I'm a big fan of Saiyuki after reading the excellent manga series, and quite enjoyed the first volume of this anime incarnation of the follow up series Saiyuki Reload.
But onwards the series goes, and onwards go our heroes on
their epic journey to the west. This time round Genjyo Sanzo and his
companions Son Goku, Cho Hakkai and Sha Gojyo fall into another trap as
they stop at a village where everyone remains strangely content. The
villagers actively protect their kindly local demon and as they feel no evil
intent from her they decide to stay and recuperate. However, all is not as
it seems (surprise, surprise) and they soon fall into the same dreamlike state
as the villagers. A powerful spell is taking away all of their hurtful
memories and leaving them without a care in the world, however, their past pain
s what makes them who they are and taking it away leaves them as little more
than shells. The only one mostly unaffected is Son Goku, but can the most
impetuous member of the group really save his companions? The party have
more than this on their plate, there's a young woman who wishes she could cook,
but her food is so terrible that it can actually kill demons! People in
her village use her food as a weapon against marauding demons, but deep down she
just wants to cook good food, so Cho Hakkai decides to help her. Genjyo
Sanzo also sees his tough and moody exterior being broken...by a lost kitten,
yes the light hearted comedy episodes are here...
I liked the first volume of Saiyuki Reload, but I must admit to being a bit disappointed by this one. The first volume re-established the cast and packed in plenty of action and drama as our heroes faced off against demonic foes sent by the servants of Gyumaoh. This time round the Gyumaoh aspect is mostly thrown out of the window a bit as Sanzo and co come up against a series of random demons. A formula appears to be developing that sees the main characters arrive in a town, fall into a demonic trap and fight their way free. This one is no exception, the only real difference is that the
main story on this volume takes up two episodes. In fairness you get more of what you got in the last time, there's plenty of action and drama, and even a few surprises. The idea of a demon who removes painful memories is quite interesting, especially considering how these memories and experiences shape the kind of person you are. It also makes the point that if you had your most painful memories removed, would you actually want them back?
The story is quite clever and also gives you the opportunity
to look at the terrible events of each character's pasts. These
backstories are the best aspect of this volume and really give an insight into
each character, the only problem is that fans of the original series have seen
it all before. However, the character focus is good and we get to see Son
Goku in the driving seat as he battles to save the others, aided by the arrival
of friendly enemies Kougaiji, Yaone, Lirin and Dokugakuji. Sadly though
the two episodes that follow this story are completely throwaway, despite having
a few laughs.
Cho Hakkai's quest to help an atrocious cook learn how to make a good meal is quite funny, especially Hakkai's determination to help even though her cooking keeps making him deathly ill. It's a nice, fun and mostly light hearted episode with a bit of drama and action thrown in, but it doesn't move the plot forward at all. The same is true of the following episode, but not only is Sanzo's cold heart being melted by a cute kitten utterly cheesy, it's really hackneyed too. Taciturn guy with attitude softening up when presented with a cute animal? Like that's never been done before...
Trailers, a clean closing sequence and the original Japanese closing sequence, which is the same as the English one but with credits in Japanese. A bit pointless if you ask me.