Saiyuki Vol. #08 (of 12) (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, February 14, 2004
Release Date: Tuesday, February 17, 2004
What They Say
Everyone's got a reason for giving Sanzo trouble. Rather than serve in heaven, Souto's crack team of god soldiers enlist in Homura's army.
Also - two brothers modified by Gyokumen Koushu using black magic try to nab the Maten Scripture in exchange for their freedom. But when some second rate imposters foolishly try to pose as the legendary travelers, they learn again the hard way it's safer to be yourself. That's why Gojyo, Hakkai, Goku and Sanzo always persevere: they fight no one's battles but their own!
The road trip continues while the forces of evil gather, but a pit stop with old enemies turns into a surprisingly fun detour.
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 again impress me. With the near painted manga look, this cover provides a really nice shot of one of Homura's men looking down while covered in white garments that are again blood splotched, 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. The keepcase is clear but there's nothing on the reverse side of the cover, giving it something of a plain feel.
The blood splotched nature of the menus changes here a bit as it's now fire imagery moving over the background image for the main menu. 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 are presented in their original Japanese form with text since there are new openings and endings on this volume. The much-valued cultural background notes also make another appearance here; this set of notes gets to go into some detail about Chinese food and the puns implied with the names.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Being that this is the second season of the road trip anime of all time, there's little that's changed much overall. Our foursome of heroes are still moving slowly west, they're often quite hungry and they're usually shacking up someplace that's only going to bite them on the ass in the end. The only real difference these days is that Homura and his men are the ones that are now after them.
Things in the Heaven's are still in flux, as one of the more mercenary oriented groups of gods have bolted from the "Good" side having tired of operating under a poor general and are trying to join up with Homura now so that they can do the kinds of jobs they've been trained to do for ages. Homura doesn't expect much from them, but respects them for wanting to do something while they're in their prime instead of just wasting away over the centuries. So with the promise of considering their application, he sends the five warriors out to take down Sanzo and his group.
The leader of the group, Souto, takes his men down to the mountainous area where Sanzo and his group are traveling through. Layered with traps all around, he sends three of them off to take them down while he and his spotter watch the events unfold. This episode proves to be rather enjoyable as it plays out, as it at first gives Hakkai and Sanzo most of the screen time to deal with the threat, and they play off of each other well. The other side of it is that it continues to show just how much more powerful these characters are becoming now that centuries trained god-soldiers are dealt with fairly quickly, albeit somewhat predictably as well. There's even a bit of amusing teamwork used in the fights that go on here.
One of the best comedy oriented episodes recently is on this volume as we catch up with one of the groups of Sanzo impersonators we met back in the first season. Since their defeat at what they considered "horrible looking impersonators,? i.e. the real Sanzo and company, they've made their way to this small out of the way town where they've restarted their lives. Most of them work a group noodle stand and pull in some good money and have been enjoying the two months since their defeat. Their fourth member works at one of the local hotels doing all sorts of bellboy style jobs.
So when Sanzo and the others wander into the town looking for food and a place to stay, chaos ensues, but not for them. For the most part, they don't even recognize the people they completely whipped a few months prior, though those guys are freaking out left and right. All the while, Hakkai thinks some of them look familiar and tries to place them, but for the most part it's just a back and forth kind of panic for the impersonators as they try to keep their heads about them. This episode is also heavy on the food oriented jokes, so things come across more amusing the second time around on the subtitle side after reading the liner notes.
There's some slow movement on the larger plot in the other two episodes here, where we get more of Homura's minions coming to wreck some havoc on the local area in their attempts to slow down Sanzo and friends. For some reason, the other stories stand out more than the actual arc stories for this volume. Saiyuki has come a long way from when I almost got to the point of dreading a next volume to where they're enjoyable and fun to watch. I even like all the montages in the opening that portray them as super sex objects. Go figure.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches,Cultural background notes,Original Japanese 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