Original story by Kazuya Minekura
Directed by Hayato Date
- Cultural background notes
- Production sketches
- Japanese opening/closing
Dindrane’s Anime Warnings:
- Meanness to Goku
- Sanzo still a twit
Released by: ADV
Anamorphic: N/A; episodes appear in their original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: Get it and hold it close.
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The episodes on this disc start off a bit slowly, but then rev up as we get a look at the past alter egos of Our Heroes, as they lived in Heaven 500 years ago. The flashbacks are precipitated as Sanzo is his usual selfish, thoughtless self, and Goku runs away, only to end up in the clutches of the dastardly Homura. It’s interesting to see that the souls of the members of the Sanzo party have been the same always. The character of Konzen, the heretic monkey, is especially amusing and so perfect as the earlier Son Goku. The power of friendship and interwoven souls over various lifetimes is powerful in these episodes and binds us as much to the characters as they are to each other.
I continue to wish that the characters other than Sanzo were given a bit more depth; they just aren’t as rounded as they could be, even when the show focuses on them as this disc does. However, the show is engaging enough despite this through its creativity, great art, and good writing.
The imagery and style of Saiyuki is much prettier and more stylized than its soul-brother Dragonball Z, which will please the aesthetes of the audience. It suits the adventure and religious themes of the show as well. The visuals are nicely crisp in this digital transfer, and since the show is only a few years old to begin with, the quality is apparent. The sound is also good, as it has been all along. This is one of those titles where the English cast is just as talented as the Japanese cast–what a change from the early days of animation, when American voice actors were only used to the American style and didn’t make the transfer to anime all that gracefully.
The features on this disc are similar to those on previous discs. We continue to be blessed with the fantastically useful and interesting cultural background notes; again I must express my deep, abiding wish that all anime titles would do this. Think about the notes at the end of volumes of Azumanga Daioh, and you’ll get what these are all about. We also get some more production sketches, which will please any would-be manga-ka or just fans of art, as will the Japanese version of the opening and closing. The final bonus is a fold-out poster that shows the past life versions of Sanzo’s gang and demonstrates their relationships. Any office cube would be lucky to be graced by this poster, as it is a good size for smaller spaces at about 10″x14″.
In conclusion, if you’re a fan of adventure, quests, or just great comedy, then you should pick up this disc, as well as the previous volumes in the series. If you liked shows like Dragonball Z, Soul Hunter, or other adventure/comedies, then you should enjoy this one as well. If you tried this show early and thought there wasn’t much to it, give it another chance. The show has grown philosophically and emotionally, without losing the adventure and comedy that made it appealing in the first place.