Thursday, 7 July 2011

Monkey Challenge: Pigsy's Ten Thousand Ladies

"Primal chaos ruled the worlds before Monkey.
Monkey was born of time, of Heaven and Earth, sun and moon, out of a stone egg.
He was irrepressible.

The place was like ancient China.
And the time might have been a thousand years ago.
They fought - and they thought - then as now.
Holy Tripitaka prayed.
One disciple, Sandy, is a fish spirit.
Pigsy, expelled from Heaven for greed, is the spirit of a pig.
He is changing.
Everything changes.
There is a horse, once a dragon, now evolving into human form.
Monkey, Horse, Sandy, Pigsy and Tripitaka are all upon a journey as long as life."

This is the new - and infinitely less memorable - opening narration for the duration of season 2. It's very functional, cutting down the poetry of the season 1 opening into the first three lines to make way for explaining about the changes to the regular cast. I do like the shot of Monkey fighting demons on the Great Wall though.

The new actor for Pigsy, Tonpei Hidari, is, to me, a bit like Brian Croucher's second Travis in Blakes 7 - he would have been fine if he'd been playing an original character, or if he'd played the part from the start, but both find the original actor a tough act to follow.
Fortunately we still have the wonderful Peter Woodthorpe as Pigsy's voice, without whom the show would lose quite a lot of its charm.

While none of the characters in the show acknowledge the change to Pigsy, the narrator describes him as "becoming more human," which continues the theme established in the previous episode.

The second major change is the introduction of the Horse as a part-time human, changing between human and horse forms whenever he gets a shock. If you're watching the series along with me, get used to seeing the visual effect used when he changes forms, as it'll be appearing multiple times an episode from now on.

Horse first becomes human-shaped when he is struck by lightning early on, one of many sub-plots in this episode which is frankly all over the place. In fact the title, Pigsy's Ten Thousand Ladies, is a very minor part of the overall story. In brief, this is what happens:

Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy have left Tripitaka to go their separate ways (this has happened off-screen before the episode began).

With only the horse for company, Tripitaka is caught in a storm and the horse is struck by lightning, changing into a human form.

Monkey flies back to the mountain of fruit and flowers to become king again, but he quickly becomes bored (and guilty, when he dreams Tripitaka is in trouble) so he goes to find Tripitaka again.

Pigsy has taken fake scriptures back to China (possibly the ones used in the previous episode, though they may not be - in which case Pigsy has faked up some scriptures by himself. They're certainly the same props though) and, pretending he is the last survivor of Tripitaka's expedition, claims a reward from the Emperor. He wants to be put in charge of the 10,000 Imperial concubines, but when he finally realises her has to become a eunuch for that (the man with the big sword trying to chop his goolies off is a big clue) he abandons the plan and goes to find Tripitaka again.

Sandy tries to get back into Heaven, and finds an ally in the star-spirit Vega who uses her influence with the Jade Emperor (they're "just good friends") to allow Sandy to be allowed in and be given a house of his own. But when Sandy realises she has arranged for one of her maidens to marry him, the prospect of a nagging wife and screaming kids scares him back to Earth, where he - of course - goes to find Tripitaka again.

Incidentally, there's a lot of continuity in these scenes with the very early episodes of the first season, including the same actors returning to play the parts. It's a nice touch.

When Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy find Tripitaka (and Horse), he is - of course - in imminent danger of being killed by a monster (by all appearances a third cousin twice removed of Godzilla, and an atrocious model) and they are just in time to save the day.

So the plot is pretty thin, but it serves as a framework for introducing Yu Lung and, I suppose, reintroducing all of the characters - not necessary for those, like me, going straight on from season 1, but may have been useful when it was first broadcast.

And finally, the new closing music. By the same band, Godiego, as the last one, it's called "Holy and Bright" and, once again, exists in both Japanese and English versions. However, to the best of my memory, only the English version is used on the season 2 credits. Here's a video (for as long as YouTube allows it) with both languages - the English version starts 2 minutes in:

It's good but, like the second Pigsy and the second Travis, it's just not as good.

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