretty rare for any series, but for a former flagship Jump title? An unprecedented development.
Even though Kodansha now owns the rights to the Shaman King name, republishing the original series as well as Shaman King Flowers, Shaman King Zero, and launching the new Shaman King: The Super Star, it will always be remembered as a Shonen Jump great.
Yoh Led Shaman King’s Classic Cast of Characters in The Manga That Brought Together Many Cultures
Hiroyuki Takei originally debuted Shaman King in Weekly Shonen Jump Magazine in late 1998. Even though Kodansha now owns the rights to this original series, it will always be remembered as a late 90s jump classic. Its particular twist to the Shonen Jump formula was incorporating elements from different spiritual beliefs from all around the world.
As an artist with strong attention to detail and a sharp visual identity, Hiroyuki Takei successfully was able to depict the imagery and iconography of many different cultures. From clothing choices to surroundings, Takei could switch it up giving each character and place of cultural origin the respect they deserve.
While the series lead Yoh partnered with a distinctly Japanese samurai spirit Amidamaru, you had a representation of all sorts of distinct cultures; from the Ainu of northern Japan to cultures based indigenous peoples in the Americas, the manga brought together a literal world’s worth of mythology. Whether it’s all 100 percent accurate, you’ll have to ask a historian, but it makes for some neat and inclusive battle manga.
Shaman King Flowers, The Sequel You Didn’t Know Existed
Shaman King was canceled around 30 volumes in, but over the years Hiroyuki Takei has made a few spin-off titles like Shaman King Zero. Shaman King Flowers is the largest of these sequel series, running at a full six volumes. It focuses on some loose ends from the series while introducing a certain couple’s descendant who fights in a new series of battles called the ‘Flower of Maize’.
Like any appropriate sequel, you have some new characters and some old characters. However despite ultimately being a battle manga, what’s most different about Shaman King Flowers is how it feels. Hiroyuki Takei has gotten more and more interested in artistic presentation throughout his career and in Shaman King Flowers, he’s created a somewhat more esoteric shonen manga.
Eventually though Hiroyuki Takei had a falling out with Shueisha, meaning the end of Flowers, and newer series entries like Shaman King: The Super Star now run in Kodansha magazines. Unfortunately outside of the original manga which is now extremely out of print, none of these other titles ever got officially released in English.
The Shaman King Anime, Yet Another 4kids Disaster
While Shaman King was one of the manga that did run in the ambitious yet now-defunct American Monthly Shonen Jump, it never caught on here like its orange ninja and children’s card game siblings. One reason for this was a particularly dreadful localization effort by the notorious 4kids Entertainment.
Characters used to be renamed a lot, like Ash Ketchum being Satoshi in Japan, but when you go from ‘Manta’ to ‘Mortimer’? Things are pretty dire. No one’s going to ask their parents for a Mortimer toy. To add insult to injury, we didn’t even get a cool rap out of it.
Thankfully the 4kids reign of anime is over and some of the titles they once hacked up are now available from different publishers unedited, like One Piece. Unfortunately, Shaman King never saw a resurgence in the United States and no one has bothered to ever relicense the anime.
While it’s a complicated rights situation, transferring from Shueisha to Kodansha may have some hand in its lack of international representation, it’s undeniably a shame neither the manga nor the anime is available in English.
The Many Colorful and Distinct Characters Of Shaman King
There’s a colorful cast of characters in Shaman King that hail from all over the world. Faust from Germany, Joco from New York, Ren from China, and a whole lot more; Shaman King really runs the gamut when it comes to variety. You have the various good guys and the many bad guys, all taken from different countries and cultures. From the Japanese Ainu to archangels from Christian mythology, people and their spirits hail from all over.
Of course, there’s a trio of characters who you would call iconic, the ones fans will always think of first. The protagonist, his visually similar but 300 percent hotter adversary, and the future bride-to-be. Yoh and Hao’s many teammates also round out the cast, with other odds and ends making themselves known along the way.
The good guys, the bad guys, and everyone who are shades in between, here’s a primer to Shaman King’s large and diverse cast. You may want to avoid the last entry if you haven’t finished Shaman King.
Yoh is the protagonist, the Goku of Shaman King if you will. However, unlike a lot of classic Jump leads, he’s a lot lazier than his peers. Known for his trademark headphones, he’d rather be kicking back with his favorite jams than fighting evil.
More a Shikamaru than a Naruto, at least at first. He partners with a samurai spirit named Amidamaru when he fights. In traditional Shonen Jump convention, once the story ramps up he gets a bit more motivated. That’s in part due to his future wife.
At the beginning of the series Yoh doesn’t care much about the fight and just wants to leave a carefree easy life. Naturally, though the more involved he gets, the more the entire battle becomes personal for him. Befriending and teaming up with the Samurai spirit Amidamaru, Yoh wantingly or not starts climbing the rungs up the ladder to Shaman King.
While she doesn’t fight in the main tournament, Anna’s an extremely talented spirit medium who thinks nothing channeling the dead. She’s Yoh’s fiancee and something of a proto-tsundere so on the surface she’s pretty cold, willing to wallop anyone who glances at her the wrong way.
As the series goes on though more of Anna’s heart begins to shine through which has endeared her to readers all over the world. Eventually, she becomes Yoh’s greatest support in their fight against the enemy.
You could call Anna something of a ‘tsundere’ but that would be a cheap word. She’s truly fierce and truly strong, and much more rarely than your average anime school girl does she let her defenses down. Interestingly, she freely talks about her love for Yoh even when she just as quickly will treat him like a slug.
Yes, the boy 4kids renamed ‘Mortimer’ in the English dub, possibly due to him coming from a rich family. Manta doesn’t start out as a fighter, but after befriending Yoh and getting attuned to his spiritual powers he becomes great moral support before eventually partnering up with his own kid. He’s basically the John Watson to Yoh’s Sherlock Holmes, with events in the series taking place through his eyes.
