[Manga Monday] The Mask Restored (Shaman King #18) ★★★☆½

maskrestored (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission 
Title:
The Mask Restored
Series: Shaman King #18
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 192
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Yoh saves Team Ren from being annihilated by the minions Hao. The corrupt Patch officiant orders the rest of the minions to attack but they refuse when Ryu and Faust show up. Ren appears to be so far gone that not even Faust can save him. Yoh foresaw this possibility and dispatched Manta to get Lady Jean of the X-Laws. Unfortunately, while willing to help Ren, Lady Jean’s terms are that Yoh must withdraw from the fight.

At the same time Anna and Co are confronted by a trio of shaman fighters. Anna tells Jun Tao to deal the trio and Bailong shows the fruits of his training. Tricks ensue on both sides. Anna leaves the fight to escort 2 young shamans to their fight. Turns out their dad was killed on Christmas Eve 3 years ago for the presents he was taking home. That means it was Jocco who did it. Drama is definitely going to ensue.

While Anna is escorting the 2 young shamans, Tamao and Jun face the Witch trio and are overwhelmed. Only the timely appearance of Mikihisa (Yoh’s dad) saves the day and he explains the power of the young shamans and how terrible it is.

 

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this more than the previous volume. This had a good bit more fighting and while there was still a LOT of exposition, it was mixed into the fights instead of the characters standing around.

It would appear that Yoh accepts Lady Jean’s terms to save Ren and that pisses off Horohoro for some reason. He and Jocco stomp off and it is pretty obvious they’re going to have fight the young shamans Anna is shepherding at some point.

The end of the volume with Mikihisa lecturing all the girls and pretending to be their dad made me grin. He gives them little slaps while dispensing “dad” advice. Of course, the Witch trio don’t listen to him and attack him. Too bad for them!

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

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[Manga Monday] The Shamanic Oracle (Shaman King #17) ★★★☆☆

shamanicoracle (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Shamanic Oracle
Series: Shaman King #17
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

The Asakura’s and the Tao’s have a meeting to discuss what is happening with the rise of Hao. Yoh’s parents prepare to give the Tao’s their super secret sauce, errrr, special magic moves so that Ren can be powerful enough to fight alongside Yoh as an equal. Mr Tao is an ass and challenges Mr Asakura to prove himself. Mr A says “bring it” and the fight begins.

Yoh admits to his friends that Hao is so powerful that it is impossible for any shaman to overcome him. Yoh is not daunted and won’t let his friends despair. Ren is out walking with his team when Mr A attacks them. Ren is his typical arrogant self and Mr A has to teach him some manners. They end up having a barbeque together. Yoh sure didn’t fall far from the proverbial tree. Mr A reveals that everything is up to the kids because the adults have reached their limits and only the kids can still “grow”.

Hao lets his followers know that he intends a great cleansing once he becomes Shaman King, a global cleansing.

Two Patch officiants show up with a defeated Shaman, who is now Hao’s minion and while not directly attacking Mr A (who it turns out is a member in the Shaman fight), sic the defeated shaman on him to delay him so he can’t participate in his fight, thus automatically losing it. Another defeated shaman group also attack Yoh and Anna.

Team Ren is wiped out and their will broken with knowledge of their own low mana scores. Yoh shows up just as they’re about to be killed and the volume ends.

 

My Thoughts:

Lots and lots and lots of talking. The few bits of fighting were so buried between exposition that it didn’t engage me at all.

BLAH.

★★★☆☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

[Manga Monday] Trust No One (Shaman King #16) ★★★☆½

trustnoone (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Trust No One
Series: Shaman King #16
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Ren has an encounter with Hao and Hao invites him to join his team. Ren attacks Hao, who easily stops it and destroys the very weapon that Ren was using, all without visible means or even an oversoul. The encounter leaves Ren very shaken.

Yoh seeks out Lyserg and lets him know that he holds no hard feelings against Lyserg for joining the X-Laws. Apparently Lyserg broke curfew to see Yoh and the other X-Laws catch him. Marco deals harshly with Lyserg and prepares to pit himself against Yoh, until the Iron Maiden intervenes, telling the X-Laws that Yoh is not a minion of Hao’s. She invites Yoh to join the X-Laws and he refuses. This sets off Marco and Yoh has to threaten him just to leave.

We are introduced to one new team, who we don’t even see fight, as they finished their match so quickly. Then things get interesting as one of Hao’s group is set to fight and it includes Hao himself. Opposing them is one of the X-Law splinter groups, X-III. Hao sends his minions off and X-III attacks him with their 3 angels. Hao kills one of them immediately. X-III was sacrificial lambs, meant to find out about Hao so the future X-Law teams could exploit that knowledge and defeat Hao. Hao toys with the remaining X-III and kills them too, revealing nothing but how incredibly powerful he is. After winning the fight, Hao then resurrects the souls of the fallen X-III and feeds them to his oversoul of Fire. Hao is evil.

