Saiyuki Reload Vol. #5 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, October 06, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2005



What They Say
One day, Gojyo saves a boy, Kinkaku, being bullied by some punks. Kinkaku is quite impressed with Gojyo's strength, but he tells the boy that he is nothing compared to his traveling companions and half-jokes that nothing good ever happens because of them. When Gojyo returns to the inn, he finds Sanzo and the others beaten unconscious in the wreckage of their room. Kinkaku is there, with a giant demon and an innocent smile. "This is in thanks for saving me," he tells Gojyo...


The Review!
Is this the real plot? We're on volume five, hopefully it's showing up. It could be. Maybe?.

Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Having grown used to the cast over the course of the previous series it was a zero-choice issue for us. The series mix is pretty much the same as we got back in the previous show with a fairly good stereo mix that has some occasional moments of directionality, often coming from Sanzo's weapon or some minor piece of dialogue but never anything really outstanding that really rises up. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and the music from the opening sequence is probably as loud as it gets throughout the show so it's an easy way to set the level.

Video:
Originally airing in 2003, the transfer for this series is presented in its original full frame aspect ratio. The differences between this show and the previous one are pretty stark. The transfer here is reflective of many of the shows that came out in 2003 that were done on a bit of a budget and had some of the minor problems of being a digital show, such as somewhat awkward movements, the overly bright color palette and that feel at times that the characters weren't exactly inside the show but on top of it. The transfer in general though is of good quality and represents the materials accurately as there's hardly any aliasing and no cross coloration that was visible on either of my setups. The one area that I was really happy to see come across well was that there were no issues with the color gradient being obvious as it blends really well here.

Packaging:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, the front cover uses the same kind of style of illustration as the previous volume but with Kougaiji doing one of his moves with his hands in front of him. The style of the artwork is really nice and adds a neat layering feel to it. The logo isn't the same as the Japanese one but I think it works better on the cover here as their releases logo looks kind of weak. The back cover provides a brief summary of the premise and then lists each of the four episodes with their number and titles and provides four images for each of them. The rest of the cover is filled out with the discs features and extras as well as production information. As nice as the layout is overall, it's covers like this that really make me wish Geneon would adopt the technical grid since finding things like the running time took more searching than it should have. The insert replicates the front cover artwork on one side while the reverse side lists the chapter stops for each of the episodes and a list of release dates by month.

Menu:
The main menu for this show is done using some of the stylish elements that are used in the show such as the grainy footage for the background, the hard rock instrumental music and things like the police barrier line being used along the top while some of the animation from the opening plays through the center. It's hard to describe but it fits the feel of this installment of the series with its Reload title and harsher feel. The layout is quick to load and easy to navigate and access times are nice and fast. Submenus load quickly and the disc correctly read our players language presets.

Extras:
The only extras included with this volume is a collection of TV commercials where Gojyo does the voice over as well as the new ending sequence presented in both clean and original format.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Saiyuki Reload hits volume five and with three episodes here it brings the series up to episode nineteen. And if we're lucky, the villain that they introduce in this volume is the one that will be making up the remainder of the series in the next two volumes because if they introduce something new into the next volume then the Reload series in general has been mostly just standalone tales after standalone tales with little overall meaning to it. Even though the original series ran pretty long, there were plenty of elements overall that kept it fairly well tied together that haven't surfaced in Reload at all.

While on their journey, the group decides to hunker down for a few days in the latest town they've come into because Hakuryu is feeling under the weather again from how hard they've been riding all this time. So letting the dragon get some peace and quiet (which it doesn't get considering Goku is tossing it up and down several times while playing) means that there's a need for fresh supplies and food for their stay. Gojyo gets selected for the duty and he's certainly annoyed about it but even more so after Sanzo hands him a credit card and basically just says, "Smokes." With friends like these who needs to travel west to find enemies.

So while out and about getting the groceries, he's all annoyed that he can't even pick up chicks like this since his hands are full. He does find hope for a quick kiss though when he sees some blonde in an alleyway getting roughed up by a trio of men and he steps in with just his feet and takes them out. To his disappointment though it turns out to be a young blonde haired boy in some fine clothes that was getting harassed. The two talk for a bit afterwards and through the conversation, Gojyo learns that Kinkaku and his twin brother are doing good deeds and when Kinkaku hears Gojyo talking about the rest of the party in a less than pleasant manner, he takes it upon himself to go and kill the trio before Gojyo returns. And he succeeds.

Gojyo can't believe what he sees when he gets there but to his surprise, they're not really dead but just comatose though Sanzo comes out of it a bit easy. The two go off in search of Kinkaku and his brother while we see that Hakki and Goku have ended up inside another dimensional world of some sort where their souls are trapped. This goes for the comedy side of things as Hakkai as a leader tends to fall back on the "run and figure it out later" mentality while Goku feels the need to follow someone and it doesn't matter who. For Sanzo and Gojyo, their working together feels strangely forced considering the time we've spent with them over the series and they're more adversarial with each other than normal as they deal with the latest round of demons that have come for them before getting to Kinkaku.

And even when they do get to him, he's just a pawn in something supposedly larger as we're introduced to a new Sanzo priest who has a very similar look and feel to our tried and true Sanzo priest but seems to have a bit darker and more narcissistic sense to him. Dealing with him is fairly minimal and the way Sanzo writes him off so quickly in favor of their original plan to go west makes sense, as he does go on insisting that they're not heroes, but something about it is just unnerving. But if this isn't the main villain for the remainder of Reload then I really have no idea what's going on with this show anymore.

In Summary:
The three episode arc here was pretty well done and didn't feel like it was dragged out like some of the previous multi-episode stories have been so that was a definite plus in its favor. As a prelude to the final storyline of the series it sets things up nicely enough and lets us see the next (potential) villain through an interesting light as he manipulates children to his own ends. Some of the characterizations felt out of place here in order to set up the killing spree that happens within the first few minutes of the disc (and is all over the back cover as well) but overall this is a good set of episodes with some fun action, humor and the usual posing that makes Saiyuki what it is.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Commercial Collection,Textless Ending 2,Original Ending 2

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
MSRP: 29.98
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saiyuki