a review by Gan Siang Hong
Modelled after one of the greatest chronicles in human history, Asiapac’s Journey to the West tells of Sun Wukong’s quest for immortality and enlightenment. By handpicking the most exciting parts of the story and compressing them into one compact, colorful volume, Chang Boon Kiat has created a gripping tale that can be enjoyed by all ages.
A story would not be complete without a cast of interesting characters, and Xuanzang Sanzang’s merry band of Buddhist disciples do not fail to disappoint. The book hits the ground running with the flashy introduction of Sun Wukong, and Chang’s portrayal of the mischievous but powerful Monkey King hits the nail on the head.
From Wukong’s dialogue to his simple but distinctive design, everything is taken into careful consideration to craft a character that is just as awe-inspiring as he is likeable and entertaining. Wukong’s fellow disciples, Pigsy (Zhu Bajie) and Sandy (Sha Wujing), while not as prominent within the story, are given similar treatment with their unique appearances and personalities.
Journey to the West seems to understand that a good antagonist is as crucial to the story as any protagonist. From imperial generals to bloodthirsty demons, every character has a strong design, making each one as memorable as the last. And, while interesting on their own, the diverse cast of antagonists truly shine when pitted against Wukong and friends, and their dynamic interactions give life to the trials and tribulations which they represent in the course of the journey.
An important dynamic that is explored within the book is the conflict between Sanzang’s benevolent character and Wukong’s impulsive and violent tendencies. Their encounter with the White Bone Spirit and Sanzang’s subsequent banishment of Wukong leaves the reader to consider this conflict’s significance.
This dissension between teacher and disciple is representative of the conflicting ideologies of Law and Chaos and how it affects our actions. One may immediately assume that being lawful is the best course of action, but is that really true when Sanzang always ends up in danger, only to be saved by the chaotic Wukong? The profound lessons that this story imparts to its readers are simply another aspect of what makes it so engaging.
All in all, Journey to the West more than does justice to the original Chinese novel. Chang’s adaptation transforms it into a wondrous tale of action and adventure that is thematically rich, yet easy to understand. Amidst all this, the true message of the story is made clear: that what is important is not the destination, but the journey.