Shaman King is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Hiroyuki Takei. This manga follows the adventures of Yoh Asakura as he attempts to hone his shaman skills to become the Shaman King by winning the Shaman Fight. Takei chose shamanism as the main theme of the series because he wanted a topic that had never been attempted before in manga.
The Shaman King manga was originally serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump between 1998 and 2004. The individual chapters were collected and released in 32 tankōbon volumes by Shueisha.
In North America, Viz Media obtained the English-language license for the manga and published chapters of Shaman King in its Shonen Jump magazine from March 2003 to August 2007.
In Japan, the manga has been popular, selling over 26 million volumes. Both the manga and anime have been featured, at various times, in “top ten” lists of their respective media. The Shaman King anime has been watched by a large number of television viewers in Japan. Publications about manga, anime and other media have commented on the Shaman King manga, with positive comments on the series.
The plot of Shaman King revolves around Yoh Asakura, a shaman, a medium between the worlds of the living and the dead. Yoh seeks to become the Shaman King, the one who is able to contact the Great Spirit, and will gain the ability to reshape the world in any way they wish, and for this purpose he must to win the Shaman Fight, a battle held once every 500 years between competing shamans. Anna Kyoyama, Yoh’s fiancée, soon enters the scene and prescribes a brutal training regimen to prepare him for the tournament. Thus begins the plot that will lead Yoh on a journey that will lead him to befriend Ryu, Tao Ren, Horohoro, Faust VIII, Lyserg Diethel, and Joco McDonnell (known as Chocolove McDonnell).
During the Shaman Fight, Yoh encounters Hao Asakura, a strong shaman who wishes to eradicate humans and create a world for shamans. At the end of the shaman battles, the remaining teams consist of Yoh and his friends, the X-Laws and Hao’s team. The remaining teams choose to forfeit the tournament, crowning Hao with the title of Shaman King. As Hao is led away, Yoh and his allies decide to attack Hao while he is merging with the Great Spirit, which is in a coma. To conquer Hao, Yoh and his friends must defeat The Patch Tribe members who are obligated to serve under the new Shaman King.
After Yoh and his friends overcome the ten Patch Tribe members, Hao is awakened as the new Shaman King. He defeats Yoh and all his friends and absorbs their souls. Inside the Great Spirit, Yoh, Ren, Horohoro, Lyserg, and Chocolove battle against Hao using the five legendary spirits: the Spirit of Earth, the Spirit of Thunder, the Spirit of Rain, the Spirit of Fire, and the Spirit of Wind. When former associates of Yoh and his friends begin appearing in the Great Spirit, it is revealed that the Great Spirit granted Hao’s wish for someone to bring back his mother’s spirit. With Anna’s help, Hao’s mother is brought to the Great Spirit. Hao’s mother tells him that, in order to be saved, he must forgive the humans for murdering her. Hao decides to postpone his plan to eradicate humans and to observe how Yoh and his friends will change the world.
Seven years later, Hana Asakura waits at a station for the five legendary warriors and his parents, Yoh and Anna.
Before creating Shaman King, Takei, an assistant of Nobuhiro Watsuki’s Rurouni Kenshin, exchanged ideas about the series with the other assistants. As a colleague of Watsuki, he worked primarily as a manga assistant, only focusing on his own projects during his days off. He was influenced by street art from hip-hop and rap culture, which is apparent in his manga artwork. For drawing, he used calligraphy inks and pen nibs. When illustrating, he used Copic brand color markers.
He chose shamanism as the principal topic of the series because he wanted to choose a subject that had never been approached in manga before. He said he incorporated his own personality and beliefs in Shaman King. He has an interest in the topic, and “choosing shamanism as the subject of this story seemed like a natural extension of that.” For the title, he said he used “shaman”, an English word, due to the fact that “the nuance is really great” and because he could not find a Japanese word with the accurate meaning of the word “shaman”. Another reason to have shamanism as the main subject was because he could explore elements from different cultures and their relationship with the dead and the spirits.
Takei created the stories after he created the characters because he believed the “stories are born because of the existence of the characters”. In addition, he felt that “the most important thing [to create a character] is to have originality”. Through his characters he wanted to show different cultures, backgrounds and values. When asked “how do shamans of pacifistic religions ever win the Shaman Fight?” he answered that the Shaman Fight is fought using the “strength of the soul”. Takei declared “the final message of Shaman King is that fighting is no good.”
