We are two episodes into the new installment in the Saiyuki series and good god is my inner fourteen-year-old shrieking. It’s been a long time coming and after years of waiting, we might actually have the Saiyuki anime we deserve.
From the weird colors, filler arcs and mediocre art of Gensoumaden Saiyuki to the anime-only ending of Saiyuki Reload Gunlock, us Saiyuki fans have kind of been getting the shaft. Not only did the only manga publisher for the series go belly up before publishing the final volume of Reload (Here’s glaring at you, Tokyopop), but no other publisher attempted to pick up the manga license! We’ve been waiting for years for some new content. I don’t know about you, but the 2013 Sentai Filmworks release of Saiyuki Gaiden was much appreciated, but not enough for me. (Even if they did get all the original English dub actors from the ADV dub!)
Not only are we (seemingly) back on track, but we have gorgeous sound and art direction. No longer are defeated demons dissolving into strange CG dust. There are blood splatters, there is death and destruction and we finally get to see it first hand, just like in the manga. Chances are, if you’re like me and haven’t been keeping up with the manga, the woman in the opening is a mystery to you.
We are finally seeing the female Sanzo priest. This is her first appearance for us, as she appears in the first volume of the Reload Blast manga.
What also popped out during the opening was the inclusion of their past lives, Konzen, Tenpou, and Kenren.
Not to mention Was Prince Nataku; it’s awfully reminiscent of the Gensoumaden second opening Still Time. If they’re in the opening, that means they have to be relevant somewhere in the story line, and hopefully, they’ll expand more on Goku’s past, his brief friendship with the War Prince and the Heavenly Army.
I didn’t realize that the anime had started last week, so this will be a review of the first two episodes. The boys are back, two years into their journey and finally, have made it to Western Shangri La. Everything is different and foreign to them. I’m not going to sugarcoat things, the first and second episodes are essentially like the start of every Saiyuki series. The boys stumble upon two human traders getting attacked. Demon horde humdrum, but they’re so far West that they aren’t recognized as the Sanzo party. They’re dressed in rags, hungry and filthy, but they still manage to save the two men from their apparent demise. Villain-a-day humdrum as usual. The Minus Wave’s effects are amplified the closer they get to Houtou Castle. It’s here, during the fight, you really get to see the improved animation.
But here’s what gave me hope: a glimpse at the new duo of possible baddies. Talchie and her partner, Saitaisai.
Talchie speaks of a prophecy – one that involves a brief and blurry image Sanzo’s arm and crown on the ground, covered in blood. Her friend asks her if it’s a prophecy, but she says it’s merely providence. Unlike other series, I feel like the inclusion of these two characters in the first episode is giving the watchers a promise to not waste all of our time.
The second episode is beautiful, but more of the same villain-a-day, demon horde humdrum. But I’m still hopeful; we get to see the boys of Houtou Castle, Dokugakuji and Kougaiji. They get some interesting news from Lady Gyokumen Koushu regarding Nii Jianyi. No signs of Yaone or Lirin yet.
With every Saiyuki series, there is some level of comedy; there has to be or else this series would be a long, charmless, murder march from China to India. That being said, I’m really hoping that Talchie, Saitaisai, Kou and Doku presenting themselves in the first two episodes really makes the whole Journey-West-to-stop-the-revival-of-Gyumaoh plot pop up soon.
Also returning are the comedic shorts at the end of every episode – Saiyuki Urasai. They are usually hilarious and always worth watching!
So far, the series gets a solid 8/10 from me; it’s not perfect, but damn is it pretty. You can catch the simulcast of Saiyuki Reload Blast every Wednesday at 11 AM (EST) on Crunchyroll and VRV! The SimulDub will premiere on July 24th and be broadcast every Monday at 4 PM (EST) on FunimationNow!