Gun-toting monks

According to Anime News Network, cable channel Encore Action will be showing “Saiyuki Reload” starting Nov. 8 at midnight. The show is worth a peek.

“Saiyuki Reload” is the second installment of the popular “Saiyuki” series and both seasons are out on DVD. The third season, “Saiyuki Reload Gunlock” is sloowly coming out on DVD. I saw the third “Gunlock” DVD not too long ago.

The series is a very loose re-telling of the Chinese story, “Journey to the West”. In this anime version, a monk and his three demon companions are heading west to find out why demons who used to live in harmony with humans in Shangri-La are now attacking and killing people. They’re not going of their own accord but were ordered to do so by the Three Aspects of the Buddha.

Genjyo Sanzo is a blond high-ranking Buddhist monk who wields a revolver, smokes like a chimney, gambles and drinks. His traveling companions include Cho Hakkai who became a demon after killing 1,000 demons, Sha Gojyo a half-demon whose stepmother tried to kill him and Son Goku a monkey demon with enormous strength.

They haven’t reached the West yet. And many of their adventures are one-off episodes.

The show’s episodes can be pedestrian and the quality of the animation suffers in “Saiyuki Reload” but thankfully improves in “Gunlock.”

“Saiyuki” and its two sequels remain a guilty pleasure for me. I watch it mostly for the interaction between the four main characters. The moody Sanzo usually smacks the bickering Goku and Gojyo with a big fan or shoots at them to make them shut up. He is not above threatening his companions with death either. Hakkai puts up with their slovenly habits and acts as a referee most of the time. He has his limits. But you know they care about each other. Well, maybe not.

It’s not a show that makes you think about the nature of man or his place in the universe. So park your brain, take out that bowl of snacks and settle in for a fun ride with Master Sanzo and the gang. And try not to annoy him too much. He has a hair trigger temper and a faster trigger finger.

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