By Owen Paiva – Entertainment Editor
On February 6, 2016, news was released that a show that ended in 2004 was picked up for a fifth season, billed as a 2016 released, later delayed till this March. The show ended on a disappointing cliff hanger which left so many unfulfilled with the ending. However, the show gained more of a following after new episodes stopped airing, and evolved into something bigger. It is “Samurai Jack,” one feudal samurai’s quest to return to the past and stop the evil that ruined the world.
“Samurai Jack” was created by legendary animator, Genndy Tartakovsky, also known for his work on Dexter’s Laboratory and Powerpuff Girls. He wanted to create a cartoon with a cinematic feel to it, akin to movies like “Seven Samurai” or spaghetti westerns like “Fistful of Dollars.”
This show ranks at the top, or very near, in terms of overall animation. A simplistic, yet very fluid and detailed style, where actual martial arts, armed and unarmed are portrayed. The 2D style of feudal Japanese watercolor mixes seamlessly with the cyberpunk elements found in the futuristic setting. Every set piece is beautiful. Two in particular are breathtaking. Jack’s duel against the Da Samurai in the rain soaked bamboo fields during a thunderstorm is perfect in audio quality, and visual quality, in a very memorable duel. Samurai Jack’s fight against the Ninja is also memorable. The Ninja can blend into the darkness and Jack can blend into the light. The fight scene basically uses two colors in a very unique showdown.
Samurai Jack, voiced by Phil LaMarr, is a hero who does not say much, similar to Clint Eastwood in many of his westerns, yet has a very dry but witty sense of humor and is willing to help anyone along the way. Jack, equipped with a sword forged by the gods, designed only to harm pure evil, which provides one of the funniest moments in the entire series, is on a quest to return to the past to defeat the evil Aku. Aku, played by Mako Iwamatsu, later Greg Baldwin for Season 5 after Mako passed away sums the show up best:
“Long ago in a distant land, I, Aku, the shape-shifting Master of Darkness, unleashed an unspeakable evil! But a foolish Samurai warrior wielding a magic sword stepped forth to oppose me. Before the final blow was struck, I tore open a portal in time and flung him into the future, where my evil is law! Now the fool seeks to return to the past, and undo the future that is Aku!”
Aku is one of the most memorable villains in cartoon history, who is equally hysterical and menacing, incompetent, yet the most powerful villain in the entire series. There are not many recurring characters besides Jack and Aku, but the Scotsman, voiced by John DiMaggio (voice of Bender from Futurama) is the closest. He is the opposite of Jack, loud, huge, and fights with power more than skill, and is number two on Aku’s wanted list behind Jack. It is cool to see that Jack has a friend in this new time.
Season 5 has taken a new, more mature tone, with an emphasis on more mature storytelling, and a bit more violence than before. The show is airing on the Adult Swim block, which allows the show to be less restricted than its previous seasons, now boasting a TV-MA rating.
Season 5 takes place 50 years in the future, with Jack seemingly losing the ability to age. [SPOILER WARNING] Jack has lost his sword during this time, and Aku has destroyed the last time portal. Jack has become more depressed, and an even more conflicted character. The guilt of failing his quest to return to the past and save his family weighs heavily on Jack, causing hallucinations. Aku makes an appearance in episode two, and he is still as hysterical as ever. Jack however faces a new threat from a cult dedicated to Aku, and other bounty hunters along the way. The first two episodes of season five are very polished, yet both endings are on cliff hangers. Season five has more of a narrative than previous seasons, with the first villain Jack fights being equally annoying and hilarious, and still shares some of the humor, it is way more toned down than before.
Season 5 has the best animation of the series, with Genndy being able to utilize the newest technology, and brought back much of the original team. One scene from episode two, which is a kind of homage to the graveyard scene from “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” both in music and in visuals, is absolutely magnificent. The tension is very real in this scene. Episode two in general has outstanding action set pieces, with the graveyard scene barely providing a break, with action being traded for suspense.
Season 5 has aired three of the new episodes so far, with new episodes every Saturday. If “Samurai Jack” continues with the same quality, then the show will finally get its proper sendoff.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars