Comparison to the West: A Tale of Two Monkeys

Oct 15 // Sideshow
Monkey VS Goku Monkey (Masaaki Sakai, voiced by David Collings) "Born from an egg on a mountain top. Funkiest monkey to ever pop. He knew every magic trick under the sun. To tease the gods and everyone and have some fun." Or so the opening suggests. There's not a lot I can say about Monkey that wasn't covered in the last post. He wants to fight, he hates being controlled and he has an extremely short temper. Despite that, he does have morals, a code of honour, etc. At one point he'll be expelled from the group for his violent behaviour and he'll go along with it, only to then come to his senses to "save the day". In episode 2, he starts wearing the Headache Sutra, which was explained in my last post. The difference however is there's an actual reason for Monkey to be wearing it. Tripitaka frees him and then he leaves, breaking his promise with Tripitaka. Makes sense. Goku (Shingo Katori) From episode one, I already know the differences here. Where Monkey is short tempered, Goku is lazy. Another thing I've noticed is Goku seems to be almost obsessed with pee. It became abundantly clear in episode two when he pees in a hot spring. Sure, this was to save Hoshi from being cooked in it but when you have one episode where 30% of his dialogue is fart related in addition to this scene, you tend to wonder whats going on an that little ape's head. There are good points to Goku, it just that it feels really plastic seeing them episode after episode. Goku makes a speech about friendship, Goku gets mad about the victim of the episode and flies off for "the final showdown". From a character perspective, he's the most noble of the four. Writing wise, on the other hand, he's just annoying and repetitive. (But I'll share my thoughts on that next week when we come to the 1/4 point.) The Edge: Monkey No, the nostalgia glasses are off. This choice was based on a personality level. The sheer randomness of his personality rather than the same thing episode after episode, is more appealing to me from where I'm sitting. Sandy VS Gojou Sandy (Shiro Kishibe, voiced by Gareth Armstrong) - Also known as the brains of the group. A fish spirit who banished from heaven for breaking the Jade Emperor's cup. Level headed and often speaking of philosophy. Sandy often states the obvious, things that the audience is certainly thinking. "What if this is a trap to capture you?", he asks Tripitaka, seconds away from an incoming ambush. He's such a well rounded character, there's not much else to say about him. His weapon of choice is hard for me to describe. Its a cross between a staff and an oar, in my opinion. Gojou (Teruyoshi Uchimura) - Upgraded to a pair of sai, Gojou is once again the brains of the group. Or at least that's what I would say. It seems that Gojou and Hakkai are either sharing or swapping personality traits. They both act as Hoshi's advisers, with Gojou being a little bit more aware of the obvious dangers.I said little. Hell, he's seen seducing or allowing seduction to happen from various women on the basis that he's simply told they fancy him. Its unexpected, is what I'm saying here. But its something that I'll accept with open arms as its feels like there's four main characters rather than three main characters and one wall flower. The Edge: Gojou Last week, I said that Saiyuuki's costumes are over detailed. This week, I'm making an exception with Gojou. His costume just looks so perfect for not only his character but his fighting style. Another thing that makes him stand out is the fact he is fighting with sais rather than a staff based weapon. His fight scenes are the most amazing to watch in Saiyuuki. Pigsy VS Hakkai Pigsy (Toshiyuki Nishida, voiced Peter Woodthorpe) - A womaniser and a glutton, hence the name. Also kicked out of heaven...but for feeling up the Lady Vega. And as you can probably guess, yes, this kind of thing does land him and the gang in a whole heap of trouble. In the third episode "The Great Journey Begins", Pisgy is woken up by a beautiful woman and follows her without question only to then be captured in by her spider-demon daughters and literally hung out over night. Its these scenes that make any non-fighting scene worth watching for it's comical value. On another note, I'd say that for a character whose suppose to be ugly, he certainly doesn't look that in the slightest. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that his costume is the most appealing out of the entire gang...nam style...ok, bad joke but you know what I mean. The simplicity of it. The only thing "piggy" about it, is his ears. I challenge anyone to say "he's hideous". Hilarious? Yes. Hideous? Not so much. Hakkai (Atsushi Ito) - Hakkai is the noble pig goblin. His behaviour can be somewhat compared to a young teen or child whose obviously getting picked on by the other kids. Wears his heart on his sleeve, etc. And before I go on about his personality, I'd like to take a minute and ask: "Does this look like a pig to you?". To me he just seems more like a cat than a pig. Getting back to base, for a pig character he certainly doesn't show these "pig" character traits as much as you'd think. Yes, he'll let any woman seduce him but rather than the Pigsy's: "Oooh! Beautiful lady!" tactic and pulls a Brock moment(Remember? From Pokemon?), Hakkai is more on par with the shy high school nerd who is asked by a pretty school girl if he wants to hang out with her. My other main problem I have with him is the lack of evolution from being expelled from heaven to now. We never see him overcome certain "pig" faults, lust, gluttony, etc. It feels like even if we've watched all 11 episodes and one movie, we've somehow missed Hakkai's personal character arc and this is the aftermath we're watching. The Edge: Pigsy Don't get me wrong, Hakkai's personality is great entertainment and certain scenes pull my heart strings like an elastic band. But lets face facts. In any Journey to the West retelling, the main characters are a Monkey, a Fish, a Pig and a Priest. So after 10 minutes of deciding, the question came down to: "Is this a 'Pig' character?" and if the answer for Hakkai is "no" then I'm sorry, the edge goes to Pigsy. Hands down. Out of the two characters, I'd rather watch the actual "pig" character. Tripitaka VS Sanzou Hoshi Tripitaka (Masako Natsume, voiced by Maria Warburg) - In all honesty, I've been dreading writing about Tripitaka and Hoshi. Simply because they're the exact same character. Word for word. So its hard to compare a character that's exactly the same (except for one thing we'll get to, don't worry). At least when comparing the likes of Monkey and Sandy, there's differences to point out. Anyway, Tripitaka was an orphan, adopted by a monastery. After finding his mother and "avenging" his father, he is told to go on a holy journey to India. The show maybe called Monkey but Tripitaka is the leader of the group. Now in most adaptations of Journey to the West, there's a common troupe with this character. The fact he's played by a female actor. I get that because the character is a boy priest and its easier for women to play younger men then grown men. (Fans of anime will know exactly what I'm talking about) But in this show they didn't really try hard enough to conceal that fact. An episode comes to mind "You Win Some, You Lose Some" where he's captured, again, and you start to realise that "Hey...Why are there lumps on his chest? Did the demons do that?" Sanzou Hoshi (Eri Fukatsu) - Same story as Tripitaka, a boy priest whose on a journey to India, leader of the gang, etc, etc. His kind heart and helping nature does become his undoing sometimes. Its also the reason why every episode they detour away from their Journey to India. The annoying fact about Hoshi specifically is something I've explained in the previous post. His "trust" in Goku is something that has got me shouting at my laptop, "Why rescue and travel with the one guy you obviously don't trust?". My plothole rantings aside, theres one point that is worth noting but its not on a character level. Its on an actor's. In keeping with tradition, Hoshi is played by a female actor. The reason for noting this? She shaved her head for the role. Now to some that doesn't say much however speaking as an actor myself, it takes a lot of confidence to be so committed to a production you would do something like that. And I certainly tip my hat to that. The Edge: Sanzou Hoshi Surprised? He may not be consistent with his trust for his fellow pilgram. His headache sutra prayer is enough is make me get my nostalgia glasses and shouting, "WROOOOOONNNNNNG!!!" but I'm going to stick my neck out here and give the edge to Hoshi on an actor level. I say this because both Hoshi and Tripitaka are the exact same character. It's hard to give an edge to two identical people. However I'll take this edge back the instant the show fails to cover up the fact that Hoshi is played by a woman. I.e. "Magical demon lumps" Wrapping up I present to you my personal choice of pilgrims for their journey to India. So what's you're thoughts? Given the information above, which four would you choose? When writing this, I've purposely left out certain facts like Pigsy's actor changes and the Horse becomes a main character in Monkey. Nor did I mention there are two reoccurring characters in Saiyuuki. These will take another post later down the line when we reach the halfway point. But for now enjoy today's post and look forward to next week's where we reach the 1/4 mark and the thoughts that surround my head about it.
 photo
The continuing saga of one community member's journey through classic literature!
[Here now is the next entry in community member Sideshow's awesome series of C-blogs about Journey To The West. In case you haven't been following it (for shame!) here's the first and second parts. And don't forget,...

