Saiyuki Reload Vol. #7 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C

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  • Audio Rating: B
  • Video Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: N/A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 2 - Europe
  • Released By: MVM Entertainment
  • MSRP: 19.99
  • 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 Bryan Morton     January 23, 2008
Release Date: January 07, 2008

Saiyuki Reload Vol. #7
© MVM Entertainment

What They Say
Sanzo's group barely escapes with their lives from God. It is their first serious defeat. They've taken heavy damage, both physical and mental, leaving them all in a dark mood - except Goku, 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?

Episodes Comprise
23 – Dawn
24 – Rematch
25 – Nothing to Give

The Review!
I'd like to be able to say this is the final volume of Saiyuki, but that's not the case (although whether any more of it sees a UK release is still uncertain). The longest sidestory in a series full of sidestories comes to an end, as God gets what's coming to him…

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 time around, we get the second version of the opening sequence in both the original Japanese and clean forms, and a 21-piece gallery of production line artwork.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review will contain spoilers)
Sanzo and the others receive a beating at the hands of God, who declares that Sanzo is no longer fit to be called a Sanzo Priest before taking the Maten Scriptures from him. With that, the boy are left to crawl back to town, to tend to their wounds and decide what they should do next. On the one hand, there's no point fighting a battle that they know they can't win - but on the other, they're not about to take their defeat lying down. They also need to recover the Scriptures if they're to complete their mission to the West - so after some friendly discussion (okay, an uncivilised punch-up) and an educational game of mah-jong, it's back to the battle...

The last volume of Saiyuki Reload basically ruined any hope I had that there would be a point to the rest of the season, rather than it just being left open-ended in preparation for the follow-up Gunlock season, so working up the enthusiasm to watch these final three episodes wasn't easy. The disc gets off to a good enough start, though, as Goku takes on the unlikely role of mediator and teacher of useful lessons, through clever use of a game of mah-jong as a way to rebuild the gang's enthusiasm and self-belief after the battering they'd received from God. It's not the greatest story in the world in general terms, but in Saiyuki terms it's pretty good and does have some charm to it.

From there, it's sadly back to the grindstone, though, as the final two volumes take us back into fighting territory as the pointless battle with God goes into round 2. With so much having happened or been hinted at earlier in the season that was genuinely intriguing, it's infuriating to have to sit & watch through another detour from the story proper, knowing that the "good stuff" is being left untouched and unresolved, and for me that ruined whatever appeal the series had left. I'm not much of a fan of fighting shows anyway, but Saiyuki has enough potential bubbling under the surface that wasting it in the way the show has is a crying shame.

Of course, for some people – especially anyone who's been lapping Saiyuki up from day one – the fighting will be exactly what they want. If you're in that category, then this disc won't disappoint. The show has always been fairly well-presented, and that continues through the battle scenes here. The final battle may last a bit longer than necessary, but it gives all the boys a chance to show off their abilities to full effect. Knowing there's another series on the way removes any sense of threat, as you know the story continues, but the twists and turns in the battle are handled well enough that there's still some tension there to help keep the attention. It's just a shame that it's all delivered at the expense of some proper story.

In summary:
To me, the end of Saiyuki Reload is almost a poster child for "wasted opportunities" – there's so much left unfinished from earlier in the series that I wanted to see resolved that it's almost criminal. If you've been watching the show for the action scenes, though, you'll get a lot more out of this disc, even though it's nothing more than a sidestory to the sadly-neglected main plot. The series does seem to do what it set out to do – it's just a shame it set its sights so low.

Japanese Language 2.0,English Language 2.0,English Subtitles,Textless Opening Sequence (version 2),Original Opening Sequence (version 2),Line Art Gallery

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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