Saiyûki (Monkey)

Volume 4

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Details At A Glance

Category Adventure Character Biographies
Notes - Plot Synopses
DVD Credits
Rating m.gif (1166 bytes)
Year Released 1978
Running Time 124:47 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
Case Brackley
RPI $29.95 Music Yoshino Micky
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 224 Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Original Aspect Ratio ?1.33:1
Smoking No
Subtitles None Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    Once again, I am here to let you know about another volume of episodes from the classic television series Saiyûki, aka Monkey. It really is something of a guilty pleasure to return to this quintessential interpretation of the Chinese legends which trace the origins of Buddhism. While I was originally expecting to find reviewing this series to be a chore, there is something uplifting about this late 1970s Japanese television series that seems impossible to quantify. When I viewed repeats of it as a boy, I viewed it because it had some outrageous stories and fascinating effects, but now I find it even more entertaining because of the deeper layers. This fourth volume continues the adventures of Monkey (Masaaki Sakai), Pigsy (Toshiyuki Nishida), Sandy (Shirô Kishibe), and Tripitaka (Masako Natsume). The standard of the stories has risen slightly with stronger screenwriting that is, rather hilariously, not matched by the quality of the acting or the special effects. Indeed, the monster that Monkey is chasing on his cloud during one shot in Episode 11, The Difference Between Night And Day, is made of cellophane and plastic. Still, when a television series is unable to rely on expensive special effects to carry the story, it does tend to improve the quality of the dialogue.

    Once again, this disc contains three episodes from the first series:

    In my opinion, this is where the series really begins to hit its stride, with the characters interacting more smoothly, and the stories moving at a faster pace. Those of you who enjoy badly dubbed chop-socky action, especially badly dubbed chop-socky action that is more intelligent and meaningful than most efforts of this variety, will do far worse than to check out Monkey, Volume 4.

Transfer Quality


    After the previous three volumes of Monkey adventures that I have reviewed, I was hoping for a slight improvement, and this is what I got. While I cannot say whether the improvement exists because there are less special effects shots or because the source material was in slightly better condition, this is definitely a slightly cleaner looking collection of episodes.

    Once again, the transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, although the framing of the titles leads me to believe that the show was originally slightly wider than this. The transfer is not particularly sharp, but certainly no worse than any VHS or broadcast presentation of the series. The shadow detail is improved during The Difference Between Night And Day, the first episode in the series where a significant portion is dimly lit. In other dark scenes, the shadow detail is average, although the fact is that the total amount of darkness in the overall programme is not that great. There is no low-level noise in the transfer, but film grain is still a serious issue.

    The colour saturation of this transfer is still a little dull, primarily due to the age of the source material and, in all likelihood, the film stock that was originally used in production. There are still no signs of bleeding, misregistration, or serious fading apparent, so the colour saturation is as good as can be expected.

    MPEG artefacts are not overly apparent in this transfer, although the image still seems to be on the verge of pixelization a lot of the time. Film-to-video artefacts are not a problem in this transfer. Film artefacts, however, are still quite problematic for this transfer, with all sorts of black and white scratches, flecks, and other such marks frequently scattered around the image. Overall, when the production values and age of the series are taken into account, this is the most pleasant volume of episodes to look at so far. I still feel that the image would look a lot better if the disc were RSDL formatted, or the total number of episodes was reduced to two, however.


    Whatever faults the video quality might suffer, the audio transfer is still surprisingly clear and functional, even if there is nothing overly special about it.

    There is one soundtrack on this DVD: the English dubbing in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand most of the time, although an occasional word is lost here and there due to the accents of those dubbing the soundtrack. Audio sync is still not even close to being coincidental, as you'd expect from dubbing English over a Japanese soundtrack.

    Yoshino Micky's score music is still going strong in this volume of episodes, although it has sort of begun to suffer from repetition. On this volume of the series, the effect this has on the freshness of the score is still relatively minor, but it is starting to become noticeable. Still, it is quite entertaining, which is the whole point as far as I am concerned.

    Being that this is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack, the surround channels were not called upon. This is a shame, as a 5.1 remix of the series would sound totally awesome, but it is also really quite lucky that we have this series on DVD at all, so I'm not complaining. The subwoofer was not specifically used by this soundtrack, but it did take a fair amount of redirected signal from the stereo channels and supported the music without calling attention to itself.



    The menu on this disc is in the usual icon-based style of other Monkey DVDs to date. It is not 16x9 Enhanced.

Character Biographies

    Just in case you were wondering who Monkey, Tripitaka, Sandy, and Pigsy were, this extra gives a handful of salient facts about each of them.

Notes - DVD Credits

    A list of those responsible for this DVD presentation. There is nothing remarkable about this extra save for how difficult it is to find. This listing of credits can be accessed via the character biographies screens by selecting the DVD icon. From there, select the hash (#) symbol to read a synopsis for each episode in the series. Navigating through these synopses is not particularly easy.

Notes - Plot Synopses

    A plot description for each episode in the series. I'm not sure this extra is really worth the space it takes up, especially considering that space is really a short commodity on this disc.

R4 vs R1

    Monkey seems to remain unavailable in Regions 1 and 2.


    Monkey, Volume 4 contains three of the funniest and most well-written episodes in the series that I can remember so far. The DVD is a slight improvement on the previous volumes, but I must repeat my statement that it would look a lot better were it RSDL formatted.

    The video quality is reflective of the lack of care that was taken with the source material over the past twenty-two years.

    The audio quality is clean, clear, and functional.

    The extras are minimal, but I don't really expect much more given the age of the series.

Ratings (out of 5)

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 © Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
22nd December, 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