Saiyuki Vol. #12 -

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: 13 & 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. #12

By Chris Beveridge     August 03, 2004
Release Date: August 03, 2004

Saiyuki Vol. #12
© ADV Films

What They Say
The war god vows to replace the universe with a new Heaven and Earth, but he will need Son Goku to do it. So in the end, it will be up to the heretics who have suffered the most in this world to decide whether it's worth saving. Meanwhile, the forsaken Sanzo party struggles to carve their path, but they know a quest is all about the journey not the destination.

The Review!
Bringing the original series to a close along with the arc that took up just about most of the second season, Saiyuki finishes things out as only a show like this can: very melodramatically.

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.

One of the best aspects of this series release has been the great painted covers that they've used. The final volume lets us go back to Goku with a slightly more mature look but not entirely as he's something of a central focus in these final episodes. The look and feel of the covers has been solid and this one is no exception, though I think it may be the only one where the character isn't covered with blood. 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. 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 and go over a variety of terms from the show to fill out the space a bit.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
At the end of the twelve volume run, I honestly never thought I'd make it here. From the first volume I wasn't all that excited nor did I care for the juiced up English language version and what they were doing there. But as the show slowly progressed along in its arcs, it became more and more interesting. While the bulk of the show is highly episodic and there are few areas where it goes beyond two or three episodes, what they managed to tell within a single episode for giving the lead characters some good back story worked really well.

And along came the second season which changed the focus from their journey west to a particular villain along their journey west as the War God Homura came down to the lower world and started causing his own particular brand of chaos along with his two companions. Homura's reasons were simple and not clearly stated but very easy to discern in general. As a villain, he wasn't exactly complex or deep but there was a passion to him that snuck out once in awhile that gave sight of something more interesting. When the series started to provide us with the flashbacks to several hundred years prior and we saw this cast in a different light as they lived in the heavens, it changed the way everything else became viewed.

With a show like this, the emotions are worn on their sleeves and there's something of an exaggeration to almost everything. It's supposed to be larger than life, it's supposed to give off an epic feel and it's supposed to be overly melodramatic. Saiyuki manages to achieve this will not going so far that it alienates the more mainstream viewer but does it enough to keep the hardcore fan completely sucked into it, laughing at the right times, tensing up when necessary and shouting when things turn in their favor. At its core, Saiyuki is one of the oldest stories out there and the anime doesn't really deviate from its core concept much in being a road trip show. There are some amusing tweaks done to this particular version of the world such as Sanzo's gun and Hakuryu turning into a jeep, but at its most basic it's the same as it always was.

With the finale of the arc that takes us into Homura's life, the show picks up where it all left of before with the group splitting up as they take down the individual foes that Homura throws at them so that he can have Goku and create the new heavenly world of his dreams, the ones that haunt him after centuries. The flashback to Homura's past is essential at this point in the series so we get a good amount of time detailing it and clearly explaining out his reasons for motivation in destroying everything out there. Of course, all of it just seems childish in its own way to Sanzo but since he sees the world much the same way, you almost expect Sanzo to tell Homura to just suck it up.

The last four episodes of the series play out pretty much as you can expect. The battles are large in scope, the stakes are high, the characters get plenty roughed up as they face their toughest opponents yet, But since you know there's both a movie and two sequel series coming, you sort of have a clue how things will end in one way or another. It's the details that count in a show like this and the details are well done as the battles taper off from various characters defeating each other in deadly matches and everything coming down to the final confrontation with Homura. While part of me says that this is your basic trashy anime, it's somehow still very compelling and almost addictive, but it took several discs to reach that kind of level and it only started to maintain it in the second season.

In Summary:
In the end, Saiyuki has become a serious guilty pleasure series, one that I hate to not only watching but to admitting that I like it for a number of reasons. Very few people put forth the time to stick with shows anymore so a series rarely has the time to gain a good fanbase over here if the first few episodes aren't all that hot. Saiyuki suffered heavily from that but I'm glad I stuck it out and saw where it went. It's not a show that will appeal to everyone but it's certainly carved out its own group of fans. It's not an original series, it doesn't do too much that's highly innovative, but it creates a cast of characters that's very enjoyable to watch on their journey and it provided a good deal of entertainment while never trying to be more than it intended to be. Good stuff.

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

Review Equipment
Panasonic PT50LC13 50" LCD RP HDTV, Samsung P341 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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