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The MANGA.TOKYO staff had its share of summer. Now, all we wish is for the hot and humid weather to go away and give its place to the red and cool autumn.
The TV anime Saiyuki Reload Blast held an advanced screening event on 17 June 2017 at TOHO Cinemas Roppongi Hills.
Saiyuki Reload Blast, which began airing on 5 July, was able to have a screening in movie theaters along with a talk show event by the cast of the Sanzo party and ticket sales exploded! The venue was filled with fans who got their hands on the golden tickets and whose hearts overflowed with love for Saiyuki. As we were waiting for the event to start, there was a quiet tension in the room filled with expectations and excitement. The Saiyuki series welcomes its twentieth year and has gathered even more fans since the announcement. What kind of impression that first step will leave is something to definitely pay attention to. I was excited to see what will and will not change and the thoughts of the cast who have gathered together after a long time.
I am also a long-time fan of Saiyuki and it’s what got me into anime and manga. I grew up with Saiyuki and I will bring you a full report with a dash of my personal feelings.
Saiyuki (written as 最遊記) is a manga by Kazuya Minekura modeled after the famous Chinese novel Journey to the West (written as 西遊記 and also pronounced ‘saiyuki’ in Japanese). There are multiple TV anime, a theatrical movie, OVAs, drama CDs, games, and stage plays among many adaptations of the manga.
The manga Saiyuki began serialization in 1996 and was compiled into 9 volumes, followed by the sequel Saiyuki Reload which has 10 volumes. The final part of the main series is the currently-running Saiyuki Reload Blast, which is 2 volumes-long so far. Then there is Saiyuki Gaiden (4 volumes) which takes place 500 years before the main series, and Saiyuki Ibun tells the story of a young Komyo Sanzo. 20 years on, the world of Saiyuki continues to grow.
The TV anime series called Gensomaden Saiyuki aired from April 2000 until March 2001 and two and a half years after that Saiyuki Reload aired from October 2003 until March 2004. After that, late-night anime Saiyuki Reload Gunlock aired from April 2004 and regrettable aired its final episode back in October 2004.
13 years after the Saiyuki Reload Gunlock, Saiyuki Reload Blast is being made into a TV anime! I never thought this day would come!
It has been 13 years so the era has changed and the fans who were just boys and girls at the time are now adults. Just when fans thought they would just be watching over the current manga, a TV anime adaptation was suddenly announced. Last year, a special site for the twentieth anniversary of Saiyuki was opened and it was so surprising to see!
And those who were young boys and girls and following the manga began to gathered together like mighty warriors and the excitement built with each passing day. We never dreamed we would be able to return to the pages of our youth after becoming adults. The cast is also the same as back then, that Sanzo party has returned! I don’t know how to put that joy into words… They are so cool to watch even as an adult, seeing them in the height of their youth is great. The Saiyuki whirlwind blows again in this era and the boys and girls of that era who have crossed generations are very happy for the chance to see that world again. Right now, Saiyuki is seriously exciting!
The theater went dark and amidst the expectations and tension, the anime suddenly began. It seems like the first episode is based on Saiyuki Reload Blast “Shot 1” and that scene from the manga is portrayed as-is. The second episode marks the start of the anime’s original story, which seems to take place between “Shot 1” and “Shot 2”, with the Sanzo party starting out on a new journey.
The cast is the same as before so there are no worries. It’s just that seeing the Sanzo party after such a long time was so great I couldn’t help but laugh. It was lovely even just to see the small fry enemies wailing in misery after being defeated in the same pattern each time! Seeing the never-changing Sanzo party on the big screen evoked occasional laughter and sighs of admiration from the audience. It felt like the audience members’ hearts beat in unison and the whole theater was drawn into the style of Saiyuki all at once. I’m not one to give spoilers, but one thing I can say is, the Saiyuki that we all have been waiting for has definitely returned.
“Are you ready, kiddos?”
The cast members have aged together with the work so while it seems like the Sanzo party’s voices haven’t changed, they actually have changed a little.
I think the members, besides the energetic Goku, have generally become more cool and provocative. First off, the change in Toshihiko Seki’s voice is remarkable. There is no mistaking that it is Sanzo’s voice but Seki has increased the amazingness and it is progressively becoming a sexy voice. The weight of each single word is different. Seki’s usual voice is relatively bright and higher-pitched so I was quite surprised at this change. Sanzo’s sutra is not for the dead but if the sutra was done in that voice, even ghosts with lingering attachments to our world would go to heaven peacefully.
