The Last Saiyuki 008-011 – Manga Review
Synopsis: Ryunosuke’s life is wrecked when he gets a surprise sister who can’t move or talk. But she has a secret. (Official Shonen Jump Synopsis.)
Warning: Spoilers to Follow:
The Last Saiyuki introduces a number of compelling elements and long running ideas that help to build the manga’s world and provide a path forward for the story. Yet this still comes at the cost of the series inability to balance action vs. talking heads. While Chapter 8 features a bit of action as Ryu defeats Koharu’s false big brother, the series becomes bogged down in another round of information dumps, forcing the story to a crawl.
In some ways this is necessary. As we discover over Chapters 9-10 the story of The Last Saiyuki is incredibly complex. As soon as Koharu’s ‘Big Brother’ is defeated, we’re launched into consecutive information dumps explaining Koharu’s secret other self, Kei, the destiny of the series, the secret society Ryu’s father is a part of, more explanation for how these Power Poll users abilities’ work, and an information dump explaining a newly introduced character, Estelle.
What’s frustrating is that none of these ideas are bad. Koharu’s other self, and the teased destiny for where Ryu will ultimately end up feels foreboding. The secret society, Tokaishu Alliance, feels like it expands the world beyond our handful of characters. And Estelle is a fun cast edition, but it all feels too sudden, too thick with explanation and no room to actually allow the story to breathe. It feels like we’ve taken a lot of one-off stories out of the mix. One-off stories often allow opportunity for characters to shine, mechanics to get introduced, and the story to slowly build itself before we hit any major reveals. It’s like padding, but if done right then it can feel like meaningful little moments before a manga launches into full gear. But Saiyuki has skipped much of that, in favor of brief action oriented sequences that end abruptly and are then replaced by lengthy information dumps that expand the manga’s world.
Action isn’t always the answer, and it’s clear Saiyuki is much more focused on its characters than providing flashy art (Even if the manga is totally capable of that.) but we need some actual events for the characters to participate in. We need a little slice of life, or character drama, quest for our characters to complete that maybe don’t further the overall narrative, but for their personalities to breath and act as space between the big, story shifting reveals. It feels like The Dairankaku, The Big Egg Palace, reveal is simply too soon. This is something we shouldn’t be seeing till chapter 15, maybe even 20. Everything feels too bunched together.
The other way to alleviate this would be to condense explanations and The Last Saiyuki could certainly use it. We’re bombarded with so much information every dump that it often feels like too many details too soon. The Last Saiyuku hasn’t offered up all its cards, but every dump still feels bogged down with extra details that aren’t required to progress the current plot. While the explanation that all these Mou enabled people dress to strengthen their conviction, and thus their physical abilities is interesting, but feels unneeded, something that could wait for another time. The same can be said for Koharu’s other self, Kei. Her meeting Ryu is fine, but the later tease that she’s the embodiment of extreme darkness isn’t needed. Not yet anyway.
The Last Saiyuki feels like it’s in a tight spot. It’s rushing events to build up the world, and get to its grander aspects as fast as possible, but in doing so becomes a parade of information dumps rather than an actual story. For as much has happened over 11 Chapters, it still feels like the story has barely begun. I don’t have a lot of faith that The Last Saiyuki will slow down, and it’s running out of time. While the series started high in the reader rankings, it’s fallen far, and I think if Saiyuki can’t turn itself around soon then it’ll be next for the chopping block.
That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on The Last Saiyuki in the comments below!
The Last Saiyuki is published as part of Shonen Jump.