Saiyuki Reload Blast – Mid Season Anime Review
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)
Mid Season (6 Episodes) Review (Warning: Minor Spoilers to Follow):
Tom: The low budget nature of Saiyuki becomes ever more apparent the further we delve into the series. From episode 1 Saiyuki makes use of extremely tight camera angles and ‘shaky cam’ to keep its budget low and hide its lack of animation from the viewer. While it more or less works early on, it becomes increasingly distracting towards the middle of the season, often making certain sequences confusing or difficult to understand.
Linny: The lead characters’ stringently archetypal personalities, established in the first episode, only become more pronounced as the show continues. Saiyuki barely adds any dimension to their personalities over the course of its run even when it delves into a 3 episode long flashback. The lengthy flashback does at least provide an emotional backstory, in particular, for the youngest member of the team, Son Gokuu, whose rather unique origins and past are explored the most. Ultimately, the flashback serves more as an origins exploration for the formation of the group than of the characters themselves.
Tom: Our four heroes are the series greatest aspect. Their bickering personas add so much enjoyment to the series when the main plot fails to grab and attract. Seeing Gokuu argue with Genjou or Gojou makes for the most enjoyable sequences. When the four are on screen together, taking shots at one another is when Saiyuki feels strongest and most enjoyable. But as Linny said a lingering, multi-episode flashback doesn’t add much to any of them and I might even argue detracts from the earlier appeal as their bickering ways are dropped entirely during the telling of their group’s origin.
Linny: The first three episodes are focused on the journey these four leads have undertaken as described in the series summary. But these encounters suffer from some rather confusing moral stances. As our heroes encounter different villages, all affected by the brutal demonic attacks/presence in one way or the other, we get to see the adverse actions or attitudes that resulted from their fear of demons. These episodes usually start out seemingly chastising these villagers for their more controversial actions but by the end of each episode, the show justifies those very actions. Maybe this was done in an attempt to offer a darker atmosphere, one that lays out how sometimes morally questionable actions can have justified reasoning. Saiyuki can also be extremely dramatic, with bad guys ever so often launching into maniacal monologues. If you find those a bit hammy, you might want to brace yourself.
Tom: The big problem with the multi-episode flashback is how lacking in context and detail it all is. It’s here that it becomes clear Saiyuki isn’t truly meant for a brand new audience. Minor, but important details, and understanding of Saiyuki’s world is required to properly enjoy the flashback and anything less leaves the audience feeling disconnected if not outright confused by certain characters or developments. It’s unfortunate, as it’s easy to imagine a stronger flashback that doesn’t have these problems and allows newcomers not to feel quite so alienated.
Linny: If you’re a complete newcomer to the Saiyuki Reload Blast like we were, you can still try this latest iteration of the franchise without worrying about becoming too lost. There’s plenty of fun to be had whenever the show focuses on these bickering friends going about their roadtrip. Despite the heavy handed morality issues, there’s still plenty of fun to be had just watching these guys interact with each other and kick demon butt. There’s also a generally comedic after credits skit at the end of almost every episode that can on occassion be hilarious (though most of it can be just plain wtf). However, if you haven’t found yourself particularly entranced or curious about this series, you won’t be missing out on much by giving it a skip.
Tom: Saiyuki Reload Blast is likely to pull back from its flashback and get back on the road we’d come to generally enjoy, but knowing that the show isn’t truly interested in holding newcomers hands and offering a proper, easy going introduction makes it hard to recommend. If you don’t mind getting a tad confused from time to time, Saiyuki’s bickering heroes could be enough to give you an enjoyable half hour. Otherwise there’s nothing special here that sets Saiyuki as a stand out, must watch of the season.