I'll admit, prior to this post, I've been fearing about how to compare 50 episodes to 11 episodes and 1 movie. Now I like a challenge but after doing the math, it would take me 12 episodes of Monkey to watch 2 episodes of Saiyuuki to cover this week's topic, the quarter point.
Monkey - Episodes 2-13
Episodes 2 and 3 are more of a follow up from the first episode. How Tripitaka became Tripitaka and how Monkey, Sandy & Pigsy join the pilgrimage. How Pigsy joins the party is quite entertaining. Sandy's is just kind of left out at the last minute. Its almost saddening.
Focusing on the current situations rather than their Journey to the West (see what I did there?). Now thats not a bad thing, far from it. From one episode you'll have demons who capture humans in bottles by asking their names and another will be a showdown between Monkey and three demons, created from Tripitaka's mind.
The episode structure is always something different. Which is something I can't say for Saiyuuki with a straight face.
But there is one problem that's been crawling around in my head. And its only increased every episode.
Back in "The Journey Begins" I mentioned the stereotypical accents and the Narrator being the worst offender. I also mentioned that since he's a "wiseman" figure, I let that slide.
Well I'm taking it back!
Next to the cast, the narrator is the most annoying person in the whole show. Now, this show is preachy with Buddhism but I've never had a problem with it. I don't associate myself with any faith. However when the narrator speaks of proverbs and Buddhist sayings, from his voice alone it just comes off patronising Buddhism rather than...well, not "sell" it but make it like this an interesting concept.
It may be a bit too early but I'm starting to see the character arcs of the four pilgrims. Sandy turns out to be orphaned and finds his father in episode seven. Pigsy develops a conscience while Monkey develops more of a moral code. Its been awhile since watching this so I hope there's more development and growth to come, otherwise the show may have shot themselves in the foot for the rest of it.
I'm going to leave Monkey for this week with the following fun fact. For anyone who was curious about Tripitaka's actor, Masako Natsume, outside the whole boy priest act should check out episode eleven "The Difference Between Night & Day".
...Or, y'know...look at this picture.
Saiyuuki - Episodes 2-3
Now I've been hinting for about two weeks now but if I were to describe this show with one word it would be: "formulaic". I started realising this by the second episode and by the third I was already tired of it. Which is sad because aspects like the fight scenes and comedy are spot on. But the more I watch, the more I'm paying attention to the formula rather than the actual episode.
They reach the town. They hear the problem. Hoshi volunteers, despite the protests of everyone else. Goku's hair gets blow dried (no, not kidding). Then the final showdown which consists of Hoshi's bells being rung before the main doors open revealing the four pilgrims. Followed by a monologue from Goku about the subject in that episode.
Its the SAME THING! Every episode. Now I don't have a problem with formula. However Saiyuuki's formula is shown in it's rawest form. It's like this year's E3 convention, distilled to the "bare essentials".
But allow me to put this show in a lighter light for a change.
There's always something about the "pig" character that makes me more sympathetic about him. For Saiyuuki, Hakkai's sympathy starts at episode two where the four are tricked into staying at a hot springs with three beautiful women. And after being drugged, sold out and lied to, Hakkai develops feelings for one of the ladies to the point where his heart is shattered, rather than broken, at the fact he was being used.
The shots composed accompanied by what can only be described as "hypnotic music" effects my emotions towards Hakkai. Now making him the most interesting out of the four.
When I was discussing the characters in a bit more detail I said that Hakkai's backstory wasn't told. Well in episode three we're given a little insight into it as well as Gojou's. Gojou is trying to redeem himself from the terrible things he's done in the past. And Hakkai was bullied by his boar family until he gathered the courage and said he'd bring riches to his poor family.
Which makes more sense about Hakkai's personality in general. Only just.
As for Hoshi, it turns out that he is from a from a poor family as well and that his mother died before he became a priest. It must be me but the "Priest" character always puts me in a bad mood. Not due to a religious figure but his personality. First episode proved to me he'll trust strangers over his pupils. The third made him feel like a selfish prick choosing to live in a fantasy land then continue his journey.
Thats not to say it's bad character design. Quite the opposite. The "Priest" character is also described as "the holy fool" so it makes sense to have these human faults. No ones perfect after all. But me being me, I'm absolutely irritated by it some times.
Also I think I may have cracked the code to why the fight scenes in Saiyuuki are better than Monkey. I've noticed that fight scenes in Monkey use the one shot for the entire fight whereas Saiyuuki is composed of several shots, quickly edited to keep the audience interested.
The Edge: Monkey
This week was a toss between character arcs and excellent shot compositions. And while I'm mesmerised in Saiyuuki's action scenes, I'm taken out by it's bare bone formula. The variety of Monkey keeps me guessing on what will happen next episode. And so I'm giving the edge to Monkey.
I'll stop banging on about the voices for now because I think after a while even I'm tired of writing about that aspect of an otherwise good show.
Now since this is posted a bit late than usual (and I love this site) tune in this week for the halfway point where one season ends and another is still going.
(If you're wondering why this is posted late, its because I've been away at rehearsals. My apologies.)
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