‘Hit-Monkey’: Hulu’s Series Is Senseless Violence with Low-Key Humor ⭐︎

“Hit-Monkey” won’t teach you anything about monkeys, being a hit man or even about the Yakuza or Japan. After viewing eight episodes, the first season seemed like a less than marvelous attempt for Marvel to culturally appropriate the Yakuza and exotic scenery.

I do know that monkeys don’t generally take out hits on people with automatic weapons. That part is pure fantasy, but one with research that is no deeper than an ant’s wading pool. “Hit-Monkey” is a leap into a violent, androcentric fantasy world of men, monkeys and mayhem in an exotic location. 

At this point Marvel doesn’t have a Japanese superhero, but it has a White guy (Italian American Fred Tatasciore ) voicing a Japanese monkey as the central and titular character of a series with a White man sidekick named Bryce (voiced by Jason Sudeikis). Marvel decided having a Japanese monkey as a hero is a better idea than having a humanoid hero from Japan or, in the case you view this as a buddy story, two White guys voicing the POV team. And there doesn’t seem to have been a lot of research into monkey behavior or movement, but this “Hit-Monkey” isn’t the smooth motion and tightly choreographed Marvel experience you’ll get in the Disney+ “What If.”

If you’re keeping a diversity tally, “What If” has Benedict Wong as Wong, Israel-born Natalie Portman as Jane Foster and Taika Waitit as Korg, but they are peripheral characters. The man made into a superhero by his trip to Nepal, Dr. Strange, where he studied in mystic arts from Asia under a non-Asian Ancient One is the key character in that series. 

The good part about the level of animation in “Hit-Monkey” is that there’s no reveling in the grotesque. A woman gets sawed in half lengthwise and you don’t have to worry about anatomically detailed  images being etched into your memory. There’s no lavish realism that celebrates this kind of killing. The person dies a blood death and the action moves on. 

The amount of research into Japan and the Yakuza seems to be negligible, too. What really makes no sense is that near the end of Season One, we learn that Bryce is from a family of lower economic status, doesn’t seem to have an education or any kind of linguistic talent. So I wondered just how he navigates the underworld of Japan well enough to be hired as a hit man? Japan has widespread romanization, but being able to read Japanese makes life easier.

By episode 8, we’ve already had enough English dialogue from the wise-cracking Bryce (whose pop culture references don’t wander into Japanese folklore, pop culture or anime) to understand that he doesn’t seem to know any Japanese. Most English-speaking people in Japan add common Japanese words or use non-verbal Japanese cues mixed with their English verbal and non-verbal forms of communication. This isn’t evident in Hulu’s “Hit Monkey.” So how did Bryce get around in Japan by himself? Of course, not even the supposedly Japanese characters include Japanese in their dialogue. 

Then there was the question about gun violence in Japan. 

What is a step forward for diversity is that the Japanese characters are voiced by people of similar descent. Yonsei Ally Maki plays a female Tokyo police officer. Shin Nisei Nobi Nakanishi plays her partner. Vietnamese hapa Olivia Munn voices Akiko Yokohama, the niece of the honest politician, Shinji Yokohama, who is voiced by George Takei. 

Lady Bullseye/Maki Matsumoto is voiced by Japanese hapa Reiko Aylesworth. 

“Hit-Monkey” is not recommended for young children and won’t satisfy your anime devotion. If you don’t mind mindless violence, some of which is committed by a monkey, this might be your thing. But if you like monkeys, you’d be better served watching a National Geographic special. 

“Hit-Monkey” is more of a culture-grab to use the Yakuza and Japan as a background for a violent, exotic adventure than a look into a culture as a starting point for a fantastic fusion fantasy. “Hit-Monkey” was released on November 17th on Hulu. 

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

After a high-profile political assassination goes sideways, an injured hitman hides out among a tribe of snow monkeys in the mountains of Japan.

Season 1, Episode 2: Bright Lights, Big City

Monkey and Bryce arrive in Tokyo seeking revenge, but will the differences in their style doom the mission before it even begins?

Season 1, Episode 3: Legend of the Drunken Monkey

Monkey and Bryce investigate the evil General Kato. The trail leads to an underground casino where Monkey embraces the vices of the human world while struggling to continue his mission. 

Season 1, Episode 4: The Code

Monkey and Bryce break into a prison to hunt a mysterious villain known as The Accountant and Monkey squares off against the prison’s most dangerous inmate.

Season 1, Episode 5: Run Monkey Run

After the Yakuza put a price on Monkey’s head, he and Bryce must face off against a who’s who of the city’s most colorful assassins, and their greatest foe of all: Bryce’s ego.

Season 1, Episode 6: The Long Goodbye

Monkey and Bryce’s powerful target releases an army of doubles to throw them off his scent as Bryce tries to make peace with his past.

Season 1, Episode 7: Sayonara Monkey

After battling their toughest foe yet, Monkey and Bryce’s partnership finally comes apart at the seams.

Season 1, Episode 8: Home Sweet Home

Ditching Bryce, Monkey returns to his old hot springs and attempts to join a new tribe. Meanwhile, Bryce is forced to relieve the events that thrust him down the path of assassin hood. 

 

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