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Seven Things That Made 'Monkey' Magic

As ‘The New Legends of Monkey' lands on Netflix, we celebrate the greatest Japanese kids’ telly programme ever

By Dan Jolin
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With ‘The New Legends of Monkey’ on Netflix soon, we’ve turned the clock back to teatime sometime in the early ’80s to celebrate a legendary kids’ TV show. If you saw it, you loved it. If you didn’t, well, it’s never too late to rediscover the oddball joys of ‘Monkey’.

1. The theme tune
Performed by Japanese band Godiego, this disco-pop workout is the reason most of us still think the show is called ‘Monkey Magic’. It’s both the song’s title and an accurate representation of its catchiness levels.

2. It was Bruce Lee for kids
Too young for ‘Enter the Dragon’? ‘Monkey’ was your martial arts gateway telly. Every episode seemed to end with a high-kicking fight. School playgrounds were transformed into Shaolin training camps.

3. It had terrible role models
In a world of TV goodie-goodies, its hero, Monkey (Masaaki Sakai), is entertainingly arrogant and selfish. In episode one, for instance, he’s kicked out of heaven for peeing on Buddha. You didn’t get that from ‘The Sooty Show’.

4. Pigsy was in it
Monkey’s pals included a gloomy former sea monster and everyone’s favourite gluttonous pig-demon Pigsy. He was so rubbish, his weapon was a rake. We loved him anyway.

5. It was really weird
Monkey rode a pet cloud and could summon warrior simians by blowing on his own fingers. There was a male monk played, for no apparent reason, by a female actor. Did we know what was going on? No. Did we care? Also no.

6. It was deep too
With every episode starting with the saying: ‘With our thoughts we make the world,’ ‘Monkey’ was steeped in Buddhist teachings. Who knows? Maybe some of it sank in. Nah. 

7. Its legacy
The new Netflix show is just the latest take on the source material that inspired ‘Monkey’:  sixteenth-century Chinese novel ‘Journey to the West’. There’s been anime series, video games and even an opera by Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett. The magic never ends. 

‘The New Legends of Monkey’ launches on Netflix on Fri Apr 27.

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