Saiyuki Manga Review
Saiyuki is a great manga to read. It really is not that hard to get through and has some amazing fighting scenes. Plus you get to learn a little about Buddhism as well. It is a bit hard at first to tell what era they are in due to the clothing and the weapons being misleading at times. The four main characters are basically a monk gone bad, an intellectual, a perverted drunk, and a starving child. They seem to be the basics, but they really are not. This was a manga series I could not put down. It only took me two days to go through all nine volumes.
Saiyuki is about four men traveling together to gain perspective on why the Youkai’s have gone crazy. Youkai’s and humans lived in harmony at one point, but recently the Youkai’s have started to kill people and do random things. It is up to Sanzo, Gojyo, Goku, and Hakkai to find out why. They are sent by Sanbutsushin on this quest. The Sanbutsushin consist of three ‘aspects’ of Buddha. They take orders from heaven. Sanzo and his group are constantly having to fight off Youkai’s that have come for Gyumaoh’s resurrection. Gyumaoh was a demon king that is now dead. His wife is attempting to give him life again but she needs the scriptures (one of which Sanzo carries).
Shangri-La is the setting in which this all take place. Here the humans and Youkai’s have lived peacefully. Some have even fallen in love with the opposite being even though this is forbidden. Most towns fear any Youkai whether they are sane or not. This makes it hard for the group to travel due to the fact that Gojyo, Goku, and Hakkai are all Youkai. They have bands or protection on them that makes them immune to what has happened to the Youaki.
There are four main characters of Saiyuki. Genjyo Sanzo is teh team leader. He is the only human of the four. He is held in a high position with Buddhists everywhere due to his name. He loves to smoke and is the shoot first maybe ask questions later kind of guy. Goku is the monkey king and the rest of the group does not let him forget he is a ‘monkey.’ He is constantly wanting to eat and sleep and do childish things. He may look like a teenager but in reality he is older than he lets on. Gojyo is the ladies man. He is hot tempered and tries to sleep with any woman he can. He is also a chain smoker and a drinker. The last person in the group is Hakkai. He is the quiet and intellectual man of the group. He has a bloody past though.
The other characters in the manga are people that show up from someones past or part of Gyumaoh resurrection. Of the people that end up bringing someone’s past back, only three seem to be a big part of the story. Sanzo ends up having two people show up at separate times attempting to get revenge. Shuei once knew Sanzo when he was little. He took up for Sanzo when the older monks made fun of him. He later comes back as Rikudo, a Fuda user who kills any Youkai without question. A man calling himself Kami-Sama was once an acquaintance of Sanzo. He ends up stealing the Maten scripture Sanzo carries.
The Youkai involved in the Gyumaoh’s resurrection are Kougaiji, Lirin, Dokugakuji, Yaone, Gyukumen Koushou, and Ni Jianyi. Gyukumen Koushou is the mastermind behind the Youkai’s chasing Sanzo and many other things. She is the legal wife of Gyumaoh. They have a daughter Lirin, which Gyukumen intends to sacrifice to save Gyumaoh. Kougaiji is Gyumaoh’s son and half brother to Lirin. He only wants to save his mother. He has two friends that act as guards for him: Dokugakuji (Gojyo’s half brother) and Yaone (a medicine user).
Saiyuki and the Youkai
Youkai is just another word for demon in the Saiyuki manga. The Youkai only live in the Shangri-La area though. Some are evil, but some do live normal lives. A Youkai family can often be seen in the Shangri-La area. There are Youkai’s and humans that fall in love and have a child. This is, again, forbidden to do. The child will come out having crimson hair and eyes. This is how you can tell if they are a half breed. Gojyo and Kougaiji are both products of a Youkai and human relationship.
I hated that the manga was split up into two separate series. Saiyuki, again, was a great manga. The story does not end though and continues onto another series. Honestly they should have just put it together, but possibly for marketing reasons they could not. I would recommend reading Saiyuki especially if you like Samurai/Buddhist related mangas.
Overall Grade 8/10