Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Mar 1st 2004
DVD 7: The Gods of War + Artbox
Homura, the Prince of War has arrived, along with two other all-powerful gods, Shien and Zenon. Together, they raid Houtou castle and snatch the sacred Seiten scripture right out from underneath Gyokumen Koushou. Next on his list is, of course, Sanzo's Maiten scroll!
Saiyuki started out as your average everyday shounen action show, skewed towards bishounen-crazy fangirls; four hot guys fight hot bad guys over and over again until one of them pulls his Ultimate Move, Saves the Universe™ and makes the world safe for hot guys everywhere. Needless to say, the show's formulaic plot revealed itself to be relatively banal and, frankly, dull within the first five episodes or so. Thankfully, the show is now some 27-odd episodes in, and it's improved quite a bit. The nasty shounen action formula has shrunk into the background for the time being, making way for a series of plot-heavy and highly interesting episodes that don't fail to please.
The story hasn't necessarily come a long way. Sanzo and his band of 2 Flowery 2 Furious prettyboys have taken out a metric ton of demons and wandered through countless towns, repeating themselves over and over again. This volume sets up a brand new villain, Homura, the “prince of war” who just loves to stand around and talk about how powerful he is. His friends do basically the same thing, wielding automatic machine guns and shouting fightin' words at any who cross their path. What's their goal? To destroy the Heavens, of course. Only Sanzo can stop them. We knew that, though.
Frankly, considering how dreadfully routine this show was to begin with, these episodes are a blessing. There really isn't anything happening here that we haven't seen in every other shounen action series, but honestly, the plot isn't bad. Rurouni Kenshin also slowly turned into an excellent show around episode 27 or so, and it looks like Saiyuki is about to do the same thing. It isn't groundbreaking, but it certainly is entertaining to watch and will keep fans happy. I daresay anyone turned off by the first five episodes might want to consider slogging through the next 3 volumes or so; the relatively meaty and fun storyline seems like it might be worth the wait.
The animation seems to have gotten better, as well. There's a lot more motion on screen and the embarrassingly digital look of the early episodes is mostly gone. The show remains a brightly-colored, well-designed world. There are a lot of beautifully cinematic moments and well-animated fight scenes. The character designs for this show are some of the best around, and the animation does them all justice. Visually, there's nothing to complain about.
The dub gets down to business in this volume. The early episodes were punctuated by a lot of added humor, which was all in good fun and very well-executed, but there's less room for it in these serious episodes. There's a fair bit of swearing, but it isn't overdone, and usually when the curse words fly they sound perfectly natural and not gimmicky. It's equally amazing that a show with such a large male cast manages to differentiate between the characters so easily; everyone has a very unique voice, and it's easy to tell people apart based on what they sound like.
If you've been avoiding Saiyuki, now's your chance to give the show another shot (pun intended). Clearly the storyline has matured, becoming more than what the show set itself up as in the first five episodes. There's action, mystery, hot guys, and even a handful of hot girls to keep the boys the audience happy. Sure, it's no deeper than a thimble, and the proceedings are mostly stock shounen scenarios, but the show is at least as good as the other action series out there were when they hit their stride. If it didn't seem like it was worth your time before, check out volume 7. You may change your mind.
Overall (dub) : B
Overall (sub) : B
Story : B-
Animation : B
Art : A
Music : C
+ Formerly crappy show gets new lease on life.
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