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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Saiyuki:Double Barrel Collection 4
Saiyuki:Double Barrel Collection 4
ADV Films // Unrated // August 9, 2005
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by John Sinnott | posted August 26, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Show:

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 from Sanzo.

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.

The DVD:


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.

Audio:

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 being present.

Video:

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.

Extras:

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.

Final Thoughts:

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.

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