Saiyûki (Monkey)

Volume 2

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Details At A Glance

Category Adventure Notes - DVD Credits
Notes - Synopsis
Character Biographies
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1978
Running Time
127:25 Minutes
(Not 130 Minutes as per packaging)
RSDL/Flipper No/No
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region 1,2,3,4,5,6 Director Yusuke Watanabe
Siren Entertainment
Siren Entertainment
Starring Masaaki Sakai
Toshiyuki Nishida
Shirô Kishibe
Masako Natsume
Mieko Takamine
Jun Negami
Case Brackley
RPI $29.95 Music Yoshino Micky
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio ?1.50:1
Macrovision ? Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    It was something of a pleasant surprise to discover that, after about fifteen years without watching the show, I still quite enjoyed Saiyûki, or Monkey as it is called in English-speaking countries. Based on the ancient Chinese legends that trace the origins of the Buddhist faith, Monkey follows the adventures of Tripitaka (Masako Natsume), Monkey (Masaaki Sakai), Pigsy (Toshiyuki Nishida), and Sandy (Shirô Kishibe) from China to India in order to fetch the Buddhist scriptures that will save the world. The first volume of their adventures to be released on DVD was something of a prologue that details how Monkey, Pigsy, and Sandy fell from the heavens and were steered by Buddha (Mieko Takamine) towards aiding Tripitaka on his perilous journey. This series introduced me to the concept of Buddhism as a faith that seemed to emphasize that all humans are capable of achieving enlightenment if they are willing to work at overcoming their faults. Being that I have no idea what order the series is actually meant to run in, although it is sort of clear if you are following the story, I assume that these three episodes pick up where the last three left off. As one would rightly expect, bad dubbing, corny special effects, and ridiculous-looking costumes are all the order of the day, as is some great chop-socky kung fu action.

    In order, the three episodes on this disc are:

    If you already own the first volume of this series, then I am certain you don't need any further persuasion to acquire this one. The standard of the stories and the Buddhist philosophy imparted by each episode is much the same, as are those of the dubbing and the special effects.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. I am a little confused as to what the proper aspect ratio of this series is meant to be, as the credits make the picture appear to be cropped, but the scene composition doesn't look any the worse for it. At a rough guess, I'd say the intended aspect ratio was somewhere between 1.37:1 and 1.66:1, but technical information about this Japanese-made series tends to be sketchy at best.

    The transfer is as sharp as the previous volume in the series, in that it betrays the television heritage of the program, but is as good as can be expected. While this transfer is never as bad as Series One of The Black Adder, it doesn't make for the best demonstration disc. An abrupt loss of focus was noted at 23:06 in the first episode, Monkey Swallows The Universe, which I believe to be the result of sloppy camerawork. The shadow detail is average, but scenes with great expanses of darkness are few and far between in any case. Low-level noise does not appear to be present in most of the sequences, but grain is a moderate issue from time to time, especially during the opening credits.

    The colour saturation is muted and dull for the most part, but variable from shot to shot in some cases. As was the case with the previous volume of the series, there are no overt problems with misregistration, bleeding, oversaturation, or undersaturation, but the colours are the biggest clue to the age of the source material.

    MPEG artefacts do not appear to be a major problem in the transfer, but I would still have preferred that these three episodes be compressed to a dual layer disc. The grain apparent in some shots has been magnified by the compression, and the backgrounds often lose some definition, but I doubt you're going to find a sharper or cleaner transfer of this series. Film-to-video artefacts are not a real problem for the most part, although camera wobble and misaligned frames are still apparent from time to time. Film artefacts are a slight problem for this transfer, but not nearly as much as was the case in the previous volume of Monkey episodes, with black and white flecks being apparent at half the rate of Volume One's transfer.


    Again, the audio transfer is a slight improvement over the previous volume, although we are still missing the original Japanese dialogue, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. There is only a single soundtrack present on this DVD: the English dub in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, which sounds a lot like a mono master divided into two channels during the mixing stage. Since there is little or no static or distortion apparent in the soundtrack, it is reasonable to assume that the audio source has been restored or remixed before being compressed. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand most of the time, but the Japanese accents do occasionally pose a challenge. Audio sync still doesn't come close to being coincidental, but this has to be expected when dubbing a flexible language such as English over one as rigid and light-on for syllables as Japanese.

    The score music by Yoshino Micky helps to bring some atmosphere to the otherwise B-grade show, and an exciting, moving atmosphere at that. The music may well be as B-grade as the show itself, but it has a heart and soul, which is more than can be said for any of the music in television shows that are aimed at schoolchildren today.

    There is no surround channel activity in this soundtrack, which is something of a pity, but still to be expected when dealing with a programme of this age. The music and sound effects are given enough space to breathe by the stereo separation, which is more than we really have any right to ask for. At a guess, I would say that the show was originally recorded in mono and then remixed to stereo at some point in the last ten years for release on home video formats. The result is a pleasant soundtrack that builds a nice sonic picture without becoming cluttered or constricted. The subwoofer was not specifically used by the soundtrack, but it did take some redirected signal from the stereo channels to support the music and other bass-heavy effects.



    The menu is, for all intents and purposes, identical to that featured on Volume One of this series. My comments about this menu remain unchanged, in that the menu is not exactly very user-friendly or helpful.

Character Biographies

    Simple dossiers of Tripitaka, Monkey, Sandy, and Pigsy, which relate some salient facts about each character.

Notes - Synopsis

    From the character biographies screens, select the DVD icon to read the DVD production credits. From there, select the
hash (#) symbol to read a synopsis for each episode in the series. Navigating through these synopses is not particularly

R4 vs R1

    This title is not available in Region 1, and it doesn't appear likely that it will be in the near future. Given that the series is now twenty-two years old and the source elements are not in the best condition, I'd say the Region 4 version of the disc is as good as any other you might find.


    Monkey is thoroughly B-grade, but it is well thought-out at the story level and quite entertaining. The DVD is an improvement over the previous volume in the series.

    The video quality is reasonable.

    The audio quality is reasonable.

    The extras are limited.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
December 12, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers, Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer