Saiyûki (Monkey)

Volume 6

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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 129:19 Minutes
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

    It was with some exhaustion, due to having already viewed two volumes in the same day, that I delved into the sixth volume of Saiyûki, or Monkey as it was retitled in English-speaking countries. Based on the story by Wu Ch'êng-ên, this series depicts the journey made by a group of pilgrims from China to India in order to fetch the holy scriptures that will save the world. Once again, we follow the adventures of Monkey (Masaaki Sakai), Pigsy (Toshiyuki Nishida), Sandy (Shirô Kishibe), and Tripitaka (Masako Natsume) as they travel to mystic lands, beat the stuffings out of various monsters, and argue incessantly.

    This disc contains three more episodes from the first series:

    If you're looking for a collection of episodes with which to introduce others to Monkey, this is really not the best place to start. There is nothing wrong with the quality of the episodes, although they are of slightly lesser quality than those on the previous volume, but the transfer quality is enough to put off all but the serious fans. While I'm not expecting the series to come out looking like an oil painting, I am really getting sick of seeing the episodes only getting an average bitrate of five and a half megabits per second. I expect to either see a second layer added to future volumes of the series, or less video information being crammed onto the disc. You simply cannot expect to put source material of this condition through the MPEG compressor and not expect to have serious problems.

Transfer Quality


    As per usual, the transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not just the opening credits that suggest the original ratio might have been 1.44:1 or 1.50:1 this time. The transfer is not particularly sharp, and this is the first time that I can say that the series looked better when broadcast on television. At times, there is so much grain and pixelization in the image that it borders on becoming unwatchable. The shadow detail is still uniformly average, and there is no low-level noise in the transfer.

    The colour saturation of this transfer is a little richer than the previous volume of Monkey episodes, resulting in skin tones that look a little more red than usual. At 2:58 in Land For The Locusts, the colour fades right out of the image for about fifty frames, leaving a black and white image with only a smear of colour on the extreme left, and a few tinges of blue.

    If you've ever wondered why I have been repeating my call to Siren for these episodes to be recompressed onto a dual-layer DVD for the last five reviews, simply play back Truth And The Grey Gloves Devil, the second episode on this disc, and pay attention from 1:34 to 3:14. MPEG artefacting is rife throughout this sequence, with a bitrate that is simply too low for the compression to cope with the appearance of sandstorms and film grain. While it has been a good ten years or more since the last time I viewed this series at all, I can say with some confidence that this sequence must have looked a lot clearer before it was compressed. Film-to-video artefacts are not a problem in this transfer, but film artefacts still litter the picture frequently.


    If there is one positive thing I can say about the entire series of Monkey as it has been presented on DVD so far, it is that the inadequacies of the video transfer have not spread to the audio transfer. There is one soundtrack on this DVD: the English dubbing in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, encoded at 224 kilobits per second. The dialogue is clear and easy to at almost all times, with the actors putting more clarity into their lines. There is still the occasional word that is a little difficult to fully understand, but when this is taken in context, it really isn't a problem at all. Audio sync remains very far out of whack, as you'd expect from dubbing English over a Japanese soundtrack.

    Yoshino Micky's score music is starting to become a tiny bit repetitive, although it still succeeds admirably in setting a fast, furious, and fun tone for the story. If I were taking more time in between doses of this score, I'm sure that I would probably enjoy it a lot more. Casual viewers of the series will probably confirm this idea, so I will bite my tongue before I make any unwarranted comments about what really does seem to be a nice set of score music.

    Once again, my surround channels had nothing to do, and quietly went to sleep for the 130 minutes of the show. Although I have said a number of times that a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix would be very nice, I guess we should be very grateful that there is only a very minor background hiss in the soundtrack. Considering what the video looks like on this disc, the soundtrack really could have been much, much worse. Once again, the subwoofer was not specifically called upon by this soundtrack, although it did support the score music and occasional action sequences when they occurred. During more serene moments, the subwoofer seemed to be producing a very quiet, indistinct rumble that I had to press a hand on the front panel to really notice. Exactly why it did this, I am not sure, but it was only mildly annoying when I became aware of it by accident.



    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 is still unavailable in Regions 1 and 2.


    Monkey, Volume 6 contains three more classic episodes of a well thought-out series, but the DVD it is presented on is a disappointment. While I really have no hesitation in recommending it to those who really must have this series on a format that will not wither and fade with age, the fact of the matter is that the video quality of this transfer is substandard.

    The video quality is disappointing. Surely it can't be that much more expensive to master these episodes on a dual-layered disc?

    The audio quality remains functional, making the video quality all the more annoying.

    The extras are still minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

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Extras srh.gif (874 bytes)
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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