Hiroaki Hirata’s voice is one of the more familiar voices but hearing his voice as Sha Gojyo again after a long time was refreshing.
His voice as Gojyo is younger and lonelier than usual with more of a mischievous air to it. Witty as always with a fun aura, the presence of a reliable man was clear. One could feel Hirata’s warm personality in a good way and it felt like his character seemed more intimate than before. He is the most trustworthy member of the Sanzo party.
I was surprised that Akira Ishida’s (Cho Hakkai) voice hasn’t changed very much. Quite recently, Ishida recently gave an incredible performance as an elderly man in a certain anime, so the image of ‘elderly’ has kind of stuck to him. However, he suddenly regained his youth and produced the very same Hakkai voice from over a decade ago, and it was quite overwhelming. Before the event, I re-watched the past Saiyuki works and went to the theater remembering exactly how the characters sounded. To be honest I was shocked at how easily Ishida is able to morph his voice. Although, in the talk show, Ishida said that even though he did re-watch the older anime, he didn’t try to specifically match his voice and just did the recording as his current self, adding the already overwhelming power of his performance. The scene in the second episode when Hakkai quietly gets angry is a must-watch.
For a non-expert such as myself, it seems as though Soichiro Hoshi’s (Son Goku) voice hasn’t changed. This is something to be surprised about because although he has definitely gotten older, his voice hasn’t aged even a little bit. It sounds like he was told to make it sound younger so I’m sure that portraying the always energetic and positive Goku requires quite a bit of power. I felt that voice actors need quite a bit of stamina and my respect for them deepened once again. ‘By the way, I think Goku has become even more cuter than he was at the start!’ Hoshi made this statement during the talk show and one of the other guests quipped, ‘You’re gonna say that yourself?!’
You can’t have Saiyuki without battle scenes. Saiyuki’s action has a good tempo and the level of refreshment is different because of it gives us its best with all its might.
Appearing with good timing, cool and composed dialogue is spewed amidst action! Action! Sanzo party’s dialogue! Abusive language! Gunshots! Small fry enemies’ dialogue and the attacks excite situation. Gojyo’s Shakugetsujou! Goku is hungry! Hakkai’s smile is scary! Someone’s cool one-liner! The finishing blow!! ‘Who are you people…?’ and a full shot of the Sanzo party!!
Personally, this is the best, golden style of Saiyuki and the work this time inherited this style. The movements and music are one of the deciding factors and the adrenaline and smiles don’t stop. ‘If we follow through on one pattern then that is our “style”.’ That is one of Hakkai’s famous lines and one of the feel-good points in the anime that makes you think, ‘This is the Sanzo party!’ I’m sure that the Sanzo party will kick away all of your stress.
One point that is serious for fans of the manga and the past anime is whether or not their image of the work until now will crumble. A lot of time has passed between the last anime adaptation and the new series so it is inevitable that fans will worry about things going in an unfamiliar direction. However, those who have read thus far should have understood enough. It’s okay, please calmly wait for the broadcast!
Technology has advanced with the times and the Sanzo party has become more beautiful and refreshing even as their image hasn’t changed. It looks as if each strand of hair atop their heads was individually painted. the colors in the character designs have become brighter and Sanzo and Gojyo seem a little younger. Regarding the details, I would like you to discover various things while actually watching the anime… but to mention a point to pay attention to (with a little bit of a spoiler); the scenes that are put in to excite the fans go all-out. You can hear that song. Also, this may be my misunderstanding, but Sanzo’s paper fan sounded a little different than before. I’m not sure of this myself so please watch the anime and tell me what you think.
The number one thing that has changed from the broadcast 13 years ago is the internet environment, right? At the time, although there were forums and such, there wasn’t such a light environment as Twitter and other current social networking sites. In this generation, it doesn’t matter when or where, whether your country is far away or not, as long as you have an active internet connection, you can share information and emotion in real time. As well as being broadcast, this show is also available online. Those who couldn’t go to the advanced screening can use the internet and watch the anime and feel the sense of unity felt in the theater that day. There is no happier feeling. I hope Japan’s passion can be felt overseas as well!
