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Saiyuki, Saiyuki (serious ikkou)
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Saiyuki commentary: art (volume 9)

It's been a year since I did volume 8? That's really not so good. But at last, here it is. And now that I've finished the art posts, I've written up the series for the booklog too.

Spoilers behind the cut, of course. Spoil me for Reload and die.

As usual, Mangacity scanlations because I don't have a scanner, images on the page scaled down (to half or one-third size, depending) and saved at reduced quality; click on the image for the original size and quality. Citations are per Tokyopop editions.

I went through the volume several months ago looking for things to say, didn't find a lot, and put it down. I found more this time, though I didn't look for or find an overarching theme.

Tones and Shadows

Early on, a striking use of not-really-shadows (9.50.15):

9.50.15 scaled

I like the way the sharp angularity of the black patches below the characters in the top panel complements the tones in that panel and the speech balloon in the last panel.

Two widely separated panels use the same tones as backgrounds to vertical, arms-spread angry characters, but I don't think there's any additional significance (9.51.44, 9.54.126):

9.51.44 scaled    9.51.126 scaled

On the other hand, these are definitely Gojyo-teasing-Sanzo tones (9.52.60, 9.52.66):

9.52.60 scaled    9.52.66 scaled

Going back to the mahjong game, the page with Goku yelling above is faced by this page with its uncharacteristically-scratchy panel of Goku (9.51.45):

9.51.45 scaled

It almost reminds me of Martian Successor Nadesico's anime-within-an-anime, which is deliberately designed to look like it's being received through rabbit-ear antennas rather than cable or satellite dishes. At any rate, it's subtle but effective at conveying raw and adult emotion.

And then turn the page to 9.51.46 and Goku's back to being a kid again, breaking the tension:

9.51.46 scaled

Finally about shadows, the conflict with Kami-Sama brings out three of the four's dark sides in this volume. Consider Hakkai discussing the plan to gang up on Kami-Sama (9.52.65):

9.52.65 scaled

Goku after hitting K-S (9.54.142):

9.54.142 scaled

And Sanzo refusing K-S at the end (9.54.154):

9.54.154 scaled

Okay, I'm a bad essayist and didn't go back and pick out the exact panels that are being echoed here, but I am definitely reminded of Cho Gonou, Son Goku, and Sanzo torturing the scorpion youkai.

Nothing equivalent for Gojyo jumped out at me; one could argue that Gojyo already went there in the last volume, or that he's just nicer than the other three deep down, or both.


What Goku starts with the mahjong game (9.50.24) comes full circle and so is referenced at the end (9.55.180):

9.50.24 scaled    9.55.180 scaled

I don't know that there's any significance to the quarter-turn in the characters' positions.

The next page, 9.55.181, pairs off the four into two smaller teams, Goku & Gojyo, and Hakkai & Sanzo, in panels 2 & 3:

9.55.181 scaled

I think this is interesting, because they split off this way late in the fight with K-S. First Gojyo holds up K-S, falls forward injured, and reveals Goku behind him who then attacks more effectively (9.54.139):

9.54.139 scaled

And then Hakkai begins an attack, falls forward injured, and reveals Sanzo behind him who has already attacked more effectively (9.54.147):

9.54.147 scaled

Yay, teamwork.

This isn't as explicit an echo, but I think it's reasonable to read 9.54.151 as a happier echo of a page from the last volume, 8.49.157:

8.49.157 scaled    9.54.151 scaled

The wide panels of people break up the shorter panels of doing something mechanical; but this time the mechanical panels are accomplishing something, the people are others, and the reader turns the page, not to Gojyo slumped and dejected, but to Sanzo standing up straight and declaring his version of muichimotsu.

Finally, a question about pairings that doesn't have to do with the art: why is the line at the end of chapter 53 ("We're gambling here. And we're not doing it with our lives.") translated differently at the start of 54 ("We made a bet on this. But we're not gambling our lives.")? It's pretty clearly meant to be the same line, shown from different perspectives, and the change is jarring as hell.

(It seemed like the translation early in this volume clunked a little more than I remembered prior volumes doing, but I haven't gone back to check.)

Page Layout

A miscellany of page layout notes:

When they're entering K-S's castle, all these stone spears come crashing down; the page has a lot of very strong vertical bars (even the sound effects), and so the last page turns Sanzo sideways so his black-gloved arm continues the theme, while his head also points toward the next page (9.53.80)

9.53.80 scaled

K-S's writhing after being shot isn't a really new kind of page layout (I was looking for something as pretty as the two-page chain layout in volume 8, but didn't see anything), but it's very effective at being chaotic and yet clearly showing a twisting path down the page (9.54.148):

9.54.148 scaled

And then it jumps into a much less busy page that still continues the writhing/twisting through the whitespace in the middle (9.54.149):


As K-S is dying and they're leaving, the placement of "you have all kinds of things!" is not accidental (9.54.153):

9.54.153 scaled


Okay, to descend suddenly in tone: this panel from 9.54.129 amuses me inordinately, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because the dolls look so happy:

9.54.129 scaled

And that's volume 9. I don't promise to do this for Reload, but I might. We'll see.

[ more Saiyuki art commentary ]

I don't know that there's any significance to the quarter-turn in the characters' positions.

Hmm. In mahjong the players all have directional labels (East, South, West, North) which have various kinds of significance in the game, and after a hand, if the dealer (oya, I guess, in this terminology) didn't win the hand, the players all shift directions. That may or may not be related.

There is symbolism in their initial positions, and apparently they don't shift at all during the game; but the symbolism would be much less obvious with the quarter-shift in the later picture, so I'm inclined to think against there being meaning to it.

Much more detail here:

(Thanks for reminding me to dig out that link.)

(Deleted comment)
Excellent point about those two panels, and I look forward to your other comments.

(Deleted comment)
Yes. Nice catches.

lit by the rising sun while he lays down his super-uber-winning tile

Which, Tokyopop helpfully tells us, is "West."

Not consistent astronomically, but very consistent on a more important level.

See also the bright lighting in panel 9.54.154 (which you show above), where Sanzo declares that he will not give up his precious things. (I don't see that as a "dark" image echoing the bit with the scorpion youkai, mostly because of the lighting.)

I see what you mean, but the curve of his mouth--I got the distinct impression that he was _enjoying_ saying no to K-S. Which I don't blame him, of course, but still.

I think it's very Sanzo to be cruel at the same time that he's acknowledging his affection.

I am sure that must also be symbolic of something

Yes: he's illuminated by _destruction_.

(Deleted comment)
Hey--I hadn't realized until you said it that your first image was actually Sanzo putting down a tile; first I'd thought it was chapter art, then I got confused because it wasn't at a chapter break, and then I shrugged and put it aside. I think that counts as a bigger duh. =>

what's it all about??

Man! I can't believe how deep you guys get with all this stuff. I keep coming across groups like this analysing to death these comics! I do like the look of the artwork a lot though.