Saiyuki Vol. #07 (also w/box) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 15 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.98/39.98
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saiyuki

Saiyuki Vol. #07 (also w/box)

By Chris Beveridge     December 26, 2003
Release Date: January 06, 2004


Saiyuki Vol. #07 (also w/box)
© ADV Films


What They Say
He is powerful enough to grant divinity to demons that become his loyal subjects.

He is strong enough to waltz into Houtou Castle and steal the Seiten Scripture out from under Gyokumen Koushu's nose.

He is Homura, the Prince of War.

And he is hell bent on forming an army in the Lower World capable of overthrowing the heavens. Accompanied by his fellow gods, Shien and Zenon, it seems nothing can stand in his way-and now he's after Sanzo's Maten Scripture!



The Review!
Saiyuki barrels into its second season with a new theme, lots more action and a slew of hints towards revelations to come.

Audio:
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.

Video:
Originally airing 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.

Packaging:
The eye-catching covers continue here and again impress me. With the near painted manga look, this cover provides a really nice shot of Homura wielding a blood splotched sword that’s dripping onto his fine whites, continuing the realistic style and tone of the past covers. 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 again taken the form of a small foldout poster. The keepcase is clear but there’s nothing on the reverse side of the cover, giving it something of a plain feel.

Since this is the start of the second season there’s also a new box available for this release. The box is of the same sturdy nature as the first one and in the same color design style, just with different artwork around it. The spine has a really nice set of the four leads in their action poses while the top showcases the new gods introduced in the opening volume here in white line artwork. One of the side panels is given over to Hakkai that looks really rich with the greens of his shirt while the other panel is set aside for Gojyo. His panel looks really good with the colors as well, particularly his hair and the blues in his vest.

To make this release even more special, a set of four limited edition pencil boards are included in the box release. Enclosed in a good looking cardboard sleeve with more detailed character artwork on the front, each of the pencil boards is a shot of one of the lead characters with their name on it; the back side is done in blue and white tone with the image from the envelope on it. These are all really nice looking, but they lack the really good quality feel of the pencil boards I’ve gotten in other releases since these are just really glossy cardboard boards.

Menu:
The blood splotched nature of the menus changes here a bit as it’s now fire imagery moving over the background image for the main menu. 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.

Extras:
The extras are similar to the previous volumes and that continues to be a good thing. There’s a new batch of production sketches here and the opening and ending sequences are presented in their original Japanese form with text since there are new openings and endings on this volume. The much-valued cultural background notes also make another appearance here with many pages describing various changes from one version to the next.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Saiyuki’s now past the halfway mark and kicks off season two with a new theme and a change in plans from the original plot. To mark the occasion, a new opening and ending sequence is used starting with the first episode on this disc. And what an opening it is, it’s pure bishie heaven for some people I know as the four leads are cast into a variety of poses, clothing or lack of clothing and moves. The new ending sequences is well done also, but it’s interesting to note that there doesn’t appear to be a textless version available as the English credits for each episode follows the end of each individual episode (which is exactly how I want my end credits to be done!)

For the series itself, it takes a fairly drastic turn in one sense and provides a lot of clues and hints about the larger picture for this journey. While Sanzo and company are still traveling west, complaining to each other, joking, eating huge meals and dispatching the occasional demon that comes their way, a new force enters into the picture. Literally dropping in on the tavern where Sanzo and the others are, two very tough folks who have been looking for Sanzo wander in and end up in a nasty situation. It turns out that the entire tavern is filled with disguised demons, and once outside, truckloads more are literally on their way.

This is all just side service to the bigger event though, as the two tough guys turn out to be Gods of some sort named Zenon and Shien. They both serve under one other God who makes an elaborate entrance in a ball of white light and introduces himself as Homura, the War Prince. They all talk of Sanzo in the name of someone called Konzen, which was hinted at in an earlier episode when the Merciful Goddess arrived. Homura, in fact, actually calls each of the four by different names and by military ranks, with a level of familiarity as well.

Though Homura seems to know Sanzo in another form or life, he’s not here to establish a friendship or anything, but rather to take the scripture from him for reasons not given. Of course, Sanzo won’t give that up without a fight but it’s impossible to kill a God even with his powerful gun. Circumstances lead to Sanzo keeping the scripture, but we follow Homura more as he and his group heads to the West where another scripture is supposed to be, at the place where Sanzo and his group were headed. And a whole lot of chaos is let loose on the previous set of villains who made much trouble in the first season, almost effectively removing them from the game.

The shift in tone with this season brings about a lot of interesting elements, particularly in the aspect of the four leads either being reincarnations of gods or someone equally powerful in the past or simply starting over again with their memories changed or erased and ending up together once more. Manipulations on the part of the Merciful Goddess are pretty evident as well, so there are a number of avenues for things to have happened. While the shift to the four possibly being much more than we’ve known them to be is pretty sudden, there’s an element that allows for it to be believable based on their pasts and what’s gone on since they’ve gotten together.

In Summary:
The change in theme, which is written large in the opening of the first episode, looks to be promising as well as the introduction of Homura and his plans. It’s a departure from what’s come before, but that added element of unpredictability has given a bit more life to the series since it felt like it was going to be one long road trip and then a few episodes of finale.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.1 Language,English Subtitles,Production sketches,Cultural background notes,Original Japanese opening and closing animation

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Panasonic RP-82 Progressive Scan codefree DVD player, Sony STR-DE835 DD/DTS receiver, Monster component cable and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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