12
Oct

How One Song Made Journey To The West Cool


This is GTV! Pure Magic! In this episode, I will tell you a story. A rather amazing story, one that had far reaching
effects on the pop culture in Japan and America. Affecting the worlds of literature, anime,
music, television and gaming. It’s a long journey there, but stick around
for the ride and you’ll come away amazed. So Let’s Go! OPEN Our story begins long ago in 7th century China
when a Buddhist monk named Xuanzang, left China for India to study with scholars and
holy men to produce better Chinese language versions of Buddhist scripture. Xuanzang left against the orders of the Emperor
Taizong, who forbade his subjects travel to other lands. Xuanzang travelled for 13 years across the
whole of ancient India, visiting holy sites and studying historic texts. When he returned to his homeland in China,
The Emperor Taizong welcomed him warmly for his efforts, even though he had violated his
edicts. Xuanzang was given financial support and with
it built monasteries for study and reproduced his translations of sacred Buddhists texts. As well he chronicled his journeys with the
help of his disciple, Bianji. The texts are known in English as the Great
Tang Records on the Western Regions. The book is a vital record of the economy,
agriculture, climate, geography, people and daily life in the regions in which Xuanzang
travelled. The book has survived since the 7th century
and is still in print today. Xuanzang died in the year 664 and would be
remembered and revered in ancient Chinese culture for centuries afterward. Though he had written his own chronicle of
the journey, in the years following the life of Xuanzang folk tales and legends began to
appear about his life. Around the year 1000 the folk tale had coalesced
into a standard tale of a monkey who travels westward seeking knowledge. In the 16th century the oral histories of
this tale that had been passing around for almost 1,000 years were put to print, knowing
in Chinese as Xiyou Ji. In English this means literally West-Wandering
Chronicle) though the proper title in the modern day is Journey to the West. The book was published anonymously, but is
generally accredited to poet Wu Cheng’en. The Dynasties of ancient China held great
power then, and its sphere of influence spread across Asia. Writings, philosophies and technology flowed
from China to Japan, Korea, Vietnam and other regions outside of the Dynasty. Though the order of the world is quite different
today, Ancient China is still help up in high regard, similar to how European Culture looks
back on Roman and Greek influence Journey to the West would make its way to
Japan, along with the other works that comprise the “Four Great Classic Novels”, Romance
of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber. As time progressed to Modern Times, Japan
rose as a powerful nation in its own right, but retained many of the ancient Chinese influences
it received. As a result, Journey to the West, known as
Sai-Yuu-Ki in Japanese went on to be a treasured work for the Japanese as well, being taught
in schools for centuries. From the time Journey to the West was published
until the mid 20th Century, the book was unknown in the Western World, but did receive a an
abridged English translation by Arthur Waley in 1942. For centuries though, the novel was the only
version of the story that existed. But that all changed in 1978, when Journey
to the West would be reborn and live on in pop culture around the world ever since. I’m 1978 a song released by rock band Go-die-go
gave a funky 70s retelling of the Journey, with a song called Monkey Magic. Go-Die-Go were comprised of Japanese and American
musicians. The group had the standard 70s hard rock sound
blended with a little funk and a mixture of English and Japanese vocals. With lyrics like “Born from egg on a mountain
top, The punkiest Monkey that ever popped.” Monkey Magic was a unique take on the classic
tale. In fact, it had never been done before, standing
out as a big surprise when the single was released. It also put a well known work that by 1978
was essentially homework in high school, and gave it a makeover putting Journey to the
West in the pop culture spotlight. Monkey Magic was a massive hit in Japan, despite
the whole song being English. The song peaked at #2 on the Japanese Oricon
music charts, was released internationally and went on to become the most well known
song by Go-Die-Go Monkey Magic was then included in as the opening
theme song for an TV series based on Journey to the West which ran for 2 seasons. The show was known in Japan as Sai-Yuu-Ki. The show would later receive an English language
dub and aired in the United Kingdom as “Monkey” in 1979. As well as Australia in 1981. The soundtrack from the show featuring songs
by Go-Die-go would a #1 album for 8 straight weeks in Japan and the best selling album
of 1979. Thanks to the song and the show, Journey to
the West was a very hot property, and from this, a wave of inspiration followed that
would be derived from, influenced by or simply name-checked the book, tv show and song. In 1979 Nintendo would release an arcade game
with the title Monkey Magic, cashing in on the popularity of the song. The game imitated Atari’s breakout where
the player smashes blocks with a bouncing ball. The field of blocks in Monkey Magic is a monkey’s
face, wearing a bandana just like that worn by Sun Goku aka Monkey in the Monkey TV show. From there the influence of Journey to the
West led to the creation of a long running Manga and Anime series, Dragon Ball! Though altered in certain ways to make Dragon
Ball its own story and to keep its own story exciting, it is an unmistakable homage to
classic book. Dragon Ball became its own empire and has
had multiple video games released over the years on all kinds of hardware ranging from
the Epoch Super Cassette Vision to Playstation 4. One of the first, but NOT THE FIRST was Sheng
Long no Nazo for the Family Computer. When the game was localized for America, references
to Dragon Ball were taken out and Goku was changed back to Monkey and the story rewritten
back into Journey to the West!! Dragon Ball elements were retained for that
game’s French version as an aside. But there were other Journey to the West games
released around this time. Monkey Magic was released for the Commodore
64 in 1984 in the United Kingdom and Europe. The game tries its best to fit as much from
the TV show Monkey into the game as it could across 4 stages! There was also a version for the lesser C16
machine with only the first level of the game. 1984 also saw the game Son Son be released
arcades with the main character Son Son names after Sun Wokong and the game involves Son
Son traveling to reach the Statue of Buddha There was yet another game and it’s surely
the most popular. Sega developed Alex Kidd and his series of
games with Saiyuuki in mind. Probably to keep the character original, and
because Goku was just recently taken by Dragon Ball, Sega gave him the rather western Name
of Alex, but the mythology of Alex Kidd is similar to that of Monkey, as he was born
from a mountain and lived there alone for years practicing his Kung Fu techniques until
the time came where he was called to embark on his quest. Sure the whole rock paper scissors thing was
pretty out there but the clearest connection to Saiyuuki is that Alex Kidd wears a nearly
identical outfit to that of Monkey from the TV Show!!! As well various games often called Saiyuuki
or Monkey Magic appeared over the years. Throughout the 80s the revival of Journey
to the West continued. The songs, the show, the games and Dragon
Ball helped turn an ancient novel into something cool. By the mid 90s, the tributes to the classic
work had died down with mostly Dragon Ball being the most popular. (show saiyuuki for FC) As a wise man once said, the nature of Monkey
is irrepressible and in the 21st Century a new generation of Monkey tributes were born. In the year 2000 a new anime series aired
in Japan called Monkey Magic! Of course the story keeps the usual familiar
ties to Journey to the West but tells a somewhat original version of the classic tale. When a meteor strike the earth a young monkey
named Kongo is born from it, though the “stone monkey” as he is called is not accepted
by the others monkeys until he deposes the king of the tribe to become their new leader. Over the course of the show, Kongo travels
the world to seek strength and knowledge to defeat his rival Nata and the celestial forces
of the heavens, led by the Jade Emperor. Monkey Magic the anime was localized for America
and aired on UPN, making it the first true variant of Journey to the West released there
without major changes made to the original. Monkey Magic also had its own game, for the
Sony Playstation released in conjunction with the TV show, only in Japan! All of these media, tv shows, games, manga,
were born from a single song! Naturally the music world felt the effects
of the original hit song, as it had been covered by a number of different singers and groups
since 1978. But in 2004, the long trail that Go-Die-Go
began had come full circle when a rock band Monkey Majik debuted in Japan. Much like Go-Die-Go, Monkey Majik were comprised
of Japanese and Foreign members. The name of the group was inspired by original
drummer, Tom Prichard, who was British and grew up watching Monkey as a child, paying
homage to the opening theme song. They would later cover the song themselves
in 2007. The popularity of Monkey Majik the band, bought
Go-Die-Go to light for a younger generation and to relive the glory days with the older,
prompting them to reunite permanently. That’s pretty amazing but the influence
of Go-Die-Go doesn’t end there. Though the group was inactive from 1985 to
2006, a few members composed video game music during that time, a few you may have heard
years ago and never knew it from them. Singer Yukihide Takekawa composed the soundtrack
to SoulBlazer for the Super Famicom. And Lead guitarist Takama Asano was a composer
for Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor for the Nintendo DS It may have been the show Monkey, Dragon Ball,
the Rock Band Monkey Majik or something else entirely that you may have encountered at
some point in your life, maybe it was all of these! But they all derived from on man and his quest
for knowledge. You could say, in a way, his journey never
ended.

