Saturday, June 28, 2008

Shaman King Volume 16 by Hiroyuki Takei

The Shaman fight continues, with Yoh's team winning its first round. Yoh's behavior has won him many allie, even among his opponents, but there is another opponent, Hao, who has as his Shaman ally the fire spirit, one of the five great spirits in the world, the living embodiment of fire. Hao also says he will be the next King, but he has enemies already.

The X-Laws are a group of shamans who have come to the tournament strictly to fight Hao, as each of them was wronged by him in some way. Led by Jeanne, a girl who spends most of her time in an iron maiden when not battling, they seek to overcome Hao and knock him out of the fight. Yoh has befriended one of the X-Law shamans, a boy named Lyserg whose spirit ally is a Poppy fairy.

When Yoh goes to speak with Lyserg, they both express friendship for the other, until the other X-Laws show up wanting a fight. The fight is forestalled by Jeanne in her iron maiden, who invites Yoh to join them, but Yoh refuses, saying their way is not his way. Once again, the others (save for Lyserg and Jeanne) would fight him, but Jeanne takes his refusal well and won't allow the others to fight Yoh.

The next day, three of the X-Laws meet Hao and two of his team in the ring, but Hao dismisses his allies and tells the X-Laws he will give them a chance, allowing them to fight him alone, knowing they want revenge on him. They accept and fight him, throwing their own lives away in the battle, for this way, the members of the organization can learn more about Hao, including, hopefully, the way for the others to defeat him.

Yoh doesn't like their way of fighting at all, and gets extremely upset with the X-Laws throwing their lives away for what he views as a wasted exercise. And indeed, none of the X-Laws in the ring are able to defeat Hao or his spirit ally. After the titanic battle, Hao summons the spirits of the now-dead X-Law shamans and feeds them to his spirit ally to make it stronger.

This so incenses Yoh that he reveals to his friends and allies a hidden truth: Hao and Yoh are brothers, born of the same womb. But if Hao is ten thousand years old, how is this possible? Yoh tells the story, revealing the truth: Hao was reborn in the body of his twin brother, come back to become the Shaman King, and born with his spirit ally already in place!

Though the cover of this manga is bright and colorful, the story has taken a dark turn, with a group of shamans willing to die to beat Hao. The story of Hao isn't a very bright one, either, and Hao feeding his losing opponents souls to his spirit ally is just...

I don't buy this manga, I get it from my library, as it's just one more fighting manga to me, only with oversouls and spirit allies instead of kicks and punches. Even reading this volume hasn't really changed my opinion of that. I also feel that the art has undergone a change for the worse since the beginning of the series, namely in the character of Manta Oyamada, who in character terms has become a supernumary nipple. There just isn't much to attract me here any more, and I become less likely to continue reading this series, even from the library.

If you're looking for another fighting series, with a twist, look no further. Otherwise, it's just more of the same. Not that fighting series are bad, but they do get awfully repetitive and I'd rather have my story in a form other than that crammed in between scenes of opponents beating the snot out of each other, however they do it.

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