Saiyuki is the story of four anti-hero-like heroes: the monk Genjyo Sanzo, the monkey king Son Goku, the half-demon Sha Gojyo, and the man who turned into a demon Cho Hakkai (formerly known as Cho Gonou). They have been dispatched by the Sanbutsushin (the Three Aspects of Buddha, who relay the orders of heaven) to travel to India to stop the possible resurrection of the Ox-Demon-King, Gyumaoh. Along the way they are beset by inept assassins, bad weather, and their own tragic personal pasts. Meanwhile, the villains, two unlikely confidants, Gyokumen Koushou (Gyumaoh's concubine, a demon) and a mad scientist, Dr. Nii Jianyi (a human), continue their attempts to restore the long-dead king. These experiments, a forbidden mixture of science and magic, spawn the "Minus Wave", infecting all of the demons in Shangri-La with madness, shattering the fragile peace that once existed between humans and demons.
The Saiyuki manga comprises five separate series. The original series comprised nine volumes, and was serialized in the manga magazine Monthly GFantasy from February 18, 1997 to January 18, 2002. The second series began in June 1999, and was called Saiyuki Gaiden. Saiyuki Gaiden comprised four volumes and ran for ten years in the Japanese shōjo manga magazine Zero Sum Ward. This second series takes place in Heaven, 500 years before the first Saiyuki series. The plot is based around the four main characters of Saiyuki in their past lives, and details exactly what it was they did to get thrown out of heaven. In 2002, a third series was made entitled Saiyuki Reload that lasted 10 volumes long. The third series was serialized in the monthly Japanese Jousei manga magazine Monthly Comic Zero Sum and completed its run in 2009 in the August edition. The third series spun out a fourth series called Saiyuki Reload Blast which is currently being serialized in Monthly Comic Zero Sum. The fifth and final series made titled Saiyuki Ibun started in 2009, and is currently running in Zero Sum Ward. The fifth series follows Priest Koumyou Sanzo in his days before inheriting the Sanzo Title.
The first adaptation of Saiyuki was a two episode OVA by Tokyo Kids. The first episode was released on April 23, 1999, while the second episode was released on August 27, 1999. A television series was created by Studio Pierrot and Dentsu entitled Gensomaden Saiyuki (幻想魔伝 最遊記, Gensōmaden Saiyūki). The series aired on TV Tokyo from April 4, 2000 to March 27, 2001 on Tuesdays at 18:30, spanning 50 episodes. Another series, Saiyuki Reload (最遊記ＲＥＬＯＡＤ, Saiyūki RELOAD) was created by the same companies and it adapts from the manga of the same name. It aired on the same network from October 2, 2003 to March 25, 2004 on Thursdays at 18:30. A sequel titled Saiyuki Reload Gunlock (最遊記ＲＥＬＯＡＤＧＵＮＬＯＣＫ, Saiyūki RELOAD GUNLOCK) was also created by the companies and aired on the same network from April 1, 2004 to September 23, 2004 on Thursdays at 25:30. ADV Films licensed Gensomaden Saiyuki and the movie. The sequels Saiyuki Reload and Saiyuki Reload Gunlock are licensed by Geneon in North America, and consist of 25 and 26 episodes respectively. Saiyuki Reload is faithful to the manga from the fourteenth episode and onward, having deviated from it for the first 13 episodes. Saiyuki Reload Gunlock also starts off deviated from the manga, until midway into the series, but strays from it during its finale. An anime television series adaptation of the Saiyuki Reload Blast manga series will premiere July 5, 2017 on Tokyo MX, TV Aichi, BS11, Sun TV. It will run for 12 episodes. Crunchyroll will be streaming the anime. Funimation will stream an English dub of the series.
Enoki Films holds the US license to Gensomaden Saiyuki under the title Saiyuki: Paradise Raiders. There has also been a movie (Saiyuki: Requiem) adapted into English that is also licensed by ADV. A new OVA has been released by Studio Pierrot, which covers the "Burial" arc of the Saiyuki Reload manga; it is called Saiyuki Reload: Burial.
Saiyuki Kagekiden Go to the West & Dead or Alive, has the same cast and a man in drag playing the role of Kanzeon Bosatsu. The third musical, God Child & Burial & Reload, has only the actors of Genjo Sanzo, Son Goku and Dr. Ni being the same.
Saiyuki Kagekiden Go to the West & Dead or Alive (2009):
Genjo Sanzo - Hiroki Suzuki (1985)
Son Goku - Taizoh Shiina
Sha Gojyo - Atsushi Maruyama (actor)
Cho Hakkai - Ryuji Sainei
Saiyuki Kageki-den -God Child- (2014), -Burial-(2015), -Reload-(2015):
Genjo Sanzo - Hiroki Suzuki (1985)
Son Goku - Taizoh Shiina
Sha Gojyo - Taiyo Ayukawa
Cho Hakkai - Yuki Fujiwara
A DVD reprint for the 2009 stage plays Go to the West and Dead or Alive as a limited-edition set was announced for 10 May 2017 in conjunction with the 20th-Anniversary of the manga series.
Saiyuki Kagekiden the Movie -Bullets-
The 2014/2015 stage cast were also involved in a compilation of 8 original short stories shot for a film release, shown across three screenings (two of which included cast appearances) at the SaiyukiFESTA 2017 event at the Makuhari Messe International Convention Centre on 8 January, commemorating 20 years of publication for the manga.
A behind-the-scenes promotional documentary Saiyuki Kagekiden -Over the Bullets- for the movie/event featuring cast insights on their journeys with the show was broadcast on Tokyo MX1 and online via mcas on Christmas Day 2016.
On March 18, 2004, a Saiyuki Reload role-playing video games that feature visual novel style elements. was released by Bandai for the PlayStation 2. The player is an original character who journeys with Genjyo Sanzo, Son Goku, Sha Gojyo and Cho Hakkai. The player commands the four in menu-based battles that allow for attacks, special attacks, and combination attacks. The game tells an original story, and Bandai included a bonus Saiyuki Reloaded voice CD for those who pre-ordered.
Saiyuki Reload Gunlock was released in Japan on August 5, 2004, by Bandai for the PlayStation 2. This fighting game features a total of eight playable characters including Sanzo, Goku, Gojyo and Hakkai as well as Kougaiji, Chin Yisou, Kamisama, and Hazel. Playable game modes include traditional single and multiplayer modes, as well as Practice Mode, Watch Mode, and a story-akin Dramatic Mode.
During its premiere as a television series the Saiyuki manga sold more than 3,200,000 as of Volume 6 estimation by ComiPress. Meanwhile, Saiyuki Gaiden and Saiyuki Reload continued to be at the top 10 weekly Japanese ranking chart whenever a manga volume debuted. In 2000 Genjo Sanzo won the best Male Character for an Anime at Animage Grand Prix. In 2006 Saiyuki Reload was listed by PUFF (also known as Manga Oscars) known by many fans as one of the definite study guides for those who appreciate manga, as 10th in Long Stories categories. Gensomaden Saiyuki won the Animage Anime Grand Prix Award in 2000.