This review focuses primarily on the performance of the actors, is entirely subjective, and is more a collection of my thoughts about Saiyuki Kagekiden: God-child than an actual review. Despite my sometimes critical opinions, I absolutely loved it and squeed like a fangirl the whole way through. I really don't think anything here counts as a spoiler, mostly because if you're into Saiyuki but you're not familiar with the Kami-sama arc, you must be living under a very big rock (possibly on top of a mountain, too). :D That said, read at your own risk! ♥
Shiina Taizo as Goku grabs me by the heart from the second he shows up on stage. You can really tell he understands his character really well. No surprise there - he's done it before - and his acting here really proves he's the right fit. We see him first in a "flashback" to Goku's prison, and the way he screams as he first shows up is enough to push my heartrate into double time... and then he owns me because those emotions are so damn real when he starts talking about yearning for the sun... Goosebumps. Shivers. BE STILL, MY HEART. He IS Goku there, and in every scene. It's one hell of a solid performance. Every bit is in character and wonderfully delivered, and have I mentioned he's possibly the cutest thing that has ever walked the Earth? It also doesn't hurt that he's probably the best singer in the cast.
Suzuki Hiroki as Sanzo is made of pure win... except when he overacts. :D Which he does, a lot. Still, even if it grates a tiny little bit here and there, I don't even hold it against him, not really. The parts where he shines, where he IS Sanzo, more than make up for that. I was sold the second he delivered the famous Sanzo Ikkou creed: 「俺は生まれてから死ぬまで俺だけの味方」 - "From the day I was born 'til the day I die, the only side I'm on is my own" I was sold. SOLD, I tell you. I might or might not have watched that part of the video about, oh, fifty times, maybe. >.> But his performance isn't without problems (in my humble opinion, obviously) - Sanzo, to me, has an air of stoic calm about him most of the time. He'll scream at Goku or Gojyo, sure, but rarely at his enemies. Meanwhile, Suzuki-san makes excess use of his very (gorgeous) expressive face to the point where he sometimes looks downright psychotic. ;) There are a few moments when that throws me off a bit. Instead of going with the flow of the scene, my mind wanders into drawing comparisons between manga/anime Sanzo and the one I'm watching, and I can't focus on the show because it feels like he goes a bit overboard. It's too bad, really, because he's otherwise perfect as Sanzo. Like I said though, this is far from enough to change my opinion about the overall awesomeness of it all; problems aside, I totally dropped my jaw at some points BECAUSE OMFG SANZO.
I admit I have mixed feelings about Gojyo. I originally thought I'd have the most beef with the portrayal of Sanzo, since he's so... Sanzo, in a way that's maybe not so easy to get right. But it's actually Ayukawa Taiyou who doesn't convince me completely, and I really, really wanted him to, but nope. This is not to say he's bad as Gojyo - far from it. But Gojyo is my favorite Saiyuki character and I expected the portrayal to be a little closer to canon. Most of the time I feel like Ayukawa-san is trying too hard - his Gojyo sounds angry most of the time, while Gojyo talks in an offhanded way unless he's really pissed off. Let me stress here that this opinion is strongly affected by the fact that I am Hiroaki Hirata's biggest living fangirl (kidding! :P ...or not) and no one but him can get the voice of Gojyo/Kenren right, but. ;D Ayukawa Taiyou gets the job done, but he doesn't grab me. I might revisit this opinion after watching God Child a few times - hopefully I'll get to see the full version of it sooner rather than later - and I really hope he'll grow on me. I can and will ignore the color of his hair. That's not his fault. xD
Fujiwara Yuki as Hakkai is a step up from Sainei Ryuji's version from the previous musicals. I enjoyed his performance, and even though he didn't grab me that much either, there was nothing I count count against him. He's a pretty neat singer, too. In many parts he manages to sound quite like Hakkai (although again, my Akira Ishida fangirl's heart is working on dealing with the fact it's a different voice). My issue entirely, not the actor's. ;)
I've already seen all kinds of different opinions about Hirano Ryo's portrayal of Kami-sama. Personally, I think he's so creepy I can't help but love him. Kami-sama isn't exactly right in the head; he's childish and mean and very lonely, and that's how he comes off in the musical. Possibly more than a little crazy, too, but that's fine because he IS. Quite awesome and, IMHO, a very good fit.
Honorable mentions ;)
A short mention because I've run out of time (and steam, mostly) - Karahashi Mitsuru as Nii Jienyi, brief as his appearances are, is super awesome (also, HOT). Murata Mitsu as Kinkaku is cuteness personified, even more so at the end of the show when the cast does a bit of talking - he's the most adorable little thing ever. XD
I really hope a full version will be available online at some point. If you're familiar with the Kami-sama arc, you shouldn't even need subtitles to follow it (although it would be nice to have them, as I didn't catch everything - partly because of the poor sound quality of the currently uploaded version, and partly because my Japanese sucks).
By the way.
I'd offer my nonexistent firstborn and my black, black soul to whoever has the power to make a Gaiden musical. It'd probably be the last thing I saw before I died of heartbreak, but. >.>
I said I was kinda sorta disappointed with Ayukawa Taiyou's portrayal of Gojyo because reasons?
I take it back.
Yes, he overacts here and there. Yes, his voice is all over the place sometimes when he sings and he doesn't always manage to carry the notes as he should.
It's 'cause he gets so emotional about what he's doing. o.o Watch the video (it's around 1:08, but his interactions with the little Mitsu are precious and hilarious too ♡) He's saying he made meaningful memories and had so much fun, and that time they spent rehearsing was amazing, and then his voice breaks and he very nearly loses it. He's so happy about getting to meet such wonderful people and about everything they've done together. It made him cry. And I'm undone, so yeah. ♡
He's so young and such a precious dork, andandand. So yeah. He needs to work on his craft; we all do, always. But, oh dear.