The Saiyuki gang returns once more.
What They Say:
In their former lives, 500 years before Genjyo Sanzo and his crew of misfits began their journey west, they were gods, but being godly didn’t make them act any more divine. When Goku flies into a murderous rage after seeing his best friend die, Heaven’s had enough and wants him dead! But Konzen Douji, Field Marshal Tenpou, and General Kenren are willing to do anything to protect Goku, even if it means turning all of Heaven against them.
Will the three of them be enough to break through the Heavenly Western Army and escape to the Lower World? Or will the Journey to the West be over before it’s even begun?
Contains OVA episodes 1-3.
The audio presentation for this OVA series is presented in its original Japanese language in stereo as well as reuniting the English dub cast which also gets a stereo mix, both of which are encoded at 224kbps. The show has a lot of action to it and it uses the forward soundstage really well in terms of making the flow of it hit the right marks, from the impact of the swords and guns to the other smaller things like the sound of tears and scuffles in general. The show does spend plenty of time on dialogue and it’s well placed when needed and is generally clear throughout, it’s the action that really sets the tone for the show and that along with the music drives it all home well for a stereo based show. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout and we didn’t have any problems with dropouts or distortions during regular playback.
Originally released in 2011, the transfer for this three part OVA series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. The show fits easily on one disc and definitely has some solid OVA qualities about it in terms of the animation, which definitely steps it up over the various TV series, though it’s the same animation studio. With it taking place in the time period it does, there’s a different feel to the animation and it has a different level of detail to it that comes across well here. It has an earthy tone to it overall, not quite as bright and colorful as memory serves for the original TV series, and that helps to make this stand on its own. The transfer captures the look of the show really well and there’s little to really find fault with here outside of some of the noise in the background that hits from time to time, which is fairly negligible..
The packaging for this release comes in a standard sized single keepcase that holds the one disc that comes in it. The front cover is definitely dark and moody as we get deep, blood red background that’s balanced by the white/pink cherry blossom petals in the foreground while the central focus is on the visual of Goku with his eyes cast down. It’s all shadowed and has a great sense about it that truly does set the mood for the show rather well. The release keeps to the logo that we’ve seen with past releases while adding the Gaiden sublogo to it. The back cover keeps to the red theme with a dash of white brought in while also having the core cast shown here in illustration style form that sets the tone for the show as well. The left side has a rundown of the general premise of the series while the right adds a few shots from the show and a clean listing of the discs extras. The bottom section provides for a clean production credits breakdown and a solid technical grid that lists everything clearly and accurately. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu for this release is pretty nicely done as it breaks things down just about in half. The left side has the blood splattered background with red and black which is where the the navigation is. The episodes are easy to hit with all three listed here and a submenu for the languages and another for the special features. Add in the logo and it’s laid out well. The right side gives us a very good promotional image for the show in that we get Konzen and Goku together with a brighter look than anywhere on the package itself, especially since it has a bit of blue sky and lots of white in the background. Add in a bit of music and you have a good looking menu that’s easy to navigate and quick to move through.
The only extras included with this release are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
After a hundred episodes that took place over three series that began in 2000 and ended in 2004, Saiyuki took a break for a few years before coming back in 2007 for Saiyuki Giaden. The three part OVA series worked to adapt the another arc of the manga that had been dealt with, something that a lot of fans wanted to see animated. Having watched all the Saiyuki that’s been released prior to this, it’s a property that I always had mixed feelings about. It was a large, sprawling piece that played largely episodic in its original run and changed just a little bit in the two follow-up seasons. I completely understood its charms, especially for the fans that during the original show were won over by the characters and the dub, which is why it’s welcome that the team is back for more here.
With this adapting the four volume manga series, Saiyuki Gaiden takes us back in time from the original series by about five hundred years. While the main series spent some of its time in the past, showing us what Heaven was like and how this group existed there, it only went into what happened to get them thrown out in a small way and without a lot of detail. When the series shifted to that segment, it was definitely more interesting as it was the kind of piece that really expanded on the characters. Going back to that time frame here, seeing how Sanzo ended up getting involved with Goku and the incident with Nataku that set off events, which was planned by an opponent no less, the events spiral out of control quickly.
While there are interesting moments across it as we get the deal with Nataku and the things that are being made with his genetic material, and there are some wrangling moments of politics of Heaven at this stage, the real focus is on the actions of the core cast as they bond together. Sanzo, Hakkai and Gojyo have been tight for some time as they all had their places within Heaven, especially with two of them leading the Eastern and Western armies that has its own infighting going on which spills into the main story as the reveals happen. All of that really is second fiddle to the way the three main characters come together over Sanzo’s intention to save Goku from his fate after everything went down badly.
The story is very simple and straightforward overall and I’ll admit that I can get into the politics and intrigue of it all only so much since i’m so many years removed from the franchise, but it does work rather well with the style used here, giving it a more serious and dangerous mood to it all. What it does here that it didn’t in the previous incarnations is to really go violent. A good bit of it is still off screen, but the bloodied nature of it is strong here, which is made even more intense by the more angular and starker feeling given to the character designs. There’s a rawness to it that comes across well, truly separating it from the original Saiyuki series with where it took place. The bodies fall pretty well as the action picks up and the sacrifices that get made really does everything right here and makes the event that set everything into motion for years to come all more understandable.
Saiyuki Gaiden brings to full light the events that transpired in Heaven which in turn forged the bonds that eventually shook its pillars pretty strong much later on. Saiyuki has never been a top tier show for me and I’ve certainly struggled with it at times, but Saiyuki Gaiden is a pretty fun short series that plays it serious throughout. There are moments of lightness and levity to be had that’s appropriate to the situation, but I came away from it enjoying the story and really liking the animation and character designs for it. This is definitely a great addition for the Saiyuki fans to finally have as everything outside of a single OVA has been licensed, dubbed and released.
Japanese 2.0 Language, English 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: January 22nd, 2013
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Video Encoding: 480i/p MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70″ LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.