Hit-Monkey, Hulu’s newest animated series, literally opens with a mysterious monkey carrying out what seems to be a revenge-driven hit on unnamed men in black suits. Really! The anime-inspired show, starring Jason Sudeikis and Olivia Munn, is the latest production of Marvel Television aka Marvel Studios.
Alas, with Hit-Monkey, Marvel continues its experimentation with television that succeeds their shows on Disney Plus like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and What If…?. However, the difference between the aforementioned Disney Plus shows and this one on Hulu—those shows are a continuation of the 13-year strong Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hit-Monkey is not.
Rather, this stand-alone show follows the revenge plot of its titular character, voiced by Fred Tatasciore, turned-assassin who seeks to avenge the murder of his tribe and newly deceased partner Bryce (Jason Sudeikis): Hit-Monkey’s ghostly mentor and comic-relief sidekick. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the b-plot of growing political turmoil in Tokyo, Japan (where the show is mostly set) as a corrupt politician vies for ultimate power.
The show may seem like a stretch. IndieWire even called it wholly unnecessary. I disagree with the latter point. At the very least, Hit-Monkey was entertaining enough. But it’s clear Marvel Studios is trying to diversify their content to garner new fans because, realistically, Marvel can’t keep the MCU we currently know going forever. The MCU is already extensive and will only continue to become more complex as the years go on.
Therefore an over-expansive MCU will intimidate potential new fans who would have way too much content to catch up on and too many characters to know. Thus, I think it’s good Marvel is seeing what else they’re capable of and can pull off successfully. After all, they’re a billion-dollar production studio. They have money to spare.
Ultimately, Hit-Monkey is Marvel seeing what content continues resonating with viewers and on which streaming platforms. And, anyway, other streaming platforms are producing critically-acclaimed, anime-inspired series because anime is currently resonating with American viewers. See: Amazon’s Invincible and Netflix’s Arcane. So this new show is an attempt to benefit both Marvel and Hulu.
But let’s get into if Hit-Monkey’s overall execution was effective.
Firstly, the show’s plot was often busy and therefore distracting at times. As I previously mentioned, there’s a secondary plot involving Tokyo’s political conflicts that felt over-ambitious and lacked depth. Since Hit-Monkey is our central character, it would’ve benefited the show to not cut his plotline in half for the sake of other characters who, in hindsight, don’t provide much to Hit-Monkey’s overall revenge arc.
Secondly, for an anime-inspired show set in a major Japanese city, the setting itself feels like an afterthought and so do many of the Japanese characters. In a show wherein the main character is a literal monkey, with a white male comic-relief sidekick, going on killing sprees in Japan, authenticity can be a difficult feat to manage.
However, this will inevitably call into question the credibility of the show’s white writers as well as Marvel who already has a sour history with East Asian appropriation. Thus I echo Daniel Fienberg’s words in a review of Hit-Monkey for The Hollywood Reporter when he says “It’s fair to feel that there were opportunities missed on the representational and qualitative levels [in the show].”
Though some things the show did well that I enjoyed was the improved character development of Hit-Monkey, and even Bryce, as the series neared the end. For example, there’s an episode in the latter half of the show that explored/mirrored Bryce’s past and Hit-Monkey’s present—both marked by violence, loss, and escape.
This episode gave Bryce some added depth beyond one-liner jokes that don’t always land and provided Hit-Monkey’s character and arc some valued pathos. Fred Tatasciore additionally portrays Hit-Monkey’s expression and range of emotions well as the show progresses; especially considering Tatasciore has no dialogue beyond an imitation of monkey grunts.
All in all, I’m not sure if Hit-Monkey will get renewed for a second season. It’s admittedly a bit early to tell, but I’m not sure if it needs one. However, my opinion alone won’t determine the outcome of Hit-Monkey’s potential for longevity.
Rather, the show’s future on Hulu will depend on whether Hit-Monkey is good enough to compete with the better-produced anime shows on other streaming platforms, coupled with Marvel’s more engaging content on Disney Plus.
I do welcome Marvel to take risks as it pertains to illustrating their other comic book stories onto movie and TV. For many reasons, Hit-Monkey may not be the successful venture that successfully branches Marvel out of the MCU. But I hope that doesn’t stop Marvel from trying and funding projects to see what does.
Ebony Purks is a graduate student at the University of Incarnate Word working toward getting her Master’s degree in communications. She is also a freelance writer, interested in writing about pop culture, social justice, and health; especially examining the many intersections between those subjects.