The formidable Samurai Ghost spirit who once haunted Funbari and decided to team up with Yoh in his fight to become the Shaman King. While all these characters have their own Spirits, Amidamaru has a greater presence in the story than most of the others making him a bonafide character through and through. He’s honorable and noble, often offering Yoh words of wisdom that only a 600-year-old Samurai spirit could know.
A high school punk, with the trademark pompadour of course, who turns over a new leaf after encountering Yoh and Manta for the First time. After some assistance from Anna, he awakens to latent spiritual powers and partners up with the spirit of the long-dead bandits Tokagero. The two become ride or die compatriots of Yoh’s.
Like many characters found in the pages of Shonen Manga, Tao Ren is an enemy turned ally of Yoh’s. They’re never quite buddy buddy though even when fighting on the same side, with Ren taking their rivalry for being the Shaman King seriously. He mellows out over the course of the manga, when at the start he could murder without a second thought.
Horohoro is a member of the Ainu, an indigenous tribe of Japanese who historically have lived in the northern Hokkaido region. As such, Horohoro uses a Snowboard as a weapon and pairs up with a Koropokuru Spirit which came from Ainu mythology. Hot-headed with spiky hair, he has more of a Jump protag look than Yoh.
Johann Faust VIII
A particularly macabre Shonen Jump, and even more so for an ally. Descended from the original Faust of legend, Faust VIII over here is something of a surgeon and a necromancer. He can summon entire skeletal armies to do his battling, yet like many of Yoh’s former foes, he turns into an ally by the end of it all.
Lyserg is a man divided. A young Englishman, the kind-hearted boy has a talent for dowsing and he knows the Yoh and gang are good people. However he’s already heavily involved with the X-Laws, a powerful and group of Shamans heavily based on Christian mythology, and directly follows the group leader. When Yoh and the X-Laws come into conflict, Lyserg has to make some uncomfortable decisions.
Hailing from inner-city New York, Joco’s had a rough upbringing and at one point was involved with some brutal street gangs. These days he wants to become a comedian as he’s personally witnessed the healing power of laughter. He’s the last big addition to Team Yoh, after training with an elder Amazonian Shaman post-reform.
Hao sure looks a lot like Yoh, huh? Their last name’s the same too, what’s up with that? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of convoluted Shonen plot to satisfy all your curiosity about Hao Asakura.
For a bad guy, he’s not such a bad guy, often easy-going and jovial in nature but make no mistake; Hao’s the most powerful spiritual entity on Earth. Many of the contestants in the Shaman Tournament (yes there’s a tournament) have pledged loyalty to Hao out of fear alone.
Iron Maiden Jeanne
This seemingly young-looking girl leads the X-Laws and is widely known as one of the most powerful Shamans around. She gets her nickname ‘Iron Maiden’ from spending most of her time inside one of these medieval torture devices in order to raise her spiritual levels. She believes what she’s doing is right, but are Iron Maiden Jeanne and the rest of the X-Laws actually acting in the right?
The leader of Gandhara, a Buddhist pacifist group who’ve entered the Shaman King fight not to win but to stop Hao Asakura. She’s amongst a class of fighters including Iron Maiden Jeanne and Hao itself when it comes to raw strength, but ultimately and unsurprisingly she chooses to help late in the game further train Yoh and gang who she believes have the power to stop Hao.
A member of the indigenous to the Americas Patch Tribe who oversees the Shaman King tournament, Silva is the member who gets Yoh involved in the fight for the future. Unlike other patch member officiants, Silva gets a little too attached to the contestants he’s supposed to look after. He’s been known to give Yoh and gang a helping hand when no one’s looking.
Okay, maybe Tao Ren’s older sister isn’t quite a main character but she’s too cool to not include on this list. Like Faust, she’s also a necromancer of sorts but coming from the Chinese culture she’s considered a Daoshi. Able to reanimate the dead with their original spirits, she fights side by side with Bailong who was once a famous Hong Kong action movie star comparable to Bruce Lee.
An adopted member of the Asakura family, Tamao is an extremely skilled and devout divinator and aesthetic. She’s generally a non-fighter not taking part in the Shaman King tournament, but when push comes to shove she and her partner spirits, a Kitsune and a Tanuki, can lay down the hurt. She harbors a huge crush on Yoh Asakura, which is kind of remarkable considering how scary Anna can be.
A master onmyouji and specialist in exorcision, Yohmei Asakura currently heads the Asakura family and is Yoh’s grandfather. He practically raised Yoh and taught him foundational techniques for being a Shaman fighter. Seemingly just an advisory figure at first, it’s clear Yohmei got real expertise up his sleeve.
Yoh’s Grandmother, Kino Asakura is an extremely powerful Itako who raised Anna since she was young and eventually trained her to follow in her spiritual footsteps. Going blind at some point during World War 2, she trained up her powers enough to more than make up for her lack of sight. She’s very proud of Anna as a student and as a daughter.
An easy-going guy with a love of music, who happens to be Yoh’s father and he doesn’t really enter the series until later on after the Shaman fight’s underway. Turns out he’s taking part with a team of his own and being a Spy seemingly for the Asakura’s, it’s hard to tell what he’s really thinking and you’re never sure what he intends to do. He harbors a great regret, which is why he’s assumed an atypical path in life, even for a Shaman.
While we don’t want to say exactly who’s kid Hana Asakura is, we will say he’s the main character of Shaman King Flowers. First seen journeying about with Ryu as a young child, as a teen he gets roped into a new series of battles. Thankfully he pairs with the familiar Amidamaru who’s been in enough battles real and spiritual to aid and advise Hana along the way.