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

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Thursday, April 26, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, April 24, 2007



What They Say
They say absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Hazel is no exception. When everything is falling apart, Gato is still intent on protecting the half-crazed Hazel, even if it costs Gato his life! Without Gato, Hazel cannot control himself, and only Sanzo will be able to put a stop to his madness. Don't miss this explosive final volume of Saiyuki Reload Gunlock!


The Review!
The final duel between the gang of four and Hazel and Gato brings this series to a conclusion.

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, Hazel closes out the series with a shot of him where the brim of his hat comes down enough to make him look rather good. 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 each of the episode titles for this volume and boxart for all the volumes of Reload and Gunlock.

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)
Not unlike every other story arc in the various incarnations of Saiyuki that have been released, the last three episodes here are basically just one long scene. With everyone now facing off against each other it's come down to finally dealing with what needs to be dealt with. The show has strayed so far from the original manga, almost from the first frame of this series really, that it's easy to see why fans of the characters cringe with what's here.

The series has ended with everyone finally getting together in the middle of the desert where Hazel is doing his best to convince Sanzo to join him. The rest of the gang has caught up to them and is doing their best to try and defuse the situation but Gato is getting plenty of shots at the trio. This sort of standoff is almost what the three episodes are about other than it bringing in some material about Hazel's past. The details of his origins are fairly interesting as we find out what he's really all about now and that sets the stage for the real final confrontation that must take place. None of it is a surprise however nor is how it all plays out.

The true nature of Hazel is something that I think was touched upon very early in the series in an otherwise filler episode. Back when the gang was chasing a bear around, I have to wonder if the bear was an allusion to what Hazel really is. The monster within roars and thunders about towards the end of the series as he comes to grips with what he really did in his youth as well as what others did to him. All right, that's just sarcasm because that bear episode had absolutely no meaning in the series and just illustrated how far down this show has gone over the years.

Saiyuki originally had me interested in the second half of the first series where they did material on the characters previous lives. Up until that part of the season the show was a real chore to watch. With Reload and Gunlock, I kept holding out hope that they'd touch on this a bit more or even do something with the gods above in the present. Most of it seemed to be intent on purely standalone filler material that would do little more than showcase a particular member of the group or highlight how they work as an ensemble. Some of them were interesting but the majority of them were just poor. Maybe only a weekly basis the show could carry the love generated by the first series and the manga that's ongoing but in large bunches like this it's practically painful at times.

In Summary:
Knowing that Kazuya Minekura had little to do with either of these last two seasons beyond some of the character designs helps. The possibility that the manga is much better, something I hear from its fans of course, has me at the least curious to see the OVAs that are being done. I'm curious if they can prove that the concept can work again after being dragged through the mud as much as it has. The Reload and Gunlock series have seemed like little more than money grabs that may backfire by pushing the franchise out of mainstream fandom. With this last volume, there is little to really say about the show beyond they fight, revelations are made that change nothing for the leads, they fight some more. And probably most importantly, the finally go west again, getting beyond this arc.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,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: D
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 Reload Gunlock