After the screening, the theater was lit up once again and four chairs, a table, and an original poster of the Sanzo party by Kazuya Minekura were set up onstage. After the preparation was finished, the downstage door opened and Soichiro Hoshi suddenly appeared! He gave his usual greeting of, ‘Pappi~!※’ and waved at the audience. The audience responded with, ‘Pappi~!’ and waved back, but his solo appearance brought forth a somewhat unsettled atmosphere and the audience began to buzz.
(※Pappi – Hoshi’s unique greeting. It seems to be an amazing version of ‘happy’)
It seems that this time, Hoshi was taking on the role of MC! He said that he would only be allowed to be MC for a Saiyuki event… He seemed a little uneasy but he quickly called out the other members.
However, even though the entrance music played, no one appeared, much to Hoshi’s dismay. Actually, to mess with Hoshi, the other three members decided to play a prank on him. The other three finally made their entrance but they stood still in front of the door without going onstage. From there, they interacted with Hoshi for a while, getting the audience excited.
The four members finally gathered onstage and the talk show began once again.
First, Seki (Genjyo Sanzo) said, ‘The Sanzo party has returned!’, stirring up the venue with a single sentence. Hirata said Gojyo’s famous line in his voice. The talk show was full of fan service and playfulness! Ishida asked the audience members how many of them have never experienced a Saiyuki event and more people raised their hands than was expected, surprising the Sanzo party who assumed that there would be mostly experienced fans. It seems that they were worried they surprised the attendees with their relaxed opening to the talk show. However, they declared, ‘We are very vague so we will continue with this tedious atmosphere until the end!’ In this manner, the talk show was relaxed from the beginning. Although there was a gathering of amazing people, that loose feeling is exactly the Sanzo party!
About the recording sessions, according to Hirata, although it sounded like no one’s voice had changed, when they listened to the finished product, they realised they sounded a little different. He mentioned that Seki’s overwhelming power especially had increased and everyone nodded their heads in agreement. With a bit of a hidden meaning, Hirata said, ‘But the most irritating one is Akira!’ causing Ishida to panic at Hirata’s bitter expression. He said that Hakkai’s image so far is one of a kind older brother who doesn’t get angry, who is intelligent and has a flexible demeanor. However, it seems that this time, that tasteful aspect has increased and he is even more cool, causing Hirata to feel resentful. Ishida gave a strained laugh and said, ‘I intended to portray him as if nothing had changed from the start but I’ve aged, you know. All of us aged, right?’ They moved on to the next topic after agreeing that the reason no one noticed a difference in the recording studio is because everyone aged together and their voices have become tasteful together.
In response to the question, ‘Which character piques your interest in the TV anime Saiyuki Reload Blast?’, Seki answered with Kougaiji. They have battled many enemies in the anime so far, but finally the fated enemy Kougaiji has appeared and serious battles may take place from now. Such expectations are rising. Outside of that, a Sanzo other than Genjyo Sanzo makes an appearance along with other new characters. While they are new characters, they are very important roles. They will be voiced by experienced veteran voiced actors but a lot of jargon is used in the script so it seems like they worked very hard. I don’t think we as viewers will be able to see even a tiny percentage of that determination but knowing that such work went into voicing the characters, they feel more precious.
Those fans who have watched the TV anime Saiyuki Reload, do you remember that corner from after the anime? That relaxed, fun corner ‘Urasai’ is coming back! After the screening of the first episode, ‘Urasai’ was also screened and the venue was enveloped in laughter and joy. The main point is the title written in the Sanzo party’s handwriting which changes every week. They weren’t told anything other than ‘Please write the title’ so each of their personalities are visible. Hirata took it home and wrote it in proper lettering as compared to Ishida who wrote it in less than 30 seconds. Look out for the titles!
The content of the current manga Saiyuki Reload Blast continues until Episode 3 and and from Episode 4 onwards, the story moves into Gaiden.
The previously-produced Gaiden OVA simply and quickly depicted the first half of the Saiyuki Gaiden anime. However, this time the relationship between Goku and Nataku is clearly depicted and it seems it can be fully enjoyed. Gaiden’s story is sadder than the main story and you cannot watch Goku and Nataku’s story without crying. Knowing that I can see certain scenes in the anime, I am already excited. Saiyuki Reload Blast, which is said to be the final installment in the series will probably reveal cause and effect from 500 years prior. We must keep our eyes on the developments from here on!
The first broadcast was on Wednesday 5 July from 22:30.
By all means, please watch the TV anime Saiyuki Reload Blast!!