Saiyuki Reload Vol. #4 -

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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. #4

By Bryan Morton     September 20, 2007
Release Date: July 02, 2007

Saiyuki Reload Vol. #4
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
What evil power hides within?

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?

Episodes Comprise
13 " A Teeny Tiny Story
14 " Whisper of Darkness
15 " Premonition
16 " Footprints

The Review!
After a fun little sidestory focussing on Hakuryu, this volume of Saiyuki Reload heavily features the 'bad guys' of Kougaiji and his group. After their efforts to retrieve the Maten Scriptures from Sanzo meet with little success, they begin to find that their own side are beginning to turn on them " will they be able to protect themselves, or is it the end of their particular road..?

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.

The only extra this time around is another selection of TV spots advertising the show, this time all featuring Goku.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Last time I reviewed a volume of Saiyuki Reload, I had a good grumble about how the series wasn't doing anything to really inspire me to watch it, and how maybe seeing more of Dokugakuji's group might liven things up. The gods of anime appear to have anticipated that request, as that's exactly what we get here " after one fun little filler episode focussing on the adventures that Hakuryu and a group of kids have trying to escape from a group of thieves, the story moves on to focus firmly on Dokugakuji and his team, demoting Sanzo & co to the role of bit-players for a couple of episodes. What a change a disc makes.

Kougaiji's coming under some pressure from his superiors, after failing to recover the scriptures from Sanzo. Hoping to take advantage of Kougaiji's slow fall from favour, his old rival Ni Jenyi - master gatherer of information, amongst other talents - offers to provide his services. Somehow I don't think it's out of the kindness of his heart - especially when his "help" seems to involve trying to persuade Kougaiji that the rest of his team can't be trusted. He also gives Kougaiji a bracelet that he promises will increase his fighting power by an order of magnitude " but when Kougaiji tries out his new powers on Sanzo, he finds that Ni Jenyi had failed to mention the side-effects. Meanwhile, Lirin's mother summons her daughter and doesn't appear to have a friendly family reunion in mind, while Yaone and Dokugakuji realise that something's awry, and try to get back in touch with the others...

Dokugakuji and the "evil" team are, to me at least, probably the more interesting group of characters in Saiyuki - sure, they're nominally the bad guys trying to prevent Sanzo and his team from completing their mission, but I can't recall ever seeing them portrayed as actively evil. Instead, they've often stopped to help Sanzo & co when they've been in particularly tight situations, and have passed over a few clear chances to seize the Scriptures. That leaves them with plenty of shades of grey around their personalities, which is something I've always found intriguing. I'd much rather watch characters whose actions could go either way, than characters who are straight good or evil, and that's what Dokugakuji's team provides.

These episodes only add to the appeal by giving time over to developing some of the backgrounds of the gang, like Lirin's strained family situation or aspects of Yaone's past " some of it was probably covered in previous Saiyuki incarnations, but it's all new to me and something I found very interesting to watch. Kougaiji gets the most of the attention this time around, but all four of the group get given a decent amount of attention. You also get a good glimpse into the backstabbing & plotting that's going on in the organisation they're working for " while they may not be outright evil themselves, some of their comrades certainly are, and seeing the scheming going on around them as people vie for positions of favour has its own appeal.

So what are Sanzo and the others doing while the others are hogging the limelight? Kougaiji's battle with the gang is about the only scene where they feature for any real length of time " they really are sidelined for a lot of this disc, and to be honest that's no bad thing. After three volumes focussed on the guys where very little ever changed from episode to episode, the change of focus " even though it's going to be temporary " is a welcome change and has helped to freshen things up and renew my interest in watching the next volume. I have to say, though, that it's a sad state of affairs when a series needs to rely on fringe characters to boost its appeal.

In summary:
This volume of Saiyuki Reload is a big improvement over the last, which sounds like an endorsement until you realise that most of the improvement comes from having characters other than Sanzo's group at the core of the story for a while. Still, entertaining episodes deserve credit, and this disc certainly provides them. It's just a shame that you know that usual service is bound to resume sooner rather than later...

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Commercial Collections (Goku Version)

Review Equipment
Toshiba 37X3030DB 37" widescreen HDTV; Sony PS3 Blu-ray player (via HDMI, upscaled to 1080p); Acoustic Solutions DS-222 5.1 speaker system.


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jnager 3/13/2012 1:18:48 PM

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