Manga-ka: Kazuya Minekura
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: June 2008
Synopsis: “Sanzo has gone one way, and the rest of the party another, until they end up on opposite sides of a small mountain. The tension between the peaceful town of Youkai and the humans guarding the oasis as come to a head, and when things boil over, it’s anyone’s guess whose side the gang will join!”
As a slightly refreshing change of pace, Sanzo and the rest of his party have gone in two different directions. Together with the bishop Hazel and his large bodyguard, Sanzo finds himself in a well-fortified town that guards a large oasis, the only source of water in the desert area. On the other side of the mountain surrounding the town, are the other four three: Goku, Gojyo and Hakkai, who ended up in a calm village of Youkai who are soon doomed to perish from thirst. Needless to say, this is going to cause some problems.
The last few volumes of Saiyuki Reload have been some of my favourite parts of the series, even including the beginning of the prequel series, Saiyuki. The introduction of the jovial, but powerful and self-righteous, Hazel gave the series a well needed kick in the right direction (also known as the direction that doesn’t just focus on the same four people fighting the same faceless people for 20+ volumes). I feel some of that charm has begun to fade here in volume eight but none the less several different elements step up to keep things lively.
Of course the separation of Sanzo from his party was a nice change for a while, even if it didn’t really affect the plot much. I enjoyed the interactions between Sanzo, Hazel and the bodyguard, especially some changes which begin exposing Hazel’s more insecure and vulnerable sides which leaves me really curious to see how it affects his future acquaintanceship with Sanzo and co.
Back in the Youkai village, Goku befriends a spirited young girl (making specific note that he’s actually dealing with a female for the first time) and I thought some of their interactions were really cute, plus thought-provoking, even if it is the same recycled issues regarding Youkai acceptance in a human-world. And of course, never a series that holds still too long, chaos soon erupts between the two towns with the main cast doing their best to avoid being caught in the middle. While they may escape physically, emotionally it’s another story.
Kazuya Minekura’s artwork is still really nice, dark and stylized. While I appreciate it more as a whole in her present-day series, such as Wild Adapter, it still works pretty well here in a fantasy world of demons and gods. As usual Tokyopop has included lots of eye-catching, full-colour images so those are always a bonus to look forward to.
So another volume later and things are still managing to be pretty entertaining. The mere mention in this volume that reminded me they’re still heading West is a tad cringe-worthy, but some new characters, different situations and foreshadowing for some dark events looming around the corner continue to make Saiyuki Reload a good read overall.