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Notes - Plot Synopses
(Not 130 Minutes as per packaging)
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Pan & Scan||English (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, 224 Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Original Aspect Ratio||?1.33:1||
|Subtitles||None||Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
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:
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.
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 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.
|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|