Promoted Blog: Comparison to the West: The Journey Begins

Oct 08 // Sideshow
Monkey - Episode 1 (Monkey Goes Wild About Heaven) Now to be fair I've forced myself to watch Monkey without my nostalgia glasses. Why? I'm going to point at the common Sonic fanboy "arguments" and go "thats why". You'll see what I mean when we head over to Saiyuuki. First things first, 90% of the voice acting is fantastically offensive. The whole "oh! Daniel-san!"stereotypical asian accent reminds you of the kung-fu films of yesteryear which does fit with certain characters I guess. But I'll admit it does get offensive very fast. The narrator especially but I feel he is the only person in the show that justifies the accent simply because he is portraying an all knowing wiseman. Second thing is that the special effects are cheesy as all hell. Shots of Monkey cloud-flying comprise of a tiny figurine on a cotton ball. Summoning his monkey army can be recreated with still images of a single person, copied multiple times and animated on a moving plane in Adobe After Effects. Having said that, this IS a show made in the 1970's so I'm letting it slide. The opening to the show is by far one of the flashiest openings I've seen in ages. From the song alone, it gives the sense that this is the most epic story of all time. "Born from an egg on a mountain top. Funkiest Monkey to every pop." etc, etc. I highly recommend you track this song down just to see for yourself. (Its Monkey Magic by Godiego for those at the back of the class) Trying to recap all 43 minutes of Monkey in a single paragraph is extremely hard partly because its 43 minutes but mostly because I didn't do so well at english in high school. The entire episode is an origin story for Monkey, who made of stone and capable of magic, telling the tale of how he acquired the magic Wishing Staff and how heaven tried to control him as a precaution. So they hire him as the Heavenly Stableman. But he started fighting when he found out that's not a high status in heaven. And then they refer to him as "Great Sage, Equal of Heaven" in name only and make him a Gardener of the Heavenly Peach Garden. But then he ate all the peaches, thus making him immortal and then goes crazy and fights all of heaven. And this is from being told he's not invited to a heavenly party. All of these scenes are sown together with fight scenes. And it must be said that the "staff VS sword" fight scenes are decently choreographed to the tune of drums and bass guitar playing in the background making it almost addicting. They're no Mark Musashi (Kodama from Garo) but its close. Speaking of production, the visuals overall are something that warrant certain frames of the episode to be sent into an art exhibition with its beautiful costume and set designs. But getting back to the last bit of the plot... Desperate to stop Monkey, Budda appears in his female form, making a first in many gender reversals for characters in the series, and places Monkey under a mountain for five hundred years...harsh. Budda then turns to heaven and hints at a journey that must be taken to save man kind. If you're wondering why I haven't mentioned Sandy, Pigsy & Tripitaka yet, its because this episode isn't really about them. Hell, Tripitaka is seen in the last minute of the whole thing. I'll go into detail about them in my next post when I compare them to their Saiyuuki counterparts. Saiyuuki - Episode 1 (Land of Fire)  Monkey/Goku is blonde. (I just thought I'd start by saying that.) Saiyuuki gets right in the action with the Goku, Hakkai/Sandy, Gojou/Pigsy & Sanzou Hoshi/Tripitaka taking on a bird demon and an army of ninjas. Now if I said Monkey's fight scenes are close to Mark Musashi then Saiyuuki is Musashi's genetic clone. A battle royale of animal spirits and ninjas. I think the main reason they chose this as a way to start the show is because Monkey is a cult classic and assumes that Saiyuuki's audience already know how they came to be. And to be honest, if I was writing a remake, I would start like this to. The show's opening is something that I'm still confused about. It starts with a beautiful painting and has the traditional storytelling narrator. After that is a shot of the mountains with Goku spinning his staff and then the show's name and episode title are seen on the mountain side accompanied by modern-ish music. It gets confusing trying to pin point what tone they're going for. But one thing that doesn't get confusing is the comedic writing. You'll have a scene of Goku, Hakkai & Gojou fighting over who gets to drink their water supply when Hoshi empties his bottle on a plant and gets shouted at since that's the only water they had left in the middle of a desert. So Hoshi starts to cry while the rest of the gang try to calm him down by pretending to see a town in the distance. This is the only joke I'm choosing to ruin since it happens after the opening but there are better ones. After reaching a town they encounter Hoshi's former master whose faced with a problem. His daughter is marked as a sacrifice to keep a demon from causing more chaos in their town. Hoshi volunteers to help. Their plans immediately backfires as Goku discovers that Hoshi's former master offered Hoshi up to the demon so his daughter wouldn't be sacrificed. Resulting in Hoshi and the others to be kidnapped. Goku then saves them...by bringing Hoshi's