Saiyuki

Alt titles: Gensou Maden Saiyuki

Reviews

sothis's avatar By on Dec 12, 2006

Story
This ain’t yo’ mamma’s fantasy series! In a land filled with demons, gods, and jeeps, four men set off to India to defeat the ultimate demon. Along the way they encounter people to save, demons to defeat, and situations that help them to grow and reflect.

As a fantasy tale, Saiyuki doesn’t have much to offer. In the same vein as Kenshin or Inuyasha, the majority of Saiyuki’s fifty episodes are comprised of filler content that doesn’t affect the main story. A typical episode begins with the gang traveling to a new destination in their jeep, and inevitably leads to a new harrowing or morally-charged situation to become entangled with. The whole "group kicks more demon ass yet again" dynamic works well, but soon wears out its welcome to all but the most dedicated of fans. Then again, if you are the type of person who enjoys long filler-filled series, this shouldn’t bother you a bit.

What Saiyuki does have to offer is not the fantasy; it’s the technology and fantasy hybrid aspect. A pet dragon turns into a jeep; cigarettes are plentiful; and swords intermix with guns. Combine these oddities with a heavy dose of humor and character development, and you have something that’s much easier to swallow.

In addition to the filler problem, Saiyuki has another thorn in its side: the pacing. After several dozen episodes of filler, the last ten or fifteen episodes of the series focus solely on the life of the main characters, 500 years in the past. Had this back story been spread out throughout the series, it wouldn’t have felt nearly as rushed or randomly placed. The ending also leaves little to be desired since it’s, well, not an ending. With two other Saiyuki series and a movie to watch, it makes sense that everything wouldn’t be wrapped up in a tidy bow; still, after sitting through almost fifty episodes of filler, it would have been nice to have some sort of concrete resolution. Certain details and characters are left an enigma, and like it or not, various boss battles can’t replace major plot elements that should have been resolved.

Even with its problems, the odd combination of fantasy, technology elements, and hilarious cutting humor make Saiyuki’s story an enjoyable watch. Unlike series you can fully watch in one sitting, Saiyuki would probably be more enjoyable in short bursts.
Animation
Saiyuki's animation is undoubtedly low budget. Scenes are littered with still shots, minimal backgrounds and a lack of fluid motion. To show movement, often a still frame is dragged across the screen; this is tacky. Shadowboxing is common and composite arrangements of portions of the characters’ faces are often shown.

Though low budget as far as movement, the character designs are colorful and pleasing to look at. Solid patches of color and shading abound, and backgrounds in particular (at least, the ones that aren’t incredibly minimal) are gorgeous and full of life. The only problem with the character designs is that many of the characters are so similar that it is very difficult to keep track of who is who.

The last thing worth mentioning is the needless ecchi thrown into the mix. Essentially no ecchi is part of the plot, but the female characters -- as should probably be expected for anime -- have enormous breasts which like to jiggle randomly. I’d have less of a problem with this if the characters didn’t have waists the size of Barbie dolls and had relatively reasonable proportions. Then again, when is this ever really the case? ^_^;; Raise this score a point if you are male, unlike me, and like such things.
Sound
As a console RPG fanatic and music snob, I was very excited to discover that Motoi Sakuraba – my favorite composer – was responsible for Saiyuki’s soundtrack. If you follow Motoi’s work, you will immediately recognize songs that are reminiscent of Star Ocean, Valkyrie Profile, and other games. Though the majority of the music kept my interest there are definitely a few tracks that don’t fit well with the rest. There are also not enough tracks to keep the music from sounding incredibly repetitive and overdone once the last ten episodes roll around; but hey, it’s Motoi Sakuraba! In my opinion he can get away with it where others can’t.

Saiyuki is one of the only series that has a better dubbed than subbed track. I know, I know... all of the naysayers out there are cursing my name and silently (or out loud, depending on how passionate you are) telling me I’m not a true anime fan; but it’s true! Even hardened dub haters can agree that Saiyuki’s dub is lively, hilarious, and full of enough slang and swearing to win you over. The subbed version is fine, but it doesn’t pack quite the same punch as the dubbed version. Don’t believe me? Try it out for yourself.

One unfortunate note is that the other Saiyuki TV series were not licensed by ADV and thus don’t have the same English voice actors. I haven’t heard the new series to judge how well the dubs compare to this phenomenal one.
Characters
The story is somewhat generic, the animation is low budget, and the music tends to be repetitive, but the characters make Saiyuki worth watching. From beginning to end we are introduced to a variety of characters, and by the end of the series most of them have been developed in some way. We learn about each character’s background, their motivations, and hidden agendas. Even the most evil of villains has a story that will leave you feeling empathetic.

