Another new year, another new anime series! If there's any worry that MVM may suffer greatly from the end of their deal with FUNimation, then titles like this should dispel it!
Saiyuki Reload has been a massive hit in manga form for
Tokyopop and if this volume is anything to go by, the anime should be too.
Saiyuki Reload is the follow up to the popular Saiyuki, a cool spin on
the ancient Chinese legend A Journey to the West in which a monk and his
followers journey to India to prevent the resurrecting of the demon king Gyumaoh
and recover ancient Buddhist scriptures. In Saiyuki the pious monk
Genjyo Sanzo is reimagined as a chain-smoking, gun-toting, short tempered pretty
boy, whilst his companions Sha Gojyo, Cho Hakkai and Son Goku also receive the
same treatment. They travel in a jeep too. In the world of
Saiyuki science and magic exist side by side and demons co-exist with
humans, but the resurrection experiments for Gyumoah have caused a mysterious
change in normal demons, turning them into murderous beasts. The only hope
for things to return to normal is for Sanzo and co to defeat Gyumaoh, but they
are hampered by demonic foes at every turn. Saiyuki Reload rejoins
our intrepid quartet's journey, and things are even harder for them than it has
Those familiar with the manga series of Saiyuki and Saiyuki Reload will know what to expect - action, drama and some of the coolest characters to step out of Japan! The anime series of Saiyuki Reload delivers everything fans could possibly want, with great animation and some rocking music backing up the excellent characters. This first volume eases you into the story with four stand alone episodes reintroducing our heroes and the new challenge they face. The name of Genjyo Sanzo has become known far and wide as a demon hunter, making him and his companions
heroes in the eyes of humans and public enemy number 1 in the eyes of demons. Because of this they are laying low, travelling in disguise to prevent more attacks. Unfortunately for them they aren't very good at being inconspicuous, and unbeknownst to them Gyumaoh's followers have put a bounty on their heads that is bringing powerful demons to attack them.
As you can guess this means tonnes of action from the word go!
Not only do we get to see plenty of battles against cannon fodder demons, but
also the return of Gyumaoh's son Kougaiji and his companions Lirin, Dokugakuji
and Yaone. For fans of the series this is a great prospect, but for anyone
not familiar with Saiyuki all these names mean nothing, and that's the
only problem this disc has. The original Saiyuki anime series is
not available in the UK, so if you haven't read any of the manga you'll be left
a bit in the dark. Little effort is taken to explain who the characters
are or what they are doing, apart from a brief overview before the opening
credits you are just expected to know the premise of the series and the
characters' background. It's still an entertaining action series even if
you know nothing about the franchise, but some of the plot and references will
pass you by.
However, this isn't as big a drawback as it should be. The series is a rip-roaring action adventure with a dollop of comedy (mostly coming from the short-tempered Sanzo) and tonnes of drama. The simple action that the series starts with gives way to some more emotionally charged storylines towards the end of this first volume, particularly in episode four where we see a demon attempt to fight the bloodlust that threatens to engulf him. It's at moments like this the series really gets interesting, and Sanzo's fight against a doppelganger in episode three is tense as hell
too. Despite this there isn't much sign of a continuous story arc yet, so the series' strongest hands at this stage are the superb animation and great characterisation. Anti-heroes always make for interesting leads, and they don't come better than Sanzo and co - in fact Kougaiji and his party come across as more noble than they do!
If you are familiar with the Saiyuki franchise then Saiyuki Reload vol 1 is an absolutely must purchase. Although the story has yet to reach the depth and quality of that in the manga there are great signs of things to come, and the series at the moment is hugely entertaining with plenty of action and drama to sink your teeth into. Even if you're new to it the series is highly enjoyable and benefits from strong characters and quality animation. I for one thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish. If you wondered what MVM were going to replace Fullmetal Alchemist with, Saiyuki Reload is the answer.
Not much, a couple of trailers and clean opening and ending sequences. There are some very funny additional scenes at the end of each episode, but technically they are part of the episode rather than a standalone extra. A shame, cos they would have bumped the mark up.