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35 Comments

  • Gaijillionaire says:

    Which version of the Journey To The West story was your favorite? Please discuss below!!

  • cragland94 says:

    i like ur videos and i recently subscribed. keep up the good work!

  • Ben McDermott says:

    I remember seeing an Anime Film Adaptation of Saiyuuki from the 1960's that was altered for American Audiences under the title Alakazam the Great and I heard that Astro Boy Creator Osamu Tezuka directed it

  • nbksilent says:

    Damn Gaillionaire, didn’t realize you got over 10k subs, nice.

  • gundamzerostrike says:

    I think there's more than one movie based on this Monkey thing on Netflix. There's a Wii game too.

  • Tails19935 says:

    I'm a huge fan of the Dragon Ball series yet I've only vaguely heard about the ties with the Journey To The West story. Perhaps I should give it a read.

  • Bowl of Lentils says:

    Great video! Don't want to sound like a broken record but I was also looking into the band Godiego recently while researching the Famicom game called Portopia. The game takes its name from the Portopia 81 world's fair which had a promotional song created for the event that was performed by Godiego, simply called "Portopia". I knew they also did the opening song for Monkey but didn't realize what a huge impact it had on Japanese pop culture at the time, so thanks for sharing the fun trivia.

  • mightyfilm says:

    There's even a Son Wukong Lego minifigure in their current collectible blind bag series. Though I suppose that's because they're trying to get the Chinese market to turn away from their illegal bootleg sets which Lego won a lawsuit over. If you're good at feeling through the bags to identify pieces and could find one, I highly suggest you check it out.

  • Christopher Varszegi says:

    Good video as always! Very interesting!!!☺☺☺😊😊😊😀😀😀😁😁😁😃😃😃😄😄😄😆😆😆

  • Azzamatic says:

    Fun fact: Japan is so influence by the Tang Dynasty that all historical building are actually Tang Dynasty architecture and the samurai sword is actually a Tang Dynasty sword

  • Lulu kat says:

    That was nice 😀
    always loved the Story 😀
    Hallmark mad good on whit Greg
    from Dama and Greg TV show 😀
    a 2 Part or 3 Part movie 😀
    I highly Recement it 😀

  • Real1Gaming says:

    Oh wow, I know that song from the DS rhythm game Osu Tatakae Ouendan 2. It was a really fun stage in that game!

  • SPac316 says:

    I first heard the song from a flash animation by Niel Cicierega years ago…

  • Behemothbear says:

    The soundtrack of the cult classic film "Hausu" was also done by Godiego.

  • DarkTetsuya says:

    I probably would've forgotten all about this song til I heard it again randomly in Konami's Guitar Freaks/drummania/Keyboardmania series! Although I didn't realize Dragon Power turned him back into a monkey, interesting nod to that original story!

  • Lemon Meringue says:

    Wow. I wonder what the world would be like if Donkey Kong were called Monkey Magic?

  • Gunvolt says:

    Saiyuki has one of the best Gokus. A precious bean of a character.

  • Paul Kage says:

    There is also an album and an Opera called Journey to the west related to Gorillaz the band

  • FeralInferno says:

    Fantastic journey through history G. Now, go west young man.

  • Entertainment Hacker says:

    Great video. The level of research and editing is fantastic. Always amazed. 👌🇯🇵

  • John Calcano says:

    Wonder how the Japanese felt about the 1968 film Planet Of the Apes maybe more so then King Kong. Makes me wonder if there ware any Planet Of the Apes merchandise in Japan also I somewhat knew about Alex Kid and the Monkey Magic connection after walking around China town and seeing ton of Monkey Magic items and merchandise in there stores. Still have a box copy of Alex Kid for the Master System.

  • musashi777 says:

    As always very interesting and entertaining. You could have add (to really make full circle) that the song “Around the world“ from the 2000’s Monkey Majik group became the intro song of the remake of Sajuki drama in 2006 😉

  • Kevin Nunes says:

    Holy smokes I so remember playing Dragon Power on my NES back in the day!! That's crazy!!

    Great video dude!! Always super educational! 🙂

  • Eleven 2Nine says:

    That’s amazing! Oh but did you hear? Sydney Hunter is the only thing that matters on youtube!

  • Ross Hewage says:

    I’m always in the mood for some Tang

  • JR says:

    another impeccable video! i've always wanted to do a documentary about monkey! the tv series. but there is so little information out there. let's start a go fund me and make one?!

  • Seventy Eight says:

    I liked this one. It was an actual story and not just “ohh look at my retro games shelf! Retro retro retro!” I really hate that

  • Heyhon Puds says:

    It’s a crime you don’t have more views. You put out some of the best researched stuff I’ve seen. This was top quality as always. Monkey magic ooh.

  • Satoshi Matrix says:

    Awww no mention of Money Magic's inclusion as a bonus unlockable in Ouendan 2.

  • Napoleon Coronado Cortes says:

    Interesing video, i don't know a Lot of facts, to the library, thanks.

  • Exocet says:

    Great video!

  • Mac Omegaly says:

    My first introduction to the song was in the Japanise life Cheerleader game "Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan 2" that had an American version of the game come out here in the west as "Elite Beat Agents". It's one of the first Nintendo DS games that I imported.
    here is the game stage, and cover of the song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQjLKV-2X2g

  • Nuclear Sandwich says:

    I'm familiar with many of the properties mentioned that were inspired by Saiyuki but in all 47 of my years I've never heard the song Monkey Magic or the television show Monkey.  I wonder how I missed that.  Learned something new.  BTW there was a PS1 game specifically titled Saiyuki: Journey West that came out near the end of the PS1's life.

  • Noel ComiX says:

    Awesome as always

  • Noel ComiX says:

    Dragonball of course!!

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