Saiyuki Reload Vol. #6 (of 7) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Friday, December 30, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, December 27, 2005



What They Say
Gojyo goes off on his own to defeat a so-called "God". Sanzo is infuriated by this and decides to continue west without him. Everyone feels that it is wrong to leave Gojyo behind, but no one admits to this out loud. Hakkai finally becomes fed up and gets into an argument with Sanzo about this. Meanwhile, Gojyo makes his way to the God's castle to find out who he is and what he wants.

The Review!
Discord among the group, a first I think, causes them to split up in how they deal with this new god character and puts them in quite a bind.

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:
Continuing to use the same artwork as the Japanese releases, this one lets us know who is really the villain of the series by giving "god" the cover as we look down upon him as he kicks his shiny red balls about. 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 Hakkai does the voice over..

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Saiyuki, with the Reload season of the show, has managed to keep much of the overall feel and tone of the very first season of Saiyuki in that there's simply a lot of traveling going on, a lot of small adventures here and there as we get to know the cast more and more and then there's a few episodes of a plot that comes into play. Not the big grand plot of course because you can't have that since once you do the series is over. Instead we have smaller arcs tossed in to give the show something to latch onto for a bit so it's not a completely episodic piece.

This volume follows-up what happened in the previous one with the young boy who was working for "god" and had spent his time attacking the group only to realize the error of his ways at the end. His end, coldly served by god, has certainly set Gojyo against him as there are some very strong echoes from his own past with the entire incident. This creates a strange schism of sorts between Gojyo and the others as he intends to deal with it by himself simply because he must, even though he knows that if he just asked that they'd stand with him. Even Sanzo would I think regardless of how often he talks about keeping to their schedule.

With Gojyo having left to deal with this himself, it's left things a bit tense with the other three as both Hakkai and Goku want to go after him to help out but Sanzo is acting his usual bland self about all of it and spends his time going over their travel plans. This is actually a huge revelation moment, providing that you believe this series has any real sense of continuity, as we find out that between the first two seasons of the show and Reload, they've now gone halfway on their journey to India. Halfway! They do have the idea that things are going to get harder from here on out though as the challenges will be stronger so there's a silent consensus of sorts that they're going to need all four of them so they head off to follow Gojyo's trail.

Gojyo's own journey to find and take down god based on the acts he's committed so far leads him down a rather personal route as this seeming Sanzo priest that god is uses all sorts of manipulations to cause his opponents to question themselves before they come up against him. This brings us to Gojyo's past once again and we see how he was unloved and essentially ignored by his mother while she favored his brother instead. This is all ground that has been covered before and in different ways so it doesn't really feel like it brings anything new other than maybe a few expansion areas on his family relationship. All it really does is stretch out things before Gojyo gets up to where god is and lets the rest of them catch up as well so they can, eventually face him down together like the team that they are.

Similar to previous stories that build up to this point, the god characters has been sufficiently built up to a point where he's basically unstoppable and routinely kicks the crap out of the heroes and they're left to try and figure out exactly what happened there. Throughout all of it we get some various background pieces about him that helps to give him more of a connection to the group though the big revelations will surely come in the last couple of episodes. This helps to flesh it all out a bit more but much of this storyline still feels like it was just dropped in at the last minute when they realized they were almost at the end of the series.

In Summary:
With plenty of angst and panning shots of angsty lead characters, this installment of Saiyuki Reload also goes to some length to ensure that the action fan is also very satisfied by providing some very bloody and near fatal combat scenes. The plot continues to be paper thin as the motivations of the villain are unknown and Gojyo is essentially acting out of a sense of justified revenge but it's still as stylishly done as previous such instances in this overall franchise. This set of episodes once again places our heroes in a precarious position as they love to push them down as hard as they can before letting them overcome. The previous volume served as a prelude to this and this is all pure setup here for the finale which hopefully will reveal the real motivations behind all of this.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Commercial Collection

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: C+
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