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Hit Monkey Review: Gory, Fast and a lot of Fun

If the words “Monkey with a gun” hold your interest at all, then Marvel may have the show for you. A suit-wearing, sunglasses-donning Japanese snow monkey slaughters his way through Tokoyo in Marvel’s latest animated Disney+ series on a quest for vengeance. The only survivor when his tribe was brutally massacred, the Monkey (referred to simply as Monkey in the series) teams up with the ghost of an assassin named Bryce (Jason Sudeikis) to untangle the web of corruption that led to the extinction of his family.

A relic of the now-folded Marvel Television, Hit Monkey joins M.O.D.O.K as the final non-canon Marvel series. Both animated shows were already in production when Marvel Television was folded into Marvel Studios back in 2019. While many other shows got the axe, Hit Monkey managed to make it through. Existing outside of the ever-expanding MCU, the series is a self-contained offshoot that makes just a few passing references to other Marvel productions. This distance from the MCU works in the show’s favour, making it feel different and unique.

Created by Josh Gordon and Will Speck (Blades of Glory), Hit Monkey’s sense of humour is simple but enjoyable. Hit Monkey originates from a short-lived arc in the Deadpool comics, and at times Bryce (Sudeikis) is written as a mirror to Deadpool’s cynical, referential wit. Although not precisely breaking the fourth wall, Bryce’s constant stream of pop-culture references may as well be aimed directly at the audience. Bryce lightens up the series, and although Sudeikis is excellent as always, bringing the dead-pan, self-deprecating humour to life well, the character feels a little over-relied upon.

Throughout the six episodes available for me to screen for review, the supporting cast of characters voiced by mostly Asian-American actors like Olivia Munn, George Takei, and Ally Maki are similarly underdeveloped. Maki plays headstrong detective Haruki, determined to push back against a system stacked against her. Takei and Munn’s characters, an uncle-niece duo, try to pick up the pieces of an anti-corruption political campaign. However, these sub-plots aren’t particularly engaging and end up making the human world far less enjoyable than a monkey with a hit list.

With stunning visuals and a surprising amount of gore, Hit Monkey takes full advantage of its animation. The series looks and feels vibrant and explosive; the neon lights of Tokyo translate very well, taking clear inspiration from anime in its art style. Hit Monkey’s vivid colour palette and whip-fast editing bring you right into the centre of an ultra-violent, blood-soaked underworld.

With villains being taken down left, right and centre, Monkey chooses violence at every turn, spilling blood and creating carnage in more and more hilarious over-the-top ways. Hit Monkey doesn’t try and deliver any moral commentary on good and evil, making it feel very different from the current Marvel tone we’re used to. Monkey does have his moments of remorse, but he’s just a monkey assassin doing his thing for the most part, and the show is at its best when it’s just about killing bad guys.

Marvel’s Hit Monkey is available to stream on Disney+ on 26th January.

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