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Saiyuki Reload vol. 7

What is that Tarot card doing there?

You see, I had a problem deciding how to express anything about this volume above the cut, without spoiling the story. The previous volume had left us in a totally horrible moment. If you recall, there had just been two really wonderful conversations about life and death - but mostly about life - touched off by the results of Hazel's resurrection powers. Gojyo and Hakkai had discussed their future - and the emphasis should be on "their," despite Hakkai's extended fantasy on the indestructible woman he is supposedly seeking. Meanwhile, Goku had seemingly touched Sanzo with his understanding of the points Sanzo was making about living life fully, without dwelling on life's end. Sanzo has given Goku that little smile before, but not while Goku was awake to see it - and I don't think Goku was fooled by the fact that the smile was aimed at Sanzo's cigarette.

Then something attacked Goku, and there was blood everywhere. Bam - end of volume 6.

So, volume 7, and this card. This is the Six of Swords (from the Rider-Waite deck, if anyone is into that sort of occult trivia). Swords represent trouble, strife, sorrow. A ferryman poles a shallow barge over a river, carrying two huddled figures, adult and child, and six swords, apparently driven point-down into the floor of the barge. The usual interpretation of the card is "leaving sorrows behind." But when I read this card, I see that the sorrows - the swords - are in the boat with the refugees. Although they have succeeded in obtaining passage away from whatever they have left behind on the bank, they carry their sorrows with them.

And so it is with the Sanzo ikkou in this volume.

Sayuki Reload vol. 7 (review)

It's not that hard to guess who attacked Goku. Hazel's obsession with Ukoku, and Sanzo's flashbacks, make it pretty plain. And at this point, I have to conclude that Ukoku/Nii means to destroy Sanzo - not kill him, that's too easy and not satisfying enough. He wants to break him. I find myself thinking of Chin Yisou's attacks on Hakkai, actually. And this isn't even driven by something as understandable as revenge - it's just part of Ukoku's contest with Koumyo.

What isn't clear to me is whether Ukoku counted on Sanzo's killing rage. Sanzo's first thought isn't trying to save Goku. As the almost-tender moment of shared understanding is shattered and Goku falls to the ground bleeding from dozens of serious wounds, I'm guessing that Sanzo assumes Goku is dead, and his first thought is to kill the one who did it. I'm not sure Ukoku had counted on that. The manipulation seems aimed at making Goku's friends remove his diadem, so that he's revealed as the Seitan Taisei and Hazel is forced to confront the bogeyman that Ukoku has built up for him. And of course, that happens anyway - when Hakkai and Gojyo can't stop the bleeding with their best combined efforts at chi-based healing and first aid, it becomes their only choice.

Other hard choices present themselves. Because they need to save the innocent inhabitants of the town from Goku's rampage, Hakkai removes his youkai power limiters and attacks, despite the dangers that he will be affected by the Minus Wave. Hazel and Gat have to trust Hakkai enough to fall in with his plan to stop Goku. And when Sanzo returns from his fruitless hunt, Gojyo - the only other member of the party left standing - just can't bring himself to forgive their human ally for leaving them - for leaving Goku, who worships Sanzo - in this time of need.

There are so many things that I liked, or that moved me, or both: Hakkai in youkai form is very cool. But just as cool is the fact that what finally stops Goku is not Hakkai's considerable physical powers in his youkai form - it's his educated, rational, controlled mind, which figures out how to use both his own youkai powers and Goku's summoned lightning storm. Hazel, who has avoided addressing any of the youkai by any sort of name, shouting "Mister Spectacles! Don't you give up!" when Hakkai goes down. Gojyo's despairing thought - "Why am I so useless?" - as he tries to revive Hakkai. That Hakkai's first thought when he comes around is for Goku. His and Gojyo's little interaction after that, when Hakkai asks Gojyo why he's making "that face" - I bet he's trying not to cry - and Gojyo tells him to shut up (and can't help smiling as he does it). The two shots of Gojyo, bloody and burdened with his friends, and Sanzo, in his (comparatively) pristine robe, walking away from each other. Hakkai's and Gojyo's joyous relief when Goku comes out of his coma. Gojyo's mixed fury and hurt as he explains to Goku why Sanzo isn't with them. Hakkai toughing out the pain from his leg injury and refusing to let anyone be blamed. And Goku deciding that he has to hide his feelings about Sanzo's desertion because he's making the other two worry. The kid is growing up - but oh, what a heartbreaking way for it to happen!

And then there's Hazel's fairly blatant attempts at flirtation with Sanzo - in front of poor Gat, too. I wanted to smack his perky little face, but it made me laugh, too.

To me, the remainder of the book - as we follow the three youkai through their ineffective attempts to provide for themselves, and their eventual arrival at the youkai desert town, and also travel with Sanzo and Hazel (and Gat) to the town at the oasis, with Hazel dodging Sanzo's questions most of the way - is one long, slow piece of misery. A confrontation is building up, there are mysteries to be solved. But I'm not feeling terribly curious about any of that - all I want to do is somehow clear the air and bring the four of them back together again.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
redbrunja
Nov. 19th, 2007 02:12 pm (UTC)
"And at this point, I have to conclude that Ukoku/Nii means to destroy Sanzo - not kill him, that's too easy and not satisfying enough. He wants to break him. I find myself thinking of Chin Yisou's attacks on Hakkai, actually. And this isn't even driven by something as understandable as revenge - it's just part of Ukoku's contest with Koumyo."

