Mania Grade: B
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- 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
- Running time: 75
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Saiyuki Reload
Saiyuki Reload Vol. #7
By Chris Beveridge
February 24, 2006
Release Date: February 28, 2006
Saiyuki Reload Vol. #7
What They Say
© Geneon Entertainment (USA), Inc.
Sanzo's group barely escapes with their lives from God. It is their first serious defeat, having taken heavy damage both physical and mental, leaving them in a dark mood. Not Goku, though, who decides to rope everyone into some games of Mahjong, which he wins easily time after time. When the others start to grumble, he simply says that it's easy to win against someone who expects to lose. Will they defeat this "God" in the end? Who is behind all of this?The Review!
In keeping with the central focus of friendship and what people really need in order to get by in life, Saiyuki Reload comes to an action filled conclusion. 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:
Finishing out the series with the Japanese covers, this one goes with God's master taking the center stage here and it's one of those visuals that just works perfectly in the way it simply feels menacing and evil, especially in the art style that's been used for the covers. 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 last round of extras for the series has some of the basics but welcome pieces such as more art gallery pieces a clean version of the new opening and the original Japanese version as well.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Saiyuki Reload rapidly hits its conclusion with this volume and the three episodes here and it does so by having one really fun episode before moving into the two part action filled episode that brings it all crumbling down. Saiyuki works on a pretty good formula at this point and fans of the first two seasons can see how things are going here pretty easily, especially since the next season is already on tap and this is practically billed as the journey that will not end.
After the complete whipping that the gang got in the previous volume having gone to meet God and finding themselves unfit, they're left bandaged and downtrodden in their room but still wanting to go finish the job. The downside to it is that they were so emotionally scarred by being beaten so effectively and quickly that their mindset is that no matter what they do they'll lose so it puts them in a really bad place. The level of infighting is higher than normal and with a meaner streak as well until Goku shows up with a mah-jongg table and pieces and forces everyone into playing. It's a surprising gambit from Goku but the bulk of the episode plays out with the four of them sitting down to play the game and it draws them out of their inner thoughts and puts their feelings into words. It's actually one of the best and strongest episodes of the series I've seen since some of the second season material that dealt with their past lives.
That said, the reinvigorated team heads back to the place of their defeat to face down God once more and they go through a pair of episodes that's alternatively a lot of fun due to the wacky nature of God and the rooms he keeps to downright bloody violent as the final confrontations are underway. It's interesting to see the team come back together, probably stronger than they have in some time, as this volume progresses and that's a lot of the point of the entire thing. Though the series has been mostly filler material in my mind, it has kept to the basic themes that it wanted to cover about what people want from their lives and what they really need in their lives. Friends keeps coming back as one of the core necessities for making it long term and the friendship between these four characters has been pulled at from every angle with a lot of intensity both from outside and inside. Seeing it all bounce back together here at the end does give the end the right notes that it needed but the entire series could have been done a hell of a lot better.
Then again, that's not what the fans want. They want their bishies, looking cool, saying the right things and implying lots of eroticism between each other. The show definitely deals that in spades. But in the overall continuity, the last couple of minutes of this volume provide an interesting look into things as the puppet master here is definitely something I didn't see coming really (especially since I don't take cover artwork at face value and tend to see it so far in advance that it's just a blur). There is a lot of potentially interesting material to deal with in regards to those that the group is journeying to defeat and we've had some of those moments in the first two seasons but very little here and that's one of the biggest failings of the show I think. What we did get never felt like enough but when we did get it, it was intriguing and exciting.In Summary:
My love/hate relationship with Saiyuki continues with Saiyuki Reload as it has had some great moments here and there but each volume arrives almost with something of a sense of dread since I can't tell which way it's going to go. The end of the series thankfully plays out in a positive manner and turned out to be enjoyable for the most part but as I'm not really the target audience and the show is playing to a tune that's not intended to really entice me, I know that what I want out of it is not what's intended. Reconciling all of that is problematic sometimes but in the end the show is one that I can see why it works for so many but easily understand why it fails so horribly for others. Saiyuki Reload definitely falls short of the first two seasons and especially the second season but it does carry on many of the same traditions. Fans will rail against some of the visual changes but this is the kind of franchise where as long as they're getting something I think they'll be happy. I'll continue to look for the good in it and be surprised every now and then but Saiyuki's a show that will never be a full on love for me.
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 2.0 Language,English Subtitles,Art Gallery,Clean Opening 2,Original Opening 2
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.