Journey to the West with Shinzo! – Shinzo Series Review

*Major Anime Spoilers

Shinzo or Mushrambo was one of my favorite anime series growing up. Every morning, I would wake up early just to watch it before I went to school. This classic series was produced by Toei Animation and first aired in the west by Fox Kids in 2000 – 2002. It was later re-aired on JETIX in 2002-2008. Shinzo aired for a full two seasons.

Series Recap

Based on Journey to the West, the story follows Yakumo Tatsuro (CV:Yūko Minaguchi; Eng: Peggy O’Neal) who awakens from a 500-year suspended sleep to discover that she is the only human left alive following a huge war. Instead of humans, the world is now filled with Enterrans, a race of genetically engineered earthlings who have been combined with animals. Following a message from her late father, Yakumo sets off with her robot companion, Hakuba (CV: Tsutomu Kashiwakura; Eng: Tom Fahn) to find Shinzo, a sanctuary located far in the west. Along the way, Yakumo is joined by her guardians, Mushra (CV: Minami Takayama; Eng: Tom Gibis), Kutal (CV: Naoki Tatsuta; Eng: Bob Papenbrook) and Sago (CV: Yasuhiko Kawazu; Eng: Steve Blum) who combine together to form the legendary warrior, Mushrambo (CV: Minami Takayama; Eng (Normal Form): Dan Lorge; Eng Gold Form: Steve Blum).
 
At the end of the first season, the heroes face-off against an evil Mushrambo. His defeat causes the creation of a new timeline where the war never happened, leaving Yakumo to continue her journey with Hakuba. In the second season, the main threat comes from Lanancuras (CV: Takeshi Aono; Eng: Tom Wyner), an ex-celestial guardian and his army of Kardian Invaders. Because of the events at the end of the first season, the Human-Enterran War does not happen causing the seal on Lanancuras to start breaking and releasing his Kadrian army. Sensing his awakening, Yakumo assigns Binka (CV: Aya Hisakawa; Eng: Philece Sampler), an orphaned girl she rescued, the task of finding Mushra, Sago and Kutal and bringing them back to Shinzo to combat this threat.
 

Plot & Themes

Okay, so plot-wise, the first season came off better than the second one. The plot was more well-thought out, there was more emphasis on the bonds between all of the main characters and there was solid storytelling in each of the episodes. It was also more fairly well-paced with decent episode numbers per arc. However, the robot kingdom arc  was definitely one of the more rushed and weaker arcs.

Pacing for the second season was also far more rushed. Mostly because it was set in a new timeline where the war didn’t happen and the impeding crisis of Lanancuras’ awakening and the Kardian invasion. Because of this, there wasn’t as much time for world development or focusing on the characters’ relationships which remained strong despite the memory loss.

What I really disliked about the re-aired episodes on Jetix is what happened to the first episode. Since I watched Shinzo on Fox Kids when it aired, I got to watch the original first episode where Yakumo first meets Sago and how she and Mushra tries to get gas for Hakuba from some fly-men. Whether it was because the episode got lost in the transition to Jetix or there was some other reason for it, I was really disappointed when I saw that Jetix had mixed parts of episodes 1, 2 and 4 to replace the episode.

Animation

With regards to the animation,  the backgrounds for the first season are amazing. The landscapes are incredibly bleak and detailed and one could really get the sense of a post-apocalyptic world. The Enterran designs(especially the insect ones) are incredibly well-thought out and one could tell that a lot of work was put into them. Some of the other main villain designs including Ryuma and Gyasa are mighty impressive too.

There are a couple of episodes where there are a couple of animation errors, but there isn’t that many. Additionally,  Lanancuras’ design is fairly disappointing. His design comes off as a standard shonen villain and while it had a creepy, ominous vibe, it is not overly terrifying. Though, bear in mind, Shinzo was catered towards pre-teens (12+).
 

Characters

All of the characters in Shinzo have well-developed personalities and traits. There are not a lot of episodes focusing on the characters’ pasts except for Yakumo, Mushra, Kutal and Mushrambo. But that didn’t take away the joy from the show. Yakumo, in particular, is a fascinating character who developed from a staunch pacifist into a fighter willing to fight for her friends. There are times when her lack of willingness to fight was annoying. However, seeing her growth into a strong individual is very gratifying especially when she finally stood up against Mushrambo.
 
That said, there are some disappointments. One of them is the portrayal of Yakumo’s and Mushrambo’s relationship. In Shinzo, it is implied that Yakumo and Mushrambo are lovers, though the portrayal of their relationship is so subtle that it is barely unnoticeable. While they do have a strong bond of friendship, there is no other sign other than the scene where Yakumo saves Mushrambo with her love. Instead, I found Mushra’s crush on her to be more appealing.
 
I also kind of wished that they creators had done more with some of the minor antagonists like Lanancuras second general, Lunaria. Instead, she only gets one battle and is then killed off. Additionally, because of the episode length of the first series, they didn’t get around to the other three members of the Seven Enterran Generals. The writers instead chose to have Rusephine, the bird queen, kill them off prior to the start of the first series. But the way they wrote it was believable.
 

Music

Both the Japanese and English versions of Shinzo had stellar music. The Japanese opening theme song, “Power Play” by Ayumi Miyazaki is an energetic pop song which really brought a sense of adventure to the show. While the ending theme song, “Enjoy Punk” by Jet´s is a light, cheery rock balled. The orchestral background music has lots of techo-jazz music for the more comedic aspects of the show. While the actions scenes are matched with deep impactful drum and trumpet music.

With the English dub, the opening and ending theme songs are incredibly fun and catchy. The background music for the action sequences are heart-pumping and the Japanese flute music they used when Mushrambo is first summoned is fantastic. The theme truly brought out the heroic and courageous aspects of Mushrambo. Even the mysterious elements of the show were well-presented by the music and made this show a delight to watch.

Summary

Overall, Shinzo was a great show to watch. It had more positives than negatives and I really enjoyed following the characters journeys. I wish this show had been released on DVD, so that I could buy it. It was a treasured memory for me and I hope the viewers who watch it will enjoy it too.

Liked it? Take a second to support phoenixrising88 on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.