Very astue - I have to admit, I hadn't realized how personal this is for Nii until you mentioned it. I always had the idea that he was just yanking strings to prove that he's in control. I hadn't twigged to the fact that he's still trying to 'beat' Koumyo. And I don't think Nii's realized that no matter what he does, he's always going to lose that fight.

"Gojyo - the only other member of the party left standing - just can't bring himself to forgive their human ally for leaving them - for leaving Goku, who worships Sanzo - in this time of need."

Have I mentioned that I love that line beyond belief? "Sorry I can't beat you senseless - I've got my hands full." Just... WORD, Gojyo.

re: Hazel (I haven't read past this volume, so if you know stuff about later manga, please don't tell.) While I have to say that I found Hazel's 'Mr. Spectacles' line really cute, I think it's still significant that it's still a nick-name - he's not really humanizing Hakkai, you know?

Also, I hated Hazel beyond measure until this volume, when he's torturing Sanzo. And since Sanzo so richly deserves it....
chomiji
Nov. 20th, 2007 03:57 am (UTC)

I'm so glad you found and commented on this ... it was early days for me on LJ, and it was depressing to have no comments on it at all. I usually speak with sanada via e-mail instead (we met through her hana-mi.net translations site, because she did a bunch of SDK translations, and that was my first manga fandom), and except for her, I had no one with whom to talk Saiyuki back then ... .

Yes, that is great line, and he's so miserable on Goku's behalf, later. I think he sees (without knowing it, consciously) parallels with his own childhood situation when Jien left. In fact, I've been hatching a story, very slowly, to be called "Three Days," on what happened between the time Gojyo carries the two of them off the street/battlefield and when Goku wakes up, from Gojyo's point of view.

No, Hazel's not humanizing Hakkai yet - but I really think his intention may have been honorable when he stepped forward with his amulet. He's starting to see some worth in some youkai. But Gojyo was too far gone with worry and protective instincts at that point to even consider that idea.

redbrunja
Nov. 20th, 2007 04:21 pm (UTC)
You're very welcome. When I wrote my write up of what I loved about this manga, I actually posted a link on saiyuki because I didn't want to just be talking to myself. *points at self* oh, yeah, comment whore right here. And actually, I was really surprised that there wasn't a huge outburst on the interwebs when that manga came out. (And, randomly, I am SO looking forward to the next published manga, because I'd really like new canon to chew over, thanks, and I know having just the pictures or the fantranslation would drive me batty. And also I'm unfriended from radio free banri.)

Yes - Gojyo is more upset about it than Goku is - but then, Goku's too busy blaming himself (and where have wee seen THAT pattern of behavoir before?) I'd love to read that story of the three days where Gojyo is just taking care of them by himself.

"No, Hazel's not humanizing Hakkai yet - but I really think his intention may have been honorable when he stepped forward with his amulet."

You're right - there is the possibility that Hazel may have wanted to help. *really wants to reread the manga* Do you remember if it was specified as to if Hazel had souls in his amulate at that point? Because I know he doesn't always.
chomiji
Nov. 22nd, 2007 01:17 am (UTC)

I get a push-pull situation with something like a community. I really want the human interaction, and I really fear the rejection. Somehow, it would be worse to come into a situation like a community, and have my ideas be ignored there ... .

(I'm rather odd, but I'm quite self-aware about it.)

I think also that for Goku, the whole idea of Sanzo's not being there is just so impossible that he doesn't even think in terms of blame at first - it's like blaming yourself for the sun not rising.

I'm not sure Hazel had any souls. Hakkai asked him that, if you remember, when he first asks Hazel if he and Gat would help him and Gojyo with the Seiten Taisei. I'm guessing he said "yes," because I presume Hakkai was making sure that Hazel would be able to bring Gat back to life if need be.

I will make myself write that story sometime ... I'm niggling over the subject of sex, actually. I think there may be a bit, but I think I want to keep it non-explicit. Given my feelings about 585, and the misery they're going through, I can't imagine that Hakkai and Gojyo wouldn't have a taste for each other as soon as pain and the issue of Hakkai's being healed enough were no longer much of an issue, because it would be a comfort thing. But I don't want the story to be just an excuse for pr0n ... it's mainly about Gojyo coping almost completely on his own in a hella lousy situation, with two badly injured comrades.

redbrunja
Nov. 22nd, 2007 04:16 pm (UTC)
"I think also that for Goku, the whole idea of Sanzo's not being there is just so impossible that he doesn't even think in terms of blame at first - it's like blaming yourself for the sun not rising."

Wow, what a great metaphor. And you're right, Goku would take time to process that. And he's not like Gojyo or Hakkai, who WOULD blame themselves for the sun not rising.
chomiji
Nov. 27th, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)

Well, actually, I can't take credit for having Goku think of Sanzo as his sun ... it goes back to his Gaiden days with Konzen.

redbrunja
Nov. 28th, 2007 10:00 am (UTC)
No, I know, but I thought is was a great way to tie in Goku's current mental state with a previous description of Goku and Sanzo's relationship.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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