Saiyuki Vol. #02 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Art Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 204
  • ISBN: 1-59182-652-7
  • Size: Tall B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Saiyuki Vol. #02

By Eduardo M. Chavez     July 14, 2004
Release Date: May 01, 2004

Saiyuki Vol.#02

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

What They Say
Continuing their journey west and leaving a trail of dead Youkai in their wake, Genjyo Sanzo and company come upon a young woman who has quite a tale to tell. She recounts the story of her long lost lover, a Youkai who succumbed to the madness. In spite of it all, she continues to wait faithfully for his return.

The Review
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 Son Goku with bo in hands. 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 as they smoke. The blurb is on the inside flap, which I really appreciate, because this cover is great.

Logo Check!! (©2003 Megs)... 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 few ads (D.N.Angel, Cresent Moon, GetBackers and Samurai Deeper Kyo) and finally, inside the back cover is a little blurb from the mangaka with an SD self-portrait.

Not really a big fan of Minekura's art here. 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.

Saiyuki is presented in a tall B6 right to left. SFX are TRANSLATED!!! Yes, all of them.... in a glossary. I cannot say how pleased I am to see this there. While I know some people will not be happy about it, but with the art of this series it's a good compromise.

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.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Team Sanzo has been on t he move for a while now. Passing valleys, crossing rivers and scaling mountains this unique group - three Youkai and one human - still have a long way to go before completing their journey.

Occasionally even the gods have had to take rests before. So when the rain slows down their journey, the gang takes refuge at a local's home. The scene in this area is all to familiar to Sanzo. Youkai have killed numerous people, and families are often left appearing at least on member short at first glance. Today they have been invited to stay at the home of a young lady who happens to be waiting for her lover... a Youkai. Youkai and human relationships have long been considered taboo and in a region like this where recently Youkai have been on a rampage, people think twice about who they take in to their homes. That was not the feeling a few years ago, though. A young lady named Shunrei and a Youkai named Jien had everyone blessing their union. These two worked hard together to help their village grow and most people in this region began to accept Youkai more.

Shunrei still waits. She waits for Jien even though he left filled with rage and madness. Now fate has her with someone who may be Jien's brother - Sha Gojyo. Gojyo in some ways is pretty similar to Jien, but as we all know by know Gojyo is half human. His human appearance can give him access to more humans, but he could have easily had mad soul. Yet here he is, part Youkai and he has no intention of harming humans and is actually even trying to assist Shunrei with her problems. But this is not enough. Instead Gojyo's words had her believing that he would come back someday and when word came of a silver haired Youkai was in the area Shunrei was off. Whether or not this Youaki was Jien or some violent impostor, Shunrei could care less. She wanted to find out for herself as she knew Jien would not harm her. Unfortunately for her Jien was not there and these Youkai were not going to let her escape. This is how Youkai are these days and even with Gojyo's threats these Youkai were not leaving without Shunrei... And after a little "discussion" Goyjo made sure they would not leave by showing his Youkai side. As human as he is, a Youkai is a Youkai it is up to him/her to follow their own path for life.

That theme continues within the Kougaiji team. Having heard of Sanzo's advances Kougaiji has gone off to prevent Team Sanzo from ruining plans set up to resurrect his father, Gyumaoh. Following Kougaiji is an interesting group of associates that would do anything to please this powerful Youkai. So when plans to have a his pharmacist subordinate fail, he is able to accept the situation without much disappointment. All that matters is the safety of those around him. That is the path he chose and if that means killing the Sanzo team so be it. But that will have to wait for another time.

Where setting up the story and Sanzo was the focus of volume one, volume two starts to give readers some looks into some of the other characters along with some history. Genjyo and Hakkai show some of their personalities by their interactions with supporting characters. It is an interesting technique as writers quite often use close relationships to share moments like this, but Minekura uses new faces to bring out touching moments for rowdy or aloof characters. And with chapter focused on the motivations for those they will be facing off against, Minekura gives readers some perspective from both sides. There really may not be many differences between these to factions but those personalities is really what is keeping this title so interesting. These characters can fall into stereotypes but with the roles they play in this title one would not expect too much from either side yet there they are with friendships that possibly mean more to them than their missions. And besides seeing misfits do good unconditionally is always entertaining.

This story has been told quite a few times in Japan but Minekura keeps it fresh by working on the entire cast he has available. Giving most of his characters a little page time helps readers define relationships and motivations. There will always be questions to solve, but, like his characters, Minekura often deals with such things when the time comes. Why over-direct something that is already good, right. All of this makes for an enjoyable interpretation of a fun story full of action, comedy and great characters.

If there is anything that does turn me off is the art. I just cannot get into Minekura's designs. This should not be a deal breaker, but it did make me take my time reading this GN (which was disappointing as the writing was pretty good).

As Saiyuki progresses I have to say I continue to be impressed by how fun this title is. With Minekura mixing in modern concepts with this old story (similar to techniques used by Tezuka) there are always laughs and a few surprises. And with this cast that humorous feel is almost always kept up with their own interactions. There rarely is a time when the pacing slows down, nor does the mood ever get very dark (even at the most serious of moments). Good stuff and with a wonderful presentation from TOKYOPOP this is one title that could enjoyed by a broad audience.


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