Our Lord and Master Ross (I like the sound of that - Ross) really wasn't too enthralled by the opening two volumes of Saiyuki Reload, citing its lack of originality. However, the promise is still present for the series to take a turn for the better, so how does the third volume of the show fare?
In case you aren't familiar with the anime, Saiyuki Reload is the story of four young and powerful demons, some of only a handful unaffected by experiments to revive an ancient demon lord called Gyumaoh which left the rest of the population crazed and violent. This quartet is tasked with traveling to the West, and India, to stop these experiments and ensure that Gyumaoh is never awakened.
However, even though volume three of the series brings us close to the half-way point of the anime, this whole background plot may as well not exist at all considering the little impact it has on the storyline. In other words, judging by the show so far the entire reason for Sanzo and his party to make their journey is to give the script writers a chance to shoehorn as many unrelated stories as possible into the series. This in itself is forgivable (and, let's be honest, a lot of 'epic journey' anime is defined by the quality of its side-stories) - Or, at least, it would be if the stories that the writing team had brewed up were any good at all. Sadly, this is anything but the case, with all of the four episodes that make up this volume having what can only be described as a 'seen it all before' feeling. To call the show up to this point formulaic is an understatement, with every episode following the same basic plot – Meet demons, beat up demons, meet interesting/intriguing character, find out about sad truth of said character, rescue/help character out of pity. Rinse, repeat, do not pass Go, do not collect £200. Oh, and try to stay awake for the duration of each episode.
In essence, this approach reminded me of those kids TV shows that were little more than long commercials for toys and merchandise, with every episode having such a sense of inevitability to it that you find yourself longing for a twist or surprise, only to be disappointed each time. Couple that with a bunch of the most stereotypical, cardboard cut-out 'heroes' you're ever likely to see on screen, and you're looking at a recipe somewhat akin to Kentucky Fried Chicken - Quick and easy, but really not at all satisfying when you know that far heartier meals are on offer elsewhere.
It isn't all bad news though – Although the main story hasn't been explored at all to speak of as yet, there's still plenty of potential in it, which could make for a far more interesting adventure if the pace picks up in the second half of the show. From what I've seen thus far however, I'm really not going to hold my breath, with volume three showing no sign whatsoever of breaking free from the cliché-ridden garbage that shackles it.
Who knows, perhaps Saiyuki Reload is actually a satirical post-modern commentary on the cartoons we used to watch and love as kids? Even if that's the case, I'm still not laughing.