First Impressions: Saiyuki RELOAD ZEROIN

The moon is surrounded by darkness. In a wooden house, an old priest from a fantasy religion is waiting and pondering. A small kid, his pupil, is going to sleep, while another cleric comes to visit and chat. Only the music tells us that something else is going on, though soon their internal monologues do too. The boy’s tutor mentally compares his visitor to the powerful, ever-expanding darkness. In turn, the visitor thinks that his host resembles the bright and white moon. Cut to the next boy band, ahem, to our RPG party of four—clergyman, warrior, kid acrobat and magician, hunting aggressive demons (oni), and displaying even more aggressive hairstyles. They are bantering, chain-smoking and traveling around the fantasy realm in their jeep, armed with magic swords, spears, staffs, spells, supernatural martial skills, and a gun. And then, the surprise. The attackers today are not demons, but yellow-eyed humans who dissolve into powder when killed. Enter a mysterious priest from the western continent, looking a bit like a cross between a Puritan preacher and a 1940s Catholic priest, accompanied by his imposing bodyguard…

Well, well, this one was definitely interesting. The aesthetics of Saiyuki RELOAD ZEROIN are pretty unique, the music is great, and frankly, I’m quite intrigued. There’s a system of powers and magic behind this mishmash of eras and styles, and I thought the fight and its consequences were well-played. The fantasy towers with computers and modern technology side-by-side with swords, sorcery, zombies and a village straight out of the Edo era, feels a lot like Hunter x Hunter, while the seemingly balanced combat style, the relative darkness of the fight in the village, the horror elements, and the stark division between humans and oni reminds me of Kimetsu no Yaiba. Meanwhile, the themes and the way they were played out, mixing comedy and some seriousness, made me think of FMAB. The dead coming back. The East and the West. An unspoken code between clergymen. The looming confrontation of masters with different ideals in the background. The episode manages to keep its own distinct voice: videogamey, cheeky, a little over-the-top and having fun with it, while giving everything a twist or two. I feel as if I’ve just seen a skillful series of juggling tricks. This could crumble, or it could genuinely be great.

Saiyuki RELOAD ZEROIN can be streamed on HiDive.

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