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

By:Bryan Morton
Review Date: Monday, October 22, 2007
Release Date: Monday, September 03, 2007



What They Say
Gojyo saves a boy, Kinkaku, from 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…

Episodes Comprise
17 – Impossible Wish
18 – Critical Day
19 – Farewell

The Review!
Three episodes, one story, as Gojyo takes centre-stage for a while – which is easier to arrange than you’d think, when both Hakkai and Goku appear to be dead…

Audio:
Audio is provided in Japanese & English 2.0 stereo- I listened to the Japanese track for this review. The mix is a fairly simple one, with some limited use of the soundstage made during more action-based scenes, but for the most part it's nothing particularly special. There are no problems with the encode, and dialogue is easy to distinguish from the background effects & music. Simple but effective.

Video:
Video is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect. Saiyuki's heavy on the bright colours, which seem to be its main way of making an impression as backgrounds & settings within the show tend to be quite bland and same-y. There are some occasional problems with edge noise, but they're not hugely noticeable and for the most part the transfer is free of obvious problems. In terms of its animation style, though, this isn't one of the better-looking series out there.

Packaging:
No packaging was provided with our review copy.

Menu:
The main menu opens with a series of shots of the boys, weapons at the ready, before settling on a black & white image of Sanzo, framed by the show’s logo and the disc options. Episodes are selectable directly from the main menu, while submenus are provided for language setup and extras, each featuring images of one of the other guys. There are no transition animations, so it’s all pleasingly quick & easy to use.

Extras:
This disc serves up another selection of TV spots, this time all featuring Gojyo, along with creditless and original versions of the new ending theme.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
When Gojyo tells a young boy he’s just saved from some thugs about the rest of the gang, he as ever talks about their negative points – the short tempers, the bottomless stomachs, and all the other little personality flaws that combine to make people annoying. Little does he know that the boy, Kinkaku, has a fixation on defeating “evil”, and some demonic friends that help him in his cleanup efforts. After listening to Gojyo, Kinkaku decides that Sanzo, Hakkai and Goku are evil to be eliminated – which is not quite what Gojyo had in mind. Later, it appears that Kinkaku has been working for God himself (or at least, a Sanzo priest who claims to be God) – but this God doesn’t appear to be the sort who has the best interests of his followers at heart…

Last volume, I was all pleased that Saiyuki Reload seemed to finally be going somewhere, with the focus on Kougaiji and the origins of the madness that was affecting demons across Shangri-La. Despite the good work done and the plot hooks dropped then, though, I was pretty much convinced that, come this volume, that would all be forgotten about and Sanzo’s group would again become the focus of attention – it is their show, after all. Well, I was right – although with the 3 episodes on this disc all forming a mini-arc of their own, we’re at least not getting thrown back into encounter-of-the-week territory.

With Goku and Hakkai being “killed” pretty much at the beginning of the arc, it’s a Sanzo and Gojyo story for the most part – and as Sanzo soon learns that Gojyo’s comments about the guys had prompted Kinkaku’s attack in the first place, there’s a lot of friction between them for pretty much the whole disc, as they no longer really want to work together, but have to at least find a way to save the other two before settling their differences. That gives the story here a slightly different dynamic to what we normally get – the guys have always bickered amongst themselves, but you never really got the impression that any of them actually hated the others. You definitely get that between Sanzo and Gojyo now, though, and in terms of adding a little more drama to the mix, it’s a good thing.

Kinkaku has several reasons for doing what he does, which are explained towards the end of the disc. The big interest in the brief appearance of God – Kinkaku’s one-time master and a man who really comes across as pure evil. From the way he’s introduced and events in the closing stages of the disc, it’s easy to see he’s going to be playing a major part from here on, but for now we’re just given a feel of how bad he is, and nothing else – once again, the series is throwing out a few plot hooks that can be worked on later, but unlike the Kougaiji story last volume, there’s more of a feeling that they’re going to be followed up.

For all the promise that the storyline here has for the future, though, up until God’s appearance it feels like just another encounter-of-the-week, just a little bit more dragged out than usual, and that left me underwhelmed. Saiyuki Reload can produce good storylines when it wants too – but all too often there’s no real effort made to do anything that stands out or is different from the show’s usual formula.

In summary:
This volume doesn’t follow through on the promise that volume 4 had, but at least seems to be setting up a major storyline for Sanzo and his group to deal with, so there’s hope for some fireworks from the remaining volumes. Past the setup for that, though, these episodes don’t do enough that’s different from the usual formula to really make you want to sit up and take notice, and that’s a disappointment.

Features
Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Commercial Collections (Gojyo Version),Textless Ending (2nd Version),Original Ending (2nd Version)

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.



Mania Grade: B
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B
Packaging Rating: N/A
Menus Rating: B
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 12 & Up
Region: 2 - Europe
Released By: MVM Entertainment
MSRP: £19.99
Running time: 75
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Saiyuki Reload