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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2007



What They Say
Goku, Gojyo and Hakkai are finally fed up with the constant demon attacks. With demons trying to get Sanzo's scripture at every turn, the three come to the conclusion that everything is Sanzo's fault! So, they decide to set off on their own, and get to the West before the chain-smoking priest can.

Abandoned, Sanzo continues on his path when a familiar man suddenly appears before him. Zakuro, the master manipulator of illusions, is after Sanzo! However, Hazel shows up to save Sanzo in the nick of time... But are those two plotting something together?

The Review!
Hazel makes his move to truly bring Sanzo to his side by Zakuro does what a demon does best in messing it all up.

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 2004, 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. Faring a bit better than the previous series and getting its groove with the digital animation, it fixes some of the problems that it had before but some of them still exist, 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. The end credits is probably the worst offending area though, especially in how it stutters at the start and finish and the crawl itself is just riddled with shimmering.

Packaging:
Using the same character artwork as the Japanese release, Gato is the latest to grace the covers. His dark expression and the earthy tones make this all the more menacing and far better than his in-show design makes him look. Just like the previous covers though, seeing this and then seeing the actual animation is almost painful in some ways. The detail and look of the clothing in particular just looks fantastic here. Fans of this series have a treasure trove of creative and fun artwork with the characters and the covers have been fantastic. 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. 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 four lead characters in their charcoal suits striking a pose. It's hard to describe but it fits the feel of this installment of the series with its Gunlock 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 extras are new for this volume as a pair of new music clips is included. Like previous ones, they're not music videos but rather just short clips with an associated piece of music. They're quick and fun but lack the meat of an actual full length music video.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With the way the previous volume felt like it was spinning its wheels a fair bit with all the fighting and little progress, there was some hope for movement on this volume. With a fairly decent sized cast by now, there is enough material that can be done well that you'd think it would be interesting. You would think.

After the way the Sanzo party broke up in the previous volume, the three episodes here focus on the two main stories that are now running. For Hakkai, Gojyo and Goku, they actually have a fairly fun storyline now that they've broken off on their own. Their intent is to get ahead of Sanzo and get to the western territory first so they can get things wrapped up. It's certainly not a bad idea since all the demons seem to typically go after Sanzo and his scriptures. The downside is that nobody knows about the split so the demons are after them still, which leads to numerous fights and distractions. What works the best about the entire arc, which gets very little screen time overall here, is how all three of them just rag on Sanzo. From his chain-smoking to how he'll have to stop every ten feet for a smoke break, all of his flaws are pointed out in a fun fashion.

Sanzo, for his part, continues his grumpy style even though he's somewhat along for the ride with Hazel and Gato. It's more like the two of them are following him since Hazel wants Sanzo to work with him for the same goals that he believes they truly share. It's amusing how Sanzo basically considers that Hazel is following him and he can't seem to get rid of him. Every time he turns around, one of those two are in his way and he basically just brushes past them. Hazel is hoping to be able to use Sanzo to his advantage if he can wear him down a bit and get him to just accept the situation. Of course, those from the west aren't intent on letting this happen as the good doctor has decided to have Zakuro intervene in an attempt to just mess it all up.

Through Zakuro and Hazel, they attempt to force Sanzo to their side through coercion and illusion. This just turns the show into a weird area as we have lots of scenes of Sanzo, Hakkai and Gojyo all topless and moving about in their jeans while the world seems to go to hell around them. Where it gets even worse is that one of the weapons that Zakuro has from the good doctor is some kind of kitschy science fiction gun that can handle Gato's being dead. The presence of guns in the show in general is one that doesn't fit. Having Sanzo with one adds a nice twist. Having Gato show up in his Tonto mode with a pair of them is worse. Having Zakuro show up with this one just turns it all the more into a bad comedy.

In Summary:
If the fifth volume didn't have me losing interest already, this one would have done it. If it wasn't for the fact that there's only one volume left and I suffer from being a completist I would have just given up and thrown all of these out. I don't think I'd even want to inflict this on someone else as a prize or a gift. Saiyuki has always had elements in it that work within the world that it has created but each new installment either just seems to go nowhere or introduces something that just has you rolling your eyes that you can't give it any respect. Gunlock has gone badly where very few have gone before.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Two Music Clips

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic DMP-BD10 Blu-ray player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C-
Audio Rating: B+
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Menus Rating: B-
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 & 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 Reload Gunlock