Saiyuki Vol. #03 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: C+

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  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saiyuki

Saiyuki Vol. #03

By Chris Beveridge     July 21, 2003
Release Date: July 22, 2003

Saiyuki Vol. #03
© ADV Films

What They Say
The Sanzo Party heads further into the thick of the demon plague terrorizing the Earth, and dangers threaten them every step of the way. And no matter how far west they go, the group's past is always one step behind! The ruthless fortune teller Chin Yisou seeks to avenge the slaughter of a thousand of his brethren by destroying Hakkai. Then, it's dangerous to trust anyone on this journey - a lesson Goku learns the hard way when he is tricked into eating a forbidden fruit. In the third episode of the volume, Gojyo's love of the ladies could lead to his doom when he agrees to help a young girl find her kidnapped parents. Finally, every member has something they would like to forget. A fact they must confront as the party must hole up to wait out a storm.

The Review!
The Journey continues to the West and this volume provides more character background and some fun.

For our primary viewing session, we listened to this show in its original language of Japanese. With this being such a recent show, the dialogue was well done with lots of nicely placed pieces of directionality for both that and some of the action effects. Dialogue was crisp and clear throughout and we noted no dropouts or distortions during regular playback.

Originally airing starting in early 2000, the transfer here for Saiyuki is good, but has a few areas where it suffers a bit. Colors are vibrant, but there’s some cross coloration in a few of the more tightly animated areas. There’s still some amount of aliasing as well but it’s still mostly during panning sequences and nowhere near as noticeable as it was earlier in the series. Things look very good overall, but there are just some things inherent in the print that may catch the eye of some folks.

The eye-catching covers continue here and continue to impress me. With the near painted manga look, Gojyo pulling off his own particular style, all bloodied up but still taking in that smoke. The back cover provides screenshots and a decent summary of what to expect. On the plus side, volume numbering shows up on both the front cover and on the spine. The insert has taken the form of a character mini-poster.

The blood-splotched aspect of the first menu is carried over here while below it is the nice animated sequence of the group moving along in their jeep to some of the series instrumental music. Episode selection (though no scene selection) is available right from the top while other selections take you to their submenus. Access times are nice and fast and we had no troubles getting around, though the black and red text selections made it awkward at times figuring out whether we were on a selection or not.

The extras are similar to the previous volume and that’s a good thing here. There’s a new batch of good production sketches here and the opening and ending sequences make another textless appearance. The much valued cultural background notes also make another appearance here with many pages describing various differences in cultures as well as spending several pages going over the original version of one of the stories on this volume and how it plays out in the show itself. These continue to help add a nice dimension of understanding to some of the aspects of the show.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
After the first two volumes of traveling along, the show pretty much continues in that vein. With their being quite a number of episodes in the series, it’s little surprise, especially since it’s a show that’s based around a journey.

Things kick off with a rather good two-part storyline that focuses around Hakkai. Hakkai’s past comes back to haunt him one night when they’re out under the skies. He leaves the “jeep” to take a stroll when Gojyo comes along to see what’s up with him. They chatter a bit, but then the weirdness starts when a small doll walks into the clearing and starts talking about how Hakkai, using his real name instead, is in serious trouble and will pay.

Through the doll, and soon after Gojyo kicks the crap out of it, Chin Yisou enters the stage, a fortuneteller who has lost those close to him in the past and believes Hakkai is the one responsible for it. So Yisou has come to cause pain upon his friends as well as Hakkai. These two episodes stretch out a bit more than they feel like they should at times, but it’s mostly because of the style of Yisou and the way he slowly draws out his words. Add in the way he tries to manipulate things and it’s not something that can be rushed through. But the episodes were good in being able to bring some background to Hakkai and explain some of the reasons behind the way he lives his life now.

The other two episodes are standalone stories, each of varying interest. The first one deals with an interesting tree of sorts that gives fruit called ninjika. These little fruits look like little human faces and have an aura of evil around them. Goku finds himself getting wrapped up in trouble with them after he and the others visit a temple where there’s only two monk children in training there who claim everyone else has left for the time. There’s a strange feel about this episode, but there’s some good demon action as it plays out. Reading the liner notes though and it reveals that this very condensed episode was much larger and more important in the original story – heck, it feels like it could be half a season of any other normal show with what they go through and cover.

The final episode here was probably my favorite of the bunch as it centers on Gojyo. After a very amusing opening sequence with them all eating together, Gojyo heads off into the town for some female companionship. The way he lines up each of the ladies and picks out their flaws and how they’d hound him is perfect and played out beautifully. In the end, he finds himself going into the forest with a young girl in her preteens if not younger who claims that there’s a demon out there that must be stopped. He takes up the role of the hero to some extent while the townspeople spread rumors of him taking young girls into the woods. It’s priceless.

Other than the background material for Hakkai, a lot of this just feels like filler, even the condensed episode. Having not taken in too many series that run the 50 episode mark, I’m not too used to the slower and more leisurely pace that the show can take at times, especially ones like this that focus on the journey itself as opposed to the destination. Fans of the show will definitely like this one, especially Hakkai fans.

Japanese Language,English Languge,English Subtitles,Full-color fold-out poster,Saiyuki trailer,Production sketches,Cultural background notes,Clean opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Toshiba TW40X81 40" HDTV, Panasonic DMR-E20 DVD Recorder, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Sony speakers.


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