The chapters of Shaman King were written and illustrated by Takei and were published in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump from June 30, 1998 to an abruptly and improvised end on August 30, 2004. The first 275 chapters were collected into 31 tankōbon volumes; the first of which was released on December 3, 1998, with the 31st being released on October 4, 2004. The release of volume 32—intended for publication on December 3, 2004—was delayed and Shueisha reported they would only publish volume 32 if they receive evidence of demand from approximately 50,000 people. The release of the last ten chapters in tankōbon format happened on January 5, 2005. A spin-off to Shaman King, Funbari Poem, lasted for five chapters—all of which were included in volume 32. Taking place seven years after the end of the manga series, it features Hana Asakura, son of Yoh and Anna, and his journey with Ryu to find the Five Elemental Warriors for a reunion before the opening of the Funbari Hot Springs Inn.
Takei declared it was not a decrease on the series profitability that was the reason for its cancellation, but a “fatigue” he had been through because he was no more able to follow his fans’ wishes. In the author’s opinion, Shaman King was being “normalized” by the desire of his readers with the introduction of typical shōnen aspects and losing its originality. In 2007 he revealed he was planning to end the series with the final he initially envisioned to be published in another Shueisha magazine in the end of the year or in the beginning of 2008. Eventually the entire series was reprinted in 27 kanzenban volumes with the title Shaman King Kanzen-Ban (or “Perfect Edition”), concluding with the “true ending” to the series. The new series finale was also posted on the official Kanzen-Ban website, in addition to the print editions. The first volume of the Perfect Edition was released on March 4, 2008, with the last (volume 27) being published on April 3, 2009. Five years after the end of the series, when the Shaman King Kanzen-Ban was finished, Takei said, “After making the readers waiting so much for this, the last thing I wanted to do was to disappoint them”. He thought the ending was a “huge responsibility”. This edition served to make corrections and adjustments and, for Takei, it was something “fun,” as it was different from scratch. Shaman King has also been published as part of the Shueisha Jump Remix series of magazine-style books. Sixteen volumes of Shaman King were released under the Shueisha Jump Remix series between April 1 and October 28, 2011.
Viz Media licensed the series for an English-language release in North America; the chapters initially serialized in the American Shonen Jump, beginning in third issue in 2003 and ceasing its serialization in the August 2007 issue. From then, it was exclusively published through graphic novel format and Viz said it was done in order to speed up the series’ publication. Volume 1 was released in August or September 2003, and volume 32 was released to conclude the series on January 4, 2011. In Australasian region, Madman Entertainment licensed and published the series between February 10, 2009 and September 10, 2011. The manga has also been licensed in some countries such as in Brazil by Editora JBC, in France by Kana, in Germany by Carlsen Comics, in Italy by Star Comics, in Norway by Schibsted Forlagene, in Russia by Comix-ART, in Singapore by Chuang Yi, in Spain by Editores de Tebeos, in Sweden by Bonnierförlagen, and in Vietnam by Kim Đồng Publishing House.
On November 10, 2011, a series of one-shot called “zero stories” detailing Yoh and other characters backstories started to be serialized in Jump X. In the same issue the first “zero story” was published, Shueisha announced the serialization of a sequel, focusing on Hana Asakura’s development as a shaman; Shaman King: Flowers started on April 10, 2012. Both series concluded in the final issue of Shueisha’s Jump X on October 10, 2014. Two volumes of Shaman King: Zero were released on May 10, 2012 and January 19, 2015 respectively. The Flowers series was compiled into six tankōbon released between August 10, 2012 and December 19, 2014.
In December 2017, Kodansha’s magazine Shonen Magazine Edge, in which Takei is publishing his ongoing manga Nekogahara, announced the company acquired “Shaman King” trademark from Shueisha. A website was created and opened on January 1, 2018, and it announced Kodansha is celebrating the series’ 20th anniversary. As such, Kodansha will republished the manga as ebooks with new cover artwork, and a new arc will be published beginning Spring 2018 in Shonen Magazine Edge.