Having been assigned by the human elders the mission of stopping a mystical plague that has afflicted the Youkai with madness, Genjyo Sanzo assembles his team of Youkai warriors, desperately hoping that the disease will not affect them. He sets up qualifying tests that will help him determine the loyalty and worth of Cho Hakkai, Son Goku and Sha Gojyo. The team then journeys west to rid the land of madness.
To me, Minekura-sama is a god. Her work is beautifully drawn, with deep, intricately real characters, strong page-turning storylines and laugh-out-loud one-liners. A recipe for perfection if ever I saw one. And Saiyuki may well be her best manga so far.
Story: Intense, fast-paced and moving. High-tension battle scenes are perfectly balanced with calm character-interaction moments, and every now and then there's a flashback. Now Minekura-sama can't take full credit for the story, as it's based (quite closely, apparently) on the Chinese "Xiyouji" legend, so it's not like she came up with it. However, since my favourite arc is the "Be There" arc, which is fully
Minekura-sama's invention, I think I can award her high marks here ^^
Art: Ah, the art. You only need to look at the cover of volume one to know that you're dealing with an exceptional artist. The only reason I gave it a 9 rather than a 10 for art is that it takes Minekura-sama a while to get into her stride. In the first volume, the art is - well - kind of rubbish. But DO NOT BE PUT OFF BY IT!!! By the time you hit volume 4, all the "Oh gods, what's with his bendy neck?" moments are gone, and by the end of volume 9 it's as though you're looking at a different manga. Each frame is worthy of a front cover. Magnificent ^^ Just stick with it!
Character: The cast of characters in Saiyuki are some of the most loveable characters I've ever come across. A gun-toting priest, a food-obsessed monkey, a lecherous half-demon and a kind human-turned-youkai. Each of them has a dark tragedy in their past that makes them who they are, and so each character has several layers to their personality, making them extremely believeable and real. Luckily, though, Minekura-sama decided not to make Hakkai a pig, as in the original Xiyouji legend xD He is faar improved as a gorgeous bishonen ^^
[sorry, I keep using ^^, it's a bit of a habit xD moving on!]
Enjoyment: The most enjoyable series I have had the pleasure to read. As I said, the art is wonderful (once you get past the first few volumes), the story is thrilling and the characters are loveable. A better bunch of bishonen you couldn't find anywhere. And it's the brilliant one-liners that make you scream with laughter (well, maybe that's just me xD). Oh and the translators deserve a mention: the Nibley sisters (?) have done the best translating job I've ever seen! And, of course, there's the shonen-ai. Now for those who are uncomfortable with shonen-ai, don't worry - there is nothing explicit, it is all just little phrases and glances that *can* be interpreted in that way, but you can read the entire series just thinking they're all just good friends. Me, I love shonen-ai, and seeing all the subtext just made the series stick in my mind that much more, and is one of the reasons I keep going back to re-read and re-read.
Overall: Fantastic! Amazing! Superb! Unrivalled! I honestly can't recommend this series highly enough. Whether you're interested in comedy, drama, character analysis, beautiful art, shonen-ai, comeraderie, action; it's all here! Saiyuki is the full and ultimate manga package and anyone and everyone should at least give it a try. Go and read it now!! Right now!!
Firstly - I know I would be a little suspicious of a perfect 10 review, but this manga deserves it whole-heartedly (you'll probably be able to tell my enthusiasm by my excessive use of punctuation!!!). Anyway, on with the review:
There are only so many ways you can say, "AMAZING!!!" or "AWESOME!!!" but I'll try my best XD. Saiyuki is, as the synopsis probably told you, based on the ancient legend, though Minekura-sama added some little twists that probably weren't in the original - take Hakuryuu for example, who can transform into a jeep. However, despite the fact that the core storyline - simply: 'go to
the west' - is potentially dull and colourless, Saiyuki manages to lighten it all up with brilliant backstories and detours.
Maybe at this point I should warn some of you: if you don't like mangas that never seem to reach their ultimate goal, or constantly dive into flashbacks, or are continually travelling sideways, this is probably not the best manga for you, as most of the story arcs are either flashbacks or detours. That said though, the story always manages to go somewhere and seem completely satisfying, even if - at the end of each arc - nothing has really changed.
In the end, the storyline is very character-driven, and this may be why it is an awesome story, as the characters are so well developed and so real (though this should be in the 'character' section, argh!!! =_="). And it still contains some big revelations and 'gasp' moments. It's a constant page turner - if you can tear your eyes away from her amazing artwork long enough to turn the page XD.
Oh my goodness.
There's not much to say here other than that.
OH MY GOODNESS.
How on earth can one person draw that well?!? It's so unfair for all the rest of us... *despairs*. Anyway, moment of self-pity over, let's actually get past the 'Oh my goodness' point.