As far as the main characters, Sha Gojyo and Goku’s dynamic is undoubtedly the best; they argue about everything from who gets the last gyoza to who is the more annoying of the two. Genzo Sanzo is the cool and brooding member of the bunch, and Hakkai is the do-gooder. The four make up an exuberant and entertaining group that is fun to watch. At over 500 years in age, our heroes have a rich history together; a history which is presented in great detail near the end of the series.

Though the characters are developed well, there are also far too many of them. It’s difficult to remember who is who and who is on what side, especially in the case of the villains. Over the course of the fifty episodes we are introduced to a number of villains, none of which are the ultimate demon the gang are searching for. Certain foes become friends, certain friends become enemies, and all of them happen to look exactly the same. Confusing? You betcha.
Overall
Saiyuki is a very difficult series to rate. The majority of the content isn’t anything special: monster-of-the-day filler episodes, sub-par animation, and too many characters to keep track of. But it also has its strong points: the humor, the wacky mix of technology and fantasy, and the development – albeit poorly paced and scattered – of the main characters. Saiyuki definitely would have been better as a shorter series with less filler; then again, the majority of people who will love Saiyuki are the ones who love just that: filler.

6.8/10 story
6/10 animation
7.5/10 sound
6.8/10 characters
6.5/10 overall
Hajime's avatar By on Sep 24, 2010

Yes yes Yes, this is jouney to the west my friend and I wanna make sweet love to it, that’s right, see Sanzo, Goku, Gojo and Haikki in this funny, brutal, cliff jumping version of the cult classic. A Sanzo priest is venturing west, in this story to discover the origins of a mist which has caused all demons that onced lived harmoniously with human to go insane. with him is the god born from stone (Goku) and the two half demons (Son Gojo - mother was a human, father a demon) and Cho Hakkai (Killed over 1000 demons in a rampage after the loss of his beloved and became a demon himself). together they battle hords and uncover the story of the gods, and there origins/ I love this beautiful work of art, for both its humour and plot. watch it, I urge you

10/10 story
10/10 animation
10/10 sound
10/10 characters
10/10 overall
PhdInCartoons's avatar By on Feb 28, 2013

Story

Great action anime. It is a little filler-y in places. It is another take on the old legend (Journey to the West) and is therefore not that original. At times it is very episode-at-a-time and if you skipped these you wouldn't miss much but it does get a little better

 

Animation

Feels somehow cheap. The action sequences aren't great, wel they sometimes are ok but are very inconsistent. the characters change and aren't very well drawn. This is one thing that lets this show down

 

Sound

The dub and script in this anime is excellent. I would recommend it. It fits the rowdy tone of the anime very well. The music, however, is a little overused. It gets very repetitive

 

Characters

Nicely developed and fun to watch. There is obviously a deep relationship between all the characters in the group and even the bad guys have enough background to make what they are doing believable

 

Overall

A good solid action anime. It isn't a great anime in its own right but if you enjoy action anime then I would recommend it. It has a strange charm which wins you round despite its flaws

8/10 story
6/10 animation
6.5/10 sound
8/10 characters
7.1/10 overall
londonafrost's avatar By on Apr 14, 2012

This anime was great.  I spent so much money to get the entire series the moment I watched the first disk.  I had to continue to watch it.  I got it all and watched it all in about one month. 

The only two things I had a problem with this was 1)  Animation:  the fight scenes were a little too manga - meaning the fights were just them attacking and then the bad guys going puff into the wind like litte dust particles.  2) They NEVER showed Haikai change!  I wanted the entire time to see Haikai change.  He is AWESOME.  He was my favorite character and they never showed his demonic self.  I wanted so bad to see that.

10/10 story
6/10 animation
10/10 sound
9/10 characters
8/10 overall
CaptainSapph's avatar By on May 26, 2011

What made me so hooked on this anime wasn't the actual animation, but the characters themselves. They each have their own detailed back story, and are really fun to watch. Saiyuki has a huge amount of filler episodes, and the only thing that keeps me from being bored to death are the characters.

Sadly, this was a low-budget anime, so the animation isn't the best. Most action scenes are just still shots. They also try to add 3DCG into the mix, which made it even worse. I did, however, enjoy the character designs and the art style.

I love the soundtrack for this series, (in fact, I have it on my iPod ^^;) although they repeat a lot of the music. The opening and endings were well done, too.

The dubbed version is actually pretty well done, compared to other anime. It's just a matter of what language you prefer, really. I myself watched the whole series in Japanese, and rewatched some episodes in English.

Saiyuki should be for more mature audiences, as it has killing in pretty much every episode, and potrays monks in the wrong way. (I blame Sanzo)

Overall, I really enjoyed this anime. It was a tad hard to take seriously at some points, but it was still one of the best I've seen. I'm looking foward to seeing the next few seasons, and I may even start collecting the manga. <3

8/10 story
6/10 animation
8/10 sound
9/10 characters
9/10 overall