Thursday, 30 June 2011

Monkey Challenge: The End of the Way

Halfway there.

This is the last episode of the first season of Monkey, and the pilgrims reach Buddha's Golden Temple of the Thunderclap in India and collect the scriptures they have been seeking.

Of course it's an illusion created by the evil-spirit-of-the-week (The King of Ages, a.k.a. The King of All Rocks), and they are really only halfway there - a fact confirmed by the real Buddha at the close of the episode and the season.

Aside from this plot twist - which you could really only be fooled by if you actually though this was the end of the series as a whole (maybe possible at the time of first broadcast, but not now) - there are several other events which are noteworthy:

Buddha removes the golden band from Monkey's forehead, but he chooses to come back of his own free will to save Tripitaka, who has of course been captured by the King of Ages, and Monkey even offers to sacrifice himself in Tripitaka's place. For this he has the headband put back on, presumably for continuity's sake.

We meet Sandy's betrothed and Pigsy's sister - two previously unmentioned relatives, just as with Sandy's father in The Beginning of Wisdom - and both play their parts in the story, Pigsy's sister even saving them from the illusion of the false, blank scriptures, and being killed by her husband - who is, of course, the King of Ages - because of it.

This episode also has one other important - for the series as a whole - development, as it introduces a subtle shift in the motivations of Monkey, Pigsy and Sandy. While up until now they had been accompanying Tripitaka on the pilgrimage so they could get back to Heaven (and, in Monkey's case, be free of the threat of the Headache Sutra), after seeing their reflections in a pool as being those of humans instead of animal-spirits, they now want to reincarnate as humans. If I am remembering correctly, this will continue to be the case in the next season.

And I can't close out my overview of the first season without bidding farewell to the opening and closing credits, seeing as this is the last time I will be seeing either of them during the Monkey Challenge.

The opening title sequence is iconic and sets up the tone of the series perfectly, but the closing credits are also worth mentioning - the music is "Gandhara" and here's a version of it that hasn't (at the time of writing) been taken down due to copyright violations:

There are two versions, one in English and the other in Japanese, and these seem to have been chosen at random for each episode - I thought for a while that they alternated, but that doesn't seem to be the case, although it may be that the English version features more often on the DVD than when I saw them on TV a few years ago? Or perhaps my memory for such matters is just not that great?

Whatever the reason, this song, accompanied by images that I suppose represent Ancient China, show the other side of Monkey - if the introduction promises entertainment, fighting and magic tricks, this represents the philosophical aspect. I didn't used to like it but it has grown on me over the years and I find it quite catchy.

Back in the days when Monkey was shown late at night on Channel 4 it just meant to me "the show's over; time to go to bed."

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