Monkey-Volume 9 (1980)
|Year Of Production||1980|
|Running Time||127:43 (Case: 130)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||1,2,3,4,5,6||Directed By||Yusuke Watanabe|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||Full Frame||English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||None|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.33:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Volume Nine of Saiyûki, or Monkey as it is known in English-speaking countries, is a memorable collection because it contains the last episode from the first season, and the first episode from the second season. As has been made clear on the cover artwork, only thirty-nine episodes were made of this classic kung fu adventure, and this volume contains episodes twenty-five through twenty-seven. Astute fans will be aware that the first episode of the second season is where Toshiyuki Nishida was replaced in the role of Pigsy by Tonpei Hidari, a change that would have provided ample opportunity for some interesting notes as an extra.
The three episodes contained on this disc are as follows:
The first two episodes of this collection are worth the purchase price by themselves, as they are examples of Monkey at its very finest, with stories that are both entertaining and full of the usual morals that make the series much deeper and more meaningful than the usual fantasy adventure programmes. The End Of The Way in particular shows a development in the character of Monkey that makes it one of the best episodes in the entire Monkey canon. Not only does Pigsy's Ten Thousand Ladies introduce a new actor, it also introduces a rather interesting new character, and a new introduction that is both a little too truncated for my liking but also very interesting.
When I sit down and look at a transfer of Monkey episodes, I can sum up the problems in two phrases: film grain and compression artefacts. The former is something that cannot be helped, but fending off the latter would be easy if only Shock Records would see fit to grant each collection of three episodes a second layer.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced.
The sharpness of this transfer varies noticeably, with some shots looking quite blurred, while others simply look like a current-generation VHS transfer. The grain in the picture often plays a part in this variation, but a fair amount of it would also appear to have been introduced by the compression. The shadow detail of this transfer is adequate, and there is no low-level noise.
The colours in this transfer are reasonably presented, but some minor cross-colouration patterns become evident from time to time in such costumes as that which is worn by Toshiyuki Nishida during The Country Of Nightmares. Such artefacts were within acceptable limits considering the age and quality of the source material, however.
MPEG artefacts were noted in this transfer, usually in the form of compression-related grain, but brief macro-blocking can be seen in scene transitions such as at 6:38. This macro-blocking was quite severe for a brief moment, but it passed quickly and was only distracting for a second. I know I sound like I am beating a dead horse, but this transfer would have looked a lot better if it had been spread over two layers. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of some occasional and minor aliasing, as well as some telecine wobble such as during the first two minutes of The Country Of Nightmares. Film artefacts still pepper the picture in liberal amounts, but they were in more acceptable amounts than was noticed in several other volumes.
There are no subtitles of any kind on this disc, and no layer change to worry about.
As is the case will all other Monkey volumes, there is one soundtrack on this disc: the English dub that was prepared for the BBC about a year or two after the series was originally recorded, rendered in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second.
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, with nothing really getting in the way of making out what is being said. The audio sync in this transfer rarely comes close to being coincidental, but this is typical for an English dub of a Japanese programme from this era.
The score music in this series is credited to one man whose name is rendered differently in the credits of each season. In the first two episodes, this name is spelt Yoshino Micky, while the last episode uses the spelling Mickie Yoshino in its credits. The music itself changes quite radically between episodes two and three of this disc, with mixed results, and the music that plays over the end credits of the last episode is truly insipid. The opening credits of this episode are dramatically different, too, and gone is the Monkey Magic theme that is just so damned infectious. I'll reserve judgement on how the new score music arrangements work until I have seen more of the Season Two episodes, however.
The surround channels are not used by this soundtrack, and there seems to only be minimal stereo separation, which is understandable when you consider that this series was shot and broadcast in an era when stereo televisions were considered the same kind of luxury item as a digital receiver is today. The subwoofer was not specifically encoded into this soundtrack, either, but that didn't stop it from supporting the music and some action sequences in a limited manner.
|Surround Channel Use|
The same extras that adorn every other Monkey disc are present here.
The menu is static, and it is not 16x9 Enhanced. I am still quite frustrated by the menu design, but I will leave it at that.
A small list of facts about each character, including who they are played by. This is redundant if you've already watched the first few episodes, but a welcome inclusion for those who like to jump in at the last episode.
If you can recognise your favourite episode from the brief descriptions provided here, then tracking down that essential volume can be so much easier.
This lists every guilty party involved in putting these episodes on DVD.
There is still no evidence of this disc being released in Regions 1 or 2.
Monkey, Volume 9, is absolutely essential viewing for anyone who feels, as I do, that adventure series of today are without heart and soul. It makes a truly brilliant companion for your Doctor Who discs in spite of the fact that the two series are only related by aspects of their philosophies. This volume is also quite a good choice, as it introduces an interesting new element in addition to providing a superb almost-climax.
The video transfer is rather ordinary, and I am getting tired of repeating the call for this series to be given a second layer.
The audio transfer is as good as it is ever likely to get, and surprisingly clear considering the condition of the source material.
The extras are pretty sparse.
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-835|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|