Tokyopop will publish the first volume of Kazuya Minekura's Gensomaden Saiyuki (Fantasy Romance Saiyuki) in March. Saiyuki was Minekura's first big hit back in 1997 and seven years later she is working on a sequel, Saiyuki Reload.
Saiyuki is based on the famous Chinese fantasy tale Xi You Ji ('Saiyuki'in Japanese), or Journey to the West. A sort of Chinese fantasy version of the Canterbury Tales, Saiyuki is a bawdy pilgrimage complete with a lecherous cleric (Genjyo), a Monkey King (Son Goku), a slippery water sprite (Sha Gojyo), and a legendary demon slayer (Cho Hakkai). This early Chinese literary work has influenced numerous manga and anime properties including Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball, but Kazuya Minekura's innovative idea was to cast the saga's main roles with gorgeous male characters in order to create a bishounen (beautiful boy) version of the Saiyuki legend.
Her manga series has been extremely popular in Japan, where it inspired an equally popular 50-episode anime series, which ADV is releasing here in the States. Saiyuki is a property that could benefit from the synergy between the manga and anime versions here in the States. Look for interest in the anime series to perk up after the release of the first volume of the manga in March. Lots of new manga series are debuting in 2004, but few of them have proved more popular in Japan than Saiyuki.