Saiyuki vol 3 (of 9)

UK Distributor:  Tokyopop

Author:  Kazuya Minekura

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  £6.99

Number of Pages:  198

ISBN:  1-5918-2653-5

Reviewed:  1st July 2006

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


After the good but unspectacular first volume, the second volume of Saiyuki was a revelation for me.  The storyline was great, the characters became a lot more interesting – particularly Genjo Sanzo and Sha Gojyo – and the tension and drama was ramped up by an awesome cliffhanger ending.

Continuing on where it left off, volume 3 sees the Sanzo team still facing off against the cursed monk Rikudo.  However, the shocking events at the end of the last volume causes Son Goku to lose control and revert to his true form, losing his sanity and unleashing his latent powers at the same time.  Is Goku’s power enough to defeat the deadly exorcist they’re facing?  Meanwhile more trouble is brewing for our heroes, Kougaiji’s sister Lirin is seeking them out and that means that Kougaiji and his companions won’t be far behind.  With another deadly showdown on the cards the last thing they want is for a mysterious new opponent with a serious grudge against Cho Hakkai to interfere, so you can guarantee that this is what happens!  With enemies on two fronts and uncomfortable memories being dredged up for all four of our intrepid band, can even the divine aid of the goddess Kanzeon Bosatsu get them through?

Saiyuki has surprised me with how good it became in the last volume and this one shows no signs of losing that quality.  From the first pages to the last, the story is utterly gripping, packed with real intrigue and serious action, but also balancing it perfectly with a great vein of humour.  As you may or may not know the story is based on the ancient Chinese legend ‘Journey to the West’, a legend that formed the basis for the old live action TV show Monkey!.  The setting of this excellent take on the ancient legend is similar to that of Final Fantasy, combining technology with dragons, demons and magic.  It’s perfectly realised too, with impressive monsters, awesome spells and sinister villains fitting in perfectly with the machinery crammed into Gyumaoh’s tomb.  The art is superb throughout, particularly the character artwork, although some of the splash pages between chapters are more than a bit pervy.  A picture of a shirtless Hakkai surrounded by flowers with ‘god please violate me’ written next to it will draw odd looks from the little old lady sat next to you on the bus…

The characterisation is the series’ strongest aspect, in just three volumes the amount of growth and depth they have been given is amazing, but there is still so much to learn about all of them.  The short-tempered Sanzo is still the star of the show, but – with the possible exception of the overenthusiastic Lirin – none of the characters introduced so far are peripheral.  There is no weak link amongst them, all of them have backgrounds and all of them are interesting.  I particularly like it whenever the Sanzo team and Kougaiji’s group meet up, Kougaiji, although supposedly the villain is not evil or villainous – in fact he seems to be more honourable than Sanzo and co!  Enemies who don’t really want to be enemies but are fighting for their beliefs or goal always make for intriguing reading, and it will be interesting to see how their stories will pan out over future volumes.

The glimpse into Son Goku’s past during the fight with Rikudo hints at some really interesting things to come, but it’s the psychological war being fought against Cho Hakkai by a mysterious and very powerful sorcerer is the peak of this volume.  Hakkai’s normally calm demeanour takes some battering and the terrible secrets of the past look set to be brought into the present in future volumes – and I for one can’t wait! Saiyuki vol 3 is every bit as good as volume 2 and then some, packing in tonnes of action, drama, intrigue and comedy which makes it one of the best manga books I have read for a fair while.  Take the advice I was given at a recent Tokyopop Manga Night and give it a chance, you will not be disappointed.


I really love it when there are colour pages in manga.  Often pages that are in full colour in the Japanese release are reproduced in black and white simply to save on printing costs in the western version, so the opening color splash pages in this book are much appreciated!  There are also plenty of pics of the male leads scattered throughout the book as well as characters profiles, story recap, next volume preview, manga previews and a pretty hefty sound effects index.  Once again a bonus chapter is nestled at the end of the book, this time a flashback into Sanzo's past which gives some explanation for his rescue of Son Goku.  Brilliant!


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