Saiyuki Reload Vol. #2 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: £19.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saiyuki Reload

Saiyuki Reload Vol. #2

By Bryan Morton     April 25, 2007
Release Date: March 05, 2007

Saiyuki Reload Vol. #2
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
When they arrive at a new village, a demon called Suika approaches the Sanzo party. Because they don't sense any evil, they decide to stay the night. Suika sings for the group, which brings bitter memories to mind. Everyone except Goku fall into a semi-hypnotic state, then falls asleep.

The next morning, Lirin arrives to steal the scripture from Sanzo, which Sanzo throws at her and then heads back to Suika's house. Goku hears about 'a demon who extracts memories' and must return to save his friends.

Episodes Comprise
5 - Slumbering Memories
6 - Rescue
7 - Little Partner
8 - Tasty Cooking

The Review!
Four more episodes of Saiyuki Reload, and four more episodes of the boys not getting any closer to their aim " not that that will surprise anyone. Betweem dream-eating demons, friendly kitties, and cooking that can kill in an instant, though, there's plenty to keep Sanzo and co occupied...

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 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.

No packaging was provided with our review copy.

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.

This volume provides the now-standard creditless opening and closing animations, and that's your lot.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Sanzo has suspicions about the latest village the gang have arrived in - the villagers are too laid back for his liking, given what's going on in the world at the moment. When a demon named Suika appears - a demon who at least claims to have retained her sanity - his suspicions only deepen. That night, all but Goku fall into a hypnotic trance under the influence of Suika's singing - she's a demon who feeds of the memories of others, and with the villagers having fallen under her spell it's up to Goku to save his friends...

The disc opens with a two-parter that does away with the comedy in favour of a more melancholy atmosphere, which is appropriate given Suika's interest in unhappy memories. Given that Goku's only real regret in life is not having eaten enough, he's got nothing for her to latch onto, which explains why he's the one left to be the hero " even if he does need some fairly heavy-duty help from Dokugakuji and co. Suika herself is an interesting "villain" " for a lot of the story there's a distinct feeling that she's not doing what she does out of any sense of malice, but out of a mistaken feeling that she's doing her victims a favour, so she's quite surprised by the way Sanzo and the others eventually fight back, but as the story goes on you realise there is a darker side to her as a result of her own unhappy memories. It's always a good thing when the villain of the week is given a real personality and motivation, rather than just turning up to take their turn with the boys, as so many other demons in Saiyuki seem to do.

The remaining two episodes get back to more upbeat stories, first with the arrival of the gang's newest member - a little kitten picked up from the site of one of their battles. This turns out to be a problem for Sanzo: he's allergic to cats, for a start, so while Goku, Gojyo and Hakkai are all keen to adopt the little critter, Sanzo's quick to veto the idea. It doesn't help that the kitten seems to really like Sanzo, which only sends his allergy into overdrive. Democracy wins the day, though, and the kitten - now named Fluffy, Calico or Betty, depending who you ask - finds herself being brought along for the ride, and for Sanzo the torture begins.

I love cats. There's nothing quite as soothing as having a little furball curled up on your lap, purring like a buzz-saw. I also suffer from allergies, and there's nothing that can ruin that soothing feeling quite as quickly as sneezing your head off, so I can completely relate to Sanzo's predicament here " little Fluffy does such a good job of ingratiating himself with Sanzo (as only cats can do) that he does begin to warm to the little critter as the episode goes on. Of course, any anime storyline that involves any sort of character slowly becoming a much-loved companion usually ends in Terrible Things happening, and so it is for poor Fluffy " sort of, anyway. It's almost impossible not to enjoy the episode for the fluff that it is, though (unless you're a dog-lover, perhaps), and I was all ready to declare this episode my favourite from the volume.

Until episode 8 came along. Another demon attack on Sanzo's party is thwarted, by some well-meaning locals who have created the ultimate anti-demon weapon: buns that taste so horrible, even demons run away from 'em. The one bite Goku takes (you know he can't resist food) is enough to keep him in bed for a few days. Their creator, Kourei, hadn't intended her baking to end up that way - she just didn't inherit the family talent for good cooking, but when the effect of her efforts became apparent when a demon attacked their village, she realised she was onto something. But being known for awful cooking has been takings its toll on Kourei, so Hakkai tries to see if he can teach her how to do some proper home cooking. Despite his skills, though, it seems Kourei may really be beyond help.

The whole concept of buns as a weapon cracks me up " although I'll admit I've probably rustled up a few foodstuffs over the years that were equally deadly. Hakkai's interest in teaching Kourei how to cook properly flows from his own past experiences, so again there's some nice background development going on, and the way the story is handled means there are more than a few huge-grin moments as one by one the boys suffer at the hands of Kourei's cooking.

Normally, I'd be complaining at this point about how little attention was being paid to Saiyuki's main "story" " the efforts of the gang to get to India. The one occasion where their regular enemies turn up, they're more helpful than confrontational, so you don't even get the satisfaction of a good high-level battle (although there are a few smaller skirmishes along the way). I can't really bring myself to criticise, though, as all three stories here are thoroughly entertaining in their own way.

In summary:
Saiyuki's never going to win points for originality, but the presentation and execution of the stories here makes this disc very easy and enjoyable to watch. Each of the guys gets their fair share of time in the limelight, and with the full range covered from comic to tragic, there's almost something for everyone. Saiyuki Reload has surprised me a bit " I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I have so far " so it gets another thumbs-up from me.

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Creditless Opening,Original Japanese Opening

Review Equipment
Panasonic TX-W28R30P 28" widescreen TV; Pioneer DV-626D player; Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.


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