Monkey was shown many times during the 80’s and quickly became a firm favourite with teenage kids due to its wacky Japanese comedy, cool fight sequences and bad dubbing into English. It followed the story of Tripitaka, a young monk who was on a journey to India to collect some sacred scriptures. He was accompanied and protected (if you can call it that) by The Monkey King, who was given the task by Buddha as a punishment for getting a bit too big for his boots whilst up in the heavens. Also along for the ride were Pigsy, a self-centred humanised pig who had an eye for the girls, and Sandy, a water spirit, who always seemed to be morose and down in the dumps.
It is best known for its hilarious English translation of the script, which was full of double entendre’s and jokes, and the hilarious dubbing of the characters voices, which was all done with complete disregard for lip synching and in mock Japanese accents. Very non-politically correct by today’s standards, but hilarious none the less. Another strange aspect was the fact that Tripitaka was quite clearly played by a woman (and indeed was dubbed by Miriam Margoyles, a well known British actress who was in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets).
Other memorable things about Monkey included the pink cloud that Monkey would ride around on after summoning it by blowing over his fingers, and Monkey’s magic fighting staff, which could change size from that of a toothpick to an enormous thing that stretched up into the sky. Another of Monkey’s skills was to be able to change his form, which he did by pulling off a clump of his chest hair, for some reason. I suppose you could call this his aping ability (sorry!).
The show was created for the Japanese NTV network, and whilst it was a very tongue-in-cheek comedy even over there, it was actually originally based on a serious 16th century Chinese epic called Hsi Yu Chi (Journey to the West), which was an account of the true story of the 7th century monk HsÃ¼an Tsang, who really did exist and went on just such a pilgrimage.
Monkey is available on DVD, and is still repeated from time to time on UK television. For more information on Monkey check out the great Monkey Heaven website, which is packed with information.