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It’s been thirteen years since the last televised Saiyuki anime series in Kazuya Minekura’s Saiyuki franchise. But, the first episode of Saiyuki Reload Blast feels like you haven’t spent any time away from the franchise.

Saiyuki Reload Blast continues the story of the characters Genjyo Sanzo, Son Goku, Sha Gojyo, and Cho Hakkai as they travel west to stop the rise of the Ox-Demon-King Gyumaoh. During their journey, the four heroes stave off demon hordes attacking human villages and deal with their own personal issues.

Manga author Kazuya Minekura’s Saiyuki franchise has been animated numerous times since 1999 with thee original video anime (OVA) series, three TV series, and one feature film. While at first it may seem difficult to enter the new series Saiyuki Reload Blast, in actuality non-fans and fans alike can easily being watching the series without feeing any sort of disconnect from the franchise as a whole. This has to do with how the first episode of the series is structured to allow everyone to enjoy the episode, become familiar with the characters, and become engrossed with the journey ahead of them.

The key word here is “structure.” Despite the series being a new addition to the Saiyuki franchise, it’s been thirteen years since the last televised series and six years since the last OVA was released. So, rather than throw the viewer into the fray of where the larger story left off the first episode of Saiyuki Reload Blast treated the series as if it were starting from scratch. This means we’re given a small hook to get us interested in the characters, slowly shown the characters personalities over the course of 30 minutes, and finally shown and told why these characters are so amazing.

Image source: アニメ最遊記RELOAD BLAST公式 on Twitter

This is incredibly important for new audience members of the Saiyuki franchise because this rigid structure helps us become familiar with the story and characters very quickly. Yet, if the first episode of the series treated all this knowledge as a given no new viewers would want to continue watching the series as a whole. The simple reason for this is because they’d be lost. So, by delivering all the information in small packets over the course of the first episode we see what makes Sanzo, Goku, Gojyo, and Hakkai fun characters as well as why we should want to join them on their quest. Add on top of this a handful of action scenes so we can understand how they fight and we have a top tier introductory episode.

Long time fans don’t necessarily need the reintroduction, but even if you haven’t seen the franchise in some time, the quick refresher is really nice. Yet, more importantly for long time fans, the first episode of the series certainly makes it feel as if you hadn’t missed a beat since you last saw the series.

This not only has to do with the structure of the episode but also with the cadence as well. While the structure of the episode is mainly there to help new viewers, it still has the feel of an episode from earlier entries in the franchise’s history. But, instead of needing an introduction to the characters, for long time fans, the episode is a means to give them what they came for: the characters getting into trouble and fighting their way out of it.

Image source: アニメ最遊記RELOAD BLAST公式 on Twitter

This is where the cadence of the episode becomes important. At certain points of the episode there are story beats that make fans realizes the progression of the episode. For instance, in the middle of the episode, we see Sanzo and company enjoying the hospitality of the village they’re in. Although not every episode of the franchise is like this, there are many times the characters find themselves in similar situations. Thus, from that point on, long time fans can see where the episode is going. This isn’t a bad thing either because it’s not the predictability they enjoy, but the comfort in knowing they’re right back was that they left off with these characters. And for a long running franchise with years between entries, this is really important.

Diving back into a franchise you’ve been away from for an extended period of time can be difficult if the series doesn’t handle the first episode well. Saiyuki Reload Blast took careful measures in its first episode to make sure long time fans could jump right back into the story as well as allow new viewers to become acclimated to the story and characters.

Saiyuki Reload Blast is streaming on Crunchyroll and dubbed on FUNimation.

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