Monkey - The TV series

Monkey was a Japanese Television show set in China and inner Mongolia. Two series of it were broadcast from 1978 to 1980, but we didn’t see it until the early 80s here in New Zealand. It used to be played on a Sunday afternoon, so went by relatively unnoticed by the majority, but it was a show I loved and one that has left a lasting impression on me.

 

It was done in the form of a crappy,  martial arts movie, with over the top dubbing, but the stories were great and the fighting scenes very well choreographed. For a kids’ show it was at times quite extreme. The heroes weren’t completely good and the villains weren’t completely evil.  It was the first TV show of its kind and I’ve never seen anything like it since, although there was a mini series (The Monkey King/Lost Empire 2001) and a couple of movies done based on the same legend, which saw widespread release:  The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) and more recently, The Monkey King  (2014). The Monkey King in particular was pretty much the first two episodes of the TV series done in the form of a movie. There has also been a newer version of the TV series, which recently played here in New Zealand: The New Legends of Monkey

Here is the  full version of the theme song:

 

Born from an egg on a mountain top

The punkiest monkey that ever popped

He knew every magic trick under the sun

To tease the gods and everyone and have some fun

Monkey magic, Monkey magic 

What a cocky saucy monkey this one is

All the gods were angered

And they punished him

Until he was saved by a kindly priest

And that was the start of their pilgrimage quest

Monkey magic, Monkey magic 

With a little bit of monkey magic

There'll be fireworks tonight

With a little bit of monkey magic

Every thing will be all right

Born from an egg on a mountain top

The punkiest monkey that ever popped

He knew every magic trick under the sun

To tease the gods and everyone and have some fun

Monkey magic, Monkey magic 

 

Here's a run down on the characters:

 

Monkey (Masaaki Sakai)

Monkey was the main star, a mischievous Monkey… born from an egg on a Mountain top would you believe? He was kicked out of Heaven and imprisoned under a mountain until he was rescued by an annoying priest. 

 

Monkey, tended to have violent tendencies, eager to fight rather than be diplomatic, so Tripitaka always had to keep him in line, usually by inflicting pain on him by using magic to tighten his tiara. 

 

Tripitaka (Masako Natsume)

Tripitaka was the very annoying boy priest who was the leader of the band of pilgrims. Maskao Natusume was actually a woman who sadly died of Leukemia at a very young age (27), in 1985.  I always found Tripitaka to be arrogant, judgmental, impatient and unreasonable, but yet she… I mean he was supposed to be the holy one. 

 

In the new TV show The New Legends of Monkey, Tripitaka is also played by a female, however in a new twist, she is not the real Tripitaka. She has taken on the identity of the real Tripitaka (who was killed) and is only pretending to be male. 

  

 

Pigsy (Toshiyuki Nishida)

Pigsy was the devious one of the team. He too was cast out of Heaven, like Monkey and turned into a Pig monk. He was cowardly, lazy and always lusting after every woman he came across. Sometimes he came very close to betraying his fellow pilgrims.

 

He was replaced in series 2 by a different actor who was never anywhere near as good in the role. 

 

 

Sandy (Shiro Kishibe)

Sandy was actually a water monster who had the darkest background of all of them as he used to dine on human beings. He is now making amends for his past, but he still carries a necklace of mini human skulls around his shoulder. Ironically he is the nicest of all of the Monkey characters and the most reasonable.  Although now he only takes human form he still has magical abilities, including breathing under water and superior strength.

 

In the new TV show The New Legends of Monkey, Sandy is played by a female. 

Horse (Shunji Fujimura)

Horse first appeared in series 2, although supposedly he’d always been there as Tripitaka’s horse before that.  He was a dragon who ate Tripitaka’s horse, so took on the form of his horse to make up for it.  He can change from horse to human whenever he pleases. 

 

Shunji passed away in January 2017 at the age of 82.