Review: Monkey – The Complete Series
DVD & Blu-ray: Monkey – The Complete Series (1978-80)
When I was about 14 I stayed at my (rich) friend Sandra Burrows house. Her parents owned a deli in Llangollen and I had been deemed worthy of sharing her double bed that Friday night so we could go to the youth club disco. We argued because while she was plastering herself in strawberry lip gloss and squeezing into her pencil skirt, I wanted to watch Monkey. Monkey was way more important to me than the off chance of snogging Peter Johns. Even then I was a bit of a geek.
Based on the classic of Chinese folk tales, ‘Journey into the West’, Monkey (or Sayuki in Japanese) was filmed in Northwest China and Inner Mongolia, and produced by Nippon TV and broadcast from 1978 to 1980 on Nippon TV in Japan (not china). Two 26 episode seasons ran in Japan in 1978/79 and series two 1979/80.
Monkey was dubbed into English in 1979 with the dialogue written by David Weir. You can tell he must have watched each episode and literally made up the story and dialogue from what he thought was happening onscreen, as this dubbed version can come up with some very…questionable dialogue.
And this is where the wonderful Fabulous films comes in….only 39 of the original 52 episodes were originally dubbed and broadcast by the BBC, all 26 of series one, and only 13 of series 2. In 2004, the remaining 13 episodes were dubbed by Fabulous Films using the original voice acting cast, and here we have them released on blu-ray for the first time.
I suppose as an adult you can actually see a deeper meaning in Monkey, it’s quite philosophical even with the sometimes odd translation! It’s also noticeable that the two main spiritual characters Tripitaka and the Buddha are played by women.
For those of you unfamiliar with Monkey, boy are you in for a treat. So are your kids. It does follow the main folk story of monkey and each episode is somewhat of a…bad monkey makes good (bad humans are fallible and can achieve redemption). Monkey (man) must learn patience and with the aid of Monk Tripitaka he must learn humility.
But the great thing about the whole series is…it’s such fun to watch. It’s very 70s in look and style, somewhat like The Singing Ringing Tree, the very fact that it’s Japanese makes it even more ‘otherworldly’.
The fighting and leaping, Monkey blowing on his fingers (something I’ve been annoying people with for years) to make a magic pink cloud appear (alas no pink cloud for Tina…yet!), and his like for pissing on everything (a trait Tina thankfully hasn’t copied…yet!: Dave) is just so…frenetic. I think any 6 year old boy seeing this would pick it as his favourite tv show, and I would put it in my top TV for the fact that it’s so damn irreverent and entertaining along with a moral lesson, usually based upon Buddhist and/or Taoist philosophies, which isn’t condescending.
It’s just beautiful and I LOVE it.
Review by Tina from discs kindly supplied by Fabulous Films.