Saiyuki Vol. #03 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Thursday, August 26, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, July 13, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Minekura Kazuya
Translated by:Alethea & Athena Nibley
Adapted by:

What They Say
JOURNEY TO THE MAX
Sanzo is down and possibly out for the count as he tries to protect Goku from an old-friend-turned-foe. In the melee, Goku's Youkai power limiter - the device that keeps his Youkai madness from taking over his body and soul - shatters, sending Goku into a violent rampage! Is there nothing on Earth that will bring this ancient warrior back to his senses?!

The Review
Packaging:
Packaged in a tall B6 (which is a little smaller than Issaisha's tankoubon size) TOKYOPOP uses the cover art that was presented by Issaisha back in 2002 on a matted finish. It's a wrap-around image that presents Sha Gojyo with his back toward the reader as he glances back with his trademark cig in is lips. The logo is to his right covering the flowers that are in the background. The art continues over the spine and onto the back where the other three main characters pose with their weapons. The volume description is on the inside flap, which I really appreciate as I would much rather see Minekura's art without obstructions.

Logo Check: The original logo is left in tact with ruby translation above the kanji for "sai". As good as retouched logos are getting nothing beats the original (well, maybe 85% of the time), so I would love to see TOKYOPOP continue using this technique.

The printing looks pretty good (tone looks good, maybe a tad dark but nothing to worry about as the screen tone does not seem to blend to black very often) and while the alignment might be a little tight everything looked good.

Inside the cover is the blurb for this volume and then 4 glossy colored pages! This volume two full color images (one of them a two page spread) with all four main characters. Very nice! At the end of the GN TOKYOPOP has placed a short side story [B]Calling...[/B], a short description of the next volume and a few ads: Princess Ai, Paradise Kiss, Rave Master, Suikoden III, the Demon Ororon and Dragon Knights. Finally, inside the back cover is a little blurb from the mangaka with an SD self-portrait.

Artwork:
Not really a big fan of Minekura's art. Jaw-lines are a little too long for me. Eyes and mouths are drawn erratically (sometimes it works with the comedy sometimes it can be a little distracting.) Characters tend to be on the long side - leggy and lanky with long necks. Costumes are very nice though and I like the mix of modern looks and accessories with traditional wardrobes. The women in here are busty but look just like the guys so I completely disappointed in the character designs. Similar to Nightow's (Trigun) works these designs look a lot better in close-ups where lines don't look as sloppy and characters not as silly. Backgrounds are pretty nice when used. I like the architecture and the scenic backgrounds used on the way to the highlands of central Asia. The lay out is pretty complex. At times I would get a little lost but in general the layout kept the pace steady and presented some nice perspective.

SFX/Text:
SFX are TRANSLATED!!! Yes, all of them.... in a glossary. I cannot say how pleased I am to see this done. While I know some people will not be happy about it, with the art of this series it's a good compromise. I would much rather have the SFX untouched and see Minekura's art than have to worry about a poor re-touch or subs covering the nice art.

Not having read Saiyuki raw I am not 100% sure about the translation but it sounds good. There were a few moments that felt a little awkward but with 4 guys in a jeep, each one with their own vice, one can expect them to have a little attitude. Honorifics are used quite often, and Sanzo is often referred to as "Priest Sanzo." Did not notice any major spelling or grammar issues.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Meeting an old friend has brought tragedy and chaos to Team Sanzo. Beliefs towards Youkai are questioned and eventually it is Sanzo himself that is punished throwing the entire group into a state of confusion. Whether it is Sanzo's friend who just maimed the priest, or playful and eternally hungry Son Goku, emotions are growing out of control over the gun-slinging priest. As tempers flare up one of these laid back aloof characters loses control and threatens the lives of everyone present.

Son Goku may appear to be the smallest and most likely the weakest of the Sanzo team, but what his friends do not know is that he is something that can only be contained on a heavenly level. Such is his power, that only a few divine beings can put that little monkey under wraps. His loneliness is what drives his fury, so once he is under control there is no doubting how much he cares for his comrades and how much he relies on them for confidence and strength. As a man, Goku will have to learn how to do that for himself someday. He cannot always rely on others to keep him in check, just as he cannot expect to have his friends there for the rest of his life. There will be a time when he will have to grow up and fight for himself, to protect himself and at times to protect others. That time might be sooner than he wished, but who knows he might surprise people when it happens.

When together the Sanzo team defines the concept of "all for one and one for all" perfectly. They fight as individuals to defend themselves first, because they have to care for themselves if they are to care for others. They also are there to support each other if the moment dictates. The way they go about helping each other may not be normal, however the camaraderie within this group of misfits is as powerful as it is unique (that really says a lot). So when adversity comes up again, as it has to, there is no love lost when they fight their own battles. They each respect the wills they each have as individuals; moreover they wish each other success against their struggles. Heck, they might even support their enemies if they mutually are not in a fighting mood. Such is life when it is threatened and you are on roadtrip to save the world.

Comments
After going through Sanzo, Gojyo, and Hakkai with individual stories, the focus shifts to Goku and his relationship with Sanzo. It is a unique relationship that on surface resembles that of a parasite and its host, but is very profound and cherished by both. The story of Son Goku and Genjyo Sanzo is the basis of many tales in eastern Asia. Goku, a stone monkey, was known as a powerful warrior born from a stone at the top of Mt. Kaka. He learned magic from a turtle hermit and is known for being wise and brave (Minekura's Goku is more practical than wise, but he definitely not a fool). According to legend, he was imprisoned in a stone cage for throwing a tantrum before the King of Heaven. After years of incarceration a young priest, Genjyo Sanzo, found the monkey and releases him from captivity. To repay the priest the monkey joined the priest for the rest of his journeys. Minekura does not go into detail about Goku's background. She explains his power and the first meeting between Goku and Sanzo. What she does

with Goku when his friend is in need is quite powerful. And the way Goku ends up learning about his role in this friendship is very touching and almost inspiring. There is a lot of time for growth for this young warrior, but what he has learned here will influence his friends as well as himself.
What Minekura does with Sanzo is also rather poignant. The fact that he could accept going into battle with someone who was once close to him shows responsibility to his mission and to himself. He could have waited and risked his friends getting caught up in the violence. Instead, he took on the challenge, as difficult as it was, and faced it aware that he will always have the memories of a better time and that nothing will be able to take them away.

Boys will be boys and Minekura gives us one of her boys and starts him on his path to adulthood (relatively speaking, since Goku is much older than he looks). Like they do with Sanzo, the gang tends to reflect the mood of the young guy, so when he is active and cheerful the rest follow suit, but when Goku is defensive, so are his comrades. In Goku she has created the catalyst for her gang, expressing many of the qualities of his friends but with much less restraint on his emotions. Goku is much more a free spirit than his friends - always hungry, genki (cheerful) and ready for a fight - jokes tend to start with him and often end with him and it always seems to work well that way. With Minekura setting her roles Saiyuki appears to be going into a slightly new direction. The focus remains stopping the Ox Kings resurrection, but there are forces out there that they do not know hunting them down. With Sanzo the fight was difficult, but easy to accept. That may not be the case as they continue going west. And as they move along, Minekura's fun take on this old story keeps me coming back to see how her boys mature as individuals and become stronger as friends.

Very Good



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 204
ISBN: 1-59182-653-5
Size: Tall B6
Orientation: Right to Left