Saiyuki Reload Gunlock Vol. #3 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B-

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Info:

  • 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: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saiyuki Reload Gunlock

Saiyuki Reload Gunlock Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     August 17, 2006
Release Date: August 22, 2006


Saiyuki Reload Gunlock Vol. #3
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
As if days and nights of fighting demons constantly and trekking westward weren't hard enough, Hakkai finally reaches his limit! Fed up with the irresponsibility of the others, Hakkai does the unthinkable - he runs away! Can the others get him back...or at least the gold credit card he took with him?! And in the latest incident of members gone M.I.A., Sanzo disappears, and a mansion full of malicious marionettes might know where he's gone.


The Review!
Mixing in a pair of fairly serious stories with a couple of more humorous pieces, Gunlock again avoids anything in terms of the larger storyline and just keeps on rolling..

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, Gojyo takes the cover at long last and with his style and detailed hair and coloring to it, it simply leaps off the cover here with the style of illustration used. 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 for this round move away from what came in the first couple as it now has a new music clip, "Don't look back again" and a new gallery of art pieces, some of which are very stylish.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When talking about Saiyuki, especially in the Gunlock stage of the franchise, I almost feel like I'm at a point where every couple of months I come along and rough up a kid that doesn't really bother me but just looks like he could use some abuse. Occasionally it's not so bad and I have a friendly word or two to say, but more often than not the mediocrity of it all just makes me want to smack him around.

Gunlock had started out better than Reload in that it looked like it really wanted to have a plot this time and it kept it well through the second volume but it decided it needed to get back to the road trip gags and standalone stories that let us get to know this cast of characters better. With over seventy-five episodes to the series so far, I'm wondering how much is really left to know about them. The standalone tales provide little vignettes about something often demon related and tragic that may or may not be related to a specific member of the groups past but there is only so much you can shove into their pasts before you just sigh at all of it. The worst thing that's going on at this point is that all the fascinating material from the second season about their past lives has been seemingly completely dropped. That turned into something of a highlight of the show and it has felt almost hollow since.

This set of episodes plies us with a pair of serious episodes and then something a bit more comical. There's value to all of them on some level and as standalone stories I think they're some of the better ones they've had in recent memory. But like I said above, I feel like I've roughed up this kid so many times it's all starting to blur together. The opening episode of the serious pair has Sanzo being separated from the rest of the guys as they travel over a difficult mountain only to run into Lirin. The two end up taking a tumble off the side of the cliff and fall into a stalemate position where he's got his gun trained on her and she's ready to pounce, but he's bleeding hard. It's a bit of a dialogue piece as they go back and forth and she can't believe he lost his scriptures in the tumble down. Lirin's a fun character but here she just comes across as both stupid and regressive in her personality.

The other serious story is a fair bit better and it actually deals with some of the demons this time as it has the group traveling through a rather snowy pass at a different mountain, one where the villagers apparently fear to tread. As it turns out, there's a demon living up there but he hasn't changed like most of the others. Instead, he's been actively taking in the children of the demons who change and has been trying to raise and care for them while dealing with a lack of food and minimal warmth. The group gets tied up in the tense relations between him and the villagers but at the back of your mind you can't help but like the demon, Yakumo, as you know he's had it rough and has buried a lot of his own kind. The fact that they're children only makes it worse. It does a decent job at pulling the strings of the heart and playing up the card of the humans being more evil and less than human that you expect.

The more comedy oriented episodes were surprisingly fun and actually enjoyable this time around, particularly the first one. With the way this group dynamic works, it's not a surprise that Hakkai finally reached his limit in dealing with the others in how he handles them, cleans up after them and provides for them more than anything else. He's basically the mother of the group and at this point it doesn't take much to set him off. When that happens, he gets it into his mind to just go elsewhere in the latest village they're in and wait for an apology from them over things. But not without swiping their cigarettes and replacing it with chocolate ones, swiping the money and basically proving to them that they can't take care of themselves. Which they prove in spades as they try to clean and feed themselves only to end up in a lot of trouble. It's very amusing to watch them deal in different ways, especially when they get tagged as an eat and run group.

The last episode brings dolls into the show (again?) where Sanzo falls under the control of a possessed doll, which in itself is amusing as the doll figures that Sanzo's friends won't attack him while he's possessed and waving a gun at him. I admit that this kind of obvious gag is just that, but it works well with these characters and is one of the areas where having so many episodes of their relationship built up actually works in its favor. You know exactly how they'll respond and the way they practically roll their eyes before taking on the task with glee is almost how you feel about it as well.

In Summary:
I keep being told by the fans that Gunlock does get better and I'm holding out hope that it does. While it does feel better than Reload was for a lot of it, the Saiyuki-fatigue is still there but it has waned a bit with this volume. The mixture of the serious and the comedy managed to work in breaking it down some and has left me with hope that things will improve over the course of the next four volumes that we get something a bit more interesting. The show does earn its keep though in appealing to its core fans and the intended audience though so I'm sure that they're pretty happy with this and the release is good overall. It's just not something that I can see someone casually picking up and getting into at this point without having gone back to see all the earlier material.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Music Clip - Sanzo Party- "Don't look back again" by WAG,Art Gallery

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player via DVI, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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