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Saiyuki Double Barrel Collection Vol. 3
The third volume of Saiyuki: Double Barrel Collection plays out a lot like the previous discs. These are mainly stand alone monster-of-the-week type shows, but they are entertaining and fun nonetheless.
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 powerful 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 familiar 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.
This volume starts off with a stand alone show where Sanzo and his party encounter four attractive girls. The guys, with the exception of Sanzo, start to fall for the girls. Of course it turns out that the girls are controlled by parasitic demons, and the guys have a fight to the death.
Next is the best story in this double disc set, a three part saga where the group travels across the desert. They hear about a demon who has killed a Sanzo priest and eaten him in order to attain immortality. The few priests who make it to the Sanzo level all carry a Scripture, which the demon now has. Sanzo sets off with his friends in tow to search for this demon to recover the holy Scripture. They encounter the demon, but only after falling into a trap she has set.
They manage to get out of the trap, of course, but not without paying a penalty. Sanzo has been badly poisoned by the demon, and Kakkai is nearly exhausted by his efforts to get everyone out of the scorpion demon's castle. As if that's not bad enough, Gojyo's older brother, Kougaiji, is in the desert looking for the missing Scripture too.
Seeing Sanzo near death and the other's very ragged, Kougaiji sees his chance to gain a Scripture and rid himself of some enemies. He makes a wager: he'll let the party use his flying dragon to take Sanzo to safety if....they can kill him. Otherwise he will kill them and take the Scripture.
Goku sees one and only one way out of this mess: he takes off his demon limiter. This increases his power enormously, but also removes much of his reason. The wipes the floor with Kougaiji, and then starts in on his team-mates.
The set finishes up with a quartet of stand alone episodes on the second disc that were entertaining if nothing else.
This series is enjoyable, though not anything special. I really liked the longer story arcs, they just have a little more meat to them. The stand alone shows have a standard opening with Goku and Gojyo fighting, a plot element is introduced, one of the group convinces the other to get involved, and then they fight one or more demons. The longer multi-part stories cut the redundant openings and have more room for a more convoluted plot.
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 being present.
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 clean opening and closing animations, a reel of production sketches and many text pages of cultural notes. The last of these I found very helpful and interesting.
This is an entertaining show. I am never bored while I'm watching it but afterwards the episodes tend to blend together. At its core, this is a fighting monster-of-the-week show, and there's nothing wrong with that. Since buyers are getting two-for-the-price-of-one with these Double Barrel volumes when compared to the original release this is a good deal to boot. Recommended.