Saiyuki Reload Blast – Anime Preview
Synopsis: Humans and yokai, science and magic… all exist side-by-side on a peaceful continent free of all order and regulation, widely known as “Shangri-La.” The balance there was shattered when the Minus Wave caused all the yokai on the continent to rampage, an event known as the “Calamity.” Continuing their journey west to stop Gyumaoh’s resurrection experiments, the root of all the evil on the continent, the Three Aspects are finally drawing closer to India. But the closer they get, the more pronounced the influence of the Calamity becomes, and the more intense their battles become. (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
1st Episode Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: Unfortunately I made a bit of a fumble as someone was kind enough to bring to my attention on our Facebook page. Normally we don’t review properties that have prequels, or are sequels, as we prefer total context when writing our reviews. However Saiyuki Reload Blast is actually part of a much larger anime property that started back in 1997 as a manga. From there, the Saiyuki franchise received an OVA, a fifty-episode TV anime (Boy I screwed this up badly.) a film, another OVA, a second anime series with 25 episodes (Really badly.) ANOTHER series with 26 episodes (How did I miss all this!?) another OVA series, and another OVA series, and finally that brings us to Reload Blast. So… my bad. All that said, we can at least talk about how approachable this series is for newcomers, as we qualify as that. Surprisingly not once during the first episode did we question if this was part of a grander franchise. Sure Reload is in the title, but at this point some anime titles just feel like multiple words thrown together for the sake of Engrish. While watching, it never felt like we were missing information, or left in the dark about the scenario. Sure there’s a few lingering questions, but ultimately we went in blind and came out feeling like we generally understood everything without any issues. So if you don’t have/want to get yourself a HIDIVE account or a Hulu Account (1 OVA and the first TV anime are available, separately through those services, the rest are unlicensed in NA) this series feels like a potential entry point.
Linny: The first episode doesn’t really delve into any one character too deep. Being an action packed episode however, it’s easy to ignore that lack of information. To be fair you do get some general idea of their group dynamic through their conversations and general behaviour. You have the arrogant leader, the mature second in command, the hot headed member and lastly the goofy and hyper kid who’s literally called a monkey several times throughout the episode. The episode also features a couple of short comical skits after the end credits that give hints to each character’s personality in a fun manner. And now that I am aware that the show has had quite a bit of preceding content, I wouldn’t blame Reload if this is the most we ever get for character building as there’s a chance it offered plenty in previous incarnations.
Tom: The greatest asset Saiyuki has is its four leads. These four heroes, Hakkai, Sanzou, Gojou and Goku offer up quirky, bickering personalities with plenty of playful banter and shenanigans to keep the comedy flowing in between the series otherwise dour, oppressively violent and draining atmosphere. It’s true we don’t really explore any of them, but their quirky personalities, while not entirely memorable, stand out and offer snippets of fun.
Linny: The aesthetic of Saiyuki is a little all over the place. The outfits the main cast are wearing look more old world fantasy oriented yet they drive a jeep and one of them uses guns in combat. Even the opening credit has the heroes in all kinds and eras of outfits… which may be callbacks to previous seasons of the series. But in specific regards to this show, the eclectic mix of outfits and items from different time periods, real or fantasy, makes for a rather strange and unique feel that’s hard to nail down to one particular style.
Tom: The overall narrative is a bit… predictable. It’s very basic. A classic: village is terrorized and afraid for its safety. So much so they abandon some of their own villagers in need and with the help of our heroes realize the error of their ways for being such cowards. It’s not a particularly original tale and even without my little summary there you’d see the conclusion coming a mile away. What keeps it interesting, and what I won’t spoil, is the way our heroes spice up this otherwise dull tale, adding in just enough humor and badassery to make it entertaining.
Linny: The moral quandary featured in the episode and its eureka moment all feel rather forced to be honest. The show tries very hard in some ways to make the villagers come off as the bad guys, yet also lazily defends them through the dialogue of one of our heroes. This moral dilemma has a pretty clear cut verdict and makes me wish the show had put more effort into making it truly ambiguous and not so darn black and white. It also doesn’t help that the explanation given for an insane woman’s singing that’s meant to be touching sounds more like a child’s desperate attempt to give it more meaning than it actually has.
Tom: Sadly Saiyuki is very low budget. You can tell from the way the camera keeps everything tightly framed, as if pulling back would reveal how little animation there actually is on screen at any given time. Adding into this is frequent blood splatter to try and add some visual pop to the battles, and a shaky camera that’s actually far more annoying than helpful.
Linny: Saiyuki Reload’s violent showdown in the opening minutes feels a little in conflict with the show’s credits that has the boys parading like they’re in a female fandom oriented show. The guys look more idol-ish than violent fighters. But for those worried about extreme gore, there’s nothing to fear. To be clear, there are a lot of blood splatters and people getting chopped up and blown up but thanks to the animation style, it’s not unsettling unless you are extremely sensitive to any manner of bloodshed.
Tom: Despite its flaws and overly trodden narrative, I actually had fun with Saiyuki. Its mains really save the day, and I found the after credits skits funny, if a tad odd in some ways. It’s not a great show, but if it can keep the balance between badassery and comedy, and perhaps even offer up tales not quite so classic and overused, it could be a fun little watch through the summer.
Linny: Saiyuki Reload Blast isn’t amazing or original, but it’s a fun watch for anyone who enjoys action packed tales that revolve around a group of super powerful men. There’s a decent amount of chuckle worthy scenes to break up the more intense vibe and while it won’t have you dying for the next episode, Sayuki Reload Blast does enough to keep you entertained for the time being and potentially be a decent show to follow for the season.