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Saiyuki - Sting of the Scorpion (Vol. 5)

ADV Films // Unrated // October 14, 2003
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Don Houston | posted November 11, 2003 | E-mail the Author
Movie: One anime series that has really grown on me over the last several months, even after missing the first dvd of the set, has been the one based on an ancient myth, somewhat updated for modern times, Saiyuki. In Saiyuki 5: Sting Of The Scorpion the team continues to travel west and see what their path holds for them, even as they get into minor skirmishes along the way. The basic story is this: Once upon a time, demons and humans got along swell. An evil force changed all that and made the demons go crazy so that they attacked, and usually killed, humans. The evil forces were trying to revive an ultra powerful demon known as Gyumaoh who had been trapped in a tomb by a combined force of humans and demons long ago. Some heavenly force has chosen Genjo Sanzo to lead a group of powerful fighters, including Son Goku, Sha Gojyo, and Cho Hakkai (each having a completely different background and powers; renegade priest, a monkey king, a lecherous water sprite, and a demon) to stop the evil plan. Along the way, they meet and defeat a variety of forces, both supernatural and otherwise, as they head west to achieve their task. None of them is a saint-they all have their vices and could be considered less_than_model citizens-so they're not like traditional characters at all. Here's a breakdown of the 4 episodes:

Episode 19: Don't Go Alone/Maidens Of Sorrow:
The team meets a group of attractive women, each with attributes like their own (a coincidence?!?). The men help the women and soon find themselves under attack. Sanzo seems to know they are trouble with a capital "T" but the others are more trusting. The women are possessed by a demon and soon separate to attempt killing the men. When the final battle begins, it's made apparent that the demon can't be forced to leave the women and the only way to do so might be to kill them. Will the men sacrifice their new acquaintances or will they find another way to free them?

Episode 20: Sandstorm/The Quicksand Trap:
The team is in the desert looking for a temple that contains a scripture. The scripture is sought after by their rivals as well and unfortunately, the team is trapped in some quicksand upon arriving in the area of the missing temple. Soon, Renli, The Scorpion Queen, has Sanzo in her grasp, hoping to gain immortality by eating him (a myth of Chinese origin). He fights her but is stung by her venom which is deadly and the rest of the team is facing it's own troubles as hordes of scorpions attack them.

Episode 21: Selfish/Berzerking Towards Destruction:
Having won the battle but quickly losing the war, Sanzo is dying from the poison and his friends are powerless to help him. As he tries to hang on, the rival team attacks them but the guys are still weak from dealing with the Scorpion Queen. Goku, getting desperate, removes his crown, not a good thing since it removes all inhibitions about attacking everyone, including his teammates, with a level of power that no one can stop.

Episode 22: Devastation/The End Of Battle:
Through sheer luck, Goku's crown is placed back on his head, ending his rampage. The team, beaten silly by their battles, needs to return to town are get treatment. They deal with the ramifications of the events preceding their arrival, including Goku's sense of guilt.

Even though the series deals with a lot of drama, it retains its sense of humor while showing an updated version of various Chinese myths. The characters were twisted, the situations bizarre, and overall feel of the show very interesting. There were more glimpses of the rival team and bigger picture as well which pushed me into buying the first volume online (it'll come in soon and I may have to revise a few reviews because of it). Isn't that a mark of a good series? I'm rating this one as Recommended but leaning towards upping that for the overall series.

Picture: The picture was presented in 1.33:1 ratio full frame color. For the most part, it was well done and I didn't see any compression artifacts or other problems with the picture.

Sound: The sound was presented in either a 5.1 English language Dolby Digital track or the original 2.0 Japanese track with English subtitles. During the dialogue, the separation wasn't all that great but during the fight scenes it was better. In all, I liked the Japanese track better but the English dub was also enjoyable for me.

Extras: The best extra was the background notes that filled in a lot of the cultural information for the series. Considering how limited my knowledge of Chinese mythology is, this made a number of aspects much clearer than they would've been. The other extras were trailers, sketches, a clean open and closing sequence, and a pretty color poster as an insert.

Final Thoughts: I wish the insert could have been better this time but the cultural notes were again helpful with the feature itself providing a lot of enjoyment. I don't think this release would be great as a stand-alone but it did contribute to the series quite a bit. I'll be the first to say that it is an acquired taste but given the cookie-cutter nature of many releases these days, isn't that a good thing? Check it out for a breathe of fresh air.

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