The nostalgia trip continues in Shaman King as we meet Tao Ren and Anna Kyoyama!
In Episode 2, Manta (yet again) has a fateful late-night encounter with another shaman in the cemetery. This time, he meets the haughty Tao Ren (voiced by Romi Park) and his spirit, the Chinese warlord Bason (voiced by Kousuke Takaguchi). The complete opposite of Yoh personality-wise, Ren relays a chilling message for Manta’s newfound shaman friend—Amidamaru will be mine.
The next day, Manta with Yoh and Amidamaru in tow chance upon Ren and Bason brawling with a car gang. Said gang is no match for Ren’s exceptional kung fu skills and Bason’s mystic power. And just when things could not become any more intense, Ren challenges Yoh in a duel to claim the spirit of Amidamaru.
The showrunners certainly did not waste any time (and manga panels!) as the episode went by in a flurry of shaman activity. The fight between Ren and Yoh was well-paced and well-animated. There was enough dialogue and development between the two shaman-king-wannabes to further establish their characters and respective personalities. You have Ren’s arrogance and brilliance in contrast to Yoh’s more laidback disposition, which conceals his true prowess. And the action sequences! The spirit-possession and special attacks are always a delight to see. The show also did not hold back on the violence and the blood (poor Yoh!). And as mentioned in my previous review, there’s just something about Yuki Hayashi’s musical score that hypes up these duels tenfold.
We also gain more insight into the world of shamans and spirits. Whereas Yoh sees Amidamaru and the spirit realm, in general, as a friendly force, Ren’s detachedness reminds us that these spirits are, well, spirits. And the role of a shaman is to harness their power and unlock that 100% integration, as revealed in the events of this episode. There was also a nice flashback to a young Yoh in shaman training, which hilariously outs his true reason for wanting to become a shaman. ("If I were friends with the king of spirits I could do whatever I want, I would never have to work”)
Finally, and perhaps what every Shaman King enthusiast was waiting for, the arrival of Best Girl and Yoh’s fiancé Anna Kyoyama! Voiced by Megumi Hayashibara, who sings this season’s OP and ED, her entrance was more teaser than anything, but we already get a taste of her fierce, no-BS attitude that fans love and flock to so much even after all these years.
Expect these first few episodes to focus on the world-building and cast-introducing. But from the Yoh vs. Ren duel we witnessed in this episode, there’s a lot more where that came from in Shaman King 2021.
Shaman King airs Thursdays at 17:55 JST.
Official Anime Website: shamanking-project.com
Official Anime Twitter: @SHAMANKING_PR