Saiyûki (Monkey)

Volume 7

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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
125:48 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

    At long last, I have come to the end of the four DVDs containing episodes of Saiyûki, retitled Monkey by the BBC when it was dubbed for the benefit of English speaking viewers by English speakers with really odd Japanese accents. Since it has been some time since I detailed the full story of Monkey, I will repeat it here for the benefit of those who came in late.

    Each episode of Monkey begins with a brief telling of a legend about the creation of the world as we know it today. Before we had the world of dirt and water, there was only primal chaos, and Heaven sought to correct this. The four worlds formed over and over, as time and the essences of Heaven, as well as the moisture of the Earth, the powers of the sun, and the moon all did their work on a certain rock that was as old as creation. The rock became magically fertile, and its first egg was called Thought. Tathagata Buddha, the Father Buddha, said that with our thoughts, we make the world as elemental forces caused the egg to hatch. From this egg came a stone monkey, whose nature was irrepressible.

    A while later, in a world of animals, demons, and monsters, the King of the Monkeys attains enlightenment and is invited to Heaven. However, when his love of fighting is introduced to the relative serenity of Heaven, he soon gets bored and goes wild about the place, disturbing the peace and eventually challenging Buddha. When he is unsuccessful in this challenge, however, he is expelled from Heaven and left on Earth to wait for the holy priest that will retrieve the Buddhist scriptures from India. Eventually, he and two other expelled spirits from Heaven are found by the young priest Tripitaka, and taken on the journey.

    It sounds like a story that doesn't add up to much, but what really makes this work is that each story has a moral, as well as some dynamic exchanges between Monkey (Masaaki Sakai), Pigsy (Toshiyuki Nishida), Sandy (Shirô Kishibe), and Tripitaka (Masako Natsume). Rather than being beaten about the head with the moral of each story, as is often the case with other films and television shows about the tenets of other religions and philosophies, the lessons of Buddhism that are espoused in these stories are presented in an enjoyable, easy to swallow form.

    This disc contains three more episodes from the first series:

    This volume of episodes contains some hilarious moments in the Monkey canon, such as Tripitaka in Vampire form, as well as Tripitaka dancing with women in a club, and Pigsy being crowned a King. The quality of the transfer has also improved upon the disasters of the previous volume, and I therefore have no hesitation in recommending this collection.

Transfer Quality


    Again, the transfer is presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with the edges of the credits still making it appear that the video has been cropped slightly in order to fit the image on the television screen. Obviously, the transfer is not 16x9 Enhanced.

    The transfer is as sharp as the television broadcasts that I last viewed were, which is as good as one can really ask for under the circumstances. The shadow detail is uniformly average, tempered by the fact that very little of the action takes place in darkness. There is no low-level noise in the transfer, but film grain and compression-related graininess are still problematic in numerous shots.

    The colour saturation of this transfer is rich, following the same standard set by the previous volume of Monkey. Another washout of the colours occurs at 13:34 in The Vampire Master, which is accompanied by a distortion in the audio. This is definitely inherent in the source material, and given the age of the print elements that are most likely unrestored, it is a wonder that there aren't more of these artefacts in the transfer.

    MPEG artefacts are not overly apparent in the transfer, save for the slight pixelization that has been a consistent feature of previous volumes in the series. All in all, however, this is one of the cleaner-looking transfers that has graced the series. However, I must once again say that this programme would have looked a lot better in numerous places if it were compressed to an RSDL disc. One hundred and thirty minutes of a Japanese television show that hasn't seen a restoration in twenty years is simply too much for a single-sided, single-layer disc. Film-to-video artefacts are a minor problem in this transfer, but they are of the least annoying kind for a title of this age, being only the occasional burst of vertical wobble. Film artefacts still litter the picture frequently, but the source materials used to transfer these three episodes appears to have been in much better condition, especially where Pigsy, King And God is concerned.


    Again, whatever problems the video transfer might suffer, the audio transfer is still in remarkably good shape. There is only the one soundtrack on this DVD: the English dubbing in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, encoded at 224 kilobits per second. It's a pity that we don't have the original Japanese dialogue, but the English dub is just too hilarious to be considered second-best. The dialogue is always clear and easy to understand, without any of the problems with muffling or accents that were previously a minor issue. Audio sync still doesn't come close to being vaguely coincidental, with each actor's lips clearly moving around different words to what can be heard.

    Yoshino Micky's score music has become somewhat repetitive, but taking a break from viewing the show for twenty-four hours has proven to me that the music is more enjoyable when taken in moderation. It's a terrible pity that the themes presented in the series are not available on compact disc, because some of them are really quite entertaining in and of themselves.

    Once again, my surround channels had nothing to do with this soundtrack, which is still a pity. A minor background hiss can be heard from time to time in this soundtrack, but it didn't get in the way of the clarity. Engaging the Pro-Logic mode on my amplifier gave me the impression that maybe I am asking too much when I say that I would like a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix, as there really aren't that many sound effects on offer. The subwoofer produced quiet, indistinct rumble for the most part, while becoming more discrete in time with the action sequences and bursts of music.



    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

    I'd like to commend Siren Entertainment, because one of the things I have stated quite frequently about the state that the Region 4 market is in is that we need more independent distributors that bring esoteric material to DVD, take a little pride in the workmanship of their transfers, and price the DVDs reasonably. While the jury is still out on the second of those floors, Siren are a big winner on the first because Monkey still hasn't graced Regions 1 and 2.


    Monkey, Volume 7 contains three classic adventures, each with a moral and enough humour to entertain everyone from small children to grown intellectuals. The DVD it is presented on is marginally the best that the series has enjoyed to date.

    The video transfer is as good as can be expected under the circumstances, although I still think a second layer should be added.

    The audio transfer is clear, easy to understand, and enjoyable, so we can't really ask for more considering the age of the programme.

    The extras remain minimal.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
December 23, 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