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In the worlds before Monkey, primal chaos reigned. Heaven sought order, but the phoenix can fly only when its feathers are grown. The four worlds formed again and yet again, as endless aeons wheeled and passed. Time, and the pure essences of heaven, the moisture of the earth, the powers of the sun and the moon, all worked upon a certain rock, old as creation. And it became magically fertile. That first egg was named "thought". Tathagata Buddha, the father Buddha, said, "With our thoughts, we make the world". Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch. From it then came a stone monkey. The nature of Monkey was... irrepressible!
The Japanese original was already playful, but the English dub pushes it further, even into Gag Dub territory. First, there were the dub scripts — it's been reported that the BBC couldn't afford a full translation, so they gave scriptwriter David Weir a brief synopsis of each episode and ordered him to invent new dialogue to match the on-screen action. Then there's the acting: every single member of the cast hamming it up in their best "ah, so!" accents. (One could also mention a few odd casting decisions, but those were in the original.)
The series ran for two seasons of 26 episodes each. The BBC originally dubbed only 39 of the 52 episodes. The 13 remaining episodes were included (subtitled) in the DVD release, and the DVD publisher subsequently arranged for them to also be dubbed, using as many of the original cast and crew as possible.
A cult favourite in many countries, especially in Australia.
The Japanese version provides examples of:
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy are all strikingly ugly in the novel; not so much in the TV series. (With the partial exception of Pigsy, who starts out strikingly ugly, then demonstrates an ability to appear more human, which he sticks to for the rest of the series.)
- Amusing Alien: In the second season, Tripitaka's horse (who, you will recall, was a dragon before he got turned into a horse) developed a tendency to transform into a human Plucky Comic Relief character.
- Crosscast Role: Masako Natsume as Tripitaka, Mieko Takamine as the Buddha, and Homare Suguro as Guan Yin (called the Fairy Of Heaven in one of the series' many tongue-in-cheek moments).
- A Dog Named "Dog": "Horse"
- No Ending: The series ends with the pilgrims still on their way to India. "The pilgrims still have as far to go as they have travelled. What end can there be to a journey as long as life?"
- The Other Darrin: The actor playing Pigsy changed between seasons.
- Purely Aesthetic Era: One of the villains flies about on a souped-up magic cloud with an exhaust pipe sticking out the back. Another episode has a demonic party that's quite obviously a disco, complete with light ball.
- Sapient Steed: "Horse", a.k.a. Yu Lung, the horse who is really a dragon.
- Scenery Porn: Filmed on location in China.
- Surprisingly Good English: The theme song by Godiego, which was kept unaltered for the English version.
The English version provides examples of:
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The sequence where Monkey is given his new staff is basically one long willy joke.
- "Bigger! Bigger!! Bigger still!! Take this you fairy princesses!"
- Hey, It's That Voice!:
- Ice Cream Koan: The narrator has a fondness for proverbs, some wise and some otherwise.
"When what is indestructible meets what is irresistible, the female all too often wins."
- Just a Stupid Accent: You can tell this is China, because everybody speaks with a dodgy oriental accent.
- Allegedly the accents and speech affectations were copied from the original by the voice actors, at least for the main characters
- World of Ham