Saiyûki (Monkey)

Volume 5

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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 127:31 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

    And so, with production values and audio sync thrown to the wind, I move on to Volume 5 of Saiyûki, aka Monkey. I was quite surprised to learn recently that there have been several remakes, as well as previous versions, of this story in the realm of celluloid. Of course, I'd like to see a Disney version of this story, but done right, with Donald Duck in the role of Monkey, Goofy in the role of Pigsy, Mickey Mouse in the role of Sandy, Daisy in the role of Tripitaka, and Uncle Scrooge as Buddha. Of course, this will probably never happen as this sort of story is simply far beyond the capabilities of the Disney corporation as it is now. In any case, this fifth volume continues the adventures of Monkey (Masaaki Sakai), Pigsy (Toshiyuki Nishida), Sandy (Shirô Kishibe), and Tripitaka (Masako Natsume). The raised standard of the stories is kept up by this volume.

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

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, but I still believe that the series was originally slightly wider than this ratio, although it is hard to tell how much picture information is missing from looking at the opening credits. The transfer is not particularly sharp, but certainly no worse than any VHS or broadcast presentation of the series. The shadow detail is average on the rare occasions when it is called for. There is no low-level noise in the transfer, but film grain remains an issue.

    The colour saturation is the same as in previous volumes of the series, at least for the first episode on this disc, with most shades being dull and muted. I don't really remember the colours being any other way on previous occasions when I have viewed this series, and there is no bleeding or misregistration, so I really have no complaints. The colour saturation becomes much richer during Catfish, Saint, And The Shape-Changer, almost bordering on oversaturation.

    MPEG artefacts are not a serious problem for this transfer, but I still feel that the video is too tightly compressed. The total bitrate of this transfer usually hovers around five and a half megabits per second, and when you deduct 224 kilobits for the soundtrack, it just really isn't adequate where source material of this quality is concerned. Obviously, the prints from which this series has been transferred were no oil paintings to begin with, but RSDL formatting and an average bitrate of at least eight megabits per second would make them appear a lot better. Film-to-video artefacts are not apparent in this transfer, either. Film artefacts are particularly problematic for the first reel of The Minx And The Slug, but they settle back to an acceptable level for the rest of the episode.


    Again, there is one soundtrack on this DVD: the English dubbing in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono. The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, although this might be a subjective observation resulting from having grown used to the thick Japanese accents. Audio sync remains out by miles, but one really has to expect this, I suppose.

    The score music by Yoshino Micky remains enjoyable, in spite of getting a little bit repetitive. It builds a hilarious and frequently funky atmosphere for the story, while not being overly dominative. The Monkey Magic theme that pops up in action sequences is good and enjoyable enough that I found myself quietly singing along with it on several occasions.

    Once again, the surround channels are not used by this soundtrack. The subwoofer is frequently called upon to support the music and action sequences, if only by taking redirected signal from the stereo channels. Overall, the soundtrack simply does the job which it is meant to do.



    I have to say that I am still rather disappointed in the style of these menus, as they are not particularly helpful or easy to navigate. Once again, the icon-based style is used, and this menu has no enhancements, including that of the 16x9 variety.

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 5 contains three high-quality episodes of this intelligent, delightful series. I'm still not happy that it is not RSDL formatted, but this is the best single-layer presentation you could hope for.

    The video quality is acceptable and reflective of the source material.

    The audio quality serves the purpose of the programme well.

    The extras are minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

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