“Got to get back…back to the past…”
Possibly one of the greatest shows on Cartoon Network, Samurai Jack told tales of the legendary battle between a young prince and the demon wizard Aku in a universal fight for justice and harmony. From its initial release in 2001 to its end in 2004, the show garnered a massive following and was praised for its groundbreaking animation and heart-pounding cycle between comedy and drama. Now, after thirteen years of waiting…
|Director Genndy Tartakovsky|
Truth be told, the fifth season of Samurai Jack has been in creative limbo for a long time. In an interview for Adult Swim, series creator Genndy Tartakovsky explained that he had planned to develop a film that would serve as a conclusion to the series. In the same video, actor Phil LaMarr (the voice of Jack himself) jokingly admits that he was continuously approached by fans, who demanded to know if the samurai actually made it back to his original time. After giving it some thought, Tartakovsky eventually decided to develop the conclusion as “it should be done”: a miniseries for television. And boy has he struck gold. How does 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes sound, Genndy?
When we first enter the series, we learn that fifty years have passed since the last episode and Jack is still stuck in the post-apocalyptic wasteland. What’s worse, our favorite hero does not age as a result of time warp, and he’s lost his magical sword. Defenseless against the forces of evil, Jack must now rely on his human instinct and cunning to avoid deadly machines, old rivals, and some new enemies.
Now, I’m going to start off by making a very important point. This show is not for kids. It’s been placed on the Adult Swim lineup for a reason folks. Darker and more sadistic, this new show features enough blood, gore, and horror to earn the TV-14 rating, as well as enough intense action sequences to please any fan of Fury Road. Still, Genndy has brought back the snarky comedy from the first four seasons, so none of the violence feels forced. In fact, as some bloggers have pointed out, it’s almost like Samurai Jack has matured with its core audience: kids from the 90s and early 2000s. That’s actually kind of clever on the director’s part.
As a whole, the first two episodes feature the same clever writing and intoxicating atmosphere of seasons 1-4, but the creators do not waste time with introducing the dark material. In fact, I can only summarize the premiere in one word: awe-inspiring.
In this ravaged wasteland, Jack is now a mercenary-type character who rides a motorbike and wields a machine gun and electric spear against powerful enemies. He is a tortured soul with a melancholy disposition, at one point fighting against his own consciousness in a heated quarrel. Sporting a beard, he is a barbarian figure who has adapted to his Mad Max-inspired world. However, Jack still holds true to his values by protecting the innocent…or does he?
Aku, meanwhile, has closed all the time portals and has given up on his quest to destroy Jack. Instead, the all-powerful Shogun of Sorrow has confined himself to his fiery lair and has placed his destructive task on his assassins, scientists, and machine armies. While he only appears from a brief moment in episode 2, I can honestly tell you that I absolutely love what I have seen of him so far. Sadly, Mako Iwamatsu (the original voice for Aku) passed away in 2006, so he was naturally replaced by Greg Baldwin, who has filled in for the late Mako in multiple projects including the remaining seasons of Avatar: The Last Airbender and several scenes from the TMNT movie. So far, people are polarized on his voice, some loving it and some hating it; honestly folks, I placed myself in the first group. Baldwin hits the nail on the head for me. Sure, no one can replace the magnificent Mako, but Baldwin’s voice oozes the same serpentine elegance and dry humor of the original performance.
Another awesome addition to the story is the Cult of Aku, a group of religious fanatics who worship the demon wizard like a god. Plus, they are made up entirely of gorgeous women. Even stranger, they are introduced through a rather disturbing scene involving the birth of septuplet girls collectively referred to as the Daughters of Aku, children of the enigmatic High Priestess, a woman with superhuman strength and power. Their involvement leaves more questions than answers, but that’s what I love about the show so far. Enigmatic plot elements, away!
I am greatly looking forward to seeing where the show takes us from here, folks. It’s about time Samurai Jack returned, and I am so excited to share my thoughts with future episodes. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to tune into Adult Swim and Toonami to check out this marvelous masterpiece for yourself!
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Exclusive interview with Genndy Tartakovsky and the other talented artists behind the brand new season:
Sneak Peek for Episode 3, XCIV: