Journey to the West: book vs comic

Welcome to the first of the “versus reviews”. In these reviews I’ll compare original works with adaptations, or works on similar topics.

Journey to the West

Book

Małpi bunt - Journey to the West PL coverJourney to the West (original title: 西遊記) is a classic Chinese novel written by Wu Cheng’en in 16th century. It’s regarded as one of the masterpieces of Chinese literature and is a source of inspiration and references even nowadays. And it doesn’t stop to Chinese authors only.

The plot of the book is inspired on the real journey of Xuanzang, Chinese Buddhist monk to India in 7th century. His journey took 17 years to complete.

In Journey to the West, a Buddhist monk travels with 3 disciples (joining him along the way) to obtain sacred Buddhist texts.

I have read the Polish short version of the book, published long time ago in two  volumes titled “Małpi bunt” and “Wędrówka na Zachód”.

Comic

Saiyuki by Kazuya Minekura vol 1 Japanese coverThe comic adaptation of Journey to the West is the well known 幻想魔伝最遊記 (Gensoumaden Saiyuuki) by Kazuya Minekura, Japanese manga author.  The title is often simply referred in the West as “Saiyuki”.

Saiyuki” story has several sub-series,  including prequels and sequels.

Buddhist monk is travelling west with his aides to stop the resurrection of the Demon King, which is also the reason for demons going crazy. The setting is rather contemporary – jeep and credit cards are highly visible.

Continue reading to see which version wins the battle – the original book or the comic (manga) adaptation.

Characters

The monk in comic is more believable. The guy who is hardly behaving “priestly” is more real and acceptable than the “priestly” oh so good guy, who is inflicting pain on others on purpose. The secondary and tertiary characters are more interesting, and with more depth.

Plot

Manga has visible bad characters, long-time enemies. The opponents in the book (from what I know) aren’t there for too long. A lot of manga plot is inspired by the book, including the “eating the monk to gain immortality”. The biggest difference between book and comic is that there is a threat to the world in the manga. Something like that doesn’t exist in the book, the fights are more on a personal level.

My opinion

Despite things like the too hierarchical Heaven (and its descriptions occupying too much of the pages)  and a lot of cruelty that doesn’t get condemned (as it’s decreed by the good Gods), reading the book of “Journey to the West” is compulsory if you’re interested in Chinese or Eastern Asia’s culture.  I wasn’t too much into the book, unfortunately. It bore me (and I read the short version) and I had a really hard time accepting all that suffering brought deliberately by the “good guys”. I prefer the comic book, definitely. The monk and his companions are more interesting in the adaptation in my opinion.

In the battle of book of “Journey to the West” versus manga “Saiyuuki” wins: manga.

What’s your opinion? Did you read “Journey to the West” or “Saiyuuki”? Do you like them?

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