[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, if you've got some awesome insights that beg to be shared with all and sundry, write something in your community blog, or participating in our regular "Bloggers Wanted" invitations! The best (or craziest) ones just might get on the front page! - Josh]
(Before we get into today's...post(?) I need to correct myself. Last post I called Hakkai - Sandy and Gojou - Pigsy. After watching the second episode it turns out I've misread names. Sorry about that. Good thing we're talking about this *points to next paragraph*.)
This is the time where we get to take a break from writing about the stories in both shows and compare the main characters to see how they've evolved from the 1970's. And hey, just for a little fun, lets comprise our own four pilgrims from both shows.
So with that, lets begin!
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"
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.