Saiyuki Vol. #06 (of 12) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Sunday, November 16, 2003
Release Date: Tuesday, November 25, 2003
What They Say
As draught and famine spread throughout the land, local townships have fallen under the control of demons. Sanzo and his crew teach one village to rise up against a Baron who demands a human sacrifice every year, and things get rough when the Armored Demon Corps comes after Sanzo's scripture. But, in the end, it is little Lirin who may prove to be the party's mightiest foe! With each step westward, the Sanzo party faces a barrage of both physical and psychological attacks!
The latest installment of Saiyuki brings in more standalone stories and starts to set the stage slowly for bigger things to come.
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.
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.
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 Yaone with a rough green background, continuing the realistic style and tone of the past covers. 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 really good image of the four leads together.
The blood-splotched aspect of the first menu is carried over here while below it is comical stick-figure version of the four leads bouncing around 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.
The extras are similar to the previous volumes and that continues to be a good thing. There’s a new batch of 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.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
For the most part, this latest installment in the series pays small lip service to the dark plot going on in the West and instead continues to focus on the progress of Sanzo and his group through the wastelands. This results in getting four standalone stories of varying quality.
The opening story has the group traveling into a town, again in the middle of nowhere, where the townspeople are effectively trapped in a bad situation. With no other resources nearby, they’ve become dependent on the castle near them that has a huge cannon attached to it. They continually demand female sacrifices be given to them and the whole thing has turned into a ritual, both ceremonial and of necessity. With the group coming in the middle of the latest ceremony, Hakkai finds himself unable to ignore what’s going on based on his history and ends up getting the entire group involved.
The show plays out much like one would expect, with Hakkai rescuing the young woman while most of the townspeople do nothing and then they create a plan to get inside the castle and deal with the bad guys within. It’s very formulaic, but the chemistry with the characters continues to work nicely in its favor. Though that’ll depend once again on which language track you’re listening to since the dub humor is coarser and more rough around the edges.
Another episode has the gang walking through a different town where Gojyo and Goku are getting food when they end up coming across a woman and a man fighting, only to have the man panic when he says Gojyo. Not sure why, he doesn’t get much out of the woman but ends up coming across her again where she reveals her small baby, a baby who has the same colored hair as Gojyo. She doesn’t claim he’s the father, but since she knows what the hair color means she’s able to converse with him about.
The main point that comes across is that she’s relieved that children with such a heritage can grow into something better. With the child’s father lost to the changes that have swept through the lands and turning them violent, she fears the worst for him. Gojyo’s time with her brings out more memories of his own past and how he dealt with his own mother and his heritage, fleshing him out just a bit more. There’s naturally some demonic element that’s brought out to play, but that’s just the obligatory action sequence here to make sure we don’t have a completely character driven episode.
The best episode on this disc, especially in terms of comedy, is the third one where Lirin has decided to leave her humble abode and come out to play with Sanzo and the group. She’s brutal in her way in that she doesn’t realize what she’s doing nor the kind of pain she can be. Starting by launching massive boulders across the sky to get their attention to just cuddling up to Sanzo, she grates on all their nerves. Through an amusing set of circumstances, she ends up with three lackeys to use in her goal of getting closer to Sanzo, and after naming them all after pets, she puts them to use. They’re hilarious in how they’re both in fear of her and do her bidding and then try to suck up to her by showing off.
The episodes here were fairly enjoyable and I continue to like the relationship of the cast members. Watching the show can be problematic though as I’ve started to watch it in English but with subtitles on. It boggles the number of changes that go on, but more the nonsensical ones. At a next episode preview, it’ll be on the screen from the original in saying “Crimson Bond” and the subtitle will say it to for the Japanese track. But the dub will say something like Blood Flows or something. And during the actual episode itself, it’ll list “Crimson Bond” again but the dub will use something else entirely. It’s a situation of, I can understand dialogue changes for smoothness of delivery, lip flap and other things. But change the title of episodes when it’s clearly listed in text on the screen?
This volume effectively brings us to the middle of the series and starts giving more hints of the larger plot starting to come into the picture as the group gets further West. With it being a fifty episode series I’m more inclined to expect “filler” style episodes more frequently since it’s just part of the nature, especially for a road trip show. Saiyuki has its poor moments to be sure, but I’m still riding on the high from a couple of volumes ago with all their origin stories intertwining. Hopefully we’ll get some more plot soon though.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches,Cultural background notes,Clean opening and closing animation
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.
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
Running time: 100
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2