It takes a little narrative manoeuvring—some of it awkward—to get to the high concept of Hit Monkey, Marvel/Disney’s latest small screen offering. So rather than recount the setup, here’s the pitch: after his… tribe? Pack? Troop? Whatever. After all his fellow monkeys are massacred by the Yakuza, a Japanese macaque (grunts and screeches courtesy of veteran VO guy Fred Tatasciore) decides to massacre the Yakuza right back.
The little ape dons a sleek black suit and wraparound sunglasses, lending him some John Woo/Chow Yun Fat/Takeshi Kitano style to go with his penchant for dual-wielding guns. He starts killing his way up the ladder, with aid from the sardonic ghost of American assassin Bryce Fowler (Jason Sudeikis), who was killed by the same bad guys and now sort of Force Ghosts his way through the 10 episode series, advising our hero on a ‘the enemy of my murderer is my friend’ basis.
Other characters fall into the main pair’s orbit, including a pair of honest cops, Ito (Nobi Nakanishi) and Haruka (Ally Maki), trying to figure out if a monkey is really responsible for rush hour at the morgue; progressive politician Shinji (George Takei) and his niece Akiko (Olivia Munn); and Marvel Comics B-listers Fat Cobra (sumo wrestler with electric feet) and Silver Samurai (exactly what it says), both voiced by Noshir Dalal.
Later on, Daredevil villain Lady Bullseye (Reiko Aylesworth) shows up to offer a higher calibre of bad guy, but really, this is a one note show: there’s a monkey, he’s a hitman. That’s the joke.
It all kind of feels like a riff on Quantum Leap if instead of Al, Scott Bakula was lumbered with Archer as an intangible advisor, and your enjoyment of the show largely depends on how much you enjoy Jason Sudeikis’ non-stop, juvenile, party-bro patter. That kind of thing works in Archer when you have a range of weird characters to interject, but here it’s a one man show, and there are long stretches when Sudeikis’ voice is the only one you’ll hear and you have to ask yourself how much louche, snarky observational comedy you can take.
Speaking of Archer, that series’ animation studio, Floyd County Productions, is responsible for bringing Hit-Monkey to life, albeit going for a less distinctive animation style here.
The other obvious point of comparison is DC’s Harley Quinn animated series which, like Hit-Monkey, delights in putting comics characters into adult situations. But Harley Quinn managed to rope in a whole host of DC notables as well as the usual B- and C-listers who are allowed to get down and dirty, while Hit-Monkey’s roster is largely pulled from the minors. And Harley Quinn managed to tell an emotionally engaging, sometimes even touching, story and so far that’s eluded Hit-Monkey too.
Which is not to say the series isn’t worth a look—a monkey in a suit cleaning the collective clocks of a thousand-odd hapless mooks is always worth a look, and if you favour hyper-violence and adolescent humour (and I do!) you’ll find enough to keep your eyes focused on Hit-Monkey.
Having said that, you’ll also be reminded of other, better shows, and the experience of watching this one is certainly lessened by the nagging suspicion your time would be better spent watching those instead.