Saiyuki Vol. #11 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B+

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Info:

  • Audio Rating: B+
  • Video Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Region: 1 - North America
  • Released By: ADV Films
  • MSRP: 29.99
  • Running time: 100
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Saiyuki

Saiyuki Vol. #11

By Chris Beveridge     June 15, 2004
Release Date: June 22, 2004


Saiyuki Vol. #11
© ADV Films


What They Say
Free from the restrictions of Heaven, Homura and his team of dissenters have indulged in a little fun at the expense of Sanzo and crew. Now they've decided to get serious about stealing the founding scriptures of Heaven and Earth. Homura provides Sanzo an ultimatum: Turn over the Maten Scriptures he carries by morning or else!

The Review!
As the series races towards its conclusion, past and present come up again and Homura finally makes his move.

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, the Merciful Goddess herself takes the center stage and eve gets a bit bloodied up for it. It's definitely a different look for her compared to the in-show style, but it works well and mirrors the style used for the other characters. 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 is a four panel fold-out poster that goes back to the main cast once more and has the foursome together in their standard attire and striking a decent pose. It's not the best poster in the series but it's decent. The keepcase is clear but there's nothing on the reverse side of the cover, giving it something of a plain feel.

Menu:
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.

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. The much-valued cultural background notes also make another appearance here.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
With each volume of Saiyuki I almost feel dirty for liking it. In a way, the entire series feels like massive amounts of filler. But the concept of the show, and the original novel of course, is that of a road trip, which is essentially traveling to all sorts of places and having new experiences along the way. There's a goal at the end, and regardless of how worthy the goal is, it's the trip that's the real experience. While Saiyuki isn't filler per se since everything to some extent is leading towards the end goal, it just gives that vibe sometimes.

This volume has less of that feel but it's still there for a couple of episodes as we get more character background details before moving into what's really the final arc with Homura. Zenon ends up getting a fair amount of the screen time this time around when our heroic foursome splits up in trying to figure out the attacks on a town by a particular group of demons. While Hakkai and Sanzo head off elsewhere to help some folks, Goku and Gojyo take to the town to try and figure out the mystery. Their problems grow a bit though when they meet up with Zenon there and Gojyo amusingly asks if he's there searching for the scripture. Nothing like giving it away, eh pretty boy?

The tale is a simple one that keeps its focus around a young boy whose parents have died in the recent demon attacks and he ends up befriending all three of the men. Zenon takes a particular liking to him since there's some shared background with his own younger days and almost takes the boy under his wings in showing him a few tricks. There are some really good moments with the adults all talking about their upcoming showdowns though and I always like it when the people who are constantly fighting each other know when it's not worth fighting and just sit down and talk over drinks instead. This episode has a particularly nasty twist to it and I was pleased to see them doing something a bit meaner than usual with the cast which helped raise this episode up a few more notches.

The bigger plot does start coming into place though as Homura has decided that the time is right for his plans to start unfolding. Having given Goku incentive to become more powerful during their last encounter, he's ready to use the spunky lad in his plans to essentially rewrite the heavens and the earth in his own fashion. Playing god on a much higher level than he's supposed to you could say. Instead of laying down a basic trap, Homura along with Zenon and Shien simply confront the foursome in the middle of a crowded marketplace in the evening and set the stage for the battle to come the next morning. This brings back a bit of the earlier episode where it has everyone going in different ways and getting mentally ready for the battle. Of course, that means lots of drinking for some of them, enemies included.

This also provides an opportunity to take another trip back five hundred years and explore more of what was going on that pushed the various factions to where they are now. With the split in the heavens coming down due to the way Prince Nataku is being manipulated by his father, the fallout from people trying to intervene starts hitting home and you can see where the long last grudges and plans are coming from. The flashback material continues to be really excellent for the storyline and helps add some distinct flavor, but this particular episode just looked really off-model for the characters. I know they're not supposed to look like their present day versions much, but they looked like they were really skimping on the designs and budget for a lot of this. Hopefully the money saved there shows up in the final episodes coming up.

In Summary:
Every volume I rail against my strange fascination with this group of bishies and their alluring ways. Goku had me cringing at the start of the series but is now quite endearing in his own way, mostly due to the Nataku scenes. The series has carried me full circle in a way, from dreading each volume at one point early on to now saying the final volume can't get here fast enough because I want to know what's going on. This volume sets the stage nicely and brings in the beginning of the emotional and character driven angst moments that will punctuate these final battles. The good stuff is the journey but the really good material is looking to be the conclusion to this storyline.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language,English 5.10 Language,English Subtitiles,Japanese opening and closing animation,Cultural background notes,Production sketches

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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