Saiyuki Reload (Vol. 09) – Kazuya Minekura
Published by Tokyopop
I almost forgot Saiyuki Reload existed until the newest volume stared at me from the store shelve. It’s a shame the wait between volumes is so long but at least they’re still coming. Fortunately for all my interests in this series, this ninth volume delivered in spades.
In this book the highly foreshadowed darkly-dressed Sanzo, Ukoku, returns to take centre stage as he confronts Sanzo and Hazel. Unfortunately the two are mere child’s play in comparison to the dark Priest’s ability so the showdown quickly goes from confrontational to a dramatic game of life or death, with Ukoku’s unknown motivations pulling the strings.
A good portion of the book goes into the back-story of Hazel who we learn has connections to Ukoku from his childhood. It was a great chapter for building up this character who’s managed to remain a bit of an enigma, and now stripped to his most vulnerable, it’s impossible not to feel for him. As if I didn’t already like Hazel enough before, this book cinched it with nearly gut-wrenching suspense for the next volume.
An unrelated short story at the end of the book certainly has its humorous moments, and though I appreciate the attempt to balance out the books grimmer plots, it was a little annoying being pulled away from the main timeline when it’s just taken such a white-knuckled turn.