Monkey: The Crazy Cult Japanese Show That Captivated Kiwi Kids Is Coming To Netflix
REVIEW: “Born from an egg on top of a mountain. The most punk monkey that has ever broken out. He knew all the magic tricks under the sun. To tease the Gods. And everyone and have fun.
Compete The wonderful world of Disney and A canine show as a Sunday staple for a generation of Kiwi children, it was unlike anything on television at the time.
A Japanese adaptation of a classic 16th-century Chinese novel, it featured questionable English dubbing, crazy characters, and an incredibly catchy musical theme.
A kind of Pufnstuf HR-meets-Kung Fu (though that really doesn’t do justice to the sheer nutty of the show), Monkey is remembered by everyone who watched it about four decades ago.
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With its eclectic array of “pan-Asian accents,” behavior that would now be considered dubious content and broad acting, this is a show that probably wouldn’t be commissioned today (indeed the most recent trans-Tasman update The new legends of the monkey is a very different beast).
However, for anyone wishing to revisit their late 70s / early 80s childhood, or shock their own “monkeys” with what passed for children’s entertainment at the time, then all 52 episodes have dropped. on Netflix. And, really – they really have to be seen to be believed.
Born from a rock that has become magically fertile, the mischievous monkey (Masaaki Saki) proclaims himself a great sage. Desperate to be sent to heaven, he is elated when an invitation finally reaches him, only because the noise he makes on Earth is causing everyone sleepless nights.
Finding a suitable occupation for the irrepressible and exuberant simian, however, proves difficult. Rejecting his initial post of director of the stables (a task which mainly consisted of shoveling manure), he was then tasked with acting as “guardian of the heavenly peach gardens”. The temptation turns out to be too strong and Monkey soon nibbles on the magical fruit that takes thousands of years to ripen and confers immortality on its consumer.
An inappropriate choice of urination location later and Monkey finds himself challenged by Buddha herself and imprisoned in a mountain for 500 years – to learn the lesson of patience.
He is not the only one to find himself chased out of the sky. Sandy (Shiro Kishibe) smashed a priceless jade cup, while Pigsy (Toshiyuki Nishida) made an inappropriate pass to a princess, outrages that transformed them as well.
With gangs of bandits terrorizing the weak and poor of the world, this disparate trio is joined by the young monk Tripitaka (Masako Natsume) – who has also been commissioned to undertake a pilgrimage from China to India to fetch holy scriptures – trying to restore peace to the land.
Filmed in northwest China and Inner Mongolia, this cult series even became a hit in parts of South America. While this may seem inexplicable to someone who is catching it for the first time now, its enduring appeal is largely in the sheer madness of it all.
There is never a dull moment, from the visual flair of the costumes and the animation of Monkey’s pink cloud, to the seemingly endless choreographed fight scenes. And while the dubbing is surprisingly well timed, there’s a lot of laughs to be had from the linguistic machinations needed to make it happen.
But, as it did when it first aired here on TVNZ, what will stay with you are the opening and closing songs. Performed by the Japanese five-piece group Godiego (whose track album from the show was the best-selling record of 1978 in their homeland), the very different Monkey magic and Gandara are – rightly or wrongly – first-rate earworms.
Monkey is now available to stream on Netflix.