Saiyuki Reload Vol. #4 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • 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. #4

By Chris Beveridge     August 15, 2005
Release Date: August 23, 2005

Saiyuki Reload Vol. #4
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.

What They Say
Kougaiji feels frustrated at repeatedly failing to obtain the scriptures, as well as not yet being able to save his mother, so Jenyi gives him a bracelet, supposedly forbidden to be used, that makes him stronger and faster. With it, Kougaiji challenges the Sanzo party-and they are no match for him at all. However, strange side effects of this newfound power begin to change Kougaiji's body. Worried, Dokugakuji brings an unconscious Kougaiji to Houtou Castle, where Jenyi welcomes them with a fearless smile?

The Review!
The journey west continues on and amid some amusing moments a more serious arc starts to emerge in the Reload world of Saiyuki.

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.

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.

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 Hakkai doing one of his moves with his hands that draws light around him as he gives that smile of his. 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.

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.

The only extra included with this volume is a collection of TV commercials where Goku does the voice over.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Saiyuki Reload in its fourth volume provides a comedic standalone episode to round out the first half of the series before hitting things pretty hard with the next three episodes where an actual plot surfaces and lots of things happen that seem to carry over multiple episodes. While it's not as interesting as all the background historical material we got in the second season of the series, it's a welcome change to this series that's been mostly standalone material.

The opening episode of standalone material is very much worthwhile though since I believe it's the first episode given to Hakuryu for his very own. It's told a bit awkwardly at first but Hakuryu is "stolen" while in jeep form and he causes trouble for the would be thieves by flinging himself into the river and then transforming. It does cause him a bit of a cold though so he's sneezing a few times while in jeep form which catches the attention of a few kids walking by on their way home. They end up discovering his secret and sort of adopt him a bit while Hakuryu spends his time playing and having fun with them figuring his usual band of friends are just gorging themselves on food or sleeping away. The thieves continue to try and steal Hakuryu and the kids get involved since they're all out having fun in him and it leads to some slightly tense situations but it's all very kid-friendly due to the kids being in the episode. Hakuryu really owns this episode and provides for plenty of screen time for him while there are some very laugh out loud moments when the foursome try to decide whose been the meanest to Hakuryu that would make him leave.

When it comes to the more serious storyline, things shift back to the bad guys we've seen from the start of the series as they decided to start manipulating things to achieve their own ends more fully. Doctor Ni starts his little bit of manipulating, using his mind in lieu of any other strength or power, and sets things into Kougaji's mind that he doesn't need those around him anymore and that if he wants to get things done and get back the scriptures, he simply needs to do it himself. The idea is pretty simple and it's one of those things that in comics you want to slap the villain for numerous times. Instead of playing around with your prey, just get violent and do it. So Kougaji heads out to do the work that needs to be done.

The timing for this couldn't be worse for Sanzo and the others. Their journey has led them into a trap by some demons where Sanzo found himself being enveloped by a mud-like demon mist that got into his lungs and elsewhere that essentially took him out. He's close to death and the others are ready to race him to a doctor for help but that's when Kougaji comes swooping in. With his new attitude, the banter that they all usually have doesn't work quite as well but it doesn't get noticed by Goku and the others at first. They're still treating it as a normal sparring match and Goku even warns Kougaji when Gojyo is about to hit him from behind. Once they realize how serious he is though it turns into a much more frenetic and energetic fight.

This starts leading to other areas after the battle is over and Kougaji's being captured by Doctor Ni and worked over and controlled by him starts to hit new levels. There's a lot of material done in the dark tower there that has his friends trying to figure out what's going on and it's moving their storyline forward nicely here. They get a lot more screen time in this volume than I can remember. Sanzo and the others don't make out bad either as their final episode here provides some insights into their past again as Goku reminisces about his first experiences with snow, his time in the prison in the mountains and some of the work that they all used to do together before going on this unending journey. There's so much ground to cover with all their pasts that getting a bit more is a very welcome thing.

In Summary:
Thankfully shifting into what will hopefully be the storyline that runs through the rest of this particular season, the manipulations of Doctor Ni and his little bunny make for some interesting changes in how the bad guys act and what their hidden plans may be all about. We get some good comedy at the start with Hakuryu getting his own episode at long last and even the pasts of several characters is touched upon throughout that helps to reinforce them a bit more. The forward moving nature of the plot in this volume definitely helps this stand out against the bulk of standalone episodes we've had so far and made it a much more engaging batch overall.

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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