The Water Margin

In the late 70’s, the show ‘The Water Margin’ became an instant hit in Europe. Produced by Nippon TV, the show spanned about 30 episodes (I think) and it featured as many types of martial arts kids could only dream of, and a story line that evokes so many cliches, that it, as an adult, makes one’s toes curl up. I mean: An outlaw hero and his merry band of bandits fighting against an evil tyrant. Surely, you’ve heard that story before. But put that story right in Asia, with martial arts, swords and surreal fight scenes (example: “the two day fight”), present that to a European audience and you get an instant hit.

Unsurprisingly, the show’s tune has engraved itself in the minds of ‘Generation 70’ and that tune is the focus of today’s ‘Past The Bridge’ posting. A one minute sample can be found right here. The sung theme features the voice of one ‘Pete Mac Junior’, who I believe is just a Japanese singer. If you’re more into the original musical theme (and if you’re curious about the show itself), you may want to check YouTube. It features trumpets, strings and strangely enough a perfect, out of step, rhythm section. For more dramatic effect, those Japanese lyrics.

There’s a slight irony in all of this: The show was heavily based on the Chinese book with the same name (wikipedia). Written in the early 1500’s, the books became an instant hit in Japan (first translated 200 years later), where the stories were literally localized. The irony, again? A Japanese show, featuring Japanese actors in a Chinese setting playing Chinese rebels. I heard that the Chinese did a remake of the show and apparently there’s also a movie (based on the books) in post-production.

But without doubt, as a kid I was impressed with the show and whenever allowed by my parents, I watched and devoured the stories and fights of Lin Chung and his band of, well, funny looking characters.

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