Saiyuki Reload Vol. #1 (also w/box) - 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: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saiyuki Reload

Saiyuki Reload Vol. #1 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     January 20, 2005
Release Date: February 08, 2005


Saiyuki Reload Vol. #1 (also w/box)
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.


What They Say
The legendary Sanzo group continues on the path to saving the world from the revival of Gyumaoh and his demons. As they travel, Goku, Gojyo, Hakkai and Sanzo use their tremendous powers to restore peace to Shangri-la. However, there are many who wish for the victory of the dark side. . .

The Review!
The journey continues in the second series that goes back and recaptures everything that the first series was.

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:
Using the same artwork as the Japanese release, the front cover here is a nicely stylized image of Sanzo with his usual dead face with a cigarette hanging out of it as he casually wields his weapon outward. It's a good looking image and one that sets itself apart from the previous releases. 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 on here are the clean ending sequence and the original Japanese opening sequence.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After a lengthy and fairly successful series back in 1999 and then a theatrical movie in 2001, it's little surprise that Saiyuki managed to get itself another TV series, though it is surprising it took as long as it did to actually get done. The shows concept lends itself to such an open-ended nature and has such popular and easily merchandisable characters that it'd be like turning away money if they didn't bring out at least another season or two of the franchise. While the original series was done digitally, this one actually really looks like it.

The premise is pretty simple and we've written something like twelve or thirteen reviews on it in the past, which is basically that the four lead characters here, each varying levels of nastiness and trouble wrapped up in pretty packages that work on the side of good, are on a journey from the land of Shangri-la where magic, science and fantasy have all managed to converge to India where they must stop the revival process of Gyumaoh, one of the more dangerous demon lords of the last couple of millennia. The revival process that started some time ago has caused many of the demons living in the lands between the two points to start losing control of themselves and becoming evil in nature. This is a nice twist since there are many, many instances of the demons and humans living side by side. In fact, though not common, there are many offspring of such unions and one of the leads, Gojyo, is a product of that.

So the first series started the journey and we learned a lot about the characters over the course of it and there was a sizeable end sequence to it that culminated in some very interesting things happening but it didn't bring us anywhere near the end of the journey. The movie itself was nothing more than a side trip on the journey and didn't add all that much to things either. So much like with the first series, the road trip continues and from what we get with the first four episodes here is essentially more of the same. The foursome make their way across the varying terrain, end up in different adventures and mysteries along the way and complain about their lack of food or having to deal with pervy water sprites. For those who've been watching in the past, this is an almost flawless transition other than dealing with the changed animation.

For new viewers, there is a brief introduction at the beginning done in sepia toned film style that helps explain some of what's going on but there is a huge amount of information, particularly of the characters pasts, that simply can't be learned in a recap. But not knowing about all that doesn't impact the immediate stories and the show does a decent job of providing a couple of good standalone stories from the start to get the groove going again. One of them deals with a town where no demons have ever caused trouble but the people are so hypersensitive to it that anything that happens gets accused of being demon influenced, which is something that's not healthy considering the plague of evil coming that way. The evil that humans commit becomes something of the focus and it for the most part just serves as a way to reintroduce the cast without much of a real story.

The other stories don't serve up much hint of the larger arc that I hope there is for this particular series since much of the first season of Saiyuki wandered quite a bit and it was only salvaged by the more linear and interesting second season. One of them deals well with a story about a town that got hit by the plague and the demons going wild and eventually being run out. It focuses on the relationship between a male demon and female human who had grown up together and had quite the relationship but he ended up moving to the outskirts of town due to the illness. With his mind slowly being lost, he spends his time trying to finish a painting for her while writing in a diary in effort to maintain some semblance of himself on a daily basis. It's an interesting story and it's well done since it's not often we really get to see the demons struggle as they're usually so easily taken over by the plague.

One of the best parts of this show is what you get at the very end of each episode after the main credits, the Uru-sai specials. Originally created so that something more comical and simple would follow the episode so that those younger kids tuning in for the show afterwards wouldn't get something as harsh as Saiyuki, these are brief pieces that are just amusing. One viewer sends in a question as to why they don't take a plane which shows visually a gag about why they don't and other little bits like that. It's simple humor at its best and it works great with this kind of show.

In Summary:
Though it took nearly two seasons for me to really get into enjoying Saiyuki, it's become something that I'm rather familiar with now and don't mind nearly as much as I did during the first couple of episodes of the original series. Reload manages to maintain much of the same feel so far but the real test will come as they start bringing in the actual storyline for this series and hopefully some material that deals with the past again so that we can see more of these characters in their previous forms. The change over to the digital side of animation isn't as bad as it could be, but the original series was done on the cheap and that can be seen here as well in a lot of places. At least Lirin and her bounciness makes an appearance in this volume as that certainly makes my day. Saiyuki Reload is pretty much what I expected and I'm cautiously optimistic about the series in general.

Features
Japanese Language,English Language,English Subtitles,Original Japanese Opening,Textless Opening,DVD box set will ship with an exclusive limited edition pencil board

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.

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