Mania Grade: B-
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- Audio Rating: B+
- Video Rating: B+
- Packaging Rating: B
- Menus Rating: B
- Extras Rating: B+
- Age Rating: 15 & Up
- Region: 1 - North America
- Released By: ADV Films
- MSRP: 29.98
- Running time: 95
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
- Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
- Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
- Series: Saiyuki
By Chris Beveridge
January 18, 2005
Release Date: January 18, 2005
What They Say
© ADV Films
What motivates a cynical, gun-toting monk and his unruly band of misfits to head into the heart of demon territory to stop the experiments to revive Gyomaoh? It takes more than the ability to kick butt to be considered a part of the Sanzo party. It takes a seriously bad attitude.The Review!
As their journey to the west continues, things get a little sidetracked for the group in this theatrical sized adventure.Audio:
For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. Having listened to the cast in this language for as long as we have it felt only natural, though fans of the dub will be happy that the same ADR director has worked on this project. For the Japanese mix, we get a decent sounding 5.1 mix but the bulk of the show is still pretty much coming from the forward sound stage. Some material is shifted to the rear speakers but the only part that felt like it was really intentionally thrown there was the ending song by Tetsu69 which really did a good job of working over those rear speakers. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we had no trouble with dropouts or distortions during regular playback. And as usual, I'll lament over the lack of the Japanese DTS mix for this release and ADV's general aversion to DTS mixes, particularly since the Japanese are fond of doing things differently with those after they've completed the Dolby mix.Video:
Originally in theaters during 2001, the transfer for this theatrical movie is presented in its original 1.85:1 widescreen aspect ratio and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The transfer in general is very solid while retaining some of the feel and visual tricks that were used during the TV series but getting a slight upgrade in overall quality. The show is filled with a lot of blacks and dark colors and they come across well for the most part though there are some areas where the full black screen has some gradient layers to it and you can see some blocking in it. Being a theatrical feature, there is a touch of grain throughout it but I like the feel it adds. Colors in general are fairly muted but retain a solid feel and avoid problems like cross coloration or aliasing.Packaging:
Using the character artwork from the Japanese regular edition release and zoomed in slightly, the illustrated piece provides a good looking display of the four leads in their standard outfits with a nice touch of color and detail to them. The bland background is used in place of the somewhat stylized background used in the Japanese cover but otherwise it's a fairly decent looking character piece with the English language logo. The back cover provides a full length shot of Sanzo along the left while the right half is a mixture of small shots from the show and text on the movies premise. The discs features and technical information are all clearly listed and very easy to figure out. The insert is actually a double sided four-panel poster with one side doing a cast shot set against the sky while the other side has them sitting on the grass looking up. Menu:
The main menu deviates from what we got with the TV series and has a straightforward shot of the four leads set against a cloudy sky; the sky itself is an active piece with the clouds rolling by fast and set to the action paced instrumental music that runs barely twenty-five seconds before getting quite and looping over again. The layout has the selections lined along the bottom while the play portion is set elsewhere up in the character art and the layout is very reminiscent of a couple of other recent ADV releases. Access times are nice and fast and it's easy to navigate. The disc also correctly read our players' language presets and acted accordingly.Extras:
With apparently hardly any extras on the Japanese release, there isn't too much here that isn't newly created. A text interview is provided with series creator Kazuya Minekura that talks about her involvement in the character design of the film and her overall involvement of it. The profiles and art gallery material is pretty standard stuff and there are a couple of trailers in promotional and TV spot form as well. The big extra for this release is a feature-length commentary track by the lead actors of the series which means we've got a lot of guys talking about the show, something you don't get with a lot of anime series since the women usually lead the shows.Content:
(please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When I was first introduced to Saiyuki, it wasn't a series that I had cared much for right from the start. It wasn't the easiest thing to get through and the show had this feeling that it would be a huge amount of filler material because of its road trip format and because there were already a lot of series either done or in the works, which meant no real end was in sight. While the series itself managed to convert me over time as it eventually started to explore some of the more interesting layers of the characters and their past lives, it always kept that feeling that it wouldn't ever really finish, but that the journey was meant to be the best part anyway.
