Hidden Fantasy Gem on Netflix Sitting on Rare 100% Rotten Tomatoes Score

Hidden Fantasy Gem on Netflix Sitting on Rare 100% Rotten Tomatoes Score
Image credit: Netflix

A show that could be a great substitute for Avatar.


  • Among the endless selection of fantasy series on Netflix, there aren't many that have a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • One of them is the half-forgotten The New Legends of Monkey.
  • The series offers a unique setting based on the classic novel Journey to the West.

There are so many fantasy shows and movies on Netflix that it's easy to get overwhelmed by the seemingly endless options, even if you're looking for something in a specific genre. But let's face it, sometimes even the most hyped movies and TV shows are not always high quality despite all the buzz (yes, that's a shade in the direction of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which was abandoned by the original animated series creators). Or maybe we just want to get introduced to a brand new project, not the one we've already seen. Luckily, Netflix comes to the rescue!

Among the endless fantasy shows in Netflix's library, there's one notable project by Australian and New Zealand co-production that's sure to be a breath of fresh air for those tired of the typical tropes, clichés, and European medieval-inspired settings — yes, folks, it's not just Avatar that's coming to the rescue. What's more, despite the series' completely undeserved lack of attention, critics have come to love it, giving it a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Let's take a look at what the show is all about and why it's so remarkable.

An American Show Inspired by a Japanese Adaptation of a Chinese Novel

We're talking about The New Legends of Monkey, a series that aired in Australia on ABC Me, in New Zealand on TVNZ 2 and worldwide on Netflix. Although the series is, as noted, an Australian-New Zealand co-production (one of the production companies is See-Saw Films, which also produces the high-profile series Heartstopper on Netflix and Slow Horses on Apple TV+ ), the conversation should begin at a distance. After all, the roots go back to Chinese medieval fantasy, specifically the genres of wuxia and shenmo fiction.

Connoisseurs of Chinese literature and pop culture have probably already guessed that we are talking about the famous 16th-century novel Journey to the West, purportedly written by Wu Cheng'en. It is a fascinating story about a real-life 7th-century Buddhist monk, Xuanzang (referred to in the novel as the Tripitaka), who made a long journey from China to India and back to attain enlightenment and bring religious sutras from the Buddha's homeland back to China. However, the story takes a surreal, adventurous turn when Tripitaka's journey is accompanied by Sun Wukong, a monkey king deposed by Heaven, Zhu Bajie, a half-pig, and Sha Wujing, a former general of Heaven.

The novel remains a classic of world literature, and from 1978 to 1980 a live-action adaptation, focusing specifically on Sun Wukong, was broadcast on Japanese television. In addition to being an introduction to East Asian fantasy for many, the story was a fresh take on the novel, including the reinterpretation of Tripitaka's gender, as he was portrayed by a woman in the series.

Original Reimagining with a Perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes

In turn, while the Japanese Monkey emphasized the religious motifs of Buddhism and Taoism as much as the novel, The New Legends of Monkey focuses less on these overtones and more on the adventures of Tripitaka (Luciane Buchanan), the Monkey King (Chai Hansen), and their friends. A unique feature of the series is that the monk's identity is assumed by his adopted daughter, a teenage girl.

Although there are only 6 reviews from professional critics on Rotten Tomatoes, the aggregator has given it a perfect score of 100%.

'Watching the series felt like watching a live-action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender, but one that was actually watchable,' Decider's Kayla Cobb described the series back in 2018.

Well, given that the new Avatar came out epic and visually stunning yet cynically shallow, maybe you should give some thought to a half-forgotten fantasy series inspired by a classic Chinese novel.

Source: Decider.