Genre: Action / Fantasy / Shounen
Parental Guidance Recommended
2000 Kazuya Minekura (mangaka), Enix, Saiyuki Project, TV Tokyo
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Minekura Kazuya's series opens when the balance in Togenkyo is shattered as demons, which once coexisted peacefully with humans, start turning mad and begin slaughtering them. The cause? Someone is trying to revive the might demon Gymao in the west and bring back his reign of chaos and demonic control. Enter Genjo Sanzo and his companions Cho Hakkai, Sha Gojyo and Son Goku who are tasked by the gods to... basically save the world. Aren't they always?
Saiyuki keeps me glued to my seat >>> by tsumenki
True, the opening and ending themes set these guys up as eye candy -- think shirtless men in chains and under the rain. But there's much more to them underneath the surface (although admittedly, the surface ain't too bad at all). Genjo Sanzo, a highly ranked monk who holds one of Buddhism's sacred scrolls, is the leader of this motley crew. Apparently, in the live action TV series, he needed more rescuing than your usual damsel in distress. But the anime's Sanzo is no coward. He carries with him a spirit-ascending gun -- think exorcism with a revolver. He's rude, he's menacing, and he gambles. Makes me wonder how he even became a monk in the first place, until he proudly admits that he follows his former master and not the precepts of Buddhism. And you should check out what he wears under his robes. He places the mmm in monk.
Travelling with Sanzo are three demons, all with their personal reasons for undertaking this quest. Son Goku is the monkey king that Sanzo once rescued from his rock prison -- a mischievous and energetic boy with such magnificent powers that he needs a gold band from the gods to keep them at bay. Then there's the half-demon Sha Gojyo, a long-haired and loud-mouthed self-styled ladies' man. Tough on the outside and soft on the inside, he wields a mighty spear with a chained weight attached to it. Finally, there's the mild-mannered Cho Hakkai, distinguishable by the broken spectacles he wears. He carries a weird dragon who turns (only) into a jeep -- if I were travelling God knows how many miles to save the world, I think I'd prefer something more James Bond-ish. But underneath Hakkai's pleasant demeanor lies a dark past, and among them, he's the one who definitely holds my attention.
Art & Animation
One thing I should mention about the series is the art. On some levels, it's fine, but the anime makes use of different styles (which I presume is supposed to make things interesting) that sometimes comes off as distracting. They're fine for dramatic scenes once in a while, but not in every episode of what promises to be an action-packed anime. You'll know what I mean once you've seen it. It comes and it goes so if you're not very particular, it shouldn't be a problem. By Episode 7, the confrontation and action scenes have a smoother flow to them.
Saiyuki appears to be set in some ancient-slash-fantastic world but it still has very modern elements. One: Gyumao is being revived by a mixture of magic and technology. Two: the army jeep rattling across forests and deserts. Three: the monk with J-pop clothes and a gun. And thus far I've only seen eight episodes. The mix in these elements brings pleasant surprises.
Maybe the fact that I have to wait 24 hours before I see the next episode is what keeps me from fully appreciating what this series has to offer. But don't get me wrong -- Saiyuki keeps me glued to my seat, with enough twists and mysteries to keep me looking forward to what comes next.
Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 4; Characters 9; Sounds 8