Japan Cinema reviewed a movie called Afro Samurai: Resurrection which was the continuation of this original series. Back in 2007, SpikeTV brought a new animated show to its network. Taking a dare to back a five episode anime mini-series, which featured killing, afro’s, and samurais. Thats all I needed to know to heavily anticipate this. Each episode would cost about a million dollars, making production values very high. The story is simple, a young boy must hone his skills to defeat the evil warrior who killed his father. His father was Number 1, the most-skilled swordsman in the world. He could only be challenged to a fight by Number 2, but Number 2 could be challenged by anyone. Afro must learn to fight, then find Number 2 and kill him so he can confront Number 1 and avenge his fathers death.
Afro Samurai is played by all around bad ass, Samuel L. Jackson. Afro Samurai Season One tells the story of his search for revenge, with frequent flashbacks to his youth, his training, and the people and morals he sacrificed to further his mission. Wearing an impossibly large afro, the character encounters a variety of villains that all want his #2 headband, including a robotic version of himself, old allies, and even his teacher. All his opponents are equally impressive, and you’d think a swordsman sporting a giant teddy-bear head is comical, but it comes off rather creepy.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the animation is so fluid and intense. A freefall swordfight had my jaw drop several times. Given only five episodes to work with, structure is pretty tight here, so there are no filler episodes or meaningless off-sides to distract from the narrative’s focus. It is very interesting to see the transition of Afro as you watch through the various episodes. Afro immediately went from an innocent child to an almost emotionless man with a ton of weight on him as he begins his vengeful journey.
Afro Samurai feautres a seamless blend of post-apocalyptic sci-fi with hip hop influence, and a blazin’ soundtrack by Wu-Tang frontman RZA. Oh, and did I mention it has Samuel L. Jackson? The show oozes style and panache while still maintaining a compelling atmosphere and likable characters.
The animation by Studio Gonzo is lush in every detail, from the shining, sleek nudity of a temple maiden to the scarlet showers of blood. The only flaw Afro Samurai has is that it’s all over way too soon. Most anime fans are used to be spoiled with at least 13 episodes, not to mention that the “default size” is 26. Future anime series reviews will tackle the 13 & 26 episode series but I felt this small entry would be a good beginners view into the new structure I’ll be reviewing series from here on out. It’s not difficult to tell that the film is heavily influenced by Blacksploitaion Films, Standard Eastern Anime and Japanese culture. That aside, strap in and get prepared for buckets of blood, dismemberment, and some pretty strong language.