Yoh reveals to his team mates that Hao is an Asakura and that this fight has been going on for a 1000 years. One of the Patch Officiants is also a descendant of Hao and he has vowed to stop Hao. He get some secret video and is seen by 2 other Patch officiants. Yoh reveals a bombshell that Yoh isn’t just an ancestor but is actually his twin brother. Yoh’s father revealed this all to him and now Yoh is telling his team mates so they won’t be blindsided later on in the Shaman Fight.

It turns out that Yoh was born with a twin, who Hao chose to reincarnate in. Yoh’s grandparents tried to stop this from happening, but with no success. Now it is up to Yoh to stop Hao, impossible as that may seem.

 

My Thoughts:

Well, I did NOT see that bombshell about Hao coming, not one tiny bit. Thinking about it though, I’m not sure it actually changes anything. Hao is still an evil son of a gun bent on world domination and it is up to Yoh to stop him. The fights that Hao were in with the X-III’s really show just how evil he is. His soul is rotten to the core.

There was a lot of talking going on in this volume and not much fighting. Even the previous volume had more fighting. I’m here for the fighting so I’m hoping things ramp up next volume, or I’m going to be very disappointed.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

[Manga Monday] Northern Pride (Shaman King #15) ★★★☆½

northernpride (Custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Northern Pride
Series: Shaman King #15
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Volume opens with Dr Faust VIII watching over Manta who had fainted at the brutality of the last battle. Faust tells Manta that Team Funbari (Yoh’s team) is up next and Manta gets all worried. Next we cut to Team Funbari who are letting off steam at a restaurant in various ways. Yoh reveals that he’s confident enough in the training they’ve done that he thinks he can take the next team single handedly. Team Ren then has a little run in with Team Icemen, who are Yoh’s next opponents. The Icemen show off a bit and then leave the restaurant.

The battle begins and Yoh reveals his big sword. Ohhhhh myyyyy. He tries to be friendly but the Icemen are having none of it and immediately attack Faust as the weak link. Faust shows how he’s powered up by calling forth a gigantic demon version of his beloved Eliza. Team Icemen then attack Yoh but Ryu steps in and shows the burning power of friendship and literally melts their ice attack.

Eventually Yoh sets his team mates aside and lets the Icemen attack him directly. When he survives, they realize they simply don’t have a chance. Yoh invites them to try again, not to win but so that they can lose with the pride of knowing they gave it their all. They accept and Yoh unleashes the new Amidamaru against them and destroys their attack. The connotation being that the Icemen used up all their mana in their final attack and since it didn’t work, they lose.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a much shorter battle than I was expecting. It felt more like a showcase for the new and improved powers of Faust, Ryu and Yoh. The pride of the leader of the Icemen kept them from realizing how friendly Yoh was trying to be. It wasn’t until the very end that the truth sunk in. Which was what Yoh was trying to do. He didn’t want to create enemies as he climbed up the ladder to become Shaman King so he does what he can to show his opponents that they are not truly his enemies. Thankfully, the Icemen got the message. I suspect other teams later on won’t care or won’t believe it.

I think the fight is over, but it didn’t explicitly show the Icemen officially losing. So I’m holding off judgement until the next volume. With only 32 volumes Takei can’t stretch the fights out into Dragon Ball Z territory, thankfully!

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

[Manga Monday] The Tortured Princess (Shaman King #14) ★★★★☆

torturedprincess (custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: The Tortured Princess
Series: Shaman King #14
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Joco’s back story continues. His new master, Olona, wants to make the world a better place through laughter and comedy. But Joco’s old gang doesn’t want to let him go and beats up Olona. Since Joco now controls Mic the Jaguar, Olona is defenseless. Olona tells Joco that he has an incurable disease and that he would rather die at the hands of the gang members than see Joco resort to violence and death to save him. The gang kills Olona and the story reverts back to the present.

Joco shows a new move against Tecolote and immobilizes all his bone dolls with terrible jokes. He uses up his mana but gives Ren the opening he needs to move against Tecolote. He and Bason, his spirit ally, blow Tecolote away with one smashing blow and everyone see’s that Ren’s mana has increased exponentially. Hao, who is watching, comments that maybe it will be worthwhile to recruit Ren later on.

We get a cut scene of Lyserg, now one of the X-Laws, along with Marco the nominal leader of the X-Laws, unloading an Iron Maiden encased in chains.

The next Shaman fight starts, between one of the X-Law sub-groups, X-1 and Team Nile, an Egyptian themed group. Lyserg is now part of X-1 and takes on the challenge of fighting Team Nile all by himself. Marco and the Iron Maiden step aside and leave everything to Lyserg. Ryu is crushed that Lyserg has joined the X-Laws but Our Gang is cheering him on anyway. However, Lyserg has fully drunk the X-Law kool-aid and threatens to kill Team Nile. They refuse to surrender and continue the fight. Lyserg can’t bring himself to kill them and so Marco and Jeanne, the Iron Maiden step in. Jeanne unleashes her power and eventually kills each member of Team Nile as punishment for not surrendering to her.

The volume ends with Yoh realizing that an X-Law member as the Shaman King will result in an age of tyranny and blood and he vows that he will become the Shaman King to stop such a thing from happening.

 

My Thoughts:

Yeah! I like fighting and I get it in spades here. Thankfully, the manga-ka leavens the action scenes with humor, so things haven’t descended into dark, gloomy angst. For instance, when Iron Maiden Jeanne comes out of the iron maiden, both Ryu and Yoh exclaim “she’s hot!” and the picture shows Anna putting her hand over Yoh’s eyes. I’d definitely include that scene here but the digital version I’m reading is a pdf and I don’t know how to extract a particular image from a pdf.

Between Marco and Jeanne, we get a pretty good idea of just what the X-Laws intend. A world of Law without mercy and death as the final sentence for any infraction. It is very harsh and unforgiving. Unfortunately, the manga-ka takes the cheap and easy route and portrays them as simply Hao-lite because their Justice ends in death. The thing is, Justice is about death. Only when Justice is paired with Mercy can death be avoided. There is just lots to go into with all of that and just like his handling of the “great spirit” philosophy, Takei neatly sidesteps any deeper thoughts to paint the X-Laws as no better than Hao. Sigh…

Thankfully, while talking about that took up a whole paragraph in this review, it doesn’t play nearly so big a part in this volume and now that Takei’s gotten it out of his system, I’m hoping we won’t see a repeat of this particular shallow philosophy. I do expect to get lots of philosophy-lite as each new group appears though.

This was a good ending place for the month, as a battle is concluded and no other one has started. I’m thinking I’ll try to find a good ending volume each month to conclude on, as long as it doesn’t run over 5 volumes.

★★★★☆

 

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Return of Faust (Shaman King #13) ★★★★☆ [Manga Monday]

returnoffaust (custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Return of Faust
Series: Shaman King #13
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

This volume starts out with a nearly naked Yoh drifting through a bizarre landscape and eventually entering an ocean. He then wakes up in the Patch village where Silva explains that Yoh had a vision from the Great Spirit. Yoh looks outside and sees a massive column of souls, all of which make up the great spirit. All the contestants who made it through the maze have to face the great spirit and have a vision. If they survive the vision, they move on in the competition. All of Our Gang survives but Lyserg has gone off on his own after seeing “something” that involves Yoh’s father.

Yoh runs into Anna and everyone runs into another shaman named Joco. He reveals that the next step in the competition is a tournament of 3 man teams competing against each other. With Lyserg gone, Our Gang can’t form the requisite 2 teams and Joco wants to join Our Gang.

Joco has done a ton of research and monologues to Our Gang, and us the readers. Hao’s team is being opposed by the X-Laws, but there is another group of Shamans banding together to oppose Hao, a group of Buddhist monks. Each group is being led by a Shaman in the Kami Class. Joco is a terrible punster and has named his spirit ally Mic the Jaguar, ie, Mick Jagger.

Ren takes this time to create his own team of 3 from Our Gang and Horohoro and Joco are the “lucky” ones chosen. Manta goes looking for Yoh and runs into Faust. Faust brings Manta to Yoh and asks to join Team Yoh. Ryu rejects his request out of hand but Anna, as Queen Shaman to be, makes an executive decision and puts Faust in play. Of course, Anna’s choice springs from her desire to open a hot springs in the future and having a shaman doctor indebted to her will be a great attraction for the hot springs.

2 months go by and the 3 man teams are all transported to a deserted island named Tokyo where an Arena style fighting tournament is going to take place. There are 21 teams and they must battle each other in a ladder style order. First up is Team Ren. They are fighting Team Earth, one of Hao’s sub-groups. Team Earth consists of the 2 monk team Boz along with a mysterious masked man. Ren and Horohoro leave Joco to deal with Boz and Joco shows what he’s got.

While Joco easily defeats Boz, that was Tecolote’s plan all along. He uses bones as his medium and begins using the bones of Boz to fight Joco. Joco won’t attack Boz, as another attack will kill them. We then get a flashback into Joco’s past about why he has vowed to never kill. Joco’s parents were killed and he ended up becoming the head of gang. One Christmas he tries to kill someone who turns out to be a shaman and Joco can see his spirit ally. This decides the shaman to take Joco on as his protege, even if Joco doesn’t want it.

