Monkey (TV series)
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|Also known as||Monkey (UK)|
|Created by||Wu Cheng'en|
|Written by||Motomu Furuta
|Directed by||Toshi Aoki
|Voices of||UK dub:
|Theme music composer||Mickie Yoshino|
|Opening theme||"Monkey Magic" by Godiego|
|Ending theme||"Gandhara" by Godiego (s1)
"Holy and Bright" by Godiego (s2)
|Country of origin||Japan|
|No. of seasons||2|
|No. of episodes||52 (List of episodes)|
|Original run||1 October 1978 – 4 May 1980|
Saiyūki (西遊記), also known by its British title Monkey, is a Japanese television drama based on the classic sixteenth-century Chinese novel Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en. Filmed in north-west China and Inner Mongolia, the show was produced by Nippon Television (NTV) and International Television Films in association with NHK, and broadcast from 1978 to 1980 on Nippon Television.
Two 26-episode seasons ran in Japan: the first season ran from October 1978 to April 1979, and the second one from November 1979 to May 1980, with screenwriters including Mamoru Sasaki, Isao Okishima, Tetsurō Abe, Kei Tasaka, James Miki, Motomu Furuta, Hiroichi Fuse, Yū Tagami, and Fumio Ishimori.
Starting in 1979, Saiyūki was dubbed into English (BBC production), and subsequently broadcast in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and by ABC Television in Australia under the name Monkey, with dialogue written by David Weir. Only 39 of the original 52 episodes were shown by the BBC. The remaining episodes were dubbed by Fabulous Films Ltd in early 2004 by the original cast, following a successful release of the English-dubbed series on VHS and DVD; then they aired on Channel 4 in the UK.
A Spanish-dubbed version of Monkey aired in Uruguay in the early 1980s. While Monkey never received a broadcast in the United States, Saiyūki was shown on local Japanese language television stations in California and Hawaii in the early 1980s.
Monkey, the title character, is described in the theme song as being "born from an egg on a mountain top"; a stone egg and thus he is a stone monkey, a skilled fighter who becomes a brash king of a monkey tribe, who, the song goes on to claim, was "the funkiest monkey that ever popped". He achieved a little enlightenment, and proclaimed himself "Great Sage, Equal of Heaven". After demanding the "gift" of a magical staff from a powerful Dragon king, and to quiet the din of his rough antics on Earth, Monkey is approached by Heaven to join their host, first in the lowly position of Master of the Stable (manure disposal), and then - after his riotous complaints - as "Keeper of the Peach Garden of Immortality". Monkey eats many of the peaches, which have taken centuries and millennia to ripen, becomes immortal and runs amok. Having earned the ire of Heaven and being beaten in a challenge by an omniscient, mighty, but benevolent, cloud-dwelling Buddha, Monkey is imprisoned for 500 years under a mountain in order to learn patience.
Eventually, in 630 CE, Monkey is released by the monk Tripitaka, who has been tasked by the Boddhisatva Guan Yin to undertake a pilgrimage from China to India to fetch holy scriptures. The pair soon recruit two former members of the Heavenly Host who were cast out and turned from angels to "monsters", as a result of Monkey's transgressions: Sandy, the water monster and ex-cannibal, expelled from Heaven after his interference caused Heaven's Jade Emperor's precious jade cup to be broken, and Pigsy, a pig monster consumed with lust and gluttony, who was expelled from Heaven after harassing the Star Princess Vega—the Jade Emperor's mistress—for a kiss. A dragon, Yu Lung, who was set free by Guan Yin after being sentenced to death, eats Tripitaka's horse. On discovering that the horse was tasked with carrying Tripitaka, it assumes the horse's shape to carry the monk on his journey. Later in the story he occasionally assumes human form to assist his new master, although he is still always referred to as 'Horse'. Monkey can also change form, for instance into a hornet. In Episode 3, The Great Journey Begins, Monkey transforms into a girl to trick Pigsy. Monkey's other magic powers include: summoning a cloud upon which he can fly; his use of the magic wishing staff which he can shrink and grow at will and from time to time, when shrunk, store in his ear, and which he uses as a weapon; and the ability to conjure monkey warriors by blowing on hairs plucked from his chest.
The pilgrims face many perils and antagonists both human and supernatural. Monkey, Sandy, and Pigsy are often called upon to battle demons, monsters and bandits, despite Tripitaka's constant call for peace. Many episodes also feature some moral lesson, usually based upon Buddhist and/or Taoist philosophies, which are spoken by the narrator at the end of various scenes.
The songs in the series were performed by the five-piece Japanese band Godiego. In Japan, the first series' ending theme "Gandhara" (ガンダーラ Gandāra ), which was named after the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, was released by Columbia Music Entertainment on 1 October 1978, backed with "Celebration". This was followed by the release of the opening theme "Monkey Magic" on 25 December 1978, with "A Fool" on the B-side. Godiego also released the Magic Monkey album on 25 October 1978, comprising all of the songs that the band had composed for the first series. The album became one of the group's highest charting releases, staying at #1 on the Oricon chart for a total of eight weeks. For the second series, the ending theme of "Gandhara" was replaced with "Holy and Bright", which was released on 1 October 1979 (the two sides of the single featured a Japanese language version on one side and an English language version on the other).
