Shonen anime titles have led the charge in terms of anime popularity, be it in the ’90s when the medium first really took off in the West, the early and mid-2000s or the more recent “renaissance” in the 2010s. This has seen several properties rise to prominence, but just as many have fallen by the wayside. One such unlucky and overlooked series was Shinzo.
Known as Mushrambo in Japan, this series was somewhat unusual for its “genre” in that it was an anime first, with the manga coming afterward. Sadly, said anime would be cut short due to its ratings, thanks in part to another infamous shonen series that was itself incredibly beleaguered. Here’s a look back at this forgotten series that works incredibly well as an introductory shonen anime.
What Was Shinzo, the Early 2000s Fox Kids Adventure Anime?
The story of Shinzo involves a genetically-engineered race known as the Enterrans who attempt to take over Earth. Renaming the planet Enterra, the invaders’ presence marks the end of humanity’s dominance. Awakening in the series’ beginning is Yakumo Tatsuro, the show’s female protagonist and the last normal human on the planet. Despite her walking a path for peace, she is the ultimate threat to the maniacal Lanancuras, the progenitor of both the Enterrans and the cause of the virus that wiped out most of humanity. Yakumo is soon joined by Enterrans named Mushra, Sago and Kutal, all of whom wish to use their power to aid Yakumo and defeat Lanancuras’ forces. To do so, they search for the lost sanctuary known as Shinzo, which holds the key to restoring humanity.
Fitting for a shonen series, the characters in Shinzo have various forms and attacks that they can draw upon, including Mushra’s mighty Celestial form. The series is loosely based on the Chinese mythological tale Journey to the West — a trait that it shares with the iconic Dragon Ball. Mushra is even slightly based on Sun Wukong, giving him some not-so-surprising similarities to Dragon Ball‘s protagonist Goku. Given the shared “legacy” with one of the most popular anime franchises of all time, not to mention a good formula as a standard shonen series, it’s somewhat shocking that Shinzo ended up performing so poorly.
Poor Ratings and Hunter x Hunter Killed Shinzo
Shinzo initially aired in an ABC Family programming block, where it was abruptly canceled halfway through its run. It aired at a somewhat awkward time in the West, resulting in less-than-stellar ratings. In some regions where it aired, these ratings were made worse by the show competing with the incredibly popular Hunter x Hunter anime. That franchise is still incredibly well-known and highly regarded, whereas Shinzo is barely remembered by all but the most ardent of anime fans.
Part of its lack of popularity may have been its somewhat generic nature, especially in the visuals department. Even when the series came out in 2000, its animation was largely serviceable at best. Given that it wouldn’t come to the West for a few years afterward, it already looked quite dated compared to some of the more contemporary anime of the time. When the show’s second set of episodes finally aired in the West in 2005, the series suddenly had to fend off the likes of hype machines such as One Piece and Naruto.
This poor performance saw the show canceled, and Shinzo only ever received 32 episodes. That number is pretty low for a shonen series, especially one that seemed to have a lot of things going for it. After all, the show’s somewhat standard nature would have at least made it a fairly palatable series for general audiences, especially those in the West just getting into anime. There would also be a short-lived manga adaptation that told a rather different story from the anime, with the ending showing Mushra and Yakumo getting married and having a child. Sadly, neither this nor the anime are currently widely available, making Shinzo a rather difficult series to go back and watch for those who grew up with it.