Saiyuki Vol. #09 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • 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
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saiyuki

Saiyuki Vol. #09

By Chris Beveridge     April 16, 2004
Release Date: March 30, 2004

Saiyuki Vol. #09
© ADV Films

What They Say
When Gojyo becomes trapped in a cave with Dokugakuji, the brothers reminisce about a stepmother's resentment for her half-breed child. But it may very well be the burdens of youth that molded Goku, Gojyo, Sanzo, and Hakkai into the only men who could undertake this journey!

The Review!
The journey west continues and the four episodes here provide a mix of standalone tales but not much for the larger plot this time.

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 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 again impress me. With the near painted manga look, this cover provides a really nice shot of one of Homura's men giving that wicked smirk while still smoking, continuing the realistic style and tone of the past covers. Amusingly, this one's only got one minor wound to him that's bandaged, unlike previous covers where people have been pretty covered in wounds. 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.

Using the fire element behind the static image, you get an interesting menu shot of Hakkai standing in the falling snow set against the nun statues as some of the instrumental music plays along. 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 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. The much-valued cultural background notes also make another appearance here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Having just dealt with a lot of Saiyuki related talk during Anime Boston, it was fun to get back into the show and get with the characters again after all of that. While this volume continues the tradition of providing standalone tales on one of the longest journeys ever made, I'm still rather enjoying its episodic nature and minimal elements of the larger storyline.

We do get some pieces of the larger picture here as Homura spends some time looking for the remains of a woman named Rinrei here on Earth. As we see through flashbacks, we get to some of his origins and his own half breed status and how that affected his place in the rankings with those around him. Rinrei gets reincarnated down on Earth and Homura finds himself placed into a position that's been long empty, that of the Prince of War. So now that he's down on Earth himself, he's able to bring some closure to this event but ends up having to deal with Kougaiji first, as he's still intent on proving his worth and place in the scheme of things. Sanzo and the others are part of the show of course and they arrive in a convenient place that allows them to get involved in a nice pitched battle, but much of this is spent on Homura's flashbacks to a time when he was less violent and dealt more with relationships and the like. It adds that necessary level of character depth to let him become a more interesting villain and one you're able to sympathize with more.

One of the things I rather liked with this volume is that it gave both Gojyo and Hakkai their own 'character growth' episodes to play around with. Gojyo's was a bit awkward to get into though. The group is stuck in some strange forest and he and Goku go off looking for either some food or a way out. So when it starts raining after the two get separated, Gojyo finds shelter in a cave only to discover that it's really an old tunnel. The further in he goes the more paths he finds, so he continues to mark his way until he realizes that he's basically hit a barrier that has him looping over and over. To make things more difficult now that he's trapped, he's come across his older brother, Jien. He's gotten trapped in there as well since he and his group were basically in the same situation in this forest. The two of them work together in a sense to try and find an exit and deal with the demon that's playing its own games with them. The worthwhile parts are the ones that do more of the fun flashbacks to when Gojyo was much younger and had to deal with Jien as an older brother and some of the other troubles he had as a kid. We've seen some parts of his childhood before but not this much with Jien and it definitely changes the perceptions of both characters.

The Hakkai episode also goes back to the childhood years when the group arrives in the town where Hakkai spent his years in the orphanage. The town is close to being overrun by demons so people are panicked and afraid but have decided to set up a barrier of holy blessed statues around the city based on the ones by the orphanage. Hakkai naturally ends up at the orphanage after letting his thoughts go back to his time there and the old sister who spent a lot of time with him only to find that one of the girls who was there with him is now the main sister there. The two spend some time reminiscing, though Hakkai remembers how she used to be really afraid of him since he was always so serious and unfriendly. As it turns out, there's another child there now that's much the same as Hakkai was back then so she's asked him for help, all while the demons circle the town and await their chance to get inside. Much like the Gojyo episode, this one does a lot of delving into Hakkai's youth but manages to do it much better and more fully, giving more time to the past as well as giving it a tie to the present with the new orphan.

Getting more of their pasts, plus a sampling of Sanzo's past as well though his deals with excessive drinking, is the main focus of this volume in total and it works really well to help continue giving them more depth. Even after this many episodes there's still plenty of things to learn and know about them.

In Summary:
While there's plenty of focus on characterization there's still a fair amount of action throughout these episodes as well, never mind the numerous moments of grandstanding and posing by the leads to give the fangirls what they want. Saiyuki's continuing to manage to mix both fanservice and plot alongside action pretty well, though you have to get over that idea of getting a lot of big picture plot along the way. While the show bothered me a lot at first, I've really gotten into it as it goes along and continue to enjoy these fun standalone tales on what's got to be one of the longest and most varied trips across a section of terrain ever done.

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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