Saiyuki vol 2 (of 9)

UK Distributor:  Tokyopop

Author:  Kazuya Minekura

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £6.99

Number of Pages:  208

ISBN:  1-5918-2652-7

Reviewed:  11th June 2006

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


I was speaking to a couple of people at the Tokyopop Manga Night in Ottakar's Chippenham store earlier this week and they recommended that I read Saiyuki.  The thing is, I told them, I’ve read the first volume and wasn’t that taken with it, so I never got any more.  Ah, they replied, it gets better after the first volume, the first one is a bit confusing but the story really gets going in volume 2, once you read it you’ll be hooked!

So I bought volume two, and I am now a little bit annoyed.  You see, they were right.  Saiyuki vol 2 was excellent and now that means that there is yet another long manga series that I will have to buy!

Saiyuki vol 2 starts pretty much where the last one left off, with the short tempered high priest Genjyo Sanzo travelling with three companions – Son Goku, Cho Hakkei and Sha Gojyo – to India.  They have been tasked with finding the source of the ‘minus wave’, a strange energy burst that caused Youkai (demonic beings who previously lived largely in harmony with humans) to go insane and turn on humanity, and also prevent the resurrection of Gyumaoh – a powerful demon sealed hundreds of years previously.  In the last volume our intrepid group had battled a few agents of Kougaiji, the son of Gyumaoh and the one trying to bring about his resurrection, and defeated them with ease.  With them drawing ever closer to India, Kougaiji has to take matters into his own hands, however, there are more problems than this to face.  Deadly rogue Youkai, a former priest and their own pasts have come to haunt our intrepid quartet, and if they are to stand any chance against Kougaiji they are going to have to face these trials head on.

One of my main gripes with the first volume is that the drawing could be a little bit erratic, sometimes symmetry and perspective was lost when drawing the characters faces, which made them look particularly weird.  However, such gripes are pretty much a thing of the past this time round.  Kazuya Minekura seems to really be warming to her task and it really shows, with the characters established in volume 1 the author takes the time to delve into their pasts and show the events that have shaped them.  The racial intolerance Gojyo has experienced due to his mixed Youkai / Human heritage is particularly well handled, but it's Sanzo that steals the show, his difficult past shaping the uncouth, short tempered holy man we now see.

There are plenty of twits and turns in the plot this time too, we get to meet Kougaiji - who isn't exactly what you expect him to be - and the flashbacks to Sanzo's past lead to a shocking end to the book in the present.  The story really steps up in quality and there is tonnes of action, a smattering of comedy and a fair dollop of horror too, but it's the depth and effort put into the characterisation that makes Saiyuki vol 2 so good.  If you care about or are interested in the characters then it just kicks everything up a notch, and when the drama hits its peak in this volume you realise how subtly and how well Kazuya Minekura has built the characters up.

I was in fairness a bit dubious when I picked this up, but I needn't have been.  Saiyuki vol 2 really raises the bar in nearly every area, with the story drawing you in superbly whilst the visuals become more consistent.  The design and imagination has always been great but now the depth of characterisation and the sense of tension matches it, with a superb cliffhanger ending leaving you desperate to read the next volume.  My bank balance is set to suffer after reading this, but one thing is certain, it's going to be worth it.


Alongside the usual next volume preview, adverts and 'story so far', we also get character biographies, a list of Tokyopop releases and a sound effect chart.  Best of all though is an amusing bonus chapter which show the main characters battling it out for the only bed in a shared room, it's great fun and nicely lightens things up after a particularly dramatic ending to the book.


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