In the UK, BBC Records released "Gandhara" as a single in 1979 (RESL 66), with "The Birth of the Odyssey" and "Monkey Magic" on the B-side. The single reached #56 on the UK Singles Chart, eventually spending a total of seven weeks on the chart. A second BBC single was released in 1980 (RESL 81), this time featuring an edited version of "Monkey Magic", along with "Gandhara" and "Thank You Baby", but this single failed to chart. The BBC releases of "Gandhara" have one verse sung in Japanese and the other in English. BBC Records also released the Magic Monkey album under the simplified title of Monkey (REB 384) in 1980 but it failed to chart.
Masaaki Sakai, who plays Monkey in the series, also performed several of the songs for the series: "SONGOKU", "Ima de wa Oso Sugiru" (今では遅すぎる, "It's Too Late"), "Kono Michi no Hatemademo" (この道の果てまでも, "To the End of the Road"), a Japanese version of Godiego's "Thank You Baby", and "20 Oku Nen no Kurayami" (20億年の暗闇, "Two Billion Years of Darkness").
Monkey is considered a cult classic in countries where it has been shown, especially in Australia, where its immediate widespread popularity surpassed its success in both Japan and the UK.
Among the features that have contributed to its cult appeal are the theme song, the dubbed dialogue spoken in a variety of over-the-top "Oriental" accents, (except for Sandy who inexplicably speaks with an English accent), the reasonably good synchronization of dubbing to the actors' original dialogue, the fact that the young priest Tripitaka was played by a woman and the fact that Guan yin, who is usually depicted in statues and paintings as a female, is portrayed by a male.
Australian contemporary youth programs such as the alternative music show Recovery and the radio station Triple J often made references to Monkey. Triple J interviewed the original voice actors on several occasions.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation frequently repeated, at 5pm or 6pm on week-nights, the 39 episodes dubbed by the BBC. Recovery aired an episode of Monkey weekly from 1996-2000. When Recovery was put on hiatus, it was replaced with three hours of Monkey.
A stage show, based on the book Journey to the West, was produced by the Young Vic in 2001, written by Dublin-born playwright Colin Teevan. Following the play's successful outing in London's West End, it toured England to great acclaim. The musical score was composed by Ireland's Kíla.
|Character||Actor||Dub actor||Original Chinese name||Japanese name|
|Tripitaka||Masako Natsume||Maria Warburg||Xuanzang||Sanzō hōshi (Genjō Sanzō)|
|Monkey||Masaaki Sakai||David Collings||Sun Wukong||Son Gokū|
|Pigsy||s1: Toshiyuki Nishida
s2: Tonpei Hidari
|Peter Woodthorpe||Zhu Bajie||Cho Hakkai|
|Sandy||Shiro Kishibe||Gareth Armstrong||Sha Wujing||Sa Gojō|
|"Horse"||Shunji Fujimura||Andrew Sachs||Bai Long Ma||Gyokuryū|
Series 1: 1978-79
- "Monkey Goes Wild about Heaven"
- "Monkey Turns Nursemaid"
- "The Great Journey Begins"
- "Monkey Swallows the Universe"
- "The Power of Youth"
- "Even Monsters Can Be People"
- "The Beginning of Wisdom"
- "Pigsy Woos a Widow"
- "What Monkey Calls the Dog-Woman"
- "Pigsy's in the Well"
- "The Difference Between Night and Day"
- "Pearls Before Swine"
- "The Minx and the Slug"
- "Catfish, Saint and the Shape-Changer"
- "Monkey Meets the Demon Digger"
- "The Most Monstrous Monster"
- "Truth and the Grey Gloves Devil"
- "Land for the Locusts"
- "Vampire Master"
- "Outrageous Coincidences"
- "Pigsy, King and God"
- "Village of the Undead"
- "Two Little Blessings"
- "The Fires of Jealousy"
- "The Country of Nightmares"
- "The End of the Way"
Series 2: 1979-80
- "Pigsy's Ten Thousand Ladies"
- "The Dogs of Death"
- "You Win Some, You Lose Some" (dubbed 2004)
- "Pigsy Learns A Lesson" (dubbed 2004)
- "The Land With Two Suns" (dubbed 2004)
- "The House of the Evil Spirit" (dubbed 2004)
- "Am I Dreaming?" (dubbed 2004)
- "The Tormented Emperor" (dubbed 2004)
- "Between Heaven and Hell" (dubbed 2004)
- "The Foolish Philosopher"
- "Who Am I?"
- "What is Wisdom?"
- "The Fountain of Youth"
- "Better The Demon You Know" (dubbed 2004)
- "A Shadow So Huge"
- "Keep on Dancing"
- "Give and Take"
- "Such a Nice Monster"
- "The Fake Pilgrims" (dubbed 2004)
- "Pretty as a Picture"
- "The Tenacious Tomboy" (dubbed 2004)
- "Stoned" (dubbed 2004)
- "Hungry Like The Wolf" (dubbed 2004)
- "Monkey's Yearning" (dubbed 2004)
- "At the Top of the Mountain"
- Monkey - Great Sage equal of Heaven - fansite Includes synopses of 52 episodes, and descriptions of the characters, demons, and gods.
- Monkey Heaven - fansite Includes short synopses and detailed summaries of 52 episodes, airdates, and more.
- Monkey at the Internet Movie Database (IMDb)
- What was Monkey Magic all about? - BBC News article assessing the show's lasting popularity
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