At one point, Hit-Monkey was to be part of Hulu’s ambitious plan to create several different Marvel animated series and have them cross over in a special event entitled The Offenders. However, when Marvel Television was folded into Marvel Studios, the idea was scrapped with only it and M.O.D.O.K. actually being developed. Next week, the show featuring the pint-sized assassin will premiere but we have an early review ahead of its release.
The entire season is a gruesome and bloody tale of revenge. It takes viewers into the colorful underworld of Japan and how its influence and corruption bleeds into society and politics. The titular character works his way up the ladder leaving bodies in his wake until he can find the person responsible for his tragedies. It’s a captivating journey as he wrestles with his ideals and code in his pursuit of justice.
The storytelling draws from several genres of Asian cinema. The Hong Kong crime thrillers come to mind and Hit-Monkey works best with a serious tone. Some times the comedy can serve as a distraction. There are so many factions at work on both sides of the law and each with their own agenda. Despite several moving parts, it all comes together well but not without some unexpected twists and turns. There’s even a nod to classic martial arts films with many of the big players coming off as masters who battle it out with each other.
Overall, the animation is very impressive. The action scenes are kinetic, dynamic, and very fierce. It’s rare to see such graphic violence in Marvel TV or movie content today and I’m sure there will be those who will appreciate it. From primal close quarter combat to exciting shootouts, it has it all. There’s even an artistry to the fights in how the style changes or the angles used to frame the scenes. Moreover, at times the backgrounds create a cool textured 3D effect.
For those tired of shared universes, Hit-Monkey occupies its own little corner and doesn’t tie in with the MCU. However, it very much feels like a comic story. The lead character’s origin story ties in very closely with the source material from Daniel Way and Dalibor Talajić. In addition, several familiar faces from the comics appear. If you’ve watched the trailer, Lady Bullseye, Fat Cobra, and Yuki all play a role in the protagonist’s journey. It was probably a smart move to include comic characters that haven’t been seen elsewhere in the MCU to allow the series to stand on its own. The credits scenes also add to the comic adaptation feel while also hyping up the next episode.
The biggest draw of the upcoming show is the character work that makes you invested in its star. He is definitely painted as a sympathetic figure with all the misfortunes he’s endured. No matter where he goes or what he does, trouble always seems to find him and those closest to him. It’s as if the life of a killer is his only choice. It’s a testament to the animation and Fred Tatasciaore’s voice acting how much emotion can be instilled and evoked with looks and grunts.
At least Hit-Monkey is accompanied by his mentor, Bryce (Jason Sudeikis). It’s a complex relationship because Bryce is a ghost and served as the catalyst to turning the primate’s life upside down. Sometimes you wish Bryce would shut up, but the pair have good chemistry and function well as a team. One of the episodes delves into his backstory providing insight into why he is the way he is. It is paralleled with some of the macaque’s problems to emphasize how heartbreak has shaped them both.
Though he might seem isolated and alone, the killer primate touches so many individuals in his pursuit of vengeance in a The Mandalorian season one kind of way. His sense of code and honor impresses those he crosses paths including Akiko, the niece of a political candidate hoping to clean up Japan. It’s never explicitly stated as romantic (which would be awkward considering the different species), but there are feelings between them which eventually complicates things. Everything builds to an explosive two-part finale with intriguing developments and possibilities that makes you wish it will receive another season.
Season one is an action-packed quest for vengeance that will make you feel for the monkey doing all the killing.
Stream Hit-Monkey when it will be released on November 17 on Hulu.
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