Before Sanzo, Goku, Gojyo and Hakkai formed their party and began their Journey to the West, their lives were completely different. Following the death of his master, Sanzo left his temple in order to retrieve the Seiten Sutra, and after wandering alone for four years, he arrives at the Palace of the Setting Sun; he is plagued by nightmares and unwilling in his role as Genjo Sanzo. Then, upon hearing a voice calling out to him, Sanzo climbs Mt. Gogyou and happens upon Son Goku, a monster cast out from the heavens and imprisoned for five hundred years, who then proceeds to follow him around. Meanwhile, some time after Hakkai received his judgement at the Palace of the Setting Sun, he and Gojyo are living together; but when an old friend of Gojyo's turns up on their doorstep, it seems their hopes of a quiet life are not meant to be.
Story: 7/10 Admittedly, the original Saiyuki animes have failed to pique my interest. I remember watching them as a kid, so when i stumbled across Saiyuki Burial, I thought that I'll give it a try, just for old time's sake. To my surprise, it wasn't your run of the mill bishounen stuff, it was actually rather deep and heart wrenching, something which I'd never dreamed possible. You may want to read up a bit on the Saiyuki universe if you haven't, but you can still jump in having no prior knowledge rather easily. Saiyuki Burial is meant to a prequel consisting of three long episdoes, investigating the earlier lives of the four main protagnists before their journey to the West. Dr Nii also works in some much needed screentime as well. Burial is not your everyday Saiyuki episode. No bits of worn down comedy, no cheesy villains of the week. The story is dark and the animation bloody, the plot filled with emotion and arty metaphors abound. Philosophies and themes are emphasised ever so subtlety without becoming annoying. Even if it is a departure from the original Saiyuki, fans will jump at the chance to see the origins of their favourite characters explored in detail. My only complaint with it was that it was too short, and leaving no room for some plot resolutions to satisfy me. Still, it could do worse. Animation: 6/10 Standard fare for a modern anime; the only thing that might turn you off is the amount of bloody gore present as compared to the previous series. But all in all, the characters look as lovable as ever, and certain scenes are, dare I say, are epically drawn. Sound: 6/10 Nothing special - I barely noticed the soundtrack at all during my first watch. The opening theme however, is rather smooth and does well to complement the gloomy tone of the series. Characters: 8/10 Sanzo, Goku, Hakkai, Goyjo, Dr Nii and even Sanzo's previous sensei all become miraculously interesting to watch, unlike their gimmicky mainstream counterparts. Some of them even change, a refreshing aspect of the Burial series. Their stories are fraught with emotion and heartbreak, or moments of heartwarming, or simply moments of awesome. Their very real interactions, noticably absent of the original series' stock traits, gave a whole new meaning to their friendship. Conclusion After I saw the OVA, and it's nicely done ending, I was raring to finish all three Saiyuki series, just to finish the story. In the end, I didn't, but this Burial arc certainly did serve to racket up my opinion of Saiyuki a few points. Whether you are a fan or not, watching Saiyuki Burial would be a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Overall: 7.5/10
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