In their former lives, Genjyo and his crew were gods; but they didn't act divine. When Goku flies into a murderous rage after seeing his best friend die, Heaven's had enough and wants him dead! But Konzen Douji, Field Marshal Tenpou and General Kenren are willing to do anything to protect Goku, even if it means turning all of Heaven against them. Will the three of them be enough to break through the Heavenly Western Army and escape to the Lower World?
Source: Sentai Filmworks
I read the chapters in the manga a long time ago, and I finally was able to see the animated version. I did have to dock a point or two here and there; mostly because there wasn't any explanation leading into the entire story. Anyone who has read the manga knows why Nataku was ordered to kill Goku in the beginning, but that was never explained in the Gaiden animation. Otherwise, it was excellent. Story I did dock points off the story, only because the first episode wasn't told in a very coherent way. There was little to nothing which led up to the major "crisis", or explanation on why Nataku was ordered to kill Goku. The flashbacks which randomly occurred sometimes actually interfered with the flow of the story itself (which caused me to dock a point off of animation, as well). Without giving anything away, the plot revolves around the revolution/revolt which took place in the Heavens 500 years before the start of the series, and the chaos which surrounded it. It all started off with Nataku being ordered to kill Goku. This wasn't explained in the anime itself, but for anyone who watches this and gets confused, the order was given because Goku was deemed a dangerous existance to Nataku (as his "father", the organizer of all the chaos, Li Touten, wished to keep Nataku as his puppet). Tenpou, Kenren, and Konzen attempt to defend Goku (even after his diadem is destroyed for the first time in Heaven and he reverts to his Seiten Taisei persona), which leads to them being declared as traitors and heretics of Heaven. While they attempt to run from those who would have them killed and try to make it to the Lower World (Earth) in the process, Li Touten uses their rebellion to further his own ambitions. Characters Any Saiyuki fan should know by now, but all of the protagonists in Saiyuki (with the exception of Goku, who was imprisoned) are the reincarnations of their souls who used to reside in Heaven. Some of these scenes were referred to during the final arc in the Saiyuki anime. Konzen is the nephew of Kanzeon Bosatsu (the Merciful Goddess), and is put in charge of a heretic who was borne from the Earth (Goku). He was a typical paper pusher in Heaven who didn't really care what went on with the higher-ups, or know what it really meant to "live". Goku is much like how he was before he was imprisoned, only without the huge appetite he has in the series. He, himself, didn't know of his true form, and was brough to Heaven and put under the care of Konzen (whom he refers to as his "sun"). He also makes friends with two of the army members, Tenpou and Kenren. Tenpou is the Marshal of the West Army, and though he does have the same sense of humor we see his reincarnation have, he isn't as neat or organized; he also smokes. However, he's a brilliant strategist and someone his men looks up to. Even when he was branded a heretic and traitor in Heaven, his platoon of 14 men still followed him. Kenren isn't as brash as his reincarnation, though he does show some of those traits. He has a sharp mind, and a slightly sarcastic personality. He's pretty much the comic relief at times, but those times don't occur very often. He also surprisingly has a very strong sense of work ethic. Goujin, the Dragon King of the Western Sea, is the commander of the West army, and the superior to Tenpou and Kenren. Most of the narration is done in his voice, as he's recalling the events which happened. He was used as a hostage when Konzen, Tenpou, and Kenren fled with the unconscious Seiten Taisei, and though he doesn't really show it, he obviously cares for his subordinates. Though it's not mentioned much in Gaiden (as in, at all), he was reincarnated with the other three who died (as Hakuryu). Li Touten is the main antagonist, who attempts to overthrow the Jade Emperor and Heaven to rule it with his "puppet", Nataku, who was created for the sole purpose to be the War God (the title granted to the only one who is actually allowed to kill, though apparently, the army is also allowed to kill those branded as heretics and traitors in Heaven). Overall I would have preferred an additional episode to help build into what led up to the order of Goku's death (which spurred the entire thing on), but otherwise, it followed the manga perfectly without going back over many of the scenes we already saw during Homura's arc in the anime. It also would have been nice if the episodes flowed a little better rather than include flashbacks to scenes we've already seen. I know it was an attempt to build tension or an emotional scene, but it failed and only interrupted the plot. On the plus side, they didn't need to reintroduce the characters or who they were, because anyone who watches Gaiden would already know that (between the manga and the final arc of the first season of the anime). There is a lot of blood (a heck of a lot more than in any of the seasons of the anime; in fact, probably more than all of the seasons combined, and that's including the Kami-sama arc), and one slightly gory scene (though it's only for a split second). Just fair warning to anyone who's bothered by a lot of blood. I can't give this a full 10 out of 10 due to the lacking beginning and the calm scenes used in the middle of the action, but it's still a must-watch for fans of the series.
Part of me is unable to review this objectively because I grew up watching the first TV series of this, Gensoumaden Saiyuki. As a child, I fully enjoyed the show — watching it multiple times — and grew attached to the characters, particularly the main cast of the Sanzo Party. I believe that this is the reason I am able to enjoy Saiyuki Gaiden so much; because I already know the characters and have grown fond of them, this is why the story of Gaiden hits so much harder for me. However, I wanted to leave my opinion anyways. Story: The actual story itself, of the Sanzo Party's past lives in the Upper World, is wonderful. I'm a sucker for beautiful friendships and an angsty past full of hardship is a plus. I don't know why I like to be hurt so much sometimes, but I do and the Sanzo Party's past hits just the right spot. For the most part, I believe Studio Anpro executed their story beautifully. However, I feel that if you are a new viewer to the Saiyuki series and you watch Gaiden first, yes, it is difficult to “understand,” for a lack of a better wording. The first time I watched this OVA, I completely loved it. It was 10/10, 5/5, whatever/whatever for me. However, watching it a 2nd time (to completion), I can see that there are some parts that are a little rough around the edges. For example, my main concern is the jumping of scenes during the first episode. Some scenes come in randomly and then cut to the next random scene when finished. I understand that they are necessary for us to understand who people are and their relationships with others, and that being an OVA makes achieving that job all the more harder, but I feel that those random scenes of introductions and bondings should have been integrated better. Perhaps this is why some viewers find the story difficult to process, or find it hard to feel for the characters. For this reason, it's why I docked off 1 point from my overall rating of Gaiden. For new viewers, I would strongly recommend watching Gensoumaden Saiyuki first before watching this OVA. It's a daunting 50 episodes and while I liked it as a kid, I don't think the me right now would enjoy it as much, but it's necessary to know the main cast more and have further bonding time with them. Animation: Coming from Gensoumaden Saiyuki, I think the animation is splendid. I was very, honestly surprised the first time I saw it. Gensoumaden and Gaiden are made by different studios and at different times, but compared to Gensoumaden's static and, to be blunt, amateurish animation, Gaiden's animation is more smooth. There are still static CG scenes, but they are of higher quality and action scenes with actual motions are more fluid. I don't have much to say about the other grading aspects, so this concludes my review of the OVA.