Saiyuki Vol. #05 (of 12) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, October 08, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, October 14, 2003



What They Say
An ancient legend tells that eating a priest entrusted with one of the founding scriptures of heaven and earth will grant immortality-and now the Scorpion Queen Renli has developed a taste for Sanzo. After luring his party into her underground lair, Renli infects Sanzo with her deadly venom. Now, if Goku is to reach an antidote in time to save Sanzo, he may be forced to "go berserk" to get past his old nemesis Kougaiji! Renli may eat men alive, but these guys know how to take care of themselves.


The Review!
Shifting away again from the single episode stories, there’s a brutal three-part story included in this volume.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. With this being such a recent show, the dialogue was well done with lots of nicely placed pieces of directionality for both that and some of the action effects. Dialogue was crisp and clear throughout and we noted no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Video:
Originally airing 2000, the transfer here for Saiyuki is good, but has a few areas where it suffers a bit. Colors are vibrant, but there’s some cross coloration in a few of the more tightly animated areas. There’s still some amount of aliasing as well but it’s still mostly during panning sequences and nowhere near as noticeable as it was earlier in the series. Things look very good overall, but there are just some things inherent in the print that may catch the eye of some folks

Packaging:
The eye-catching covers continue here and continue to impress me. With the near painted manga look, this cover provides a really nice shot of Kougaiji with his own bloodied bandages wrapped around him. The back cover provides screenshots and a decent summary of what to expect. On the plus side, volume numbering shows up on both the front cover and on the spine. The insert has again taken the form of a small foldout poster with a great painted image of Ririn done up like the front covers of this series.

Menu:
The blood-splotched aspect of the first menu is carried over here while below it is the nice animated sequence of the group moving along in their jeep to some of the series instrumental music. Episode selection (though no scene selection) is available right from the top while other selections take you to their submenus. Access times are nice and fast and we had no troubles getting around, though the black and red text selections made it awkward at times figuring out whether we were on a selection or not.

Extras:
The extras are similar to the previous volumes and that continues to be a good thing. There’s a new batch of good production sketches here and the opening and ending sequences make another textless appearance. The much-valued cultural background notes also make another appearance here with many pages describing various changes from one version to the next. There’s also a large chunk of this one devoted to how Goku is the lead in the original story and how the plot is different because of it, which is very illuminating and makes me want to read the original more.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the fifth volume of the series, I’d come into it with higher hopes than I did before, having experienced the truly solid and entertaining multi-part story told in the previous volume about how everyone eventually came together and formed into a real group of friends. Strange and sometimes competitive friends, but friends nonetheless.

The volume starts off with a really well done if somewhat unsubtle single part story where one particular demon, a parasitic type, takes advantage of a woman and bonds with her body, allowing her some control but not complete. Using her, it intends to confront and kill Sanzo and his friends. His collateral in getting this done is in the fact that the woman has three sisters whose lives could be at stake over it.

While this is a standard fight show at the end, it’s the build-up that’s so much fun. It’s done in such an obvious way right from when you meet them, but the four woman are basically mirror images of the guys in just about every way, but with enough differences. Watching each of them take to their mirror image in some respect is interesting and a bit creepy – but not as creepy as it could be if they started going after the other versions there, such as Goku going after Gojyo’s mirror image. The way that they all interact with each other is pretty amusing at times, especially the mannerisms or things like Hakkai’s patch being mimicked by the woman’s hair covering her eye.

The three part story presents an interesting piece, especially for Goku fans. Continuing in their journey west, they find themselves in a sizable chunk of desert and end up stopping off in some little town with a little help from the locals. The town used to be flourishing, but it’s gotten so close to the evil that’s spreading across the world that the desert has claimed most of the surrounding region. It’s in this town that we learn of a previous Sanzo who had journeyed through and gone north to fight off a particular demon. His battle was lost, but his Scripture is likely to still be there. So Genjo decides a side trip is in order.

The trip leads them into a dangerous trap where the foursome find themselves under the power of a demon whose goal is to continue to keep her beauty immortal. Going by a myth (that’s actually real in the original story) that eating a Sanzo priest will give you the immortal life, she’s decided to double her odds by taking in another. Poisoning Genjo and imprisoning the others, she runs through her plans and desires while Genjo lays motionless and suffering by her blather.

This is actually all set up, as interesting as it is when it plays out, for the larger battle that’s about to occur. Kougaiji finds himself in the same area, having heard of the old Sanzo’s Scripture also being there and has set about finding it. The two parties naturally cross paths, but the good guys are in a pinch. Genjo is near death from the poison while Hakkai and Gojyo are pretty wounded from their own attempts to keep everyone alive. The show then focuses on Goku who finds himself committing everything within his being to saving Genjo. With the theme of protecting that which means the most to you, he removes his limiter and takes on Kougaiji with abandon.

Spread across the three episodes, it’s a very fast and enjoyable tale that helps bring all the characters tighter together. Each step they take brings them closer and closer but still keeps tugging them apart enough to keep some potential tension. Their core personalities continue through even though they find themselves becoming ever more reliant on each other. It’s played out very well and is quite fun to watch. Though it’s not quite as engaging as the previous volume, it’s become more enjoyable because of what we learned there about the group dynamic. These episodes are a lot of fun and a nice break from what could potentially be a lot of one-off episodes.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches,Cultural background notes,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.




Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: ADV Films
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saiyuki