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Details At A Glance
||Notes - DVD Credits
Notes - Synopsis
(Not 130 Minutes as per packaging)
Cast & Crew
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame
||Pan & Scan
||English (Dolby Digital 2.0, 224
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
|Original Aspect Ratio
||Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
It was something of a pleasant surprise to discover
that, after fifteen years without watching the show, I still quite enjoyed
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
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.
The Beginning Of Wisdom (40:11)
Tripitaka and his disciples come across a village where an angry water
monster has drained all the rivers and wells because the villagers have
no more male children to sacrifice to him. Pigsy volunteers to sacrifice
himself to the monster, while Monkey attempts to resolve the problem in
his own hilarious manner.
Pigsy Woos A Widow (42:19)
Monkey saves a woman from the Demon Spirit of Great Snakes, and Pigsy
falls in love with her. However, this widowed woman only has eyes for the
young priest Tripitaka, who leaves after reminding the woman that he has
taken a vow of celibacy. Pigsy uses magic to imitate Tripitaka, but his
true pig nature is revealed.
What Monkey Calls The Dog-Woman (42:12)
Magistrate Lord Li's step-daughter is kidnapped by bandits, and Monkey
reluctantly takes on the task of catching them. He soon discovers that
they are not all they seem, while Tripitaka, Pigsy, and Sandy spend the
night in an inn which happens to be owned by a wicked dog-woman, who has
plans of her own for the young priest.
While this transfer is up to the usual standard of Monkey
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
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
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.
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.
© Dean McIntosh
(my bio sucks... read it anyway)
December 13, 2000.
||Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
||Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated
using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
||Built In (Amplifier)
||Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version
of Video Essentials.
||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Philips PH931SSS Rear Speakers,
Philips FB206WC Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer