The fourth volume of Saiyuki Double Barrel starts the second
season of the show. While I enjoyed the first season, I found it
falling into a rut near the end with all of the episodes blending in together.
This second season kick-starts the show with a new major villain that promises
to make the show a bit more interesting.
Based on an ancient Chinese tale, Siayuki takes place back in the dark
ages of prehistory, when demons and men lived together peacefully.
Something has happened though, and a dark force has fallen across the land.
Now demons have become violent and are attacking humans whenever they find
them. A trio of sages detect the source of the ills: someone is merging
science with black magic and trying to resurrect a powerful demon.
To prevent this, they send a monk and three demons (who have not been
overcome by the dark force) on a journey to the west; to India. There
they are to stop the resurrection of the dark god. The four
who are chosen are Sanzo, a pragmatic monk who possesses a powerful 'scripture,'
Goku, the Monkey King who is always hungry, Kakkai, a quite and thoughtful
demon who is good in a fight, and Gojyo, a randy water sprite who constantly
fights with Goku. As the four travel to their ultimate destination,
in Kakkai's dragon that can turn into a Jeep, they encounter teams of demons
who are intent on ending their journey early.
This show is fairly episodic in nature. Though there is a bit
of continuity, for the most part there are stand alone episodes, with the
occasional two-parter, that have the team traveling to a new town and fighting
the demons that they find there.
As the second season starts, Sanzo and his party stop at an inn for
a bite to eat. Trouble comes their way though, as it often does,
in the form of two fighters, Zenon and Shien. These aren't your everyday
run of the mill toughs or demons though, they are gods. It
gets worse. Zenon and Shien are working for an even more powerful
god: Homura, the Prince of War.
Homura seems to know Sanzo and his group and addresses them by unfamiliar
names ranks. Are Sanzo and his companions the reincarnation of some
powerful beings? In any case, this god is planning to storm the heavens,
and he needs Sanzo's scripture to ensure his victory. Sanzo isn't
going to just hand it off to him though, but how can his group fight someone
who's immortal? Even Sanzo's gun can't kill Homura.
It seems that Homura is going to be around for a while. As this
volume progresses, he concocts several plans to acquire Sanzo's scripture,
including making some demons divine, to wrestle the sacred scripture away
I liked the new direction that this show has taken. The first
season quickly developed into a "monster of the week" show, and was becoming
tiring. Homura is a great new foil for the group, and I appreciate
that there is a bit more continuity. Of course there is a down side.
Now that the plot revolves around the War God who wants to destroy the
heavens I'm wondering what the point of the previous 26 episodes were.
Hopefully they'll tie everything together, but I'm not betting on it.
I have the same main critiques of this episode as I did with the earlier
discs. Though the show is pretty good at times, the thing that I
really dislike is the frequent references to modern day conveniences that
didn't exist in ancient China. The group travels around in a jeep,
they pay for their food with an ATM card and Sanzo packs a gun, but the
villages that they encounter have no electricity or any technology at all.
I'm sure this was done for humor's sake, but I just found it distracting.
The another strike against the show is that the animation is pretty
cheap. While not the worst that I've ever seen, it is pretty well
down on the list. Most of the show is still images with just the
characters mouths animated. A lot of the action scenes consist of
still images that are panned across or zoomed in on. I will admit
that they do a good job of giving the illusion of motion, but it's just
an illusion. The show does use some infrequent CGI effects, such
as when demons explode (bloodlessly) after being killed. This motion
just serves to remind viewers how limited the rest of the show is.
This two disc set comes in a clear single-width double keepcase.
There are four episodes on each disc, each one of which seems to be identical
to the original releases.
This DVD has both the original Japanese soundtrack in Japanese, and
a 5.1 English dub. I alternated language tracks as I watched
the show, and enjoyed the Japanese track a bit more. The English
dub was fine, there really wasn't anything wrong with it, but I felt that
the Japanese voices sounded better coming from the characters than the
English ones. Both dubs sounded good, with no hiss of distortion
The full frame video quality was about average for a recent show.
There was some aliasing, but the colors were bright and the image was sharp.
A solid transfer that fits the show well.
The both discs in this set includes the original animations, a reel
of production sketches and many text pages of cultural notes. The
last of these I found very helpful and interesting.
There are some pretty significant changes to the story in this volume,
and I think they improve the anime a lot. The introduction of a single
powerful villain gives the show and added feeling of danger that the previous
volumes were missing. The show still isn't prefect, but it's an enjoyable
way to kill an evening. Recommended.