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Details At A Glance
Notes - Plot Synopses
(Not 130 Minutes as per packaging)
Cast & Crew
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame
||Pan & Scan
||English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono,
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio
|Original Aspect Ratio
||Annoying Product Placement
|Action In or After Credits
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.
Pigsy's In The Well (Episode 10, 42:55)
Tripitaka is visited in a dream by the spirit of a dead king who was
betrayed by his friend, a Taoist magician, and thrown into a well. The
magician has been impersonating him for the benefit of his widow for the
past three years, and he wants Tripitaka's help in setting things right.
To this end, our adventurers travel to his kingdom and meet with his son.
The Difference Between Night And Day (Episode 11, 41:07)
The four travellers come upon an invisible wall that separates the
land of night from the land of day. On one side, the Queen of Night terrorizes
and drinks blood from the populace, while on the other, the King of Day
has forced everyone into slavery. Tripitaka sets about reuniting night
and day, while Pigsy and Monkey are besotted by two beautiful women.
Pearls Before Swine (Episode 12, 40:45)
Our four adventurers arrive in the land of Codslow, which is ruled
by three animal-strength immortals while its people are dying of hunger.
They are enlisted by a young girl and her family to restore Codslow to
its former glory, with mixed results. After Pigsy's butt is roasted during
a rescue mission, Monkey forms a plan to rid the land of the immortals.
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
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
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.
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.
© Dean McIntosh
(my bio sucks... read it anyway)
22nd December, 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