This theatrical feature feels like it could fit just about anywhere within the realm of the first series, though it came out after that series had finished, but it's essentially a side story or just a short arc from the series depending on how you feel about it. Running in length about the same as four episodes, it's easy to see that this could have been done within the confines of that format without problem. The theatrical nature of this means that we do get some better looking animation and spruced up character designs with a lot of detail though, but much of the simplicity of the Saiyuki series is kept in the visuals. This isn't like a lot of movies where it's a radical departure from the look and feel of the TV series but it's not exactly a direct port of it either.
The plot is very simple though, as we catch up the foursome as they're continuing along in their journey and having just defeated a massive batch of demons that were sent after them, are just looking for a place to settle in for the night. Their lives are never easy though and before they know it, a young woman appears in front of their headlights and races away after she warns them to run as a huge flying beast is chasing her. Being the gentleman that they are, they get involved in all of this and spend some time trying to defeat it. Sanzo's actually surprised that his banishment gun doesn't work before he realizes they're dealing with something very powerful, a shikigami.
Thankful for saving her life, the young woman is introduced as Houran and she offers to bring them back to her masters residence where they can eat and regain their strength before continuing on their journey. The residence is actually quite massive and looks like the main place could house hundreds of servants, never mind the apparent town down below. Something about all of it is quite unsettling to Hakkai and Sanzo but both keep counsel until they're able to speak privately later after Houran offers them each their own minor residence to sleep in for the night. It's at this point that things start to get interesting as someone begins to imitate the form of the friends and starts stalking them in an attempt to kill each of them.
Paralleling all of this, we get to follow Kougaiji who are still on the trail of the foursome and they come across the battle that lead to the forest where Houran was discovered. It's through this group with their wider knowledge of demons that we start to learn some of the history of the area and of the former Lord that ruled the mansions and town where the heroes no reside and are being stalked. They get to do things a bit more rough and tumble as they want to get closer to Sanzo and company so they can take them down which means we get to see some larger action scenes via their movements while the quieter and more deadly attacks go on inside the mansions.
As all of this progresses with illusions being used heavily, we slowly start to get the story to unravel and its links to the past start to become apparent and before we know it we've got exposition that's detailing the villains history and why he's after them. It really does play out much like a small arc of TV episodes with a villain from the past who wants to set things right in his own deranged mind with those who he thinks wronged him. The character, Dogan, is an interesting design with the masks and the feathered shoulder but it just doesn't seem like his origins would allow him to become something like that based on his nature, but such is what you get with vengeance and vendetta's being on your mind as you acquire darker powers.In Summary:
With a slight upgrade in visual quality and some big action scenes, the movie really does just feel like an extended arc from the show. This is good in some ways since it means the continuity feels right and they don't go over the top in what they can do. The downside is that I think a lot of what made the TV show work well with its camera angles and visual tricks just aren't employed here and that gives this an even blander feel. It's a decent story but it lacks the impact that those that worked on the series knew how to manipulate in order to raise the show up a bit more and to be creative. Requiem is a decent tale and one that explores some part of Sanzo's past as well as the others but it isn't really their story but the villains. And unfortunately, the villain isn't all that interesting of one outside of an amusing fetish or two. Fans of the show will likely enjoy this, probably more than they should, but those who haven't seen the series won't find too much here that helps explains things. This is more a gift for the fans than anything else.
Japanese 5.1 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles, Character Profiles & Art Gallery, Interview with Creator Kazuya Minekura, Voice Actor Commentary with the Men of Saiyuki and Original Japanese Promos & TV Spots
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Zenith DVB-318 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player via DVI with upconversion set to 720p, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.