Saiyûki (Monkey)

Volume 3

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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
124:42 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 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 supposed 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. Naturally, 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.

    The three episodes that appear on this disc are as follows:

    Before I continue with this review, I have a suggestion I would like to direct to Siren Entertainment. I would like to see one of two things happen. Either these three-episode programmes are mastered onto an RSDL disc, thereby providing more space, or the content of each disc is reduced to two episodes. As things stand, there is over two hours of material compressed onto this disc with an average bitrate of five and a half megabits per second. While this might be barely adequate for contemporary transfers from pristine source material, it is simply inadequate for a programme like Monkey, and the deficiency is showing up in the effects shots. I am, however, still very glad to see this series available in digital form, so on to the review.

Transfer Quality


    While this transfer is up to the usual standard of Monkey DVDs, it does show one or two flaws that highlight the need for these episodes to be allocated more bits. Once again, the transfer is sharp enough to satisfy expectations, but it still betrays the television heritage of the program. 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 still a moderate issue from time to time.

    The colour saturation is still looking somewhat muted and dull. A dramatic loss of resolution and colour saturation was noted in the second episode, Pigsy Woos A Widow, at 4:22, when Monkey turns one assailant into a snake. Whether this was a deliberate photographic effect or not, the MPEG compression highlights the condition of the source material, and is the source of much of my complaining about the tight compression. Aside from this subtle problem, however, there did not seem to be any instances of colour misregistration or bleeding.

    MPEG artefacts do not appear to be a major problem in the transfer, except when one pauses the show or plays it back in slow motion. Again, I feel this show would look better were it compressed onto a dual-layered disc. 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 still a slight problem for this transfer, with black and white flecks being apparent in copious amounts from time to time.


    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. 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.



    Once again, the menu is 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, Volume 3 is an interesting collection of episodes from this classic television series, presented on a good DVD. However, I would humbly request that Siren take the extra trouble to compress the episodes to a dual-layer disc, or restrict themselves to two episodes per disc in the future.

    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 13, 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