The fearsome foursome continue their journey west towards Shangri-La, encountering new challenges and new adventures along the way. Their legend precedes them, but not always in the way one might expect. The Minus Wave that apparently drove all the youkai in the land mad looks like it might have missed one, as Sanzou, Gojou, Hakkai and Gokuu meet a lone guardian and the band of children he cares for. Fear and misunderstanding run throughout this particular leg of the journey, including between the members of the Sanzou group!
Saiyuuki Reload had nine volumes published in English by Tokyopop from August 9, 2005 to January 6, 2009, before the publisher became defunct. The final volume was published by Singaporean based publisher Chuang Yi in October 2010.
Haven't had enough badassery lately? Need some more mullets in your life? Curious to know if our ragtag group will ever reach their destination? Fear not because Saiyuki is here again - and it's time to Reload.
For those not familiar with Gensomaden Saiyuki series by Minekura Kazuya, I'd warmly recommend to go back and start from the beginning. I'd also suggest to read Saiyuki Gaiden before moving on to Reload because it will give the reader a better understanding of the bigger picture as the story progresses. And now boys and girls, are you ready to fasten your seat belts?
*This is a spoiler free review*
moving from GFantasy to josei magazine Zero Sum marked the end of the first Saiyuki series and birthed Saiyuki Reload, which picks the story up a little after the events of Kami-sama arc. We now have a vague idea of what we are up against and how the chains have been jerked behind the scenes but there's still a bunch of unanswered questions left. If you felt that the prequel progressed nowhere and only generated more loose ends, you're in for a positive ride since Reload sets out to resolve unfinished matters.
I've already talked about my love for the first Saiyuki series and things I enjoyed the most are present here in Reload too. We still have our favorite villainous heroes, heroic villains, lots of ass-kicking and witty dialogue. While Reload starts in the same beat as the prequel - an episodic action romp - the focus eventually shifts to the main story and then we accelerate. The story becomes more solid and more serious in tone. We still have flashbacks, angst and dwelling on personal problems but compared to prequel less so. The first arcs show us how the world have changed since the beginning of the journey and distrust and hate grow to be a recurring theme throughout the story.
Character development has never been a strong point in Saiyuki, if arguably existent at all, but Reload tries to make up for it with giving our characters treatment that makes us understand them and their motives better. Sanzo still doesn't give a crap, Goku is a childish teenager struggling to become an adult, Gojyo is a lustful but good-hearted jerk and Hakkai is a team mom with deceiving smile and biting remarks, but we get to see character dynamics disrupt in new ways when new players appear and revelations of what's really in the play in here are done. If the first series explored how our characters came to be who they are today, Reload also makes them to think who they might be tomorrow. I especially enjoy Sanzo's story line which shows that he is actually able to grow as a character and has done so in the past too.
While Reload is an upgrade to the prequel, there's also some problems. The start is slow and seems to lack direction and Minekura-Sensei's battle against serious health problems shows in uneven quality of the story and art. While her art becomes more refined, the composition I've always admired in the first series doesn't appear as beautiful in here and both the story flow and character designs are broken from time to time. Towards the end we get some unfinished, sketchy panels and even whole chapters, which is regrettable but at the same time commendable because we can see how hard Minekura-Sensei has wanted to not let her readers down even when seriously ill.
Reload continues to ride the already familiar path but compared to the prequel there's more action, less bickering and less overwhelming drama.The only reason why I'm rating the prequel higher than this is the fact that the first series is my pet bias (I love love love Kami-sama arc) even if Reload actually is an upgrade in many ways. At the end of Reload we have come to a full circle and managed to tie lose ends in a satisfying way while waiting for what's to come next. I think the ending is awesome for many reasons but what they are is for the reader to find out themselves!
Saiyuki is a gradually escalating manga series. Realod is a sequel that steps up and raises the quality of the story by finally getting to the point. The scale becomes larger, the action more high-speed and motives behind certain characters are finally revealed. Are you ready to seek out TRUE DARKNESS?