former master and his daughter into the demon's lair and once again, things don't go as planned as the daughter is left behind. Afterwards Hoshi demands why Goku did that. And after a heated argument with Hoshi trusting his former master than his own pupil, Goku leaves, expelled from Hoshi's travelling party. And this is where I start having problems with the show. The next scene is a discussion between Goku and a cook called Rin-Rin which is basically to frame a flashback to when Goku was trapped under a mountain. From where I sat if they didn't include this scene I would think "Well Goku is reckless. He's a danger. It makes sense not to trust him.". But to include this scene something was rattling around in my brain. "Why go through all the trouble of getting someone out of a five hundred year prison, travel with them for god...budda knows how long and yet NOT trust him???" Up to this point the show has portrayed these four pilgrims as brothers, close friends, etc. What I'm saying is that if you're going to travel with someone on a journey that would take years to complete, how could you not trust that person? Hoshi is kidnapped, again, and discovers out Goku WAS right. Goku finally goes to rescue him, in the form of cloud-flying, after a pep talk. And while I say "cloud" I really mean leaf. A giant leaf. To be honest, I like this change. Its different but I think what makes it work is the scene itself. Quick scenes of Goku flying on the leaf created with CGI rather than a figurine. People with CGI knowledge, tell the others how hard it would be to do that? Nice, gentle flying music accompanying it. Its certainly one of the things that keeps audience members intrigued. And while its not as cheesy as Monkey's special effects, its on par with shows like Garo and Kamen Rider......and Super Sentai...you get the idea. Then, a final showdown which pretty much runs exactly like how the episode started, with everything returning normal. But I'll share my thoughts on that later. Trust me, it's going to take me another post to explain that. Oh yes. And after all this, Hoshi tricks Goku to put the headache sutra headband on. A headband that hurts Goku when Hoshi recites a prayer, which I'll remain silent about that prayer because I'll have to put on my Monkey nostalgia glasses on. But I will say that after this whole trust plot has finished and Hoshi has to trick Goku to wear this precaution, seems to scream out "Hoshi doesn't trust Goku as much as you think.". And its one of the biggest slaps to the face. What makes Saiyuuki work is it's comedy and fight choreography. Its visual aspects (costume & set design) however, aren't as impressive. It seems that they were going for a bright and colourful costume set but its overshadowed by the massive amounts of detail they give them and the dullness of most sets. An over detailed costume for the likes of Goku or Gojou seems impractical. And special mention should be given to Monkey Majik, the band who wrote and sung the ending theme forSaiyuuki, further illustrating how much nostalgia the producers are trying to generate. (Around The World - Monkey Majik) The Edge: Neither After seeing the first episodes of both I'm struggling to see who has the edge, the upper hand, etc,Monkey has amazing costumes and the special effects are something that SFX students should study up on. Saiyuuki, on the other hand, has a simplified script (for an 83 minute episode) and amazing fight scenes. So lets just see what the rest of the series (50 episodes of Monkey, 11 episodes and 1 movie forSaiyuuki) has to offer as we continue our  Comparison to the West! ....Didn't think I'd write this much...  
 photo
Part two in an awesome community-written feature series!
[Community member Sideshow has been running a fascinating series of C-Blog posts on Journey To The West and its many influences on Japanese pop culture, and such amazing efforts deserve recognition - and promotion! If you've ...

Promoted Blog: Comparison to the West: Introduction

Sep 26 // Sideshow
Journey to the West has been adapted time and time again throughout the years. From films like The Forbidden Kingdom to anime such as Saiyuki as inspiration to characters like say...Goku and sadly Rule 34...a legitimate, can pay to watch rule 34. But in 2006 Japan wanted to spark to nostalgia feel with it's tokusatsu show Saiyuuki. What makes this show worth noting is that it's the successor to the original Monkey. Thats right folks, its a comparison. A Comparison to the West! So, while I get started on my own little journey, look forward to the following blog posts: -The Journey begins (First episode comparion & impression) -A Tale of Two Monkeys (Main Character Analysis of both shows) -Quater point Wishing Staff (1/4 recap) -Halfway there (Should be obvious) -Three quater Nyoi-Bo (3/4 recap) -Journey's End (Final episode and Saikuuki movie comparison/final thoughts) Hang on to your magic clouds and prepare yourself for a Comparison to the West!
 photo

[Jtor community member Sideshow had some great insights into anime's adaptation of a classic piece of Asian literature. We can't wait to see the rest of his series, but in the meantime, check out his introduction and GET...


  Around the web (login to improve these)




Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter?
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -