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Details At A Glance
Notes - Plot Synopses
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
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
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.
The Most Monstrous Monster (Episode 16, 42:57)
The King of Unicorns is desperate to please Chun-Shou, the woman he
intends to marry, and decides to use his powerful magic ring to steal Monkey's
magic wishing staff. Pigsy takes on a human form and attempts to woo Chun-Shou
as a rather angry Monkey fights to get his staff back. This episode is
rather notable for giving us a glimpse at Pigsy without the heavy makeup,
as well as a rather blood-curdling look at Sandy in human female form.
Truth And The Grey Gloves Devil (Episode 17, 43:28)
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.
Land For The Locusts (Episode 18, 43:14)
The pilgrims come across a town that is being terrorized by a swarm
of locusts, which also happen to be coming in their direction. Said locusts
are led by the power-mad Demon Queen Grasshopper, and they follow the magic
lake Lok-Nor as it moves from one place to the next. They leave a path
of death and destruction wherever they go, and our heroic pilgrims take
it upon themselves to stop them.
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.
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
The audio quality remains functional, making the
video quality all the more annoying.
The extras are still minimal.
© Dean McIntosh
(my bio sucks... read it anyway)
December 22, 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