Saiyuki Reload 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: C+
  • 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

Saiyuki Reload Vol. #3

By Chris Beveridge     June 23, 2005
Release Date: June 28, 2005



What They Say
One day, Lirin meets two brothers who leave offerings at a small shrine hoping to see their late mother. That night, their mother appears before them and tells the overjoyed brothers to obtain Sanzo’s scripture, which will bring her back to life. In the meantime, having become separated from the others, Goku becomes lost in a forest and is helped by a girl. She takes him home to give him a meal but he senses an odd feeling from her parents. Have the demons roped in these innocent children to acquire Sanzo’s scripture.

The Review!
The road trip continues on and we get a mix of both serious and comedic episodes with Sanzo and his three footmen.

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 uses the same kind of style of illustration as the previous volume but with Gojyo striking a pose with a cigarette in his mouth no less as his blade whips around him. The style of the artwork is really nice and adds a neat layering feel to it. 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 extra included with this volume is a collection of TV commercials where Sanzo does the voice over, including the one for the premier of Reload.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Saiyuki Reload gets just under the halfway mark of this season with this volume and much like how the first season of the show went, it's still pretty much just an episodic adventure with a mixture of stories that are whimsical, comical or just downright filled with action. The constants are still there in each of them though, from the food jokes to the way everyone seems to irritate Sanzo.

The opening episode plays up an interesting story on the serious side as the group travels along the hot desert. Hakuryu reaches his limits and the jeep stalls out and forces the group to walk to what looks to be some kind of massive fortress that essentially surrounds an oasis in the middle of this red hot land. They aren't readily welcomed but eventually they do get inside and at the request of the Governer, a man who carries around a massive tome that lists the 750 laws of the town. These are the laws that everyone must live by in order to prosper there and it's pretty harsh but it's also nicely controlled so that means they can survive in such a harsh environment, especially as there are plenty of demon zombies roaming around out there these days.

The kind of environment that the people live in here doesn't exactly go along the way that Sanzo and friends like, especially when the Governor requests that Goku eat more politely, but they do have to admit that it's done in a way that does ensure survival. The adults don't seem to have much issue with it which is why they focus on one of the younger kids who wants to play his music when he wants, not when he's told it's appropriate. Of course, he also happens to be the Governor's son so there's plenty of issue in that alone and he becomes the focal point of the trouble. I liked how this place was set up from the start and the way they lived their lives but I'd gamble that they're worse off after Sanzo and company depart from the place and they take their newfound individuality too far. It's one of the first places I'd expect to fall from attack.

My favorite episode on this disc is one where the group hits up a quality resort and spend some time there to recover from things. The place has all the modern conveniences you can imagine and it starts off with a very amusing sequence of everyone in the sauna with Goku collapsing first from the heat. The tabletop tennis material is fun as is the other various things they all get into. What makes it very fun to watch though is that Gojyo and Hakkai tell a tall tale to Goku about how Sanzo may be at risk from turning into a demon and they give him all sorts of clues to watch for. Goku doesn't believe them at first but everything seems to be happening to Sanzo, from Goku's point of view, and he's convinced that Sanzo is turning into one. It's a fairly standard filler episode plot but it's comedy is just spot on, from the things Sanzo suffers under to the expressions on Gojyo's face as he wonders if Goku is really believing him.

A nice plus to this volume, though it does go to the sentimental side somewhat in between the comedy and action, is Lirin almost gets an episode to herself. She shares it mostly with Goku but it starts off with her itching for a fight but getting tricked by the gang into defeating a group of demons while the party heads off without her. She ends up getting involved with a couple of kids who are dealing with their missing mother and her maternal instincts kick in so she steals Goku's food and uses his help in the efforts to deal with the problem. The last episode is also rather Goku centric as well with him being separated in a forest from the others but it was a fairly weak episode and didn't really hold our attention all that much, especially in comparison to the first three episodes.

In Summary:
Saiyuki's a series that continues to be hard to review in a sense because each volume is so similar in a number of ways if they aren't dealing with the big over-reaching episodes such as with the past or the gods themselves. If it's just a travel based episode, it's usually pretty self-contained and has little to no impact on any other story and doesn't have much in the way of real growth for the characters. The dynamic is fun to watch however and the characters are what make the show, but in terms of talking about it, it's just something that you almost have to stretch to do. Reload's stories aren't much different than the first two seasons and the animation here suffers just as much even though it's in the digital realm.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Commercial Collection

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

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