With the near-constant consumption of food in this anime, Judge Sandra Dozier recommends you have some ramen or tempura handy before sitting down to watch.
Ventilate me with a handgun
Saiyuki is a long running adventure series that sort of resembles a very pretty, stylistic Dragonball Z. The story is familiar and accessible: we follow four travelers as they head West to confront a powerful evil. Our group of heroes is quite the bunch: an ill-tempered priest, a lecherous water sprite, a gluttonous monkey god, and a pacifist dragon slayer. To say things get interesting is to say fire is hot.
Backstory: Genjyo Sanzo is a priest in Shangri-La (paradise). When a negative energy wave, the result of forbidden magic being used to resurrect a demon named Gyumaoh, sweeps the land and turns all non-humans into mindless monsters that devour anyone in their path, he is commanded to go West, vanquish the ones responsible, and restore sanity to the land, allowing humans and yokai (supernatural beings) to once again live in peace with each other. He is instructed to take three part-human yokai with him, who can withstand the negative wave of energy and aid him in his quest.
"The Bond of Brothers"—Gojyo gets caught in a downpour of rain, as heavy fog rolls in and wanders into a cave for shelter. As he starts to look around, he becomes lost and meets up with his brother, who is in a rival group. The two join forces, however briefly, to escape the cave, and in the process Gojyo reminisces on his youth.
"The Boy Who Couldn't Smile"—Hakkai returns to the town where he spent his childhood and ends up helping a boy who reminds him of the way he was at that age.
"Fleeting Vision: The Broken Promise"—When Gojyo finds some home-brewed wine in the woods, he is overjoyed. Goku is interested, but Sanzo recalls his mentor from childhood saying wine can only be appreciated when one is mature, and forbids Goku to drink. When they reach town, a new tavern is sponsoring a drinking contest, and Sanzo, Gojyo, and Hakkai are roped into participating. Not that they mind!
Overall Impressions: This was a nice suite of episodes dealing with childhood memories of the four principal characters. We get a peek at the events that shaped them into the men they are now. The first episode opens on Sanzo, who is normally so tough and cynical, refusing to cross a river. What he doesn't tell the rest of the group is that he was originally found floating down a river as a baby, and was teased about it ever after by other children. It's interesting to see some of the past events for these characters, and to see a very vulnerable side of Gojyo, especially. After watching his past reminisces, it is easy to see where his fixation with women was born.
Video transfer for this volume is, as usual, excellent, with a crisp print that shows off the beautiful, glossy animation and subtle color variants (in scenes with trees, one can see different colored greens just a shade or two apart with clear outlines and no bleed). Sound quality is similarly excellent, with a lively surround track, especially in the 5.1 English dub.
Extras for this volume are plentiful and appropriate: a fold-out mini-poster insert featuring one of the characters, production sketches (set to music), extensive translation and cultural notes for those into Japanese culture or wanting to know more about the Chinese origins for the Saiyuki story, a set of clean opening and closing credits, a trailer, and more ADV previews.
Fans will definitely appreciate getting to know their favorite characters a little better in these episodes, and there is some quality writing and action in each episode. Once again, another fine volume in the Saiyuki series.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
• Mini-Poster Insert
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