The wandering samurai lost in the future is back and better than ever to put an end to his epic tale. Created in 2001, “Samurai Jack” is the cartoon brainchild of Genndy Tartakovsky for Cartoon Network’s late night segment called Toonami. You may be familiar with Tartakovsky’s work as he is responsible for “Dexter’s Laboratory,” “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Two Stupid Dogs,” “Cow and Chicken,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” and more recently, “Hotel Transylvania” among other successful shows and movies.
“Samurai Jack” is the name of the main character and the show. It follows the tale of a lone samurai of noble blood who, wielding a magic sword, was trained around the world from an early age to become the ultimate warrior. Set in feudal Japan, the ancient, shape shifting evil known as Aku, the main antagonist, has returned to destroy Jack’s home and all he holds dear when Jack steps forth to fulfill his destiny resulting in a long battle. Before the final blow was struck, Aku tore open a portal in time and flung Jack into the future where Aku’s evil is law. Now Jack seeks to return to the past to undo the evil that is Aku.
When “Samurai Jack” aired it was instantly praised and admired for its many unique aspects in the cartoon world at the time. The show would often feature hand painted backgrounds and sets for every scene as opposed to digital ones of more mainstream cartoons. This, coupled with non-traditional animation styles and techniques, made the cartoon unforgettable. Some very talented and well-known voice actors also added their skills that helped the show get the amount of initial attention it did. Other unique aspects of the show include its wide range of artistic styles and their incorporation as well as a soundtrack of high-energy synthetic music to couple the action scenes that are choreographed to the tracks for an added layer of depth.
“Samurai Jack” has an eye for the episodic adventure, given that it is in an alternate future, there is little to no mention of when or where Jack is in any given episode, which creates a massive creative versatility to the storytelling.
Although “Samurai Jack” can give off a lot of serious tones, Tartakovsky doesn’t let the viewer get too attached as he peppers in wild outside characters and jokes for comic relief. This cartoon usually imparts one of two vibes from any given episode; either you are on the edge of your seat, entranced with the beautiful high-speed martial arts and music or you are laughing at the good writing and colorful side characters.
Unafraid of wild framing technique, deliberate repetition, zany characters and villains, and a classic hero’s quest style stories, “Samurai Jack” was a huge success and continued to produce a total of four seasons that concluded in 2004 with a cliff hanger climax that has remained unresolved until this year. What makes this season different than the others is that time in the story has progressed in tandem with real time. Season 5 is also under Adult Swim’s license and not Cartoon Network’s. This is significant because previously, the C.N. license would not allow any blood or gore as it was intended for younger audiences. Now that the license has changed, the artists can incorporate more intensely violent aspects to the show making it that much more gripping and adding to Jack’s development as a character as he has sworn to never kill another human.
In the story, 50 years have passed and Jack does not age as he searches for his magic sword, the one tool capable of destroying Aku. While Aku becomes complacent, Jack slowly enters madness and regularly hallucinates about his tortured family scolding him for taking too long and forgetting his purpose. All the elements of “Samurai Jack” that made it successful are still there and fans couldn’t be happier they will see an end to their favorite samurai’s long journey. New episodes air every Saturday at 11:00 P.M. EST on Adult Swim (channel 48 if you have UConn’s and other local TV packages).
Dan Wood is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.