Firstly, if you've only read the first couple of volumes, you might be thinking: 'What is she on about? The art style isn't that good!' but - as with all manga-kas - it takes a while for Minekura-sama to settle into drawing the characters. Give it nine volumes and by the end you'll be in complete awe.
Minekura-sama has a very distinctive style, based on a high degree of detail especially in the facial features, clothes and hair. At first it might be a little difficult to adapt to her style as it isn't clean-cut like many others, rather being very anatomically correct and, in places, slightly grotesque: none of her characters are drawn with symmetrical faces, unlike in other mangas, and when she draws hands she will draw every joint and bone. But maybe it is this slight grotesqueness that gives her art its very real beauty.
And oh my goodness it is beautiful! ^_^ Not only are the main characters all jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but the side characters are drawn with just as much care and attention to detail. Even background characters receive the same treatment - though she sometimes 'forgets' to give them eyes, replacing them with handy shadows that are easier to draw XD. And she draws inanimate objects amazingly well too - I for one would never be able to draw a gun that well! AND her backgrounds are beautiful as well. Gah!!! Is there nothing she cannot do?!?
So forgive her for being inconsistant - please! She makes up for it with everything else. In fact, it is difficult to truly capture how beautiful Minekura-sama's work is with mere words, and I don't really think I'm doing that great a job, but if you're still at a loss, look at the picture at the top left hand side of the page. Then you'll start to get it. ^_^ As they always say, a picture is worth a thousand words!
Again, this is another 'OH MY GOODNESS!' moment.
First off, let's make this clear, this isn't your 'normal' Sanzo-ikkou. I mean, it's supposed to contain a priest, a monkey, a kappa and a pig, right?
Minekura-sama - conveniently forgetting the fundamental details of the legend she's adapting - rewrites a whole new party. Sure, Sanzo is a priest, but I doubt in the original legend he smoked, drank, carried a gun, killed youkai mercilessly and took potshots at Gojyo (he uses the rather less fatal paper fan to punish Goku XD)! And yes, Goku is referred to as a monkey, though he somewhat lacks a tail XD. Instead he has gained a huge stomach, a loud whine and a very innocent child-like demeanour. And although Gojyo is - like Goku - called a kappa, he can't even swim - making him a rather bad water sprite at best. Minekura-sama's Gojyo is a pervert, a playboy and a womaniser who specialises in witty one-liners and smokes like a chimney 'with a burning lust for cancer'. Finally, Hakkai has undergone the most change. A pig? No. Rather: a tragic, full of remorse sinner who hides his troublesome past behind a benign smile and a slight laugh and is constantly having to apologise for the rest of the group's behaviour.
Slightly different, huh?
But all of the characters - no matter how unexpected and crude their behaviour might seem - are so loveable that it's almost impossible to choose a favourite between them. Delving deep into their pasts and emotions, Minekura-sama reveals the very real people behind the pictures. It's difficult for any manga to beat Saiyuki for the sheer depth and development of character - and what's more, it keeps on going in Reload!
Well, what more is there to say? The enjoyment level of Saiyuki is huge. And I mean HUGE in the largest size font you can get!
Firstly, there's the reading - which is AWESOME!!!
Secondly, there's the re-reading - Saiyuki has an extremely high re-read value: once I finished the series I just picked up volume 1 again and read all the way through once more! ^_^
Thirdly, there's all the subtext - yes, fans of shounen ai will not be disappointed by this one, though Minekura-sama never makes it blatantly obvious and I'm sure that some people could read it through thinking: 'What? Where's the subtext in this?'
And finally, there's just this great sense that you get that you're actually friends with the Saiyuki gang (though maybe this is just me... T_T).
There's nothing more to say than: READ IT!!! PLEASE!!! ^_^
A generic Journey to the West themed manga that at once tries to rope in the action crowd and the creepy yaoi girls (metrosexual effeminate characters frequently in bondage clothes, homoerotic undertones galore, etc). Pander to one crowd or the other; once there's overlap, both groups are gonna be bored and offput.
Quite possibly not only the best manga I have ever read, but the best story I've ever read.
Saiyuki is incomparable when it comes to character development, the manga gives you frequent glimpses into all the characters (incredibly sad) pasts, how they all met each other and by the end of the series you feel just like your watching a group of friends you know the characters so well.
The story is very entertaining, however while the description talks about the group heading west ,Saiyuki is definately a lot more focused on the journey, this series is already 8 volumes into the second series and showing
no signs of them reaching their destination. But you know what? Thats great as it means this fantastic work will keep on going for longer.
READ IT. You will definately not regret it. One of the few mangas that truly deserves a perfect score.