 

My Thoughts:

Ok, this volume brought the game back. It did feel like there was a missing volume, since Yoh wakes up in the Patch Village and everyone else is there too but hey, if the manga-ka wants to mess around, that’s his business.

Lyserg’s desertion wasn’t unexpected but he sure was replaced quickly with Joco. I didn’t care for Joco upon his introduction as I hate puns, but once the fighting started, he was solid. I also liked his backstory and introduction to being a shaman.

The further along this series goes, the more and more it adapts the fighting shonen stereotypes. Tournaments inside a ring is such a staple that it is now a cliché. In the anime Yu Yu Hakusho (which I highly recommend if you want fighting shonen out the wazoo) the ring tournament takes up almost half the series and since we’re only on book 13 of 30+ here, I fancy we’ll see about that same ratio. Expect lots of shenanigans and cheating by Team Hao.

The beginning of the book, with the vision of the great spirit being nothing but a collection of the total souls ever in existence or ever to exist, was a cheap knockoff of the philosOphy of nirvana. Not a big fan of that line of thought at all. Obviously the manga-ka is enamoured of the idea though. I expect to see more buddhism-lite ideas to trickle forth over the upcoming volumes.

However, overall, this got me excited again. I’m going to go read the next volume right away!

★★★★☆

bookstooge (Custom)

 

 

Wrath of Angels (Shaman King #12) ★★★☆½ [Manga Monday]

wrathofangels (custom)This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: Wrath of Angels
Series: Shaman King #12
Author: Hiroyuki Takei
Rating: 3.5 of 5 Stars
Genre: Manga
Pages: 200
Format: Digital Copy

 

Synopsis:

Boris, one of Hao’s minions impersonating a vampire, begins fighting Ryu but starts monologuing about how his ancestor Vlad Tepes was actually a hero and that his reputation was ruined. Boris reveals that his family was being hunted down and it was due to Hao’s intervention that allowed them Shamanic powers. Thus why he’s loyal to Hao. Boris proceeds to kill all the innocent bystanders to pump up his powers with blood and Lyserg, still under his control, puts a sword to Yoh’s throat so he can’t interfere. To prevent the other Shamans in Yoh’s group from ganging up on him, Boris has Lyserg prepare to cut his own throat if they move against Boris.Through the Power of Friendship, Yoh convinces the ghost controlling Lyserg to simply step aside while the 3 other Shamans (Ryu, Ren and Horohoro) begin the battle against Boris.

We get a flashback to Ryu asking Yoh’s grandfather to train him as a shaman. After passing a test of endurance, Ryu is accepted for training.

The battle with Boris continues in the here and now. Ryu expends all his mana and blows Boris into a mountain. When Yoh goes to question Boris about Hao, a mechanical angel appears and stabs Boris to death. It is actually a spirit ally to a shaman who is part of a group called the X-Laws. The X-Laws are a group of Shamans dedicated to defeating Hao, not even bothering with the Shaman Fight. Their methods are brutal and concise. Hao, and anyone assisting him, must die. Each X-Law has an Angel as a spirit ally, a powerful spirit akin to a god of myth.

Two more of Hao’s minions attempt to stop Yoh’s group and the X-Laws as a diversion while a third makes an attack on them. The X-Laws wipe him off the face of the earth. Yoh steps in to prevent any killing. He directly opposes the leader of the X-Laws, who shoots Yoh’s sword and breaks it. The X-Laws walk away and warn Yoh to never go against them again.

Anna, Manta and others land in a helicopter and are immediately confronted by Hao. Hao wants them to succeed though, as that will mean that Yoh will get immeasurably stronger and hence be of greater assistance to Hao in the end.

Yoh and Co head to an underground cave and find out that only one path will lead them to the Patch Village. All other paths will lead to death. They must use their shaman powers to determine the right path.

 

My Thoughts:

This was a very dramatic volume, but I found the X-Laws to be a bit heavy handed and unintentionally hammy in their attitude. A group of adults who command Arch-Angel level spirits are going to be the disciplined kind of people who don’t fly off the handle, but that is exactly what the leader of the X-Laws does here. I mean, it is on purpose by the manga-ka but it jarred me a bit.

The “fight” with Boris was a bit anti-climactic but it helped showcase just how powerful the X-Laws are.

I think I enjoyed the flashback of Ryu beginning his training the most. For whatever reason, I definitely resonate the most with Ryu.

Overall, this was a decent read but there was no breathless thrills like in previous volumes nor was I tempted to rush right into the next volume.

★★★☆½

 

bookstooge (Custom)