Samurai Jack, is a genuine cause to rejoice. Finally, a studio understands the value of an animated series and doesn’t feel the need to suck up every minute of an episode with dialogue, dialogue, and more dialogue. The great thing about this series, is the plot is pretty simple. View the opening credits and they let you know right off the back the premise of the series. On a bizarre, futuristic alternate Earth, a lone samurai armed only with the magic sword of his ancestors, treks through a savage world on his quest to return to his own time. The character of Jack is an immensely charismatic hero. His courage, resourcefulness and ethical code serves as a breath of fresh air in today’s sea of common, immoral TV characters. The series won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program in 2004, and for good reason.
Not really categorized as anime per se, but the series is influenced heavily by asian culture. Each episode in this brilliant series is well written, and amazingly executed. It’s easy to knock American animation. Compared to the robust competition across the Pacific it seems uninspired and shallow, barely able to hold a coherent thought that isn’t about produt placement. But this is not your basic slapped together Saturday morning cartoon. Samurai Jack is high art. There was never anything like it before on television, and there has not been anything to match it since. Some of the best episodes of the set includes one where a gang destroys Jack’s sandals and he goes after them for revenge, while trying to find the right footwear. It’s wittingly humorous as Jack emerges to battle the gang and ends up being laughed at for his ridiouculous footwear.
Samurai Jack is a highly syltized fusion of modern cartooning and traditional Japanese art. The show has a visual strength that allows for long, captivating sequences without dialogue. If you’re unfamiliar with Samurai Jack in general then you’d be in for a visual treat with any of the box sets. The cartoon includes some fantastic action sequences mixed with a grand movie feel. Most people who missed out probably got turned off that it originally aired on Cartoon Network but this should not be a fault at all. You can see the influence of Samurai Jack in the opening credits of the feature animated film Kung Fu Panda from Dreamworks. Series creator Genndy Tartakovsky has done a great deal to raise the bar for quality in TV cartoons. Unlike other cartoons, Samurai Jack is anything but predictable. Jack’s journey into the distant future from his native ancient Japan is heart-wrenching, hilarious and thrilling.
Some particular episodes to watch are the fight between Jack and the Dark ninja, the entire “The Scotsman Saves Jack” episodes, the Noir-style episode of Jack vs. the last and best of Aku’s robot assassins, and the episode where monkeys teach Jack to jump high. The tone hearkens backs to a more traditional Japanese culture, of silence and elegance, and from the antecedents of Japanese cinema as found in American Westerns. Samurai Jack has the perfect balance of moody pacing and visceral action, dreadful seriousness and self-aware humor, playful beauty and important morals.
Phil Lamarr does an excellent job voicing Jack and I have no faults whatsoever. The only concern I have is some episodes act as filler and we never did receive a proper ending to the series. There has been talks that a Samurai Jack movie would be devloped to close the series out but we have yet to hear any word back on that. The series didn’t seem to have a polish to it near the end. Also, a lot of the first season’s episodes are kind of repetitive. As a fan of this series, it would be nice for Jack to finally go home to his time. As I hold out for a Samurai Jack movie, in the meantime I can wholeheartedly recommend this series to anyone who wants a good animated series to watch. Most of all, the funny, wicked villain Aku was thoroughly under used. Put down your anime, otaku heads, and give this series a watch immediately. It’s on par with the best of ’em.