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Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN Release Date, Characters, And Plot - What We Know So Far

The 16th-century Chinese myth "Journey to the West" has spawned countless adaptations, and it looks like this practice is in no hurry to end anytime soon. Netflix has continued the trend thanks to "The New Legends of Monkey" and its upcoming animated "The Monkey King" series. Meanwhile, anime fans are already accustomed to the classic novel's basic premise and key characters, thanks to Akira's Toriyama's "Dragon Ball" series. But "Dragon Ball" isn't the only popular anime series with its own warrior named Son Goku.

Besides Toriyama, manga author Kazuya Minekura presented her unique spin on the "Journey to the West" story with her manga series "Saiyuki." The manga initially debuted in 1997, and has over 25 million copies in print, but it's also spawned a franchise full of various movies, stage musicals, and multiple anime series (via Crunchyroll). The last anime adaptation was "Saiyuki Reload Blast," which came out in 2017. With the series' popularity still going strong, it looks like another anime adaptation is on the horizon thanks to the upcoming "Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN."

Here's everything we know so far.

When is the release date for Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN?

Rumblings of a new animated entry in the "Saiyuki Reload" series began in January 2021 when anime studio Frontier Works announced the project with a special teaser trailer. Besides detailing what manga arc the anime project would adapt and who was confirmed to return, the teaser provided fans with little news about an official release date. But after months of wandering in the dark, we finally have an official release, and fortunately, it's not going to be much of a wait. The official anime series Twitter account tweeted that "Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN" will be broadcast in Japan in January 2022.

While this places the anime on the Winter 2022 anime calendar, there is currently no official release date for Western audiences. However, the anime could likely be streamed in North America concurrently with its Japanese broadcast thanks to Crunchyroll. The streaming service has been gradually updating its library with "Saiyuki" content, with "Saiyuki Reload Gunlock" as the latest addition as of March 2021 (via Crunchyroll). Look for more news here about a Crunchyroll simulcast when it becomes available.

Who are the characters in Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN?

As reported by Anime News Network, "Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN" is returning with the four main protagonists featured in its previous anime series, along with their original voice actors. The series focuses on gun-toting Buddhist Priest Genjo Sanzo, who is sent on a quest to the West to find out the cause of dangerous yokai spirits appearing and wreaking havoc back East. In the series, his usual companions are actually three yokai invested with human souls. This includes the Monkey King Son Goku, who uses a magical staff, Sha Gojyo, who fights with his shakujo, and primary group healer Cho Hakkai. Collectively, the four are known as the Sanzo Ikkou.

Also per Anime News Network, antagonist Hazel Grouse returns in "Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN" along with his assistant Gatti "Gat" Nenehawk. Both of these characters have appeared before in anime form, thanks to their last appearance in "Saiyuki Reload Gunlock." In addition, "ZEROIN" features another major antagonist, Ni Jianyi, a mad scientist who also happens to be a dangerous sanjo practitioner.

What is the plot of Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN?

As shown on the official anime site, as well as in the teaser trailer, "Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN" will adapt the second to last manga arc of "Saiyuki Reload." Known as "Even a Worm," the arc is well-regarded among fans (via Crunchyroll). With "Even a Worm" as the focal plot point for the upcoming anime, this will essentially mean a reintroduction of antagonists Hazel Grouse and Gatti "Gat" Nenehawk.

Part of the arc already received the anime adaptation treatment thanks to "Saiyuki Reload Gunlock." However, that adaptation made some significant changes from the manga, such as the backstories and introductions of antagonists Hazel Grouse and Gati "Gat" Nenehawk and their concluding battle with the Sanzo Ikkou. "Saiyuki Reload Gunlock" only used a few key story points and ideas from the manga for its adaptation of "Even a Worm." The anime deviated greatly from its manga source (via Silicon Era). But with "Saiyuki Reload: ZEROIN," the anime could aim to stick closer to the manga this time, perhaps giving this arc a "Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood" treatment. That would be a real crowd-pleaser.